Buy or Make Your Sketchbook

Ideas & instructions for making your own sketchbook or personalising a bought sketchbook

Ideas & instructions for making your own sketchbook or personalising a bought sketchbook

What should your sketchbook be like?

  • Should you buy a sketchbook?

  • How to make a sketchbook?

Lots of ideas to help you to make the right decision for you and easy instructions for making your own (if that’s what you choose)…

Having looked at thinking about keeping a sketchbook and why you might keep an art sketchbook, let’s now look at what your sketchbook should (or could) be like.

  • Will you buy or make a sketchbook?

  • How to make a sketchbook?

  • What can you use as a sketchbook and how should it look?

Your sketchbook choices are yours alone to make and will depend on your own personal motivation for having and using a sketchbook.

Some sketchbooks function more like display books.

These can be smart and are often beautifully created and arranged – an art project in themselves.

Some sketchbooks are scruffy, immediate and raw.

They are personal tools to explore a personal art, inspiration, and way of thinking…

They are something to use, a sketchbook kept for the sole purpose of the process if using it.

They contain the lessons learned, the development of personal drawing practice, the practical collecting of inspiration, all in one place, the thought processes worked through.

These tend to be more private in nature and not for public display.

These are the sketchbooks we’ll be focusing on more here, although you could very well adapt many of the ideas and techniques we’ll cover to create a smarter display book, should you so wish…

A rough sketch book for exploring ideas - messy and immediate for working out the process

Floral drawings in my sketchbook

Smart sketchbooks look beautiful but can also feel intimidating to use!

Do you prefer a smart, beautiful sketchbook, perhaps a nice, bought sketchbook?

If so, go ahead and choose one you love and one that inspires you to use it and create art.

For me, personally, the fact that my sketchbook is a thing of beauty, whilst I still love it, puts a lot of pressure on me for my art and drawings to ‘live up’ to this (seemingly) impossibly high standard.

I feel like I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) make a mistake in such a beautiful book for fear of ‘spoiling’ it.

Now, whether this is an unnecessary reverence on my part for beautiful books or a lack of confidence in my own ability is perhaps a matter for my own art journalling

But, in truth, this is not an uncommon emotion around sketchbooks. And it definitely doesn’t need to hold you back!

There’s a sketchbook for everyone. And there are lots of different sketchbook options for those of us experiencing a touch of stage fright on meeting a bright, shiny, new sketchbook…

You can use a combination of the above as suits your needs. We’ll look at each in more detail now…

Capturing drawing ideas in ball-point pen in a lined exercise book. A sketchbook is just a place where you should feel comfortable being yourself and exploring yourself.

Using an ‘exercise book’ (like a school book) or notebook, perhaps with lined or square paper, can help you to get around that fear of the perfect white page.

This is something I’ve used quite a lot in my own experiences with sketchbooks – drawing on lined paper, often with a biro/ball-point pen.

This is an idea that is unintimidating and immediate.

It’s particularly good for rough sketches, notes, and working out ideas, as well as if you want to write in a way that’s at all lengthy.

The familiarity of the lines and informality of the biro allows this kind of sketchbook to be the perfect place for rough sketches, ideas, thoughts, and notes that you might want to come back to later, and for practice drawings where you want to explore your own techniques further.

Rosehip doodles and sketches of other foliage on loose sheets to be inserted into plastic pockets of a display book for storage

Again, this is a personal favourite for me and my regular drawing practice.

This is as simple as making your drawings on loose sheets of paper and then storing them together.

I store mine in a plastic-pocket display book.

You could also store them together in a folder or even a box, as I do with some of my larger drawings.

One of the advantages of this is that you can choose to draw on any colour, size, and type of paper to make your art or drawing, and then keep it together with your other drawings.

I will often tear a page out of a bought sketchbook to include in my display sketchbook.

I’ve even drawn onto pieces of fabric (which I really like to do) and slipped these into the plastic pockets so that everything is kept together.

You could also include your inspiration in your book in the same way.

Coloured drawings on loose sheets of card to be stored in my display book/sketchbook as in the next photo

Showing how my loose sheet drawings are stored together in my display sketchbooks

Showing how my loose sheet drawings are stored together in my display sketchbooks

Without the fear of spoiling a whole sketchbook, I find it much more comfortable to complete my drawings without expectation and then assemble them together into a ‘sketchbook’ later.

You also have the advantage of being able to easily remove drawings to scan flat or display elsewhere.

Another way of helping your new sketchbook to seem less intimidating is to personalise it. This is a wonderful way to take ownership of a new, bought sketchbook, and to feel more confident to be able to use it.

The way you personalise your sketchbook is personal to you, so use your imagination and go for it.

Here are some ideas:

  • Add some colour to the pages with coloured pencils, marker pens or paints.

  • You could also collage onto the pages ready to make a colourful mixed-media base for you to start your drawings on top of.

    • Make sure your pages are thick enough to stay sturdy if you wish to use a watery medium like watercolours or liquid inks

    • Make sure your chosen drawing pen, pencil or charcoal works well over the top of whatever surfaces you use

  • Add inclusions like colourful envelopes for you to slip drawings or cuttings into

  • Add larger sheets that can be folded to the size of your sketchbook

You could also:

  • Cover the front/back covers in fabric, draw or paint on them, collage over them, or cover them in wallpaper or wrapping paper (or all of the above). This is my personal preference for personalising my sketchbook.

    • Here’s an inexpensive sketchbook with a thin paper cover that I covered in a wrapping paper printed in my own design…

      Click on the images below to see them larger and get the full process…

Make it yours and have some fun!

Making your own sketchbook is the best way to make your art sketchbook feel truly yours.

You can make your sketchbook as simply or as elaborately as you choose…

And you can also choose the types and sizes of the pages in your sketchbook, to suit your own drawing style and preferences.

I’m making a whole range of different types of sketchbooks on this page and personalising them by covering them in a gift wrap that I designed myself and had printed. I’ll share easy sketchbook-making instructions with you on this page….

I’m making a whole range of different types of sketchbooks on this page and personalising them by covering them in a gift wrap that I designed myself and had printed. I’ll share easy sketchbook-making instructions with you on this page….

Simple Homemade Sketchbooks

More Complex Homemade Sketchbooks

  • Bound sketchbook (Basic bookbinding tutorial for a smart hand-made sketchbook for drawing or to give as a gift - the tutorial’s from several years ago and so I’m afraid it looks a little dated, now, but the project is still a good one so I hope you enjoy it).

These sketchbooks are quick and easy to make so you can get using them straight away. You don’t need to feel too precious with them as they’re rough and ready to go…

How to Make a Quick Sketchbook (with elastic or elastic band)

  • Collect together pages or papers (you could cut squares/rectangles from wallpaper lining paper)

  • Fold them in half loosely

  • Gather them together (again, quite loosely), with a large elastic band

Click on the images below to see them larger and to read more details about the easy sketchbook making process…

This is more like a collection of loose pages gathered together.

You can also make a cover to protect your pages, using a piece of folded cardboard. Simply cover or decorate your card and slip it into the elastic band around the outside of your pages to protect them.

How to make a cover for your quick sketchbook

Click the images below to see them larger and read the full process…

You can add pages at any time or remove any you don’t like or want to use elsewhere - it’s really easy to do this and like this, this one sketchbook can evolve and last you a really long time. You can also use different papers for variety in your sketchbook.

This is another collection of loose pages that are held together with a ribbon or string. I’ve chosen to make my sketchbook from different coloured pages to add colour and interest to my sketching.

  • Use a hole punch to create:

o   A single hole in one corner, or-

o   2 holes along an edge, or-

o   1 or 2 holes in a folded paper

  • Simply tie your papers together with your choice of string or ribbon

  • Covers can be made with decorated or covered card and punched and tied into your sketchbook in a similar way

  • It’s easy to add or remove pages as you go according to your need

Follow along with me as I share exactly how to make an easy ‘hole-punch sketchbook’, step by step, below.

Click the images to see them larger and to read the full process…

The sketchbook should last a while and if you’d like to keep the cover you can untie/cut the threads to remove old pages and add new ones (with a new ribbon or thread) to keep your sketchbook going a long time.

Useful Resources for the Project

You can get a bradawl/awl to make holes - in a basic bookbinding kit like this.

I also use this in several other sketchbook-making and bookbinding projects on this site, along with the bookbinding needles and strong thread - so if you’d like to do more than one of these projects, something like this is well worth getting.

If you’re interested in the bookbinding tools set, please come back and order via my link on this page and I will receive a small commission.

The price to you is always the same.

If you like the colourful gift wrap I used in this project, you can get it here (from UK) and similar here (using wallpaper) (from USA) (my own design).


How to make a Sewn Sketchbook - Two Methods

I share two different ways to make a sewn homemade sketchbook using the same basic process.

More Sketchbook Making Ideas

This next sketchbook takes a little more work and effort but will look more finished (more polished) and will be more durable than the quick sketchbooks. You can find the instructions for my bound sketchbook here… (the page is from several years ago so I’m afraid that the appearance is a little dated, now, but the info for the project is still relevant and it’s a good project, so I hope you find it interesting and useful).

Where to Go Next

When you’re ready to draw in your new sketchbook, there’s some ideas for what to use your sketchbook for and some drawing ideas for your sketchbook

You might also enjoy my Start Drawing Your Way Essential Drawing Skills Course which can help you to develop accurate drawing skills at the same time as putting your own personal style into your art and feeling creatively fulfilled - if that sounds good to you, find out all about it here…

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Start Drawing your way essential drawing skills online course - feedback available for your drawings or choose the DIY version - click image for more

Start Drawing your way essential drawing skills online course - feedback available for your drawings or choose the DIY version - click image for more

You can also see more of my art here, explore my blog, or visit my print store and my additional stockists…

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