Having spent many happy hours reading so many quality blogs and reviews of products on the inter webs I have come across a little gap in subject matter that I have begun to address. I am simply in love with stationery and all things related. My pencil addiction has had me search the globe for all sorts of wonderful wooden delights and I am happy to say after about 7 years of collecting that I am rather content with my personal hoard. I have also been searching for the perfect sketchbook/paper to carry with my pencils and other art goodies. I am almost certain that I have also found it.

What I am going to publish on my website is a series of posts that will test the limits of what I consider the best all round sketchbook. I will subject it to pens, pencils, paint, markers, and anything else I can. The end result of this testing will be a painting, but I do expect that the sketchbook will be its own little work of art at the end of this process.

The paper I think is the best all rounder is the Baron Fig stock found in their range of bound notebooks. I have been carrying a Confidant, their cloth bound, hard covered delight for some time. For the purpose of this project I will be using the limited edition Clear Sky Vanguard. There are many reviews of how nice this edition looks, whilst I agree my intent is to use them and talk about how well they take to my project.

I will give some comparative feedback as it is only fair that I use other papers to gauge my results.

I have tried many sketchbooks over the last 20 years as well as having worked in art supplies stores and a short stint as an art teacher. I have tried most of what is available so having settled on the Baron Fig as my top choice has not been done without a lot of hands on testing with other paper. My requirements for a sketchbook are as follows:

1. Number of Pages

2. The Tooth of the Paper

3. The Weight of the Paper

4. Durability

3. Archival Qualities

6. The Size of the sketchbook.

I will cover these off in the process of creating, in fairness there will probably be more on points 2, 3 and 4. How the paper holds up is of utmost importance.


I have opened the packaging, and there are three colour choices. I have started with the blue. The first task for me is to set an intention, a loose statement of what I will fill the book with. For this little writing task I used my Pilot Namiki Falcon with their wonderful Taki-sumi black ink. This is a wet pen as it has a flex nib. Fountain pen ink has had a habit of bleeding through other art sketchbook paper much of it is a cartridge style paper and it sucks the ink up almost like blotting paper. There was no bleed through which is what I want. The Baron Fig paper is not heavy, possibly 70gsm, which is lighter than a lot of art paper. I like this as there are more pages in a compact size. A great start.





The first little sketch I did was a made up victorian terrace house. There are many of these in Melbourne and I do live in a small version of one of these. I started with pencil, then I washed lightly with watercolour and then hit it with the fountain pen. This is just an ice breaking sketch, getting rid of the white paper can be rather traumatic with a fresh sketchbook :). It was also another bleed test. Nothing came through to the other side of the page. This is the way a sketchbook should work. As an artist, I do not want to be held to using just dry media when developing work. As I will be painting at the end of this process, I need to use wet colours to brainstorm. Thin paper that can do this is a blessing.



Next I tried the killer of most paper, Windsor and Newton Pigment Markers. They are very similar to graphic design markers as they have the alcohol base, but these use artist grade pigments that are lightfast. Most other graphic markers will fade over time, these should not fade at all. Not surprisingly these did bleed through, but not as much as it does with other papers. This still makes this sort of marker viable as a sketchbook tool, at least for me. A sketchbook is not a place for finished artwork and a page that has a little of the other side coming through is not a drama.



Baron Fig Bleedthrough

Copy Paper Bleedthrough

Lastly I used some Prismacolor pencils, and used them more thickly than I would usually to test the durability of the paper. There have been many times I have had the paper start to disintegrate with due to friction. The Baron Fig Paper was resilient and did not show and signs of falling apart on me. Another tick.

So this is where I start, I will be producing more images shortly with other materials and will even be gluing in reference. How the Clear sky travels and wears will be interesting. As a small soft bound sketchbook, it will be subject to a lot of torturous treatment.



Note: Baron Fig kindly provided me with the Clear Sky Vanguard’s. I do not blog for profit nor do I represent them in any way. I am a fan who wanted to do this for personal enjoyment.