• Saunders Waterford Sketchbook Review

    I’m often asked when exhibiting, demonstrating or teaching if I have a favourite sketchbook and which one do I recommend. This is actually quite hard to answer because we all paint in different ways and look for different things in a sketchbook, so the sketchbook that one person loves may not suit another. So during my next few posts I’m going to be sharing with you some of the sketchbooks that I have used and talk about my likes and dislikes for each one.

    I’m always on the lookout for the perfect sketchbook but I haven’t found it yet!

    Some artists like to have just one sketchbook using it for everything. I’m not like that! I always have several on the go at the same time, because I like to use different sketchbooks for different things. I have books for daily sketching, mixed media, experiments, art journal, holiday sketchbooks, tuition planning to name a few!

    Stitched or Spiral Bound Sketchbooks?

    The sketchbooks I’m going to be reviewing over the next few weeks are all suitable for watercolour and they are all hardback case bound books.

    The reason prefer a case bound stitched opposed to a spiral bound sketchbook is that it allows me to paint across both pages without the spiral getting in the way and splitting the spread in two. Because I enjoy painting across a spread for me it’s quite important that the stitching remains tight so that the leaves don’t separate or become loose resulting in the paint seeping on to other pages. I also like a book that opens reasonably flat to make it easier to paint on.

    Watercolour seascape painted across a sketchbook spread
    Plein-air sketch across a two pages

    Hard or Soft Backed Sketchbook?

    I personally prefer hardback sketchbooks because not only do they look nice but they give good support when painting without the need of leaning on something solid or else risk it bending just as you’re applying your paint!

    I think it’s probably worth me saying at this point that my preferred paper when working on paintings is Saunders Waterford, and when tutoring Bockingford which I think is a good middle of the road paper. There are plenty of spiral pads containing these papers, which I do use when teaching, but I haven’t yet been able to find either paper in a lightweight hard back stitched sketchbook.

    Saunders Waterford Sketchbook Review

    Saunders Waterford Hard Back Sketchbook


    However having said that the first sketchbook I’m going to review is a Saunders Waterford sketchbook and whilst I really enjoy painting in it I’ll explain why it’s still not my perfect sketchbook!

    This lovely watercolour sketchbook is a stitched book with nice sturdy black hard covers and is approximately 11” x 10” (28cm x 25cm).

    As I’ve mentioned Saunders Waterford is one of my favourite papers, it’s a 100% cotton paper. This sketchbook has 28 leaves with lovely deckle edges, giving 56 pages on which to have fun!

    Things I like about this sketchbook!

     A real positive for me with this sketchbook is that it contains a decent weight paper, 300gsm / 140lb, which means I can happily paint fluid washes without worrying the paper will buckle too much. Mine is a Not surface but I believe it’s available in Hot Pressed and Rough also.

    Saunders Waterford deckle edges

    I love the classic look and feel of this sketchbook with its smart black covers and I particularly like it’s deckled edges and the watermarks on some of the leaves.

    Saunders Waterford watermark

    Being my preferred paper I have found this sketchbook a joy to paint in. It opens well giving a large flat area when painting a spread over both pages. I have found the stitching has remained nice and tight as I’ve worked through the book. There is a very slight difference in texture between the front and back of the paper, which is to be expected, but both sides are great to paint one.

    Things I’m not so keen on about this sketchbook!

    Well I have to say there are really just two downsides to this sketchbook for me.

    The first is it’s size. Because it has 28 leaves of 300gms paper it is quite bulky and heavy to carry and to hold when painting out and about, although I do find it great if I’m working on a table. It’s also slightly larger than my every day sketchbooks which isn’t really a problem, it’s just a personal choice.

    The second point is that I think it’s quite pricey for an everyday sketchbook, it feels too special for me to use for experimenting in.

    My overall thoughts on my Saunders Waterford sketchbook Review.

    I love using it for a special sketchbook because it has such a nice feel and quality about it but I don’t use it for a general sketchbook to play and experiment in.

    Saunders Waterford sketchbook page

    Mine is an ongoing sketchbook that I’m using to record a lifetime challenge I have set myself. I aim to visit every inhabited island in the British Isles! My aim is to spend time on each island, at least a whole day, ideally longer, and whilst there produce plein-air sketches. I also like to include short descriptions about the island and what I have done whilst there. Whilst visiting each island I pop a post card in the post to my home address which I then stick into my sketchbook when I get back.

    Saunders Waterford sketchbook page

    It would be great to hear if you have used this sketchbook or have any thoughts about it.

    If you would like to see more of my sketchbook studies please click here.

    Next week I’ll be reviewing a Stillman & Birn sketchbook.

    Happy painting,


    You can see more of my daily art activities on my Facebook and Instagram pages.



    4 thoughts on “Saunders Waterford Sketchbook Review

    1. Hi Ingrid,
      I think I’ll find your sketchbook postings really helpful. I can see why you like this one for your special travels. I like the deckled edges. I only have experience of a limited number of sketchbooks so far but seem to be using the ones I have for specific things. I also found out that the spiral ones don’t suit me especially if a page falls out!
      Thank you for your advice so far.
      Stay safe. June x

      1. Hi June,
        I’m really pleased you’ve found my review interesting, I’ll be reviewing 7 different stitched hard backed sketchbooks. I also really like deckled edges, they make a bout look attractive when open or closed. Do you have a favourite from the ones you’ve tried?
        Happy painting,
        Stay safe x

    2. I know this was a while ago but I hope you pick this up. Do you have a separate sketchbook for pencil/ ink work? I’m torn between wanting one place for all my work and wanting different paper for different jobs

      1. Hi Helen, I know what you mean. I always have several sketchbooks on the go at any one time however I don’t tend to have separate ones for different media. I like to have separate sketchbooks for specific purposes such as a holiday journal, holiday plein air watercolours, tuition planning and then several different sizes for my everyday sketchbook. I use the same everyday sketchbook for watercolours, mixed media, experimenting and drawing, deciding which I used based on its size. I hope this helps, have fun!

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