Friday, January 13, 2023

Mini Review: Uglybooks, No. 2 Wide


Uglybooks in the No. 2 Wide size

1/2/23 colored pencil in No. 2 Wide Uglybook
(all portrait reference photos by Earthsworld)

In the six months that I’ve been using Uglybooks, the colorful sketchbooks have become increasingly useful and inspiring to me. My enthusiasm has been for Uglybooks’ “No. 1 Tall” pocket-size edition, which has been especially handy for the quick urban sketches that I like to make while I take walks.

When I started my portrait practice last fall, I kept thinking that the brightly colored pages would be especially fun as the midtone between black and white for portraits, but the pocket size was a bit cramped for that. It was time to try Uglybooks’ larger “No. 2 Wide” edition. This mini review is an update to talk about the larger edition. (For comments on paper quality and other features that are common to both sizes, please see my original review.)

At 8 by 5 ¾ inches, the No. 2 Wide format is exactly double the size of the pocket-size edition. It’s just a smidge smaller than A5 (8.26 by 5.82 inches). The oddball format might annoy some, but I prefer that aspect ratio to the more common US format of 8 ½ by 5 ½ inches (such as Stillman & Birn). The format is called “Wide” because it is staple-bound on the short side, making it a landscape-format book.

Staple-bound on the short size, the landscape-format book has branding only on the back.

In addition to portraits, my primary interest in the larger Uglybooks is for urban sketching when color is not essential. Often when I’m sketching indoors and even outdoors on these gray, winter days, I’m looking for value contrasts and composition more than color, so it’s fun to let the midtone come from the page’s color. I enjoy the extra space in the larger size, especially for interiors.

1/4/23 Uni Pin brush pen and colored pencil 

In the past when I’ve sketched on location with a hardcover landscape-format book (or even Stillman & Birn’s softcover landscapes), the opened book has been awkward to hold, especially when standing. But the Uglybook’s stapled binding enables the book to fold back, which makes it even handier than the hardcover A5 Hahnemühle sketchbook I’ve been using in the field. With 48 pages, the Uglybook adds hardly any weight or bulk to my bag.

While sketching, I fold back the side I'm not using, making it easier to hold. I am enjoying the comfy real estate of the double-wide page compared to my pocket-size Uglybooks.

For both portraits and urban sketches, I had considered simply sketching across the gutter in my pocket-size Uglybooks, but I find the gutter disruptive, especially on portraits. The larger size is ideal for both uses.

The colors I chose are “Grunge” green and “Fern” orange, two favorites from my (admittedly large) collection of pocket-size Uglybooks. I also got a Mystery pack (because I can’t seem to resist a mystery) that includes another favorite from my pocket-size collection, yellow-orange! I can’t wait to bust that one open.

From top: Unnameable pale green, yellow-orange, Grunge green and Fern orange.

12/30/22 Colored pencil and graphite

The Mystery pack also included a pale green that had come in a Mystery pack of the smaller size, too. Not dark enough to be a midtone (white pencil and gel pen don’t show up on it), that green didn’t do much for me initially. And what color is it, anyway? Too warm to be mint, too pale to be lime or pistachio – it’s enough to keep me up at night!

However, I recently gave the pale green a shot in both sizes, and it’s starting to grow on me now. If I think of it as an alternative to white, it has interesting potential and sets off some colors in surprising ways. It won’t become a favorite, but it won’t get wasted, either.

Ugly is beautiful! Long live Ugly!

1/4/23 Caran d'Ache Neocolor I (I love the way that blue pops on orange!)

1/1/23 Maple Leaf neighborhood
Cd'A Museum Aquarelles (dry)

11/5/22 Green Lake
Museum Aquarelles (lightly activated)


  1. I like that these are landscape format. I seem to always be turning my sketchbooks sideways to capture what I want. Do you sketch on both sides of the paper?

    1. Yes, I do sketch on both sides of the page... that's why I love it that this paper is heavy enough not to have any show-through!

    2. Glad nothing shows through. I hate that!


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