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.)


  1. The old hard-sized paper was the best thing about Moleskine sketchbooks. I was very excited when the A4 came out because I'd been wanting the same paper at a larger size for some time. I was extremely disappointed in the paper quality and felt like I'd been cheated (the damned things aren't cheap). It's sad to hear that they're moving the smaller notebooks over to the lesser paper as well.

    I've been using Stillman & Birn sketchbooks lately. It's the only company that makes a real "artist's" sketchbook with good paper.

  2. The last two Moleskines I bought had something in the paper that resisted the sketchpen that I was happy with at the time. It was Christmas time and found Picadilly brand notebooks at the bookstore..Yes to the price and the paper inside loving my pen.

  3. I am curious how they will fair. I also wanted to tell you that about halfway down I think that you lost part of yoru writing:
    " 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 "
    I was waiting for the finished sentence!

  4. Whoops - missed that one Katie - thanks for highlighting it.

    Sentence is now completed.

  5. I've updated my post to make it clearer how to avoid the Moleskines which have the lighter weight paper.

  6. Brennen - unless you got hold of Folio Sketchbooks with a dark mauve rather than a brown colour wrapper you won't have got the proper original paper.

    I've had Folio sketchbooks in both A4 and A3 sizes since 2010 and the paper is fine. However I think the version with a brown wrapper has much thinner paper.

    I always used to inspect the wrapper for a description of heavy weight paper.

  7. I became disenchanted with several brands of sketchbooks so, at a fellow artist's suggestion, bought a ream of 110# white cardstock from Staples for ink sketching. So far I like the finish. Have to carry the sheets in a folio, but not a problem yet.

    I did a quick search on your blog, and it doesn't appear that you have written yet about the big changes to watercolor paper. During a recent watercolor workshop, I learned from the artist that most companies are going from handmade, 4-deckle paper to machine-made-on-rolls 2-deckle paper. The properties of the paper have changed quite a bit to accommodate this new process, producing both benefits and drawbacks. One big drawback is that for many of the wash techniques I use, my good sable brushes pull previous washes off the paper. I've had to buy synthetic brushes to deal with this, and my lovely expensive brushes are sitting in a corner most of the time.

    You may want to investigate and blog about it. I enjoy your blog and learn a great deal from you!

  8. I'm investigating the watercolour paper.....

    Which brands have you been having problems with?

  9. Hi, Katherine,

    I have been experimenting with a number of papers and have found the new synthetic brushes work better so far on Kilimanjaro and Strathmore.

    Here's the list I was given:

    New Paper System: Kilimanjaro, Arches Bright White, Fabriano, Strathmore, Daler-Rowney.

    Old Paper System: Arches Natural White, Saunders-Waterford.

    I'm going to stock up on Arches Natural White when I can afford it.

  10. I just checked and, in fact, this year I have the new version and last year I had the old version.

    I use mine for field sketching and keeping a journal when I go to Mongolia (9 trips since 2005). I didn't notice any difference until I compared them after reading this post. Yes, the new version has lighter colored paper and is lighter in weight. But it performed the same with the medias I've used since I first bought one in 2010: Sakura Micron pens and water soluble colored pencils. This year I added non-waterproof gel pens for which I used Koi water brushes to get a tone and also did a "real" small watercolor. Worked fine for everything. I definitely like the whiter paper.

    I have two unused ones and once they're filled then I'll decide whether to buy more of the same or see what else is out there.

  11. Hi Katherine , would like to ask whether you know the year of Moleskine Sketchbook edition from its wrapping paper. I actually made a picture contained 4 different wrapping paper of Moleskine but think i can not attach it here. Here what i found in net
    Moleskine Sketchbook (Large)
    1. On the front side of its lilac wrapping paper written only : Moleskine, Legendary notebooks, Sketchbook, Carnet de croquis. (like you have in the picture)
    side (spine) :Sketchbook, carnet de croquis..
    2. front : Moleskine, The legendary notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, Chatwin, Sketchbook, 100 pages 13x21cm top quality, heavy acid free paper expendable back pocket.
    side (spine) : Sketchbook
    3. Front : same as no 2
    side : empty
    4. Front : same as no 2 and 3 but "The legendary notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, Chatwin" is written in 2 lines with the second line is "Picasso, chatwin"
    side : empty, nothing written there. and it seems the lilac colour is is not as light as other versions.

    Well, Thats 4 different versions of Moleskine sketchbook that i dont know its year of publish. For the Art Plus edition i have it accidentally, i ordered old edition as mentioned in the online shop description but they sent the art plus . I have not try it yet as if its more absorb, then i might just use it only for pencil and pen not marker or watercolour as usual. I also have no 1 and 2 but i like no 2 rather than no 1. Im thinking maybe because its different version so the character is also different. As i always buy it online, and sometimes the picture in online store is not the same as they actual stock maybe i can check its year of publish to get to know which one that i prefer to buy. Thank you

  12. Sorry - I can't date the wrappers to years, however I do keep my wrappers in the back pocket.

    I think we just have to go with what's now available as the chances of being able to get whatever has been available in the past is going to mean researching shops which don't shift their Moleskines very fast!


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