Left: Pentel fine-tipped black (pigment ink) Colorbrush sketch in a 6.7 x 6.1 inch "All-Media Book" or "Aquarellbuch" depending on which label you're reading, from Kunst & Papier. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
In 2009 I tested a Kunst & Papier watercolor book. You can read the review at this link. I think they might have changed the paper since then, and you'll see why in a moment.
Without reading my review again I ended up buying one recently at Wet Paint because I had been looking at local architect and artist Daniel Green's journals and he uses these books (in a larger format). Since I'm not able to bind right now (back in 2009 I was making books like crazy) I thought it was worth another look.
I purchased the 6.7 x 6.1 inch "All-Media Book"/"Aquarellbuch" because I wanted something small and easy to carry.That was my first mistake because I am so used to using larger formats recently, in other commercially bound books. (25.95)
It has 96 pages, 160 gsm paper that is "Fabriano watercolour paper with high bigment bonding, 35% Cotton, 65% Cellulose, no chlorine bleach, acid free (ISO 9706 'long life')" (that's from the label.
Left: The same sketch after I added washes of a red earth pigment and sepia watercolor that I had out on my palette. I used a traditional brush and water container. This is a sketch of the actor Jean Reno, by the way. I find his face is absolutely fascinating. The images were scanned on different scanners. The first was scanned on a scanner that runs cooler and you can see this in the magenta tone of the pink and the bright white of the paper. The second image shows that the scanner really needs a new bulb. The paper is looking too creamy. It is a BRIGHT White paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
The 2009 book, however had 25% cotton content and didn't mention Fabriano. Also the 2009 book had a very pronounced waffle texture as shown in one of the images in that post. This current journal is also cold press, but it looks less repetitive and mechanical in texture—with enough "randomness" in the texture that it doesn't scream at you through the work.
The paper in the 2009 book, despite its waffle texture, worked like a smooth paper and I loved it with a lot of my pens. This current book works like a cold press paper and breaks up the line of finer tipped pens and dry brushes. I wouldn't like to write much on this paper unless it was a with a thicker pen like a 1.5 Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Pen.
This paper loves the fine-tipped Pentel ColorBrush Pen with black pigment ink. If you just wanted to work only with it in this book it would be worth it. There is a lovely little bit of drag which doesn't seem like drag at all but a bit of tension. The ink goes down smoothly and remains crisp. It bonds quickly to the paper so that you can make your washes without picking up ink. (I look forward to testing the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and other pens on it as I work my way through the journal.)
In the new book the washes move over the paper much better, and much more like the loose sheets of watercolor paper I use. This was not the case before.
In 2009 I thought the paper worked like a student grade paper, but the paper in this current book gave me a better experience. It isn't high end watercolor paper, but it was workable.
Two things haven't changed at all. Opacity—it's still a bit see-through if you use heavy ink and there is an odd smell. It is, however, NOT the same smell I mentioned in 2009. (It's not that I have such a great nose, though I do, but I described the smell in a specific way that means something to me—which of course is the best way to describe something—so I can read that description and know this is not the same smell, without going into 15 pages of explanation to you about how I categorize smells.)
I've had the new book out of the wrapping plastic for a few months and it hasn't aired out either, but it is a slighter smell. I can actually work on the paper without wheezing. Dick says he can tell that the paper smells but that it doesn't bother him at all. I could even live with this odor. And it is not substantially intensified or worsened when the paper is wet.
Perhaps it is the same paper with just 10 percent more cotton and that makes the wood smell recede? Perhaps now they are going to Fabriano for an inexpensive watercolor paper to bind and so it doesn't have the same smell? I don't know. I'm just glad of this lack of odor.
The paper is only 160 gsm so it does buckle a little when you work on it. But I had no trouble working on it because of this; and no trouble working on the opposite page when I turned the page. I think it's safe to assume that everyone knows at this point that I love pages to warp. It bothers me not at all, and shows the paper has been used.
Left: Here is a detail of the image with watercolor washes. I wanted you to see how crisp and yummy the black pigment ink from the fine tipped Pentel Colorbrush looks on this paper. (I've also used the dye-based ink in the ColorBrush from this company and don't like it as well on this paper.) When you click on this image to view an enlargement you can see the two different pigments I was using in the washes and see how it was fun and easy to overlap the washes.
A few things haven't changed: The book is still bound with solid book board covers that are covered with a blue linen book cloth. I love books with this type of covering because it feels so good to hold them in your hand. Not the slick stuff so many companies are using these days. Also the signatures are still sewn, the headbands are still simply decorative (which is all they are in the books I make too so I'm not complaining).
There are also still sturdy gray endsheets. It is a well-made little book.
So far I have found two drawbacks to this book.
First the front few pages are difficult to scan because they don't open quite flat at the front and back of the book. You can lay them flat on a scanner, but there is a little lip caused by the hinge and this causes a little shadow to be cast. Again, this isn't a deal breaker for me, and by the time you get to the second signature things fold open flatter.
Second, the sizing on this paper is for watercolor and the soft pencil I sketched in just smeared over the surface while I was drawing elsewhere on the page (I was drawing in pencil in a museum). That was disappointing.
I've already mentioned that I don't like fine tipped pens like the Staedtler Pigment Liner on this paper. In the past the paper was OK with it, but now it's not fun for writing. That would be my biggest drawback.
I am really encouraged by the handling of watercolor washes on this paper and think that most watercolorists will enjoy working on it even though it is lighter weight paper than in some other commercially available journals, or than the paper they might stretch and work on as sheets.
It's all a trade off. I could see buying more of these in the future if I'm unable to bind my favorite watercolor paper into books myself. But I would have to ALWAYS ask to have them opened so that I could smell the paper and make sure that I'm getting something I can live with and that this journal is not just a fluke.
If you don't bind your own books and are interested in finding a watercolor journal to work in you might check out this book.
If it has been several years since you tried one of these, it might be worth another look. I was pleasantly surprised. It reminds me that we have to keep checking because things change.