new large A3 Moleskine - Folio books - REVIEW

Moleskine Folio Books

There are some new sizes of moleskine sketchbooks and watercolour books available - in much better sizes for creative images. They are now doing A4 and A3 in both the sketchbook and watercolour books. At the moment they are on a special introductory offer. They call them Folio books.

acrylic ink over oil pastel in moleskine sketchbook

I bought the A3 watercolour book. A3 for those unfamiliar with European paper sizes is equivalent to 2 sheets of computer letter paper side by side - about 15 inches across the landscape format page - so 30+ ins approx across a double page spread. A really nice size :>) A4 is computer letter paper sized at half A3.

I like the elastic band closure and robust construction of my moleskine sketchbook, so, thought this was worth trying out. The previous small size of the 'large' watercolour moleskine meant I had never bought one. I believe the paper is the same. This book has the same format and pocket in the back cover for odds and ends - another nice feature.

I've been playing with the water based media I'd be likely to use when sketching plein air to see how the paper behaves.

a mixture of watercolour, acrylic inks, a little acrylic, inktense and watercolour pencil, coloured pencil and oil pastel in moleskine watercolour sketchbook - the things I would often use when sketching.

This is the first page - just quick scribbly experiments to see how it takes the media I like. It took them very well. No buckling, and I used some quite wet washes of paint, dribbling other colours in, pushing it about, scratching into it etc. It tolerated it all very well.

Watercolour and acrylic inks worked beautifully, flowing freely. Acrylic works on almost anything of course.

watercolour with a little coloured pencil over it in places, in moleskine watercolour sketchbook

acrylic ink with coloured pencil and a little inktense in the moleskine w'col book

acrylic ink, acrylic, coloured pencil and inktense in moleskine w'col book

This one was done with acrylic ink, a little acrylic paint and inktense pencils drawn through the wet washes so that the colours gelled, then there is a little coloured pencil (polychromos) added in touches.

inktense scribbles

Inktense didn't work quite as fluidly as in my Canson, hot pressed, hardback watercolour book when used alone. But I rarely work with inktense alone - I normally use them along with watercolour or acrylic for scribbles and graphic marks and it worked very well for those.



I'm very pleased with it. It takes liquid media beautifully. The texture of the paper is a fine grain that doesn't intrude on my mark making.

Good with watercolour, acrylics, acrylic inks.

Good with coloured pencil, oil pastel and inktense when used over or with watercolour/acrylic/acrylic inks.

Good for not buckling, taking a reasonable amount of scratching and working.

Good with Charcoal, Pitt Pencils, charcoal pencils, Tombo double ended water soluble pens and pencil. (not shown here)

OK with watercolour pencils and inktense - though I feel they work even better on a hot pressed, smooth paper.


It is quite expensive!

Coloured pencil alone isn't wonderful with the paper, though it can be made to work reasonably well. Not a major problem as it doesn't claim to be suiitable for them. The dark image at the bottom of the whole page image is in coloured pencil.

The A4 and A4 moleskine Folio sketchbooks

The sketchbooks are also available in A4 and A3 sizes now. If I read it right on Amazon's description in the email advertising these, the paper is different in these larger books. I think that may be a mistake on moleskines part if so. The oily smooth surface of the usual moleskine sketchbooks is a unique surface. There are cheaper alternatives if the paper is simply cartridge paper. Their own site doesn't seem to describe any difference in paper - I wonder??? Does anyone know?

I would like a moleskine in A3 with the same paper as the books traditionally have for times when that smooth surface is exactly what I need.

You can see them here

Have you tried them? what do you think? Do you like these new larger sizes?


Lindsay said…
Thanks very much for a great review of these new sketchbooks. I'm heading right over to order soem. This is wonderful for those of use who like to work BIG!

Vivien, I'm just wondering what brand of acrylic ink you work with. Any hints for plein air working in this media? Do you transport your wet brushes home wrapped in a wet towel until you can wash them out?
vivien said…
:>) I think you'll like it

Daler Rowney FW acrylic inks - they are lovely and translucent. They have a dropper in the lid so you just drip a very little bit into a palette with wells in it and add water. There are pearlescent ones as well :>) They are really intense so you need to add water. I just take water in a bottle and one of those folding water pots with me.

link to the inks#

water pot that folds

so I wash my brushes out there and then - there's always the river water too! mud and all!
Jean Spitzer said…
I use and love the previous large size watercolor moleskin. These new sizes sound even better for many of my purposes. Thanks!
dinahmow said…
If our (small) local art store did stock these Moleskines I think the cost would be 'waaaay beyond my budget!
I have a couple of visual art diaries, which are just a little heaver than cartridge paper and are spiral-bound, which can be awkward.
So, what do I sketch in? Home-made books, often with different papers
My sketchbook for "Our Nine" is one such.I think I made that with hot press.Some I bind(Coptic stitch) landscape format, others, portrait.And I find A5 fits my handbag or glovebox nicely.
Sarah said…
oh oh oh oh oh oh ...excited now!
vivien said…
They are horribly expensive I agree Dinah - but nice!

I ought to get more into making books. I've made a couple of the concertina ones and string tied ones but haven't done the proper stitching. I must make time.

I like the smaller size for handbag but LOVE the bigger books for more serious sketching when I have time to stay and work uninterrupted.

Sarah and Jean you will love it!
Jean Spitzer said…
Moleskins are really expensive, but they provide superb protection for your drawings because of the covers.
Tina Mammoser said…
Nice review, thanks for doing all that work! :)

I admit I'm partial to the normal paper ones and have never bought the watercolour versions. I don't really like working acrylic on the textured paper (in general not just with moleskines). Something about working on the smooth paper in those little books makes it both precious (scale) and non-precious (materials) at the same time. I find I do work that's freer and don't get caught up in seeking perfection.

But you're right about cartridge, which is why I rarely buy the Moleskine brand I'm afraid, Muji do a great little passport-sized version.

ps. my tip for water is an old film canister. I always carry a drinking water bottle and just fill the canister when I stop to paint.
Thanks for this great info, I also prefer "space"...mine is on the way.
vivien said…
yes, Jean they do

I've sometimes used a film canister Tina for water - more often if I'm working in water soluble pen, it's enough then without top ups at all.

mine took forever to arrive Ronell but maybe they are on track with orders now
Lindsay said…
Thanks very much for all that information. I'm off to check out the inks. Bombay brand also has the dropper and I'm very partial to that feature in ink bottles. Makes it so much easier to work with.

Tina, I know you use an old cd as a pallet for your travel acrylic sketches. The canister is a good idea too.

All this great info when I'm sloshing about with oils. So easily distracted;>)
vivien said…
I use a disposable palette when working plein air - then I can just wrap it up and throw it away without the paint getting everwhere.
Lindsay said…
Yes! Great idea. I even have disposable pallet pages somewhere.
Anonymous said…
Our Kiwi $ is so bad at the moment that even without freight one A3 would be about $70 - c'mon New Zealand economy perk up quick LOL. I want to shop...
Christine said…
Fantastic water studies! I just love the way you captured all the different levels in the water to the shore. Thank you also for reviewing that sketchbook, I will keep that in mind!
rob ijbema said…
i like your experiments vivien,never heard of acrylic inks before...
that top one really grabs me somehow
vivien said…
Thanks Rob and Christine - I think you'd like the acrylic inks as they are beautifully translucent.

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