May 2023 update: Added info on hotpress sketchbook performance.
Sketchbooks were provided by Etchr Lab for this review.
Etchr Lab is a company based in Australia that sells art supplies and instructional art videos.
The Etchr Sketchbook uses watercolour paper made with 100% cotton.
And since 100% cotton watercolour paper is expensive, this sketchbook is noticeably more expensive compared to non-cotton watercolour sketchbooks. The sketchbook is sold in a bundle of three on Etchr Lab website.
These are the prices at the time of review (May 2023):
Landscape (3 in a bundle)
- A4: US $119.99
- A5: US $89.99
- A6: US $62.99
Portrait (3 in a bundle)
- B5: US $107.99
- A5: US $89.99
- A6: US $62.99
Thankfully the prices are inclusive of shipping. There may be discounts for purchase of 2 or more bundles.
If you just want to buy one sketchbook, you can buy on Amazon (links below).
The hardcover is wrapped with cotton fabric that can be painted on. Fabric covers can get dirty quite easily.
There's an elastic band to hold the covers together. With time the elastic band will lose its elasticity and you'll have to cut and remove it – I've done so with several other sketchbooks with such elastic bands.
The sketchbook can be opened completely flat which makes it easy to scan the pages. The binding looks durable.
That's how the cover is glued to the pages.
The paper is able to handle pen, ink and watercolour quite well. Wet on wet techniques work well. Colours are able to blend softly together.
Here's the wet on wet test. Creating gradated wash and colour blends is possible.
These are horizontal strokes painted while the wash was wet. The horizontal strokes are able to blend into the wet wash but not as smoothly compared to other better quality paper as seen below. There's also some streaking as the paint moves down.
You may also notice the horizontal strokes separating into smaller individual streams.
This is Arches watercolour paper and the horizontal are able to blend more smoothly.
This is Fabriano Rosaspina paper (60% cotton) which performs really well with wet on wet. This paper is used in the Arkademie watercolour sketchbook.
Here's a watercolour sketch painted across two pages.
Some water will seep through holes where the threads are but it's not too much, and hence not a big problem.
The texture of the coldpress surface is lovely. Watercolour and granulation looks terrific on the paper.
There's no obvious paper grain pattern.
I was still able to blend colours smoothly by charging in some red paint onto the wet yellow wash.
The paper can handle glazing or layering quite well. The building was painted with yellow. The red was painted over after the yellow was dry. The shadows are then painted over when the red was dry.
Paper weight for the coldpress and hotpress is 230gsm and 220gsm respectively. Quality of the sizing is good and the paper doesn't buckle much with water.
This was painted with gouache. There's a lot of layering involved and there were no issues.
This was created with graphite, coloured pencils and watercolour. Watercolour looks vibrant on the paper.
These are coloured inks from my Uniball pens.
Paper weight for the hotpress watercolour paper sketchbook is 220gsm vs the 230gsm with the coldpress paper. Both sketchbooks are equally thick despite the paper weight difference.
The thing with coldpress watercolour paper is, it's common to find one side with more texture (shown above).
And this is the smoother side of the coldpress which still has visible texture compared to the hotpress watercolour paper.
Hotpress surfaces work better with pen and ink, dry media such as coloured pencils and crayons, and are good for detailed illustrations. When drawing with ink, you can get lines with solid edges easily.
Pigment or water-based markers work well on hotpress paper because markers work well on smooth surface paper. Alcohol markers will still bleed through.
Coldpress can be used with pen and ink as well, but you have to draw slower to get the lines with solid edges. The textured surface is more challenging to work with for dry media because you have to press hard to really cover the paper completely with pigment, And because you can cover hotpress paper easily with dry media, colours will look richer on hotpress paper.
With coldpress paper, you can get texture from the surface as from granulating paint. With hotpress paper, you have to rely on granulating paint for the texture.
The hotpress paper has the same issue with coldpress paper.
For test 1, I tried to blend the red into the yellow by tilting the sketchbook constantly. The sharp edges is due to certain areas drying faster before the paint can blend.
For test 2, the sketchbook was flat on the paper. The horizontal strokes of paper on the wet surface did not move much. This is what you can expect when painting with the sketchbooks on your lap while outdoor, but you can probably tilt the sketchbook to get better colour blends.
For test 3, the horizontal strokes painted on wet surface on a sketchbook that's angled so the paint is moving down with help of gravity. The red paint did not blend as smoothly compared to what you can achieve on top quality watercolour paper. And there's still the streaking effect as paint moves. To achieve wet on wet techniques, you may have to use your brush to provide movement for the paint instead of relying only on gravity.
To see more of my sketches in the hotpress sketchbook, visit this link.
Overall construction of the sketchbook is good and looks like it can last. The elastic band may become loose in the future.
The paper is able to handle several layers of watercolour washes and colours look vibrant. The main limitation with the paper is with wet on wet techniques. Paint does not move much on wet surfaces compared to better quality paper, and then there is movement, there's also some streaking effect.
The paper quality in the Etchr sketchbooks is good but not the best. Having said that, I can still recommend these sketchbooks because they are still pretty good. As to whether they are worth the money, you will have to decide for yourself.