Stillman and Birn Sketchbooks First Impression

Stillman and Birn Sketchbooks
Here are some Stillman and Birn sketchbooks that I bought recently.

Stillman & Birn is a company that was founded in 1958 by Philip Birn (1911 - 2004). Information is quite scare on their website but from what I can see, they seem to be selling only artists sketchbooks currently.

I learned about the sketchbooks through reviews online, from Ewa Ludwiczak, Jamie Williams Grossman, Laure Ferlita and Inkophile. Stillman & Birn has been sending some bloggers review copies to try.

They have 5 sketchbook series, namely Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. And most recently, they have just announced a new Zeta series.

My first impression will be based on hand-to-paper rather than ink-to-paper. Detailed reviews will come separately.

Here's the comparison table for the different series.

Alpha series Beta series Gamma series Delta series Epsilon series Zeta series
Paperweight Heavy Weight Extra Heavy Weight Heavy Weight Extra Heavy Weight Heavy Weight Extra Heavy Weight
Paper specification 100 lb - 150GSM 180 lb - 270GSM 100 lb - 150GSM 180 lb - 270GSM 100 lb - 150GSM 180 lb - 270GSM
Shade Natural White Natural White Ivory Ivory Natural White Natural White
Surface/Texture Vellum Cold-Press Vellum Cold-Press Plate Plate
Media Dry media & multiple washes Multi-media Dry media & multiple washes Multi-media Pen & Ink, coloured pencils & water-based-markers Pen & Ink, coloured pencils & water-based-markers
Binding Hardbound + Wirebound Hardbound + Wirebound Hardbound + Wirebound Hardbound + Wirebound Hardbound + Wirebound Hardbound + Wirebound
No. of Pages 124 52 124 52 124 52

Basically, the series can be separated into the 150GSM heavyweight and the 270GSM extra heavyweight.

Alpha, Gamma and Epsilon are the heavyweight sketchbooks. Beta, Delta and Zeta (the -ta series) are the extra heavyweight.

Heavyweight sketchbooks are 124 pages and Extra Heavyweight at 52 pages.

Stillman and Birn Vellum surface
The paper stock also varies in the surface textures. Vellum looks like cartridge paper to me with the very fine grain. The Cold Press are 270GSM paper with a slight watercolour paper texture. Plate is really smooth.

Generally speaking, for paper stock, one side usually has more texture. For Stillman & Birn, I find that their Vellum surface has good consistency on both sides of the page. The Cold Press surface has the slight watercolour texture on one side and the other side is a bit smoother.

Paper is acid-free.

Stillman and Birn Ivory surface
Paper shade comes in either natural white or ivory, which is off-white and has a slight yellow tint — a warm coloured surface essentially.

Each series is carefully targeted at the specific artist groups. This is great. There's bound to be a paper surface and weight that fits you.

For pen and ink or markers, you could go for the Plate surface. If you want some wash to go with your linework, you can choose the Vellum surface. If you need heavy duty paper for wet media, go for the Cold Press. Graphite and pencils, go for the Vellum.

Stillman and Birn Hardcover binding
All the sketchbook series come in hardbound and wirebound. The cover is a black textured.

Binding is quite strong and feels durable. The 124-page heavyweight pages open wide enough but bends towards the spine. The 52-page extra heavyweight pages are able to open flat. This affects how you draw near the spine and also how you're going to scan the pages.

The paper is bound in United States.

Here are the different sizes available for each series, width by height

Alpha Hardbound:

  • 4 by 6 in.
  • 9 by 6 in.
  • 5.5 by 8.5 in.
  • 8.5 by 11 in.
  • 11 by 14 in.
  • A4 - 8.25 by 11.75 in.

Alpha Wirebound:

  • 10 by 7 in.
  • 6 by 8 in.
  • 7 by 10 in.
  • 9 by 12 in.
  • 11 by 14 in.

Beta Hardbound:

  • 5.5 by 8.5 in
  • 8.5 by 11 in.
  • A4 - 8.25 by 11.75 in.

Beta Wirebound:

  • 6 by 8 in.
  • 7 by 7 in.
  • 7 by 10 in.
  • 9 by 12 in.

Gamma Hardbound:

  • 4 by 6 in.
  • 9 by 6 in.
  • 5.5 by 8.5 in.
  • 8.5 by 11 in.
  • 11 by 14 in.
  • A4 - 8.25 by 11.75 in.

Gamma Wirebound:

  • 10 by 7 in.
  • 6 by 8 in.
  • 7 by 10 in.
  • 9 by 12 in.
  • 11 by 14 in.

Delta Hardbound:

  • 5.5 by 8.5 in
  • 8.5 by 11 in.
  • A4 - 8.25 by 11.75 in.

Delta Wirebound:

  • 6 by 8 in.
  • 7 by 7 in.
  • 7 by 10 in.
  • 9 by 12 in.

Epsilon Hardbound:

  • 5.5 by 8.5 in
  • 8.5 by 11 in.
  • A4 - 8.25 by 11.75 in.

Epsilon Wirebound:

  • 6 by 8 in.
  • 7 by 10 in.
  • 9 by 12 in.

Zeta Hardbound:

  • 5.5 by 8.5 in
  • 8.5 by 11 in.
  • A4 - 8.25 by 11.75 in.

Zeta Wirebound:

  • 6 by 8 in.
  • 7 by 7 in.
  • 7 by 10 in.
  • 9 by 12 in.

Stillman and Birn Beta Series
The Stillman and Birn sketchbooks are not cheap.

In terms of value, I'm not so how they compare to sketchbooks from other brands. But the quality is there definitely.

I'll post a more detailed review in the future.

Also check out Stillman and Birn Facebook where they regularly feature sketches from other artists.

You can buy the sketchbooks at Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Utrecht Art Supplies (USA)

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