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NOTE: I have since changed my mind about some of the points in this intial illo review, so I posted a new, more detailed review to be fair.
Are illo Sketchbooks Worth the $$ ?
So why do I have such a lackluster response and blog title? My main problem is that this is not really a sketchbook. My sketchbooks are filled with random crappy sketches interspersed with the occasional finished graphite piece, usually a portrait of a human or furry friend. In fact, I think if other people flipped through my sketchbooks they would think that I can't actually draw and some artist friend occasionally pops in to leave a surprise in my book. My point is that sketchbooks are not supposed to be dear. They are for practice, and sometimes practice looks like crap. You don't want to fill a nice expensive sketchbook with stuff like that, at least I don't!
This does not mean that the illo books are useless, of course. For one thing, the paper is perfect for pen and ink (Hello Inktober!) and can handle some marker if you are not using both sides of the paper. It isn't bad for graphite, either, but this paper has almost no tooth. If you are layering graphite or colored pencil, you will be mad.
While Illo books are not really sketchbooks in my opinion, they are great as small-scale portfolios. There is no way I would let a $16 sketchbook go to waste, so I decided to tape some of the hidden gems in my recently filled sketchbooks to a few pages, and this works very well. I am adding a short clip with a "tour" of my new "portfolio book". I also plan to use it for Inktober projects, so you will see it again.
"Real" Sketchbooks: Cheap, Never Intimidating
I bought the illo because I was running out of space in my current sketchbooks, but since it was not appropriate for rough sketching, I also bought a couple of 9 x 12 inch (100 pages per book) Strathmore 400 series sketchbooks (the 2 pack is about $20 with Prime). Sketching paper should have some tooth, and it should not be so expensive that you feel bad for using it to do simple studies and thumbnails. At the same time, the paper should not be too thin and tear easily with average handling. And don't you hate it when the pages come out too easily? Me too! I keep most of my sketchbooks once I fill them, so I don't want pages falling out everywhere and getting dirty. Strathmore makes very good affordable papers, so you can't go wrong with their products.
The bottom line here is that you don't have to buy the illo books. The artists on YouTube and Instagram make them seem like drool-worthy HG sketchbooks, but that does not mean you will like them too. However, if you want a nice art book for finished work that you want to keep, the illo books are actually really great, especially for ink and markers.
Do you have a favorite brand or type of sketchbook? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!
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