Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Preview: Hahnemühle Sketchbook and Postcards


Hahnemühle A5 sketchbook and postcard set

A few weeks ago when I shopped at Daniel Smith for the last time, one thing I had really hoped to stock up on was my daily-carry Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook. Alas, by Day 2 of the sale when I made it there, the Beta edition books were all gone. The Beta I’m filling now is the last of my stash, but before shopping for more Betas elsewhere, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try something new.

Whaaat??! If you keep up with my blog, you know that no art supply sends me into a tizzy as much as choosing a sketchbook does. Paper is all-important, and if you use a variety of media as I do, then the choice is always a compromise in one way or another, making the decision even more difficult. Once I find an urban sketching sketchbook that works for me most of the time with most materials, I tend to stick with it. I don’t change sketchbooks impulsively or without plenty of hand-wringing and naval-gazing.

You will be shocked, then, to hear that I will be trying something new – and somewhat impulsively! I was shocked, too, as I found myself viewing a Hahnemühle A5 watercolor sketchbook and clicking “add to cart.” I know that Hahnemühle has a lot of fans among wet media urban sketchers, and I had been curious for a while, so maybe the choice wasn’t so impulsive after all.

As I continued searching for Hahnemühle products, I remembered that the German company also makes watercolor postcards. I haven’t been making as many postcard sketches to give away as I’d like to, and one reason is that I don’t like the strong tooth of the Strathmore postcard pad I have been using. I thought I’d try a tin of Hahnemühle’s cold press postcards, too.

I still have a way to go before my current Beta is full, so it will be a while before I start using the Hahnemühle sketchbook, but I made a couple of important preliminary tests right away.

First, I spritzed a page and a postcard heavily, spread the water, “licked” pigment from a watercolor pencil with a waterbrush, and applied it to the wet papers. After those dried, on the reverse side of each, I doodled a tree and spritzed it lightly. I also made a patch of watercolor pencil and left it dry. Although I’m not as fussy as watercolor painters are about how long paint floats on the sizing, these tests enable me to see how long I have before wet-in-wet pigment sinks in. I also like to see how well paper holds up to spritzing and what the surface texture looks like under dry pencil. Finally, it’s important to me to be able to sketch on both sides of the page.





Both the sketchbook and the postcard performed well in these tests, which are typically my heaviest uses of water. Although the 200 g/m2 (sketchbook) and 230 g/m2 (postcard) papers are significantly lighter than S&B Beta (270 gsm), they warped less. I thought both papers’ cold-press textures would be the same, but the sketchbook is a bit coarser, and both are slightly coarser than Beta’s texture.

Based on these tests, I’m optimistic about Hahnemühle. I especially like the sketchbook’s true A5 size, which I’ve always preferred to S&B’s 5 ½-by-8 ½-inch size.

It’ll be a month or two before I can give the sketchbook a full road test and review, so this is just a preview of my wild and crazy impulse. (Whats next – take up skydiving?) Stay tuned.


  1. I haven't tried their sketchbook, but I have tried their postcards and some of their paper. I had nice results with both.

    1. Good to hear you like the papers! I'm looking forward to trying them.


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