Review: Crescent Sketch Journal

Label attached to journal.

If a new sketch or art journal comes out, I generally buy it and try it. Different sizes, different papers, different finishes on the paper–all interest me. I have three more journals coming my way, but today the review is for just one journal. And no giveaway. You’ll see why in a  minute.

Brand: Crescent Rendr No Show Thru Paper Sketchbook.
Details: 110 lb. (180 gsm) paper, 48 sheets, 96 pages.
Price: $17.99 at Hobby Lobby (I had a 40% off coupon)
Size: 5.5 inches x 8.5 inches.

What I liked: The label says “Use for every media” and shows an aerosol can, marker, charcoal stick, pencil, paint brush and technical pen. Great. I use a lot of different media in my journals and really need sturdy paper. This turned out not to be a strong point of the journal, but first, what I liked.

The label also said “Use both sides,” and “No Show Thru.” Also a good idea, particularly for my ink abstracts and Copic (alcohol) markers. Those go through anything.

Writing samples with different kinds of ink and writing instruments.

I tried a big variety of writing instruments, and not a single one showed through. What did surprise me is that some of the pens–gelly roll and pointed pen dip nibs and bottled ink–took a long time to dry. In Phoenix, I generally don’t have that problem. But both the inks that smeared–gel pen and dip pen can take a bit to dry, so that’s fine. So far, so good.

What I didn’t like: The paper’s surface has an unpleasant (to me) feel to it. It’s heavy and smooth, but it feels like it has a special coating on it.

In bright light, the paper is slightly mottled in gray and white. Noticeable and distracting. Although I like writing papers with inclusions (as long as the surface is smooth), this paper looks slightly foxed. Not enough to stop me from using the journal, as when the paper is written on or drawn on, it shouldn’t be noticeable.

My first clue that this was not a journal for me was when I put a brush in clean water and wet the surface for a watercolor wash.

Plain water brushed on a journal page.

The wet paper turned gray. Not just a little, but considerably. The paper buckled and water pooled. The green tint is not on the paper, it’s my camera. The gray, however, is all the paper. I pressed on, and created a wash of blue and purple.

Blue and purple watercolor wash.

I’m not a professional watercolor artist, but I can put down a wash pretty evenly. The colors separated, and some of the coating came off (see the thready look at the top right of the photograph). The watercolors (Windsor Newton) were grainy, something that’s never happened to me with that brand.

The worst part of this experiment is that the watercolor wash, which normally takes a minute to dry here in the desert, took a full 20 minutes to dry. And as it dried, the paper curled up. Not just a little.

Those are pages of the journal, drying. Of course, when they roll up, they smear the color, which is not yet dry. The flat page with the starburst of color was done with Copic markers. That page did not bleed through, nor did it curl.

Twenty-four hours after I tested the journal, the pages remain curled up. Spraying them on both sides did nothing to relax them. In the photo below, I turned the book on its edge to show the extent of the curling.

Dried pages after 24 hours.

The one page that remained flat is the marker page. This is not a journal I can use. I think it would work well for Copic, Tombow, Ranger Distress, and Pitt markers, ink sketching, pencil, ball point, charcoal and markers. But it’s simply not for wet media. I can’t image what would happen with aerosol art.

For the price, I can’t recommend it to mixed media artists. I’m going to try to return it, as it is defective–I can’t use it as a journal. So there is no give-away, either.

Disclosure: I purchased the journal myself at Hobby Lobby.

Quinn McDonald likes testing journals, even if they don’t work out. Her inner critic tried to blame her, but her inner fairness hero used duct tape to silence him.

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26 thoughts on “Review: Crescent Sketch Journal

  1. I only used it as a marker sketchbook so far and I’m really happy with it. But it`s a good thing I didn`t use it with watercolour yet. This looks horrible! I don`t want my sketchbooks to look like this.

  2. All you have to do is use bulldog clips or those big clips used for potato chip bags . Just clip them on to hold the wet pages down until they dry and voila your pages stay flat.

    • Glad you like the journal. A lot of people do. I don’t like the paper enough to use it. And I have a ton of journals that I love and DON’T have to use bulldog clips with. I’m happy with the Canson journal that has repositionable pages. I just remove them and keep painting. My idea of a good time.

      • Yeah so far this sketchbook is my favorite. I like the binding. I hate when pages fall out of my sketchbooks. I never tear anything out. If the sketch is terrible I live with it. I also like that I can lay it out flat and work across a double page spread. I hate spiral bound. The spirals get caught in my knapsack. The paper is meant for light washes. Watersoluble crayon and watercolor sketches are perfect for this book.

  3. Thank you for the head’s up on this one! I’ll definitely be avoiding it. I like to give journals for holiday presents, but need to know that they will stand up to the way the artist wants to use it.

  4. What a great review. Now I know, I won’t be buying this one. It is very hard to find a good mixed media journal. The only one I’ve found that I love is the Strathmore ones. I’ve also tried the Canson ones… the work in a pinch.

        • They have hard-cover ones in several sizes, from one that’s 3″ X 5″ clear up to ones that are (I think) 9″ X 12″–and they come with several different types of paper: watercolor, Bristol board, sketch paper, and so on. I keep one of the small ones in my watercolor tool box so that, should the occasion arise when I’m out, I have something to dash off a quick impression. I also have some of the small ones I’ve used to keep a record of the various Zentangle “tangles”, six to a page, for reference. I love Strathmore journals!

          • I love Strathmore papers, too. They work really well. My entire book is done on Strathmore Ready Cuts, because I’m now creating loose leaf journals, and the Ready Cuts are practical and easy to use. And the paper is great.

          • Actually, when I mentioned the hard bound journals, I was thinking of what they call their “Visual Journals”, which are the spiral bound ones–they come in Bristol smooth, Bristol vellum, drawing paper, watercolor paper, and mixed-media. The hard bound ones, I haven’t tried yet, but I think I need to invest in some for, well, journaling. Though part of me cringes from the idea of my family reading my journals after I’m gone. I guess some of them will have to be, erm, disposed of, reverently but thoroughly!

  5. Thank you for the review of this journal. I like using a variety of mixed media, including watercolors, so this particular journal wouldn’t work for me either. You saved me money and you saved me from being disappointed. 🙂

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