The Best Sketchbooks for Writers, Travelers, Artists, and More

A visual example of the best sketchbook: bright white pages with hand letting, with a white pen on a white marble countertop.

Sketchbooks aren’t just for professional artists.

They’re great for writers, left-brain thinkers, or anyone who wants to tap into their creativity.

I’ve been using sketchbooks for years and while I wouldn’t call myself a visual artist by any stretch of the imagination, I do love using markers and colored pens to add some colorful flourishes to my otherwise mundane descriptions of my lunch. I also love the blank, large pages and the sense of freedom that a sketchbook provides. In fact, I think that’s what makes a sketchbook so great--there’s something unfussy and workman-like about them. The best sketchbooks give you creative freedom without the pressure to be perfect and precious about your work. 

Whether you’re looking to get your creative juices flowing or searching for a space to express your thoughts, you can find the best sketchbook for your needs.

Here’s why you might want to find the best sketchbook:

  • You want to keep a visual journal
  • You want to be more creative and try drawing, illustrating, or coloring.
  • You’re a visual learner and you want a space to help you think through and understand new concepts and information.
  • You want to improve your memory.
  • You want to problem-solve and find creative solutions.
  • You have lots of fun pens and pencils that you want to put to good use and don’t want the color to bleed through the pages
  • You like anything crafty, like collages and scrapbooking, and need a durable, high-quality sketchbook
  • You want to do something fun with your hands.
  • You want to try a mindful activity that doesn’t involve writing or analyzing.
  • You want to record all your interests and observations a la Leonardo da Vinci :)

How to use a sketchbook

Finding the best sketchbook for you will depend on how you would like to use it.  Artists, writers, and creatives all use sketchbooks and journals in such different ways that you really can’t go wrong in your approach. 

Here are two important things to consider before selecting your sketchbook:

  1. Size. Is this a sketchbook that you want to carry around with you everywhere? Then you’ll want something compact and portable. Or if you plan on using a sketchbook in the privacy of your own home or if you want to use paints, then you can opt for something larger. 
  1. Short-term vs long-term. Do you want to use this sketchbook for quick exercises and sketches? Then you’ll be fine with a sketchbook that comes in a ring-binder or a sketchbook with perforated, tear-off sheets. If you want a sketchbook that’s more long-lasting and can be used to store your scrapbooking and collages, then you’ll want a sketchbook with hardcover binding. 

While there are no hard-fast rules to using a sketchbook, here are three simple and fun ideas to help get you started: 

  1. Observe. Practice your observational skills and write down what you see. You can describe the people in your office or neighborhood. Or if you want to tap into your naturalist side, go for a walk and describe the plants, insects, or wildlife. Being observant is the first step towards becoming a writer, artist, photographer, or even small business owner! Noticing the world around you will help you understand behavior and patterns, which can be so beneficial to your business or artistic practice.
  1. Give yourself challenges. Maybe challenge yourself to do a quick drawing everyday. Or challenge yourself to draw a flower everyday--anything! Whatever your challenge may be, this is a time to stretch yourself and work on something that helps you grow. You can even use the monthly challenges in your Ink+Volt planner to help keep track of your sketchbook challenges. 
  1. Collect. You can use your sketchbook as a travel journal and use it to keep plane tickets, restaurant receipts, hotel stationery, and other little mementos from your journey. Keeping this visual collection of your travels is a nice, tactile way to remember your trips. 

Now that you have some ideas on what to do with your sketchbook, here are the best sketchbooks based on your needs:

The Best Sketchbook for Visual Journals

Watson-Guptill Sketchbook. This classic sketchbook is great for people who’ve never picked up a sketchbook, professional creatives, or writers with artistic tendencies.  I’ve been using Watson-Guptill sketchbooks since high school, so it’s perfect for keeping all your journal entries, collages, and attempts at writing “serious” poetry. :)  You could use it to write your morning pages, illustrate your progress on projects, or make your own vision board by illustrating and taping beloved images.  Plus, the paper is smooth and thick but not grainy, making it suitable for both writing and illustrating without worrying about smudges.  

The Best Sketchbook for Drawing and Practicing Technique

Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Paper. Whether you’re new to drawing or an old pro looking to hone your technique, you’ll appreciate the durable, high-quality paper of the Strathmore series. It has durable spiral binding so it allows you to flip through pages and do quick drawing exercises, so it’s ideal for taking with you on travels or for on-the go. You can also take it with you outside and keep it on your lap to practice your nature drawings. 

The Best Sketchbook to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

642 Things to Draw. This fun and whimsical book is ideal for beginners or for creatives who could use some more inspiration.  If you’re at the beginning of your creative journey and not sure where to start, you’ll love the 642 prompts on what to draw. Each page can be used for different kinds of art practices, like sketching, coloring, or painting. Have fun with the prompts and see what you come up with.

The Best Sketchbook to Discover Your Voice 

The Steal Like an Artist Journal.  This journal is perfect for beginning writers, artists, or anyone who’s like to take their work to the next level by stealing like an artist. You may have heard the saying: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” This isn’t about plagiarizing your favorite writers and artists, but rather, giving you permission to find your own voice or style by first imitating others. By identifying what you like about people you admire, you’ll start to cultivate your own creative identity.  Austin Kleon wrote about this very topic in his book Steal Like an Artist and this companion notebook is filled with prompts, lessons, and exercises--you’ll feel like you’re taking a class with Kleon himself! 

The Best Sketchbook for Multi-Purpose Use

Moleskine Hard Cover.  If you want a sketchbook that’s multi-purpose, you really can’t go wrong with a Moleskine. You can use it as a daily sketchbook, visual journal, or travel diary. Plus, the hard cover makes it durable enough to bring with you on commutes or travels. The paper is thick enough that you can glue or tape any travel mementos, like receipts or plane tickets. And the little pockets inside let you store items like itineraries or photos.
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