By Sandra Strait
Note: I get lots of questions about some of the terms I use, so I included a glossary at the end of this review.
Have you ever gone shopping and seen an item that just seemed to call your name? Such was the case for me last week, when I went to a Dick Blick store opening. I kept walking past these brightly colored Semiolon Mucho Spiral Notebooks, and talking myself out of buying one. But I kept coming back and picking them up and yearning.
Okay. So I’m weak. At $13.95, it wasn’t a purchase that broke the bank.
Size: 8-1/2 x 5.8 inch (A5)
Cover: Coated Fiberboard with a matte finish
Binding: Heavy-gauge wire.
Paper: Cream color. Perforated. 55 pages lined, 55 pages graph and 55 pages blank. Heavier than most notebook paper.
Extras: Wide elastic band in matching color. Three acetate sheets with tabs separate the three sections. Two acetate full-page pockets in back. Co-ordinates with other Pierre Belvedere products.
My Subjective Opinion
The Cons: They have a coil binding and micro-perfed pages. There is also a small semi-colon brand on every single page. It’s tiny, but I don’t like it. And they are heavy. They’re sturdy, and would be a good to carry around, but—oh! You’d feel the weight after a while.
The Pros. I love the fact that that they have ruled paper, graph paper, and blank paper. I love the smooth feel and color of them. The paper is heavier than most notebook paper, so the extra weight of the notebook is for good purpose.
Both cover and pages flip back easily, but there isn’t a lot of the slop that you often get with coil-bound books.
The micro-perfing is good. I held the notebook by one page and shook it without the perf tearing. When I pulled a page away from the binding, it tore from the punched holes rather than the perf. Once I started from the top of the perf, the ragged edge separated easily.
Fountain Pens: I tried several fountain pens and various inks. Drying time was quick—I had no problems with smudging. No feathering. There was no bleed-through or shadowing.
Sharpie Marker: The marker did show through on the back, but there was no bleed-through or feathering.
Kuretake Fountain Hair pen: The ink showed through, but didn’t bleed-through.
Letraset Promarkers: There was bleed-through, but Promarkers are alcohol markers, so it would have been surprising if there wasn’t. Not all the color came through—rare, with notebook paper! The color was a bit dull, and once I tangled on the back, the color can hardly be seen. (Sorry, I forgot to scan the front before tangling).
Peerless Watercolors: I used a waterbrush. Very little buckling, dimpling or curling (the amount will depend on how much water you add). The watercolor dried almost as soon as you put it on the paper, so it was hard to spread, and a wash was out of the question. Some of the color bled through. Peerless watercolor is very intense, but it was a bit duller than normal. The texture of the paper changed—it almost felt as though I’d used gesso.
Neocolor II Wax Water-Soluble Crayon: I used the waterbrush again. The pastel spread easily, both dry and wet. There was some dimpling, because I used the water to blend more heavily in some areas than others. No actual buckling though. I got the same textural change that I noted with the Peerless Watercolor.
More Subjective Opinion
I’m impressed overall with the performance of the paper. It holds up well to harsh mediums, and though I haven’t tested it, I suspect it will hold up well to wear-and-tear (I’d love to hear from anyone whose carried one of these around for a while). The coil binding wasn’t too intrusive—I could rest my hand on it at an angle that allowed me to work right up to the perf. The perf doesn’t tear easily, so I won’t have to worry about losing pages.
Still don’t like that tiny brand mark though. It might not have annoyed as much if it were in a corner.
This would be a great all-round notebook—you could use it for the office, school or art journaling. I didn’t use gesso for this test, but I think it would work fine with thin coats, though I’d reinforce the punch holes somehow.
Glossary of terms
Tangling: Zentangle is a method of drawing that breaks down design patterns into steps-usually 6 steps or less. When you draw a design using these pattern steps, you are 'tangling'.
Bleed-through: The color from the ink soaks right through the page and spots the back, and sometimes the page next to it.
Shadowing: You can see the writing from the back of the page, but the ink hasn’t actually ‘bled’ through the page. Sometimes the shadow is so dark, you can easily read the words. Sometimes, you’d have to hold the page up to light to see it.
Feathering: As you write, the ink spreads, leaving spiky edges to the line.
Waterbrush: A brush with a handle that you can fill with water, and squeeze to get the water to flow.
Wash: A technique of using water to make watercolor paint flow and spread or run across the page. Depending on the type of watercolor and the amount of water, this could be anything from just a slight thinning of the color to an uncontrollable run-off-the-page flow.
Buckling: When some paper gets wet, it ‘buckles’. The paper develops waves across the page where the fibers dry unevenly. This can cause watercolor to pool and blotch, and distort the artwork. Sometimes you can put a heavy weight on it, to straighten it out, and sometimes nothing helps.
Dimpling: Similar to Buckling, but instead of waves appearing when the paper gets wet, there are dents or ‘dimples’ in the paper. Much less dramatic than buckling, but still undesirable.
Curling: When the paper gets wet, the corners curl inward.
Gesso: A gluey white medium used to make paper more durable and more amenable to layering of mediums or for collage. Very popular for art journaling.
Note: Check the picture if you decide to order one of these notebooks. When I surfed around looking for information, I saw many differences. The differences are slight -some notebooks don’t have the white border on the cover, some have a narrower band. Some say 60 pages of each type, rather than 55 (probably the 60 is hard to find now). But even though the differences are slight, it was the particular look of this notebook that I reviewed that caught my eye and demanded I take the Mucho Spiral home.