Review: Strathmore Visual Journal - Watercolor 300GSM

I tried the 9” X 12” watercolor journal book, with paper weighing 140lb (300GSM), and is acid free. The book is spiral bound and the sheets, a total of 22 sheets, are sandwiched between 2 very thick cardboard, if put together, measures about 0.8cm. Henceforth, the book feels very sturdy if you are holding up with your hands to draw outdoors, thus no need to carry extra drawing board support. The papers are not too white so it is not hard on your eyes if you are drawing under a table lamp or in the open. As what the manufacturer has said, the book is made to withstand rough handling. You can literally do anything and everything on the book and it won’t look battered. The weight of the papers give its durability too. I have done wet on wet watercolor technique on a single sheet, and it only show a little sign of warping after the paint dries. Best of all, you are able to draw, and paint on both sides because there is no bleed through, even with markers (I used a brand of Korean made markers named ShinHan TOUCH).

Tests with watercolor, inks and pens

I quite like the 140lb cold press textured surface (almost rough), which allows for substantial granulation when used with watercolor paints with granulating property. Cerulean blue, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna can granulate quite well on the surface.


You can also get quite nice textured effect with dry brush technique too. Watercolor works pretty well on the paper too. Washes went on smoothly with minimum banding but the wash tends to dry with a crisp edge due to the paper being moderately sized. I would recommend wet on dry technique on this paper as it might get messy if you need to rework the wash to get softer edges. There are also chances you get darker streaks of color around the edge of a painted wash due to ponding of paint on the paper surface.


The paper surface can be quite rough to work with when you are using a pen. I have some difficulty getting a consistent inked line with my favorite Hero fountain pen and parallel pen too. Certain bamboo pen may work quite well but it depends. Moreover, most inks that I have tried bled and blossomed. Indian inks work pretty well. Here is a visual sample of how the inked lines change with the type of inks used. Noodlers bulletproof black works better than the colored Noodlers inks. I have not tried with watercolor inks yet.


The result of using inked lines with watercolor washes is quite satisfying.


The lines are drawn with diluted Noodlers ink and then painted with watercolors.


Done with a handmade bamboo pen and Noodlers ink (Singapore Sling).


Calli Brown ink with a bamboo pen. I used another watercolor ink to go over some places to add effect of a darker line. For this I used sepia. The ink bleeds immediately on the paper when a line is drawn.


Fountain pen with Noodlers ink (Black), watercolor and colored pencil.

Overall Strathmore watercolor journal book is quite a robust tool to work with. It is not pricey so you can get a bunch of these to practice and experiment on. But if you are particular on how your lines would look on your drawing, then you may want to consider an alternative sketchbook or drawing paper.

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