Friday, February 18, 2022

Review: Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook


"Akademie Aquarell" implies that the Hahnemuhle sketchbook
is student-grade watercolor paper.

Since the Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook was new to me, I had intended to fill the whole book before writing a review; sometimes issues or surprises come up after using a book for a while. For example, some sketchbooks are notorious for falling apart before they have been filled. Halfway through my 60-page A5 book, though, I’m confident that I have used it in all the ways I would typically use an everyday-carry urban sketching book. I also see no evidence of wear or a compromised binding (though I will certainly update this review if something occurs). Therefore, I don’t have a problem with standing up right now to declare that I love this sketchbook!

First, the physical book itself: The sturdy hardcover has a dark gray textured fabric that is pleasant to hold (and hides dirt). I miss having a cover surface that I can sticker up as I do with Stillman & Birn’s softcover books, but the Hahnemühle is more substantial. It comes with a useless ribbon bookmark. It doesn’t get in my way tucked in back, so I left it attached, but I would not hesitate to simply cut it off.

A pleasant textured fabric over hard covers and a bookmark useless to me.

Also useless to me is the elastic band, but others might use it, especially if they keep loose papers tucked inside. I simply wrap it around the back cover and leave it there, where it stays out of my way.
My elastic band is wrapped around the back cover 

An important feature of the Hahnemühle’s stitched binding is that every page spread opens absolutely flat on my scan bed. Stillman & Birn Beta, which had been my everyday-carry urban sketching book for several years, has stitched signatures, but the signatures are glued to the spine in such a way that the spreads between signatures form a gap, and one side does not lay flat. This causes an annoying shadow on some pages when scanned. It’s a minor flaw that I had been fine with overlooking because I enjoy using the Beta in most other ways, but I have been delighted with the Hahnemühle eliminating this issue.

An idiosyncratic benefit is the Hahnemühle’s true A5 size. Although I’d grown accustomed to S&B’s 8 ½-by-5 ½-inch dimensions, a true A5 aspect ratio is so much easier to use in either landscape or portrait orientation. I know the difference is only a half-inch or so either way, but A5 is just enough wider that it offers more compositional versatility.

Now the important part – the paper. The 200 g/m2 (110-pound) watercolor paper is substantially lighter than S&B Beta’s 180-pound weight, yet I was surprised that I don’t miss the weight at all. Even with heavy spritzing, the paper doesn’t buckle as much as S&B Beta does. Last fall when I first bought the book, I wrote a preview post to show the results of preliminary testing. (If I hadn’t liked those early test results, that might have been the end of it, at least for urban sketching.) Features of the paper that I appreciated then still hold true: Its substantial sizing and paper weight easily withstand spritzing and light washes with watercolor pencils. In the sketch below, made during Seattle USk’s January Zoom meetup, my usual spritzer was downstairs, so I used a different one on my desk, which puts out too much water. Even so, the paper took the excess water well. Watercolor painters who need paints to “float” on the sizing might have different opinions, but Hahnemühle has excellent sizing for my pencil needs.

Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle. The paper takes spritzing well, even over-spritzing.

The sketch below, which I blogged about recently, shows off one of my favorite aspects of Hahnemühle paper – its tooth. With texture that’s heavier than S&B Beta but lighter than Legion Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress (which I had briefly considered as a daily-carry), it hits the Goldilocks sweet spot for me. I love the effortless texture of trees and other foliage when using soft colored pencils.

Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle. I love the paper's texture when sketching trees.

I’ve also occasionally used my favorite soft-tipped Uni Pin brush pen, and it goes down well, too. Everything I’ve used in it so far, including Faber-Castell watercolor markers, has taken to the Hahnemühle page well.

Uni Pin brush pen

The Hahnemühle’s only drawback is its price. Typically it runs about $25, but if I wait patiently for unexplained price drops, I’ve been able to grab it on Amazon for about $20, which puts the cost at the same as S&B softcovers, page for page. A corollary drawback is that I can’t seem to find it anywhere other than on Amazon. A few online shops carry some Hahnemühle products, but not this watercolor book. (If anyone has a source, I’m all ears.) Needless to say, I’ve already hoarded a few for spring and summer. This is my daily-carry urban sketching book for the foreseeable future!

The Hahnemuhle postcards come in a handy tin with potential for sketch kit reuse.

In my preview post, I included the Hahnemühle cold press watercolor postcard, so I’ll mention that again here, too. Although I don’t make postcards often (especially now that I’m not traveling), I had been looking for an alternative to the Strathmore brand, which has too strong of a tooth relative to the size of the card. The Hahnemühle 105-pound postcard paper is lighter than Strathmore’s 140 pound and also has a much lighter texture. It’s also slightly less toothy than the Hahnemühle sketchbook. The rounded corners are a refined touch when giving postcards to others, which I did with the two below.

11/23/21 Viarco ArtGraf water-soluble graphite, CdA Museum Aquarelle

12/10/21 CdA Luminance colored pencils

I keep this tin of postcards in my car in case I am spontaneously moved by a scene to make a sketch for someone. (As you can see from my examples, the sketches I give to others are no less mundane than the ones I keep in my sketchbook. 😉) Incidentally, crafty/arty people are reusing these Hahnemühle postcard tins to make portable sketch kits. That would be an ideal and even somewhat meta reuse of this tin. I’m keeping the idea in the back of my mind, maybe even for my teeny-tiniest sketch kit, which blog reader Debi had suggested! 


  1. Your trees looks great to me. I was gifted two sketchbooks from Hahnemühle for Christmas but I still have to dare using it. Definitely the king of blogpost that helps !

    1. Give it a shot and let me know what you think, especially if you use watercolor!

  2. I may have to get one of their books after your recommendation. I've used their postcards and small pads that they gave out at the symposiums and liked them. I think I bought a zig-zag sketchbook of theirs too, but haven't used it yet.

    1. I haven't tried a zig-zag book yet, but if I had a specific purpose for one, like a lengthy sketch story, I would definitely get one!

  3. Thanks for this review. I'd tried this in the past and didn't think I liked it. I was just watching an Etcher demo on YouTube and the Urban Sketcher presenting recommended this book, saying the paper is 25% cotton. And the link to Jackson's Art (in UK) where the blurb stated, "The paper is a natural white and acid-free 200gsm Hahnemuhle fine grained watercolour paper with the same texture on both sides for those who wish to paint wide panoramas." The issue of different texture on front and back of page is a big issue for those who do want to sketch across the page.

    While exploring the Hahnemühle website I noticed a 100% cotton sketchbook. When I couldn't find it anywhere, I wrote to the company's "contact us". I received a reply that it would be available in the USA sometime in March!

    1. I'm sure watercolor painters would say the paper isn't quite beefy enough for heavy washes, but it's fine for my uses. Let me know what you think if you try the 100%!

  4. They have them for under $20 at Walmart right now, if that helps.

    And at this indie (I think?) store in Tennessee, but much more expensive:

  5. They have them at Walmart right now for less than $20, if that helps:

    And at this indie (?) store in Tennessee, but for considerably more:

  6. Oh--and at Michaels, too, but only online:

    1. Great tips, Martha -- thanks! I got several when Amazon suddenly had them for around $20, so I'm good for now. :-)

  7. Hi, I know this post is a little older, but you can find these Hahnemuhle books in all sizes and formats at Arch Supplies in San Francisco. They also have the 100%. cotton books. If you can’t find them on the website, you can just call the store to order. Hope that helps!


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