The Banditapple Carnet looks unassuming. Just a notebook with a cardstock cover. It looks handmade--because it is. You might not even give it a second glance if you saw it in a store. Too bad if you didn't, because it's a pretty nifty notebook.
Before I go any further, I want to apologize to the Banditapple company. They had a very generous limited time offer, giving away free copies of their notebooks, open to anyone willing to pay S&H. That is how I received my copy, quite some time ago. I fully meant to write a review, but I was busy when it arrived, and set it aside. I'm not usually one of those 'out of sight, out of mind' kind of people, but in this case, I forgot I had the notebook.
Better late than never, right?
Sizes: Pocket Book Size Limited Edition (approx 4.1 x 5.8 in, 105 x 148 mm) Also comes in Handy (4.33in x 8.25in, 11cm x 21cm) and Peewee (3.5in x 5.5in, 9cm x 14cm)
Formats: Blank, Weekly Planner, Graph, Lined
Cover Colors: Finland Pine, Manuka Honey, Gingerbread, Hanoi Red, Charcoal
No. Pages: 64 (32 sheets)
Paper Weight: 80 gsm of Heritage paper
NOTE: I am reviewing the Blank Format with Finland Pine cover in the Pocket Book Size, Limited Editon.
Look & Feel
The Banditapple Carnet (don't you love that name?) has a plain cover with a linen-like texture. I don't think my scan shows it properly, but it does give you a sense of how much texture there is. You can feel it, slightly.
The cardstock isn't very heavy. I would hesitate to carry it loose in my purse for fear of creasing and possibly tearing. If you have pockets large enough, or interior pockets in your purse, it would be okay.
What I think is nice about the plain cover is that someone who prefers plain and sober has it, but the cover could also be customized easily for anyone that wants something flashier. The cardstock would be suitable for a wide range of media.
The one thing that immediately stood out for me was the binding.
With the Banditapple Carnet the cover is made the top sheet of the signature, sewn right along with the pages. You can see from the photo above that the stitching is even and neat. You don't see it inside, except for the very middle of the book (which would be the bottom sheet of the signature).
This stitching does two very important things. First, it tells you something about the paper. Stitching is fairly invasive and a poor, quality paper will fray, split or tear. The size and sharpness of the needle counts, but I yanked and held the book by one of the middle pages and bounced it around. There was no give, no further fraying of the paper. It's very good stitching, and well-made paper. Note that well-made doesn't always mean pen friendly, but it does in this case. More about that later.
The second thing the stitching does is allow the pages to lie flat, and to be completely folded back.
At first, the pages have some spring, and need to be held down to be completely flat. But if you fold the book back all the way and then close it, it relaxes the stitching just enough to get rid of that spring. You may need to repeat this procedure at different places throughout the notebook for all pages to lie flat.
The paper is smooth, but not slick and has a hard surface. It's thin and flexible. Almost like very thin slices of cardstock, but not quite.
The color is white, more a 'natural' white, than a bright white.
The notebook is very light, and flexible enough to fold in half length-wise, if you don't care about possible creases in the cover.
Please forgive the ugly writing. It is in no way the paper. I was using my non-dominant hand.
I had no problem with feathering, and all my fountain pens slid across the page easily, even though I'm heavy-handed with my non-dominant hand. There was the slightest of show-through and a single dot of bleed-through where I saturated the cicrle of Noodler's Heart of Darkness. Neither were dark enough to pick up with a scan.
I would consider the paper to be fountain pen friendly, which means it will handle ball-point and gel pen as well. The only drawback were the drying times. That's a normal trade-off with paper that doesn't bleed-through, but I felt it was an even longer dry time than usual.
Fountain Pen Drawing
Continuing on with the fountain pens, I did some Zentangle®-Inspired Art. The colors are bright, but not brilliant.
This time, I was able to scan the show-through and bleed-through. All the bleed-through occurred in areas where I added wet ink to still-wet areas, which is pretty common. Considering how thin the paper is, this is impressive.
I was also impressed with my tests using watercolor. I used color both straight from the tube, and with washes. Having already seen that wet on wet ink did bleed through, I didn't use that method for this test.
I found the paper handled watercolor nicely. There was some curling at the corners, and some waving in the paper--not enough that I could consider it dimpling. The color moved well. You can see there is some streaking, but that's where I was using paint straight from the tube, and the paint wasn't well-distributed on my brush.
I used clear water and lifted paint is some areas with no pilling. The paper didn't go back to white, but did give a sedimentary look (a sort of salt and pepper effect, only with color). I also did a little glazing (applying a second watery layer of color over a dry area of color) and got a nice deepening of color.
The texture of the paper didn't change much (it usually does once wet). It picked up a bit of a crackling sound, but again--not much. (If you are one of those people who really digs that crackling sound, this might not be the paper for you!)
While I couldn't recommend this as a notebook for watercolor studies, you could use watercolor as a regular medium. You'd want to be careful with wet on wet techniques if you planned to use the back of the page, and you would get more curl and dimpling, but not as much as you might expect with paper this thin.
Alcohol Marker Example
Got lemons? Make Lemonade. Got marker bleed-through? Make Bleedthrumanade!
It is pretty much a given that unless you have specially treated paper, the color from alcohol markers (Sharpies, Copics, etc) will bleed through to back of your paper. A while back, I began taking advantage of this, using the same color base for two separate drawings. I call these Bleedthrumanades (for more about that, see my how-to).
For the back of the page, I again used the Micron and Gellyroll pens to create a totally different drawing.
I'd say the color bleed-through was about 95%. It was almost as bright as the front. The edges weren't as crisp, but that's always the case.
I usually put a protector sheet underneath so the next page in the book won't have spots. As it turns out, I wouldn't have needed to, because not one spot carried through. I would have expected about 25% carry-through.
The Banditapple Carnet is a sturdy, well-made notebook that goes for an affordable price. I wasn't able to find a price for the Pocket size, but the Handy sells for $4.50 and the PeeWee sells for $3.50.
The paper is fountain pen and watercolor friendly, though I wouldn't use wet on wet methods.
The weakest point is the cover, which is plain and thin enough to bend easily. On the other hand, some people like plain, and it can easily be customized. As it is flexible, it can be rolled in half to fit in smaller pockets and purses, if one doesn't care about creases.
This notebook will become a daily carry for my purse, but I'll be sure to put it in an interior pocket.
Banditapple Carnet notebooks can be found online from Goulet Pens. I'm not aware of any other outlets that carry it in the U.S. at this time. If you are aware of any, please let me know.
Disclaimer: I received this Banditapple Carnet free as part of a limited time offer. I was not asked to review it, nor did I receive any other compensation for doing so. All opinions expressed here are my own.
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