DIY

Homemade Sketchbook: Part 1

I sometimes get anxious when I have a lot of decisions to make, especially unimportant ones. So when the semester ends and I’m home over Christmas break, I tend to feel a little directionless. Without being required to attend class, I often forget to plan ways to spend my time.

This past year, I tried something different. As an artist who prefers traditional media, I can get very choosy about what surfaces I work on. I remembered how agonizing picking out sketchbooks is every year, and how each sketchbook, without fail, has some problem I couldn’t have predicted. I attempted to solve my current sketchbook problem this past December, to be a project I could work on that could keep me focused even when class wasn’t in session.

My sketchbook problem:

  1. Strathmore uses the best mixed media paper in their sketchbooks, so I want to use a sketchbook by them.
  2. 5.5 by 8.5 in. is too small if I want to paint multiple things on a page in detail,
  3. And the 9×12 in. (and up) is too large to be the most portable.

And lastly:

  1. They don’t make any sizes in between those.

So my natural course of action would be to make one. Which explains how, the first day I was out of classes, I was ferociously hand-cutting out a cardboard cover on my bedroom floor, ten minutes before I was leaving to see Knives Out.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, by about three days. There’s quite a few ways to bind a sketchbook, with their own advantages/disadvantages.

Type of BindingDescriptionPros?Cons?How easy to get materials?
Ring binding (binder rings)Put several different binder rings through pre-punched holes in the paper.Cheap, easy, order rings on Amazon.Almost pathetically flimsy, tragically unstylish. Also very loud on tables.Amazon. Enough said, probably.
Sewn Binding (coptic stitch)Paper is folded into halves, grouped, and sewn together at the spine with a hard cover. Claims to lay flat, does sometimes.Full of glamour, lots of open page room. Good for travel.I’m not great with needles, and the last time I held an awl I pricked my own finger. This style takes up a lot of table space too.…Would take more time. I’d have to do a lot of research, as there’s a lot of ways to do it and I’m a bit clueless on what kind of materials.
Disc bindingPage holes interlock with the edge shapes of several small plastic discs, creating spine.Pages can be moved and rearranged, becomes very sturdy if there’s a bunch of pages.I’d have to cut out every. Single. Hole.I happen to have an extra Happy Planner in my room, with a medium size page height. Maybe I’d just…steal the rings from it?

The Happy Planner brand planners are all disc bound, with the one I had being 7″ tall. I had used a 7″x10″ sketchbook before (with bristol paper in it), but not one that had mixed media paper. If I used the disc binding from that planner, I wouldn’t have to re-measure holes for the discs- saving me time and potential math problems. In the end, that was what I decided to do, as it would allow me to add new pages once I’d filled up the ones I started with.

I soon realized another advantage of going with the 7″x10″ size, as I had a mixed media sketchbook size 11″x14″ in my room that I hadn’t used much of. Each 11″x14″ sheet could hold two pages size 7″x10″, and I wouldn’t have to go out and buy more paper. I kind of wish I’d have been able to construct it with the binding at the long side instead of the short side, but it was better for conserving paper.

In my next post, I’ll go step-by-step into the materials I picked and how I constructed the sketchbook, with photos!

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