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Introducing… Canson XL Mix Media Paper!
Well, hello again! Today I’m reviewing Canson XL Mix Media paper, specifically the 7″ x 10″ (17.8cm x 25.4cm) sketchbook. It comes in other lovely sizes, such as 5.5″ x 8.5″, 9″ x 12″, and 11″ x 14″. There are also some larger formats: 14″ x 17″ and 18″ x 24″. I generally don’t go bigger than 11″ x 14″ in my own works, so my experience has been chiefly with the smaller sizes.
The front cover is a nice blue colour and lists acrylic, watercolour, pen, and pencil, presumably as suggested media to use with the book. I’ve yet to try acrylic paint on the pages, but the paper has certainly been pretty sturdy with the things I have tried thus far (which does include some water-based paint markers as well as everything else on the front cover).
Anyway, this paper is 98lb (or 160g) (don’t worry; it doesn’t weigh that much… Ah, haha… Sorry, bad joke). The book has a wire spiral binding on the long side, and contains 60 sheets of white, lightly-textured paper. The pages are a nice, bright white, and colours show up very well on them.
What I Like
All right, well, fair warning: this book has settled into the spot as my current favourite. So forgive me if this review seems a tad gushing; but believe me when I say that every bit of praise I have for this product is well-earned and deserved. That being said, I’ve done my best to be fair in my review; while you’ll certainly hear about the things I love about this book, you’ll also learn what I don’t like so much.
First off, I really dig the side spiral binding, largely because I like to be able to A: lay my sketchbook open flat, and B: flip the previous pages around behind what I’m working on; and the latter results in such a nice, low-profile size that I find myself carrying this book around all over the place. I also have a preference for side-bound books (or basically books with the binding on the long side), as they are less cumbersome to carry around, and are much sturdier. I like a good landscape as much as the next person, however I find it pretty off-putting when my sketchbook flops lazily open.
Another thing to keep in mind, if you like to art on the go, is the compactness of a book like this. I have definitely had sketchbooks that had the binding on the short side, and just this small addition made them too long to take with my in my carry-bag. So while it might not seem like much, it can be the difference between having your tools on you when inspiration hits and leaving it all at home. I always keep a sketchbook on me, so this is a big deal.
Speaking of portability, the front and back covers are both sturdy, and I have no trouble carrying this sketchbook to and from almost every place I go these days. I also love the size of this sketchbook in particular: while 5.5″ x 8.5″ is adorable and handy to keep around, it is fairly small and can sometimes induce a slight claustrophobic feeling. On the other hand, 9″ x 12″ is a lovely format but unfortunately is just out of reach for my letter-size scanner; with an 11″ x 14″ page I feel like I have all the room in the world for my drawings, but it’s downright burdensome to carry around.
I’m ashamed to say it but there have been times that I saw something I wanted to draw but didn’t, simply due to the fact that I didn’t feel like pulling that clunker out of my backpack (which is pretty much the only thing I can lug one of those books around in). Larger formats are fantastic for home studio work, but I’ve settled, for now at least, on the 7″ x 10″ as my go-to to-go sketchbook. 🙂
I have thrown a lot at this sketchbook, and I am impressed with how it’s been holding up so far. This paper can take a pretty good beating. While it does tend to warp a bit if you use a significant amount of water (more on this later), this can be mostly avoided by taping down the edges of the page. (It still warps but once dry it will return more or less to being flat.)
I mostly use this book for ink, be it pen or marker, pencil, and watercolour. While the pages do buckle a bit under heavy watercolour application, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything bleed through to the other side of the paper. Not alcohol markers, not pens, not paint -not even with the addition of water.
What I Dislike
The trouble with mixed media paper, and mixing media in general, is that it’s much like trying to please everyone. In a way it’s like a jack of all trades: it does pen, it does paint, it does pencil… But papers designed specifically with these things in mind will perform better. When you want to combine media together, you need a paper that will handle all of these things, but it won’t necessarily be an ideal situation for all types of media.
The main issue I’ve had with this book is that the texture, though slight, does interfere a tad with some of my pens, particularly when making quick marks. If I’m sketching quickly, I find that bits of my lines are lost in the texture, where the pen tip loses contact with the paper. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword really, because this very same texture can be beneficial when using watercolour.
Indeed, the texture that helps pencils and watercolours tends to hinder fine tip pens and markers. What I’ve found to work best is to simply take care to draw more slowly with the pens; this way I can still take advantage of the texture for other materials without having it wreak havoc on my inking processes.
While I haven’t had anything bleed right through the page, it is possible to see a sort of silhouette through the back side. For this reason, I don’t use both sides of the sheet.
While I do a lot of watercolour work in this book, it’s important to note that I am by no means making intricately layered paintings and using a large amount of water. For the most part, I will draw in ink and then paint in some colours, or just apply water to the ink I’ve laid down. And for this method, the paper works beautifully.
I don’t generally do big washes though, and when I do, I find that this paper succumbs to water much sooner than papers meant specifically for this purpose. I can’t say I’m surprised by this, however it’s definitely worth mentioning. If you’re looking for a paper that plays well with a lot with water, you’re best off to continue your search. For light to moderate water, it does the job just fine. And when adding pens and markers into the mix, I will take this paper over a watercolour pad any day.
What I Think
As I mentioned earlier, this is my current favourite sketchbook. I’ve tried to express just why I like this book so much (and why there are so many of them around the house!) while fairly listing its disadvantages as well. When it comes to paper, and especially to sketchbooks, it’s all about personal preference. While I can’t say whether this one is a good match for you, I can tell you that it is a high quality mix media sketchbook; and it does what it does very well.
If you’re looking for a solid, all-around great sketchbook, or if you want to play around with lots of different types of materials, I’d say give it a go!
Do you have a favourite sketchbook? Do you stock up on one in particular when it’s on sale, or do you flit around from one to another to yet another? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂