Watercolor Painting on Moleskine Sketchbook


"I read about beading on the smooth pages of the Moleskin sketchbook but bought my first one anyway for an upcoming trip to Italy.  On either your website or Moleskin drawing I saw samples of watercolor paints and watercolor pencils. I couldn’t find any other information by searching.

My questions:

1.  There is a substantial difference in beading among the watercolors I tried this morning.  An inexpensive French School set of pan watercolor gouache paints were much better than Winsor and Newton tube watercolor paints. Do you know of any information about which watercolors work best?

2.  Gwen Diehn, in her book entitled "The Decorated Journal", say that a drop of soap improves the attachment of watercolor paints to very smooth, hard paper…."

Shirley L.

Image: "walkwoods2"
By aesop @ Moleskinerie/FLICKR

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5 thoughts on “Watercolor Painting on Moleskine Sketchbook

  1. I find that watercolor crayons and pencils work fine with my Moleskine’s paper when applied dry and then washed over with a wet brush. Perhaps something in the binder that holds the crayon together helps it stick to the page? I don’t know. I do eagerly await the rumored watercolor-friendly Moleskines.

  2. I have not had any problems (other than bleedthrough) with watercolor, gouache or acrylic in a plain Moleskine. A light coat of white acrylic to the reverse side of the watercolored sketch will allow you to use the back, or you can just glue in a ticket, winelabel or other “attachment” to the back of the sketch. Most of my sketches have other things faintly visible through them, since I don’t mind the slight bleedthrough for anything except “sketches for a purpose” or technical diagrams. And once I scan those, I tend to fill in the back of the page. Mine is a journal, not a medium for finished art; your needs may vary.

    I like the page count of the plain over that of the sketchbook, and that was my original reason for sticking with plain. Now I like the aesthetic of seeing lines of text or the dim impression of another painted sketch though the page. I have two unused pocket sketchs sitting on the shelf.

    For what it’s worth, acrylics tend not to be visible on the other side or have any problem with attaching. Gouache has a minimal bleedthrough, less than most pens.

    I have noted one minor issue – gelpen ink on top of a (dried) acrylic work will cause the ink and acrylic to become tacky for awhile… enough to rip tiny pieces off the facing page when you open the book again. I was using a Uniball when I discovered this.

  3. I would guess that the difference you are seeing between watercolors and gouache is not a difference in “quality” or brand, but between watercolor and gouache. It makes sense that the thicker gouache would bead less, there being a higher binder-to-water ratio than with watercolors. (Was it tempra gouache or acrylic gouache?) I’ve noticed a touch of beading with Pitt Artist markers, too, so I think it is generally the nature of Moleskine paper to put up a little fight with wet media.

    Based on my own experience with Moleskines (including a trip to Italy), I have what may be a scandalous suggestion: if you want to make good watercolor sketches, pick up a block of watercolor paper in some portable size. You can always glue the sketches you like into the Moleskine later, and leaving the Moleskine free of wet media means if you want to write something or sketch it in pencil/pen/crayon/whatever, you’re not trying to do so atop a wet painting on the other side of the page.

    (In my own Moleskine sketchbooks, I use just about any media that comes to hand. Acrylic [again, high binder-to-water ratio] sticks well, but can add a lot of thickness to a page, and if facing pages are painted, it can cause some sticking unless everything is bone dry before you close the book. Markers do well, and you really have to over-work a piece before there is any bleed-through. Colored pencils, wax and watercolor, work beautifully. Graphite, too, though because of wear and tear, I find I have to fixative everything or risk smearing. Ballpoint, Sharpie, and gel pens all work perfectly, though rollerball and felt tip tend to feather slightly [due to higher moisture content of these inks?].)

    Best of luck and please do report back on what you find works for you. Some sketches of Italy would be nice, too. 🙂

  4. I have found that using the plain paper Moleskine rather than the sketchbook works relatively well with watercolors. The pages do wrinkle a bit, but for me they are just sketches from life, not finished pieces. The elastic band also helps keep the wrinkling under control. I especially like the fact that I can put more sketches in one book of plain paper versus the sketch book. But some may prefer the heavier paper. For me being able to use the watercolors without issues is more important than the weight of the paper.

  5. I use just regular kiddie watercolors. Which are basiclly the same thing.
    IT warped my page a lot.
    I don~t know about the soap. but would that be liquid or bar?

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