Best Watercolor Sketchbook in 2021

Today we are going to keep things simple – we are looking specifically at the best watercolor sketchbooks and notebooks, and rather than getting into a whole technical treatment, I thought it would be a lot better to just talk about the watercolor sketchbooks I know and love.

💡 Please note: This article may include affiliate links. When you buy through those links, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Table of Contents

Finding the very best watercolor sketchbook for you, in fact, can and should be quite simple.

What To Look For In The Best Sketchbook For Watercolor

When you are trying to find the very best watercolor paper available – that is, not watercolor sketchbooks but individual sheets, artist pads or studio rolls – you want to consider how the paper is manufactured and the materials used, the texture or finish it has, PH balance, strength and weight and much more, and it seems like it should be the same with watercolor sketchbook. 

I have to say, though, that this is where I seem to diverge from a lot of other artists, and have my own somewhat different thoughts and feelings about the best watercolor skechbooks. 

I am not so focused on these technical questions, but think instead of more basic things:

  • Does the sketchbook respond well to watercolor paints and techniques and handle water well?
  • Does it make my paintings look good and do they last?
  • Do I like using it?
  • Do I use it a lot?
  • Is it a good size and easy to take with?
  • Is the sketchbook well made and have a nice look and feel?
  • Do I love it?

For example, not all of my favorite watercolor sketchbooks have 100 percent cotton watercolor pape, but they all still manage to be very strong and have excellent water-holding capacity. 

And while we hear that it is important to determine whether a sketchbook or paper is hot pressed or cold pressed, I do tend to prefer the latter, with a rougher surface ideal for all types of watercolor techniques – this can still allow for good drawing and detail work as well, and is overall much more versatile than hot pressed watercolor sketchbooks. Indeed, all of my choices for the best watercolor sketchbooks are cold pressed.

All of my favorites have excellent paper quality, with a great finish that’s nice to work with, resistant to tearing and pilling, and will offer consistent and reliable results. 

All of the best watercolor sketchbooks I recommend here will be acid-free, ensuring that the pages will never yellow or shift in color and will last a long time. 

And all of the watercolor sketchbooks on my list will also be very high quality overall, with durable construction and a great look and feel – sometimes as important as any other factor to us aesthetic types!

To me, then, the most important factors in choosing the best watercolor sketchbook are as follows:

  • Good water-handling
  • Nice paper texture (not necessarily smooth, or rough, but always well-finished)
  • Acid-free paper
  • Natural and neutral paper color
  • High-quality construction and premium look and feel
  • Well designed, easy and nice to use
  • And, again, do I love it?

So, if you are like me, in that while specifications and details can be important, you are more likely to make a purchasing decision based on how something feels and works for you and your artwork, how it serves your process, how it makes your art look, and how you feel when using it, then this is the list for you!

Instead of offering the 27 best watercolor sketchbooks on the market today, or the 15 finest watercolor journals in 2021, or trying to offer an assessment of each and every brand and sketchbook out there –paper content, PH balance, fiber direction and manufacturing process, chemical composition of the fabric bookmark (I just made that one up) and who knows what else – I’m just going to include the 6 watercolor books that I have used and loved.

These are all great watercolor sketchbooks that work well with watercolor paints, pencils and pens and all watercolor techniques, make my art look wonderful, are very well made and nice looking, are easy and fun to use and actually encourage me to paint. 

For all of these and for other, less tangible reasons, each of my recommendations is a sketchbook that I absolutely love to have and use, and recommend very highly.

I think you will love any one of these journals, and I would love to hear about your experiences with them, and see what you have created in, and with, your new watercolor sketchbook!

Overview: Best Watercolor Sketchbook for Artists in 2021

  1. Moleskine Art Watercolor Notebook
  2. Moleskine Art Watercolor Notebook

    Hard Cover, Pocket (3.5" x 5.5") Plain/Blank, Black, 60 Pages


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Speedball Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal
  4. Speedball Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal

    Large Portrait, 8-1/4 x 5-1/2, 140lb / 300 GSM

    Sizes: 8.25 x 5.5 Inch | 10.5 x 8.25 Inch | 5.25 x 8.25 Inch | 3.5 x 8.25 Inch | 8.25 x 8.25 Inch


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Pentalic Art Watercolor Journal
  6. Pentalic Art Watercolor Journal

    140-Pound/7-inch-by-10-inch, 7-inch x 10-inch, 48 Page

    Sizes: 3.5 x 5.375 Inch | 5.5 x 5.5 Inch | 5 x 8 Inch | 7 x 10 Inch | 8.5 x 11 Inch


    Buy Now on Amazon
  7. Arteza Watercolor Book
  8. Arteza Watercolor Book

    3.5x5.5 Inch, Pack of 3, Small Pocket Pads, 80 Pages per Journal, 110lb/230gsm, with Inner Pocket and Elastic Strap, Art Supplies for Watercolor Techniques and Mixed Media


    Buy Now on Amazon
  9. Arteza Watercolor Paper Pad Expert
  10. Arteza Watercolor Paper Pad Expert

    Watercolor Sketchbook 5.5x8.5 Inch, Pack of 3, 30 Sheets Each, Spiral Bound, 140lb/300gsm Cold Pressed Acid Free Painting Paper for Dry & Mixed Media


    Buy Now on Amazon

Moleskine Hard Cover Art Watercolor Sketchbook

  1. Moleskine Art Watercolor Notebook
  2. Moleskine Art Watercolor Notebook

    Hard Cover, Pocket (3.5" x 5.5") Plain/Blank, Black, 60 Pages


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Moleskine Art Watercolor Album
  4. Moleskine Art Watercolor Album

    Hard Cover, Large (5" x 8.25") Plain/Blank, Black, 72 Pages


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Moleskine Art Watercolor Album
  6. Moleskine Art Watercolor Album

    Hard Cover, A4 (8.25" x 11.75") Plain/Blank, Black, 60 Pages


    Buy Now on Amazon
  7. Moleskine Art Watercolor Album
  8. Moleskine Art Watercolor Album

    Hard Cover, A3 (11.75" x 16.5") Plain/Blank, Black, 60 Pages


    Buy Now on Amazon

With strong and heavy (200 G/M² (grams per square meter) paper weight) premium quality paper, the Moleskine sketchbook takes water well without buckling, and are great for all watercolor techniques, including washes, layers, fading, blending and mixing colors. 

It is a cold press paper, which some may argue may not be absolutely the best for finer work, but I’ve found that they actually work great with pens or pencils and precise detail and is overall much more versatile and better for watercolor in general. 

Moleskine watercolor sketchbooks are acid-free and PH neutral, meaning the paper will not deteriorate over time, yellow or shift color or contribute to the degradation, color loss or fading of the painted image.

Is Moleskine Good for Watercolor?

The superb paper quality may be the main draw in this watercolor sketchbook, but what I also love about it is the overall look and feel. It is a substantial piece of kit, solid, nicely designed, easy to use and premium feeling, with a nice hard cover, elastic closure and an expandable pocket inside – solid, useful and durable, but light enough to be easily totable.

Offering exceptionally high quality and consistent results and allowing any watercolor images to look their most beautiful, the Moleskine sketchbook is a great choice for both a beginner, who really wants to explore and learn all aspects and techniques of watercolor as an art form, and the most experienced advanced artists as well.

The Moleskine watercolor album is available in four different sizes, all with the same wonderful design and high-quality paper:

  • Moleskine Watercolor Album, Pocket-Sized (3.5 x 5.5 Inches), 60 Pages
  • Moleskine Watercolor Album, Large Sized (5 x 8.5 Inches), 60 Pages
  • Moleskine Watercolor Album, Large Sized (8.25 x 11.75 Inches), 60 Pages
  • Moleskine Watercolor Album, Large Sized (11.75 x 16.5 Inches), 60 Pages

Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper Pad

  1. CANSON Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper Pad
  2. CANSON Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper Pad

    Heavyweight Cold Press and Micro-Perforated, Side Wire Bound, 140 Pound, 9 x 12 Inch, 20 Sheets, 9"x12"


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Canson Montval Watercolor Pad
  4. Canson Montval Watercolor Pad

    Cold Press Acid Free French Paper, Side Wire Bound, 140 Pound, 10 x 15 Inch, 12 Sheets, 10"X15"


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. CANSON Artist Series Montval Watercolor Pad
  6. CANSON Artist Series Montval Watercolor Pad

    Cold Press Acid Free French Paper, Fold Over, 140 Pound, 18 x 24 Inch, 12 Sheets, 18"X24"


    Buy Now on Amazon

Available in four different sizes, the Canson Montval watercolor sketchbooks all have superb acid-free heavy-duty paper, made in France specifically for watercolor paints, pencils and pens and suitable for all watercolor techniques.

It is a cold press paper, meaning it has a rougher surface, optimized for all watercolor processes and methods, and is heavy enough (300 G/M² (grams per square meter)) to withstand several washes, layering, scraping, erasing, heavy mixing and other water techniques. 

Again, though, I find this wonderful paper imminently suitable for detail work as well. Each sheet is cleverly micro-perforated, and can be detached without damage and displayed proudly.

With some of the best paper quality of any affordable watercolor notebook on the market, the Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Notebook goes in fact for remarkably resonable price, and is one of the most popular and widely used notebooks among fine and commercial artists, students and beginners alike.

  • Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper Pad, 5.5 x 8.5 Inch, Top Wire
  • Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper Pad, 9 x 12 Inch, Top Wire
  • Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper Pad, 9 x 12 Inch, Side Wire
  • Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper Pad, 10 x 15 Inch, Side Wire
  • Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper Pad, 18 x 24 Inch, Fold Over

Hand-Book Paper Co. Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal Bound in Natural Linen

  1. Speedball Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal
  2. Speedball Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal

    Large Portrait, 8-1/4 x 5-1/2, 140lb / 300 GSM

    Sizes: 8.25 x 5.5 Inch | 10.5 x 8.25 Inch | 5.25 x 8.25 Inch | 3.5 x 8.25 Inch | 8.25 x 8.25 Inch


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal
  4. Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal

    Large Portrait, 8-1/4 x 5-1/2, 95lb / 200 gsm

    Sizes: 8.25 x 5.5 Inch | 10.5 x 8.25 Inch | 5.25 x 8.25 Inch | 3.5 x 8.25 Inch | 8.25 x 8.25 Inch

     

    Buy Now on Amazon

A really beautiful and luxurious watercolor book, the Travelogue watercolor journal is hand-bound in fine European linen and is every bit as beautifully made as it looks, feeling like something truly special and important. And yet the Travelogue journal goes for amazingly low price, unbelievably so, even, when you consider how it looks, how it feels in your hand and how it makes your artwork look!

The Travelogue artist watercolor journal is available in five different sizes and two paper weights – 200 G/M² (grams per square meter) or 300 G/M². While both papers are both cold pressed and acid free, both are suitable for a wide range of watercolor techniques, and both are highly recommended, the 300 gram paper will definitely take more water without buckling, and better handle extended washes, several layers, scraping, rinsing and erasing without breaking down – this allows me to be more free and focused, without worry or distraction, and permits me to follow any technique or style without concern.

A beautiful book which, when I first held it in my hands I instantly imagined filled with beautiful watercolor paintings, the Travelogue artist watercolor journal is cleverly and usefully designed specifically with watercolor painting and artists in mind, and is a very high quality product in every respect – from its lovely linen cover to the rounded edges, the strong and discreet binding, the clever bookmark and elastic closure – and for a surprisingly low price. Very highly recommended!

Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal in 200 G/M² and 300 G/M² Paper Weight

  • Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal – Large Portrait – 8.25 x 5.5 Inch
  • Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal – Grand Portrait – 10.5 x 8.25 Inch
  • Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal – Large Landscape – 5.25 x 8.25 Inch
  • Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal – Pocket Panorama – 3.5 x 8.25 Inch
  • Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal – Square – 8.25 x 8.25 Inch

Pentalic Aqua Journal Bound Watercolor Sketchbook

Pentalic Art Watercolor Journal

140-Pound/7-inch-by-10-inch, 7-inch x 10-inch, 48 Page

Sizes: 3.5 x 5.375 Inch | 5.5 x 5.5 Inch | 5 x 8 Inch | 7 x 10 Inch | 8.5 x 11 Inch


A watercolor sketchbook with a slightly higher price, the Pentalic Aqua Art Journal certainly has a premium look and feel, and is clearly as well designed as it is well made.

Excellent materials and craftsmanship are evident everywhere – the superb finish of the heavy (300 GSM) paper is just ideal for even the most water-intensive work, and works well with any and all watercolor techniques without buckling or damage. The beautiful binding is not just attractive, but strong and long lasting as well, and the Pentalic Aqua art journal will lay down flat, making watercolor painting and drawing easy and fun.

For advanced artists and experienced watercolor painters, the Pentalic Aqua rivals even the best watercolor art paper in strength, finish and presentation, but in a really fine and useful portable package which allows you to work anywhere, anytime and at any level. And for the beginner or casual artist, the quality and design – and how good this journal makes your artwork look – make the Pentalic Aqua watercolor notebook a joy to use.

  • Pentalic Aqua Journal Bound Watercolor Sketchbook, 3.5 x 5.375 Inches
  • Pentalic Aqua Journal Bound Watercolor Sketchbook, 5.5 x 5.5 Inches
  • Pentalic Aqua Journal Bound Watercolor Sketchbook, 5 x 8 Inches
  • Pentalic Aqua Journal Bound Watercolor Sketchbook, 7 x 10 Inches
  • Pentalic Aqua Journal Bound Watercolor Sketchbook, 8.5 x 11 Inches

Arteza Watercolor Sketchbook Value Packs

  1. Arteza Watercolor Paper Pad Expert
  2. Arteza Watercolor Paper Pad Expert

    Watercolor Sketchbook 5.5x8.5 Inch, Pack of 3, 30 Sheets Each, Spiral Bound, 140lb/300gsm Cold Pressed Acid Free Painting Paper for Dry & Mixed Media


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Arteza Watercolor Book
  4. Arteza Watercolor Book

    3.5x5.5 Inch, Pack of 3, Small Pocket Pads, 80 Pages per Journal, 110lb/230gsm, with Inner Pocket and Elastic Strap, Art Supplies for Watercolor Techniques and Mixed Media


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Arteza Watercolor Sketchbooks
  6. Arteza Watercolor Sketchbooks

    9x12-inch, 2-Pack, Gray Hardcover Journal, 64 Sheets, 140lb/300gsm Watercolor Paper Pad, Spiral Bound Book for Watercolors, Gouache, Acrylics, Pencils, Wet & Dry Media


    Buy Now on Amazon

For my last item in this list of best watercolor sketchbook on the market today I am going to go in a slightly different direction, by recommending some marvelous value-packs from Arteza.

Any Arteza watercolor book would be a great choice – strong, excellent quality paper with a superb finish, great designs and overall quality and a beautiful look and feel – but as multi-packs they are even better, and a wonderful idea for anybody who is learning or just likes to paint a lot without having to worry about running out of space or paper.

Each of these value packs contains two or three separate sketchbooks, with anywhere from 128 to 240 total usable pages of premium, acid-free paper – a big supply so you don’t feel like you are going to run out, and a great value so you don’t worry about how much you are painting. 

And they are not just a great deal, they are really great sketchbooks, from one of the most popular and beloved art supplies companies, well made, well designed and wonderful to use – and what a value!

  • Arteza Watercolor Sketchbook Value Pack – 3.5 x 5.5 Inches, 80 Pages x 3 Sketchbooks
  • Arteza Watercolor Sketchbook Value Pack – 5.5 x 8.5 Inches, 64 Pages x 3 Sketchbooks
  • Arteza Watercolor Sketchbook Value Pack – 9 x 12 Inches, 64 Pages x 2 Sketchbooks

Final Thoughts: What Are the Real Advantages of the Best Watercolor Sketchbook?

Spontaneity, simplicity, portability.

I think that there is something about the ritual of painting which is unlike anything else I know, an almost sacred rite, personal, private and wholly undivided, in which I can fully focus on, and express at the very highest levels, my creative energy and artistic vision.

And yet, when I put it like that, all serious and poetic and junk, I have to giggle a little. Yes, it’s true, canvas or fine art paper, easel, beautiful studio lighting, soft background music – that’s the ideal, but not always. Sometimes I want to paint on the subway, or at the park, or whenever / wherever the mood hits me. And sometimes, even at home, by the time I’ve set up the easel, cued up iTunes, put on my serious artist painting smock and beret and assembled my paints and brushes, that mood may have passed.

But with a good watercolor notebook, one that’s made well, designed well, really nice to use and with fine, strong paper – and especially (though not necessarily) with the best watercolor pencils – I can respond right away, with almost no set-up or thought when the mood does strike. I can be at home or away, at any time day or night, flip open my beautiful watercolor book and instantly go with the flow.

Thanks so much for reading my latest article – Best Watercolor Sketchbooks for Artists in 2021: A Look at Some of My Favorites! – and I encourage you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.

Other articles in watercolor series:

More Reviews and Guides: