The best paper for making a Concertina Sketchbook

We use a wide range of media and techniques so watercolour paper is the best option for our mixed media way of working. If you prefer to use dry media such as pens, pencils and pastels then a heavyweight drawing cartridge paper would be perfect. For smaller books, any paper that’s at least 130gsm should be sturdy enough to stand up when folded as a zigzag. You might also have a favourite type of paper surface to work on so consider whether your pages will be smooth or more textured. The texture of the paper surface affects the way your drawings and paintings will turn out so it might be worth taking time to sample different papers to help you choose before you start in the book proper!

Concertina sketchbooks are a great format to work in as they have the advantage of being able to be opened out flat while you work, so no worries about drying time and pages sticking together, they stand up beautifully for display, and when you’re done you can fold them away like any other book for storage.

You will find concertina books readily available at good art suppliers, but they are very simple to make yourself. Whether you buy a ready made concertina sketchbook or you are considering making your own, the type of paper involved is very important. You’ll want something firm and robust enough to stand on end if you decide to display it fully open as a zigzag or fanned out like a star. You’ll also want it to be able to take all the various media you might want to use on the pages.

Art papers are described by surface quality and weight. We favour a watercolour paper of at least 140lb (300gsm) if you like to use a lot of wet paint or ink and bear in mind that the bigger the book the thicker the paper will need to be to support itself when the concertina is fully open.

The worksheet that accompanies the Concertina Sketchbook – Getting Started video is for a small square sketchbook but you can adapt the construction method to suit any size and proportion of page you like. When you make your book, you’ll need a long sheet of paper, but unless you buy big sheets to start with, it’s likely that you’ll need to make a join or two. That’s OK! Treat the joins as an opportunity, you can mix and match your paper types in your book – maybe you’ll have a section that’s cut from watercolour and a section that’s cut from heavy cartridge (drawing) paper?

Making your own sketchbooks means you can choose exactly the kind of paper you prefer and you can customise the end boards to make something truly unique. There’s great satisfaction to be had in the making and that’s before you even begin to work into the book itself!

We hope you’ll be inspired to find out more about concertina sketchbooks and the exciting creative potential that they offer. We’ve picked out a selection of our workshops and mini courses for you below. These classes cover making your own books and lots of lovely ideas for working in them. As with all our classes, you’ll have instant, lifetime access to the videos and you can watch them as many times as you like. Click on any of the images below for more information and to get started!

Plant Printing Concertina Books Flip-Through

A flip-through video two concertina books made using plant printed pages. See how Linda’s worked into the plant prints with collage, drawing and painting.

Handmade Books

In this collection of three video workshops Laura demonstrates exciting techniques to design and construct your own unique book forms and decorative covers. She explains exactly how to achieve a simple stitched binding, how to create totally unique folded books from multisided geometric shapes and how to personalise the covers of an altered book using a decorative felt wrap. Watch these step by step instructions and you’ll have everything you need to know to make your own highly individual examples!

Concertina Sketchbook

Choosing the right format of sketchbook to suit a project can really help get you off to a flying start. In this mini course of three workshops, Linda first demonstrates how a concertina format can be ideal for documenting a journey or landscape subject.

Plant Printing

Be inspired by nature around you and collect leaves to use for plant printing. Linda will show you how to make beautiful contact prints on paper. Laura will demonstrate how to make simply structured, but endlessly creative concertina books to house your prints. Finally Linda shares her ideas for working back into your plant printed sketchbook to edit, refine and add detail. The result will be a truly unique record of the plant material you’ve collected and a fabulous sketchbook for inspiration and further development.