Best Sketchbook for Mixed Media: The Ultimate Guide

What is Mixed Media Art?

Mixed Media art is a visual art form that brings together different traditional mediums into a single composition, for example, if you work with ink, paint, pencil and add some pictures and stickers on a page of your sketchbook you’ve created a mixed media piece. The term mixed media is often used when an artist combines multiple mediums in a single artwork, and this can involve, sculpture, collage, fabric, but in this article we’re going to learn more towards the mediums you can use in a sketchbook in order to find the perfect sketchbook to handle mixed media.

What Makes a Sketchbook Great for Mixed Media?

Paper Weight

 Paper Weight refers not only to the density of the paper but also to the thickness it has. Mixed media artists are known to use and abuse their sketchbooks, and that is wonderful in many aspects, since it has gifted us with some of the most beautiful artworks and sketchbook exhibitions, however a sketchbook that doesn’t check all the boxes will tear, warp and buckle and that is never what we want in the middle of a piece.

  • If you’re working with ink, you can have the luxury of going for thin paper, up to 200 gsm will work, it’ll be able to handle ink and light watercolor washes well, perfect for urban sketching and some travel painting.  
  • If you’re working with alcohol markers, get a coated paper, don’t try to go for anything else, or your markers will bleed and your paper will tear with all the blending. 
  • If you’re working with paint markers don’t go for anything less than 300 gsm, especially if you like to apply several layers or blend a lot. 
  • If you’re working with watercolors and plan on using heavy washes, then don’t go for anything that is not labeled “for watercolors” and that has less than 300 gsm or else your paper will warp, tear and the other pages of your sketchbook will suffer as well. 
  • If you love making collages of scrapbooking, but you also like using a lot of stickers or pictures, then also use relatively thick paper, or your paper might accidentally tear while flipping your pages.

Paper Texture

You’ll find sketchbooks with different paper textures and learning to identify them and knowing what they’ll do to the medium you work with will help you not waste money in art supplies you end up not using. Mixed media sketchbooks typically feature rough paper, to firmly grip paint and any other medium you use on them, however there are specialty sketchbooks that use smoother paper made for inks, pencils, and makers that need a smoother surface and are labeled as so.

  • Smooth (Hot Pressed): Smooth or hot-pressed papers have a fine, flat surface ideal for detailed work. This texture is excellent for pen and ink, detailed drawings with pencils, and markers.
  • Medium (Cold Pressed): A medium or cold-pressed texture strikes a balance between smooth and rough. It offers a slight texture that’s versatile enough for both detailed work and media requiring some tooth, like watercolor and gouache. 
  • Rough: Rough textures provide a prominent grain that can add a dynamic element to your work, especially effective with dry media like charcoal, pastel, and soft pencils, but also with watercolors and acrylics. 


Bindings will either stand on your way or be your best friends, there’s no in-between, so before getting a sketchbook blindly, let’s first learn about the different types of binding and identify which one you’ll find more comfortable to use:

    • Spiral Binding: It’s the most common binding that you’ll find out there, it allows you to lay your sketchbook completely flat, or fold it over itself. If the cover is thick enough, you can use it as a support to draw while standing or sitting, but it might be uncomfortable to use while laying flat because your hand will constantly bump into the rings, and you won’t be able to work on two-page spreads.
    • Hardbound: This is a more traditional book-like binding that has a rigid cover where the pages are sewn and glued into the spine. These sketchbooks are extremely durable and provide a stable surface for drawing, however due to the nature of the binding, you might have trouble  getting them to lay completely flat.
  • Softcover: These sketchbooks offer a more flexible cover, typically with glued pages instead of a stitched spine, they are more lightweight and more affordable too, and they can lie flat which is an advantage for artists who love working on two-page spreads.
  • Stitched or Thread-bound: These sketchbooks have their pages carefully sewn together in sections which are connected to the cover, this allows them to lie flat, but also makes them more expensive and hard to find. They are better suited for professional artists looking to archive their works or have them exhibit at some point in time, or for those who have the budget for them.

Size and Portability

When purchasing a sketchbook you should always consider what kind of art you’re going to make and what size you prefer for this since different artistic projects need different amounts of space. 

  • Large Sketchbooks: Offer more space for bigger, expansive projects that can include broad strokes and large-scale compositions. They’re ideal for detailed or large works that require room to evolve. However, they might not be as convenient to carry around.
  • Small Sketchbooks: Enhance the ability to capture details and are perfect for quick sketches, convenient for carrying and using on-the-go. Their compact nature encourages more frequent use, making them excellent for daily practice or capturing daily moments.

At some point in time you’ll find the size you feel most comfortable with, but until you reach that point, we recommend going for something easy to fill, easy to carry and easy to use. Don’t go for a large sketchbook if you’ve never worked on one of those, you can instead try the sketch pads with only a few sheets on them and see how comfortable you’re with the space. Don’t go for something too small if you’re used to mid-size sketchbooks, you’ll be uncomfortable painting on it and probably won’t end up using it. 

Price vs. Quality

Mixed media sketchbook prices vary a lot based on their quality, the paper weight, texture and the binding. Higher quality sketchbooks are more durable and better for handling various types of media without bleeding, buckling or tearing. They are also acid-free which ensure your art will not yellow over time and will be well-preserved. Budget sketchbooks are much more affordable, but are not meant to endure as much as high quality ones do, they might warp easily, tear, the paper quality might not be compatible with the different mediums, and while they’re great for practicing and everyday-use they might not be the best choice for work you need to preserve long-term.

Top Mixed Media Sketchbooks 

#1. Best Sketchbook for Mixed Media Overall — Strathmore Visual Journal Mixed Media

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About Strathmore Visual Journal Mixed Media

The Strathmore Mixed media visual journal is an amazing sketchbook that many mixed media artists use due to its high quality, size and the comfort it provides while using it. This sketchbook is made from 100% cotton paper with a slight texture that is great for dry media but also works wonderfully for wet media. The sketchbook has a hardcover that is high quality and sturdy enough to protect your art. The Visual Journal is wire-bound, which allows it to lay flat when open, and it comes in multiple sizes, such as 5.5 x 8 inches and 9 x 12 inches, providing options for those who prefer either a compact form for portability or a larger size for larger scale work.

What makes it great:

  • Paper Weight: 190 g/m2
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Texture and Color: Vellum Paper, White
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Binding Type: Wire-Bound
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Size and Format: 5.5″ x 8″, Portrait
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Price: $9.48
    • Our Score: 10/10


  • Durable, heavyweight paper
  • Spiral-bound convenience
  • Versatile for techniques


  • Limited paper color
  • Price slightly higher
  • Bulkier design

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2. Best Sketchbook for Mixed Media for Professionals — Etchr Mixed Media Sketchbook 

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About Etchr Mixed Media Sketchbook 

Etchr the “perfect” sketchbook is a high quality choice designed for serious artists who require the best of the best for their work. Made with 1000% cotton, 300 gsm cold pressed paper, this sketchbook can handle it all, from several heavy washes to dry mediums, ink, gouache, paint, and even markers. It has a lay-flat design, which makes it perfect for two-page spreads and to work comfortably without bumping on the rings of having to constantly stretch your sketchbook. The cover is customizable, which allows you to personalize your sketchbook, and it has 52 pages which is more than enough to fill without feeling overwhelmed. On the downside, this sketchbook is on the expensive side, but it’s considered a worthwhile investment due to its high quality, durability and ease of use by many artists all over the world.

What makes it great:

  • Paper Weight: 300 gsm  
    • Our Score: 10/10
  • Texture and Color: Cold pressed, white paper
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Binding Type: Hardbound, lay-flat design
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Size and Format: 5.8 x 8.3, Landscape
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Price: $31.90
    • Our Score: 7/10


  • Professional quality
  • Water-resistant cover
  • Lay-flat design


  • Higher cost
  • Fewer pages
  • Heavier weight

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3. Best Budget Sketchbook for Mixed Media — Canson XL Mixed Media Pad

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About Canson XL Mixed Media Pad

Canson has been a reliable yet affordable brand for the longest time, and it continues to be it by offering high quality, durable, paper, in a generous quantity for a very affordable price. We’ve all used a Canson XL at some point in time and we’ve all grown fond of them so be it for making quick sketches, color studies, drafting ideas, etc, this sketchbook never disappoints. It comes in multiple sizes, in two textures, cold pressed and rough, and it has 60 sheets for you to fill, rip, practice on and not feel guilty about.  

If you’re on a budget and looking for something reliable and that will last, then this is the best choice, just remember this paper is not made of 100% cotton so it might not be the best taking multiple watercolor washes and excessive wet mediums without buckling a bit.

What makes it great:

  • Paper Weight: 160 gsm
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Texture and Color: Cold Pressed, White
    • Our Score: 8/10 
  • Binding Type: Wire-bound
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Size and Format: 7 x 10 inches, Portrait
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Price: $14.15
    • Our Score: 9/10


  • Affordable price
  • Generous page count
  • Easy-to-remove sheets


  • Thinner paper
  • Less durable cover
  • Prone to warping

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4. Best Toned Sketchbook for Mixed Media — Stillman And Birn Nova Trio 

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About Stillman And Birn Nova Trio

For those who love toned paper or who’ve never tried toned paper and want to try different colors without buying multiple sketchbooks, Stillman and Birn come strong with this alternative that includes three different toned papers, in gray, black and beige. This 150 gsm paper is not only high-quality acid-free paper, but also is of archival quality, which ensures the longevity of your work. The sketchbook is sized at 7.5″ x 7.5″, providing a compact, almost square layout that is ideal for compositions that benefit from a balanced aspect ratio, it also has a softcover binding that is flexible yet sturdy, and it is designed to open flat. This lay-flat design is crucial for artists who work on two-page spread art and who hat bumping on the spirals when working on top of a desk.

What makes it great:

  • Paper Weight: 150 gsm 
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Texture and Color: Medium Grain Texture, Beige, Grey & Black Paper
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Binding Type: Softcover
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Size and Format: 7.5″ x 7.5″, Square
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Price: $23.94
    • Our Score: 8/10


  • Three-tone papers
  • Premium build quality
  • Excellent paper texture


  • Pricier option
  • Limited availability
  • Heavier to carry

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5. Best Travel Sketchbook for Mixed Media Overall — Pentalic Aqua Journal

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About Pentalic Aqua Journal

And here we have another of the favorites of many traveling artists who love to journal, sketch and paint on the go. The Pentallic aqua is the go-to choice of many artists who focus on watercolor techniques but also appreciate the versatility to use other mediums. It features 300 gsm archival, acid free paper that handles heavy washes without an issue. It comes in several sizes, the most popular being the 5.5 x 5.5 inches one, popular for its portability and ease of use. The cold-pressed texture of the paper provides a slightly textured surface that is ideal for watercolor. It offers enough tooth to hold the paint but is smooth enough to allow for detailed work and the use of fine pens or pencils.

What makes it great:

  • Paper Weight: 300 gsm
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Texture and Color: Cold Pressed, white
    • Our Score: 
  • Binding Type: Harbound
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Size and Format: 5.5 x 5.5 inches, Square
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Price: $18.89
    • Our Score: 8/10


  • Portable size
  • Waterproof cover
  • Versatile paper


  • Smaller pages
  • Fewer sheets
  • Tighter binding

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FAQ Section

What is a mixed media sketchbook?

A mixed media sketchbook is designed to accommodate various artistic mediums, from watercolors and acrylics to charcoal and pastels. These sketchbooks generally feature thicker, more durable paper that can handle both dry and wet media without bleeding through or buckling.

What are the advantages of using a spiral-bound sketchbook for mixed media?

Spiral-bound sketchbooks are excellent for mixed media artists due to their ability to lay flat, making it easier to work across two pages. They are also convenient for artists who need to remove pages cleanly, as the spiral binding allows for easy page detachment without damaging the artwork.

Can I use watercolors in a mixed media sketchbook?

Absolutely! Many mixed media sketchbooks are designed to handle watercolors among other mediums. Look for sketchbooks with cold-pressed, cotton-based, or heavyweight papers, such as the Pentalic Aqua Journal or the Canson XL Series, which can absorb water without warping.

How do I prepare a mixed media sketchbook for heavy mediums like acrylics or oils?

To prepare your mixed media sketchbook for heavy mediums, start by applying a thin layer of gesso to the pages you plan to paint on. This primes the surface, preventing the medium from bleeding through and providing a better texture for the paint to adhere to. Allow the gesso to dry completely before beginning your artwork.

Can I use acrylic paints in a mixed media sketchbook?

Yes, you can use acrylic paints in mixed media sketchbooks that have heavyweight paper. Look for sketchbooks labeled as suitable for wet media or those with a minimum paper weight of 190 gsm (90 lb) to ensure they can handle the thickness and moisture of acrylic paints.

What is the best way to use markers in a mixed media sketchbook without bleeding through?

To use markers in a mixed media sketchbook without the ink bleeding through, choose a sketchbook with heavyweight, bleed-proof paper specifically designed for ink or choose one with coated or gessoed pages. Alternatively, you can place a blotter sheet behind the page you are working on to absorb any excess ink.

What is the best way to archive and preserve my mixed media sketchbook artworks?

To preserve your mixed media artworks, use acid-free and archival-quality materials throughout your sketchbook. Store completed sketchbooks in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Consider scanning or photographing your work to create digital archives as well.


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