Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moleskine sketchbooks have changed - or have they?

The new Moleskine Sketchbook wrapper
In a panic about whether Moleskine has changed its paper as well as the wrapper for its very popular sketchbooks - as reported - I ordered some.

The sketchbooks arrived today - and it's interesting

My order included:
  • a large A4 size sketchbook with the new wrapper (I've previously ordered the Folio Sketchbooks with the dark mauve wrapper) and
  • a normal 'large' sketchbook  with the old lilac wrapper (with a double page spread of 8" x 10")

Comparison of the NEW and old wrappers for Moleskine sketchbooks

I then dug out an old Moleskine that had an empty page, my latest Moleskine and I photographed them all together - and this is what they looked like

Moleskine sketchbooks - the paper is different but not how I expected!

Moleskine Folio Sketchbook

It looks like the Folio Sketchbook has dropped the old dark mauve wrapper for a new lilac edged wrapper. They're still called Folio Sketchbooks on the Moleskine website
The Sketchbook A4 has 96 wide pages in high quality heavy paper, ideal for tempera colours. 160 g/m2 top quality acid free paper
The paper in this NEW version of the Folio Sketchbook is described thus
Back of new Moleskine sketchbook wrapper
  • Size (inches): 8 1/4" x 11 3/4"
  • Size (cm): 21x 29,7
  • 96 pages
  • 165 g/m2 (111 lb acid free paper)
  • ISBN 13: 978-88-6293-193-9
Interestingly the back of the wrapper describes the paper as now having better absorbing paper.

Now since this is NOT the watercolour sketchbook this seems an odd description. I don't particularly want the paper to be absorbent. I use coloured pencils and much prefer hard sized paper because the colours remain far more vibrant if they don't sink into the paper. The old description was this
  • A4 plain pages in high quality heavy paper.
  • 160 g/m2.
  • Dimensions: 21 x 29.7 cm - 12 x 8.5".
Back of old Moleskine Folio Sketchbook wrapper

On the face of it the NEW PAPER is lighter in colour and it feels as if it possibly be a little lighter in weight despite the assertion that it is in fact heavier 165g/m2 as opposed to the old 160 g/m2.

So far as I am concerned the weight and smoothness of the paper is everything. I wouldn't buy Moleskine sketchbooks at all if they lost either of these characteristics.  I also don't want a soft sized paper - I want a paper where the ink and coloured pencils I use sit on top of the paper and don't become absorbed by the paper and lose their 'edge'.

This is the link to the Folio A4 Sketchbook on the website

This is the link to the Folio A3 Sketchbook on the website (Not to be confused with the Moleskine Folio Plain book - with the old mauve wrapper - which only has 100 g/m2 acid free paper and is now listed as 'out of stock' by the Moleskine Store)

I found these first by putting sketchbook in the search window. I eventually found them through using the link to Creativity Notebooks and Albums

Using the top line menu I can get what's called the Art Plus collection (under Creativity). Just to confuse matters this seems to include a new size with an odd name called Art Plus Sketch Album - BUT note this only has 120 g/m2 paper not the 165 g/m2 paper of the Sketchbook.

So the moral of the story if you want the heavy weight paper is STAY AWAY from anything which is called
  • Notebook - the paper is not suitable for sketching if you don't want marks to show through the paper
  • Plain Book - 100 g/m2 acid free paper
  • Sketch Album - 120 g/m2 paper
  • Red Notebooks - this is flimsy paper that I use for my notes of exhibitions (however note that there is a Red Sketchbook which has a cover which claims 165 g/m2 paper)
I haven't tested the paper yet - watch this space!

[UPDATE: For those confused between the Folio sketchbook and the Folio book with plain paper this is how they were described when introduced in 2009.  

The Folio Collection will launch five new products, providing consumers with formats for both creating art and for professional use:
  • Ruled book : 176 pages, available in the A4 format
  • Plain book: 176 pages, available in the A4 and A3 formats
  • Portfolio: an accordion-style tool featuring big pockets in cardboard and cloth, available in A4 and A3 formats
  • Sketchbook: 96 large pages in high quality heavy paper, available in A4 and A3 formats
  • Watercolour Album: 60 pages, heavy paper, 200 gsm, cold pressed, available in the A4 and A3 format

Note the Plain book does NOT say it uses the heavy weight paper.]

Moleskine Classic Large Sketchbook

As per the image on the right in the top photo, this has traditionally been described thus
  • ISBN 13: 978-88-8370-115-3
  • Size (inches): 5” x 8 ¼”
  • Size (cm): 13X21
  • Pages: 104
  • Collection: Notebooks and Journals
  • Model: Hard black cover notebooks
  • Cover: Hard Cover
  • Colour: Black
  • Layout: Sketchbook
  • Format: Large

The new Large Sketchbook states
  • 104 pages of top quality heavy weight acid-free paper
  • Size (inches): 5" x 8 ¼"
  • Size (cm): 13 x 21
  • ISBN 13: 978-88-8370-115-3

What surprised me when I put the Large Sketchbooks together was the difference in the colour of the paper. I've not been using my current Moleskine much - and now I see why!  The colour is way different to normal and the brand new Sketchbook I that has just arrived is much more like the 2007 one. Seems as if somebody lost the plot on quality control.

I've yet to try the new Moleskine sketchbooks - but will report back when I have.  (Initial trials of hatchling in pen and ink on the back page suggests the paper seems pretty similar.)