The Perfect Sketchbook for Travel Artists & Art Enthusiasts (Kickstarter)

My friend Erwin has launched a Kickstarter for a 100% cotton sketchbook.

The sketchbook is targeted at travel artists, art enthusiasts, sketchers and those who just want a more quality sketchbook than what's available out there.

I've used and seen several sketchbooks and I've not actually seen one that's 100% cotton before.

Here are some features of the sketchbook:

  • Hardcover with smooth leather-like surface
  • Elastic band to keep the pages together
  • Rounded corners
  • 60 pages of 100% cotton acid-free Coldpress archival watercolour paper
  • 190 GSM
  • Paper is made from England's St Cuthberts Mill (makers of Waterford and Bockingford)
  • Paper colour is off-white, light cream
  • Ribbon bookmark
  • 18% Photography grey front sheet
  • Value chart included
  • Inner pocket on the backcover
  • Durable binding
  • 3.5 by 5.5 inch (9 by 14cm) landscape

Check out more details and pictures at

Don't miss this chance to get your copy. Campaign ends 21 Aug 2014

And here below is Erwin talking about the inspiration and motivation behind his Kickstarter campaign.

My name is Cherngzhi and I’m a Singaporean Artist who travels with my sketchbook.

For the longest time I have set aside this idea of sketching-on-the-go. Though it has always been my dream to one day to sketch the world, the fear of losing savings for something “intangible” has always prevented me from proceeding. As cliché as it sounds, I started travelling when a relationship failed, prompting me to engage with anxiety and aspiration.

Without an objective in mind, I began my journey of sketching and traveling around the world.

This journey of sketching has led me to try out a smorgasbord of art materials and sketchbooks. Eventually, I accumulated a breadth of experiences with them and acquired a taste for quality materials.

One day, out of sheer boredom, I looked up the company that produces the sketchbooks I use most often. Being in a country that relies extensively on imported goods, I was impressed when I realized that these books were manufactured by a local company. Immediately, I wrote an email, attached it with a watercolor sketch and asked if I could try a sketchbook for free. Unexpectedly, the company Grandluxe replied to my email within a day and generously sent me a few sketchbooks to review.

I was really happy to receive their sketchbooks but at the same time, unsatisfied with its new design and features — mainly with its detachable bind and the kind of paper used. I thought to myself: “It really isn’t that tough to choose the right paper, bind, cover, etc. to make that perfect sketchbook. Perhaps, the company just needed feedback”. So, I did; I gave them my feedback and left it from there onwards.


Over the next few days, I began to conceptualize the perfect sketchbook. I drafted an idea, drew the design and proposed a crowdfunding project. At this juncture, I was unaware that only a few nationalities were truly qualified to kick start something on This was largely due to the logistics of funding accounts and wiring procedures. Nonetheless I shared with the people of Grandluxe what a crowdfunding project meant and began work on “the perfect sketchbook”. From the beginning, it was simply my passion to design a sketchbook. I was unaware of the cost involvements, work involvement: I simply proceeded.

From the start, I valued the feedback of my peers: I gathered feedback from other artists and took careful notes on what they really wanted in a sketchbook. I went through forums and posted questions on online threads. Artists around the world seemed to be looking for sketchbooks that were well-bound with quality archival and watercolor paper.

Through my research I learned that the ideal sketchbook size for most would be A5 (portrait). Many were also very particular about the quality of watercolor paper. However, few seemed to know about the range in quality between 20% & 100% cotton paper. Due to cost disparity, there were very limited choices of a 100% cotton paper sketchbook.

It was also very interesting to note that many artists would spend money on quality pigment but were reluctant to invest the same in quality paper. Pigment, paper and water are the 3 most important variables in watercolor painting. With these 3 variables in equilibrium, it will be a lot easier for one to achieve “greatness” in watercolor paintings.

The extras

When we first tried to make a prototype, I was aware that it would have to be different. So, I devised 2 tools to be included in the sketchbook: 1) First, a value chart that the artist could use to assess values of their subjects and secondly, a grey card that the artist could use to better gauge exposure when taking a photograph. The first tool was included because good value assessment skills are instrumental to creating good paintings. Having been an art educator for over 5 years, I realized that most of my students lacked the ability to “read” values.

Initially these values charts were supposed to be modular stickers so that the artist could place them against any page while they were sketching or painting. However, after a few meetings, I realized how inconvenient this would be since loose stickers are easily lost.

The 18% photography grey was included as I have taken numerous overexposed and underexposed photographs during my travels. Having taken film photography classes in college, I was aware of the concept of a light meter. Since there was some extra “real estate” on the sketchbook, I decided that an approximated 18% grey would fully utilize the surface of a sketchbook. I also found it strange that most sketchbooks were either black or colorful. Grey is actually an ideal color since grey accentuates Chroma and has always been used on oil palettes.


It was never my intention to make an expensive sketchbook. However, after testing numerous watercolor papers, I recognize the disparity in quality and more importantly, was educated on the scale of economy.

With a minimum bulk order for new materials, even 20 % cotton paper won’t offset enough cost. Thus, the wiser choice at low volume is to simply work towards a high-end product that will maximize the cost of imported materials. I went through the catalog of covers, ribbons and papers and picked quality over mediocrity.

My first choice of paper was Arches. However after contacting Canson, we were referred to their secondary labels Montval and Moulin Du Roy. They were supposed to be similar but had a wholesale division. I liked Canson’s 100 % cotton paper but they were unavailable in lighter weights for sketchbooks. Eventually, I chose Sauders Waterford because it was thin but strong enough to withstand substantial water punishment.

Paper selection was actually the easy part. The decision on book sizes was the most challenging. We knew that size A5 would be ideal. However, factoring the cost of materials at such low scale, the funds required for sufficient A5 books and its eventual pricing turned out to very high. Thus I was limited to a compact sketchbook design.

To ensure that it is a durable sketchbook that opens flat, the direction of paper grain needs to be considered. Proper grain direction ensures a nicer fold, flatter book and buffers for paper expansions when it gets wet. Proper grain direction also means more paper wastage — in other words, higher costs.

The cost of quality material is expensive. However, the real cost came in when we factored in other variables. Kickstarter for instance takes 5 % of the funding that is raised. charges another 5% for payment processing. Then there are costs of import, packaging, delivery, exchange rates and wiring. Let’s not forget the cost of producing the video and footage for the Kickstarter campaign. Finally, there will be U.S tax charges on this project if it ever gets funded. As such, even the USD$25 reward for a compact watercolor sketchbook will result in undershooting the targeted goal of USD$50,000; thus I will only receive sufficient money to modestly buffer for the entire production. Bear in mind that I have also spent hundreds of unpaid hours to piece this project together. When I looked through the funds and rewards of many similar projects I got the impression that most of these may have already been produced. Rather than raising money for production, the funds to be raised seem to be just for marketing purposes. (Since Kickstarter does provide for traffic and visibility)

Why then do I still proceed with this sketchbook project when making a profit is out of the question? Why spend so much time on something that really isn’t as perfect as it might be? Well, there really aren’t any big reasons, I simply had a passion to do it and that is more than enough reason for me.


Check out The Perfect Sketchbook and more pictures at

Campaign ends 21 Aug 2014


Add new comment