Trying the Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal

I love sketchbooks that can handle wet media and I’ve been looking for one that can handle lots of layers. For this purpose, I picked up a Strathmore mixed media visual journal on a 50% off sale. I was going to get the watercolor visual journal, but this one said it was 100% cotton paper which tends to handle more.

The price

  • The list price for the 5.5 x 8 is $10.49 USD
  • The list price for the 9 x 12 is $19.99 USD

Amazon and Jerry’s Artarama has them for $7.19 and $13.10 (at this time) they are slightly cheaper on Dick Blick $6.07 and $10.56 (At this time), but if you can get a 50% off coupon or sale at the big box stores then you’ll be golden.

(The Amazon link is an affiliate link, which gives me a small percentage at no cost to you. This helps support my site and keep it ad free๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿฆ‰)

The Facts

Strathmore says that this book is, “great for wet and dry media including watercolor, acrylic, pen and ink, pencil, crayon, charcoal, marker and collage.”

It’s features are:

  • 90 lb medium weight paper
  • 100% cotton
  • vellum surface
  • acid free
  • 5.5 x 8 inch wire bound book (also comes in 9 x 12)
  • 34 pages 68 if you count both sides
  • made in the U.S.A.

The vellum finish is good for a wide range of wet and dry media such as gouache, ink, graphite, acrylic, colored pencil, watercolor, pastel and collage.

My Thoughts And Testing

Test page

My main concerns were whether or not it could handle multiple layers of wet media and if the book itself was durable.

I carried the book around everyday for a month and it’s no worse for the wear. I also used the Tombow sanded mono eraser in it and never had a pilling issue. I’d say it’s pretty hefty.

I tried watercolor in it first, it did well with controlled washes and when I was doing some lifting, I found that the book can handle small amounts of scrubbing* as long as it was completely dry to start.

Mushroom Garden by Rebecca Hons

The mushroom garden was my first time using the book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It did handle the multiple layers of wet media really well, but I tried to lift some and while the paper didn’t really pill I wouldn’t suggest too much of that. I used Dr. P. H. Martin’s hydrus liquid watercolor, some white India ink, a few alcohol markers, and a .05 micron pen.

Dr. Ph. Martin hydrus watercolors, they tend to be a staining watercolor that doesn’t fully lift once dry, much like ink. So, I decided to swatch out some of my other supplies, both wet and dry, on the first page to get an idea of how it worked. It seemed to take everything I threw at it just fine, with the exception of alcohol markers which leaked right through, I didn’t try sharpies. I did use alcohol markers on top of India ink and the hydrus watercolors though and it worked just fine.

Close up of several layers of Polycromos

I decided to use this journal for Inktober since it seemed to take ink well and it was a good size to work in. I now have a lot of experience with this paper and would highly recommend it, especially if you do ink. It’s smooth enough that you can use an ink or dip pen with no issues at all and robust enough that I was able to use as many layers as I wanted of colored Bombay India ink. I used washes similar to watercolor and straight up ink from the bottle. It did warp a little if the paper was saturated, but just having the book closed was enough to flatten it.

It takes layers of colored pencils quite well. I’m using polycromos which is an oil based pencil, you can get a good amount of detail from it. This is about 7 or 8 layers and I could have added more.

Is It Worth It?

This book really is a good bang for your buck. If you enjoy switching between mediums and don’t want to worry about what sketchbook you have then this is perfect. It’s also great for mixed media, working in ink if you like some tooth to the paper, and oil based colored pencils work well on it too.

However, if you primarily work in wet media and use a lot of heavy washes you wouldn’t want to go for this book. It’s not made for heavy scrubbing* or lots of liquid.

*After the area is completely dry, you take some clean water and a stiffish brush, and use a gentle back and forth motion, then take a soft, dry brush and soak up the loosened pigment/water.