Review: Watercolour Sketchbooks from St Louis Art Supply

St Louis Art Supply is an art supplies store based in St. Louis, Missouri, USA (map).

A few months ago, they sent me a few custom handmade watercolour journals to test.

These are spiral bound sketchbooks made with either 25% or 100% cotton watercolour paper that's available in coldpress and hotpress surfaces.

I'm actually not a fan of spiral-bound sketchbooks because the binding will get in the way when I place the sketchbooks on the bookshelf with other books. The other disadvantage is it's very likely to bend the spiral wire inside a bag.

But these spiral-bound watercolour journals from St Lous Art Supply are better and actually address those two concerns. The company has included a paper cover that covers the wire binding so that they are not exposed, and as a result the binding doesn't get in the way on a bookshelf and in the bag. It's a smart design.

The wire binding is thicker than usual, and is quite strong too so they don't bend easily, not even if you try to bend them on purpose. The metal used is aluminium which is resistant to corrosion and rust – think of laptops made with aluminium.

Advantages of a spiral-bound sketchbook is it allows you to draw with the page completely flat. You can also fold the page to the back to minimize the size of the sketchbook. Downside is you can't draw across both pages, and when scanning with CIS scanners, areas that are not in contact of the glass (areas near the wire) will be blur.

The cover is just thick paper so it can be bent, and with wear and tear the edges can be roughen up. I'm guessing thinner paper is used instead of cardboard to keep the sketchbook thinner and lighter. It's a good choice. This sketchbooks are certainly more compact and lighter than my hardcover sketchbooks.

If you can fill up the sketchbook quick, without having to always bring it around in a bag, the cover should maintain its physical condition well.

Depending on which watercolour journal you get, the paper can be either from Fabriano or Legion Stonehenge.

The first page is designed for you to write your name and contact details. So that's one out of the 25 pages.

At the time of this review, these are the paper options:

  1. #202 Plan & Sketch (portrait) - 100% post-consumer recycled material, 110 x 155 mm (4.3" x 6.1"), US $14.95
  2. #302 Watercolor Journal (landscape) - Fabriano 25% cotton, 300gsm coldpress, bright white, 105 x 180 mm (4.1" x 7.1"), $16.95
  3. #303 Watercolor Journal (square) - Fabriano 25% cotton, 300GSM coldpress, bright white, 180 x 180 mm (7.1" x 7.1"), $22.95
  4. #310 Pro Watercolor (landscape) - Stonehenge Aqua 100% cotton, 300gsm coldpress, bright white, 105 x 180 mm (4.1" x 7.1"), $22.95
  5. #311 Pro Watercolor (square) - Stonehenge Aqua, 100% cotton, 300gsm, bright white, 180 x 180 mm (7.1" x 7.1"), $29.95
  6. #102 Cotton Drawing (portrait) - 100% cotton, 250gsm light texture, natural white, 130 x 180 mm (5.1" x 7.1"), $21.95
  7. #502 Pro Mixed Media (portrait) - Fabriano 100% cotton, 300gsm hotpress, bright white, 130 x 180 mm (5.1" x 7.1"), $28.95
  8. #503 Utility Mixed Media (portrait) - Fabriano 25% cotton, 300gsm hotpress, bright white, 130 x 180 mm (5.1" x 7.1"), $17.95

Most of the watercolour journals are slightly smaller than A5 ( 5-7/8 x 8-1/4-inches). They are available in landscape or portrait orientation, 25% or 100% cotton watercolour paper.

The most important thing to note here is there is option for hotpress watercolour paper. Watercolour sketchbooks with hotpress cotton watercolour paper is rare. The only other company I know that makes hotpress watercolour sketchbooks is Koval.

This was sketched and painted on the #302 watercolour journal with 25% cotton coldpress watercolour paper. The paper quality is good. Using pen, ink and watercolour on it is wonderful experience. Ink does not feature, and you can use typical wet on wet watercolour techniques.

That's the texture and granulation effects you can expect from the coldpress paper.

It would be great if there are larger sizes for these journals. More options is always better.

If you prefer working on A5 size, then you'll have to get the portrait journal sized 130 x 180 mm (5.1" x 7.1") which you can just turn 90 degrees to draw horizontally. I actually kinda like the square format.

These handmade watercolour sketchbooks by St Louis Art Supply perform really well with watercolour, they have all the advantages of spiral-bound sketchbooks without the typical wire-binding drawbacks.

The pricing seems reasonable to me. But note that my sketchbooks are sponsored so it can be difficult for me to judge the value objectively. You can decide whether they are worth your money. All I can say is, I really enjoyed using the one I've used so far.

Find the sketchbooks at


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