Review of the Stillman & Birn Beta Softcover Sketchbook #Stillman&Birn #StillmanAndBirn #Giveaway

My favorite sketchbooks are from Stillman & Birn.  They have different editions, each with different paper, and my favorite of the papers is their Beta version.  They recently came out with soft covers and I decided it was about time to buy one of the landscape editions.  While I was at it, I decided to buy a smaller edition to give away.  I can afford the postage on the smaller one, so this giveaway is international. Giveaway has ended.

Size: Reviewed-8 1/2 x 5 1/2 in (21.6 cm x 14.0 cm);
Cover: Softcover
Binding: Sewn and glued
Paper: White, Extra Heavyweight 270 gsm Cold Press
No. of Pages: 26 sheets/52 Pages
Orientation: Landscape

Look and Feel
The Stillman & Birn Beta Softcover Sketchbook has a cardboard cover that is heavy but flexible.  When you remove the informational slip, it is a plain, dark blue, suitable for artwork if desired.  Both cover and paper have rounded corners.

The hardcover provides more protection, of course, but the softcover is lighter and less bulky.

The sketchbook lies flat with no slope in the middle.

The binding is both sewn and glued.  When the softcover first came out, there were production issues. Stillman & Birn took steps to deal with them, and the problem has been resolved.  For that reason, I waited a bit and used my copy a while to give it some roughing up.  I've folded it all the way back, several times, carried it on plein air sessions, and I even threw it (rather gently!) on the floor a couple of times, just to see what would happen.  The spine is now creased, and I have a slight bend on the back cover. Otherwise, it has held up well with no sign of detached pages.  I wouldn't recommend throwing it on the floor on regular basis though. You know - a 'don't try this at home' kind of thing.

The paper is white, but not brilliant. It has a hard surface and is thick but flexible.  Stillman & Birn call it cold press, but it is smoother than most watercolor cold press.  Since it is considered a mixed media paper that is good.

I've used Beta sketchbooks in the hardcover edition for years and I've used them in a plethora of ways.  It can take light to medium washes without rippling, buckling, pilling or curling (actually, I've never had it do any of those even with heavy washes).  Alcohol markers, such as Copics or Sharpies, will bleed through, but very little. You can use almost any media on it, but it's smooth enough that you can glue things down.  The binding is bit too tight for chunky style journaling.

The first thing I used this edition for was to do value studies with India Ink artist pens.  The smaller version I'm giving away will be great for that.  When I'm doing these, I like to add a second layer of ink while the first is still wet and blend the colors.  Many papers will pill if you do this, but not the Beta.

Then I used waterproof pigment pens for a drawing. The lines came out crisp and bold, even when I'm used the .005 size.  (Never mind that horse. Horses sneak into my drawings.  It's nothing to do with me.  The horses just show up, unannounced. )

And the reason for waterproof ink is so that I could use watercolor markers to color them in. The markers I used generally are more muted and dull, but on the Beta paper they are brilliant.

Next, I used my electric dotspen to stipple a drawing.  I was a bit surprised, though perhaps I shouldn't have been.  It can be time-consuming to get a solid line or solid coverage with the dotspen, but I actually had to use a lighter hand with the Beta paper because the values built up so quickly.  It wasn't difficult - I just had to lay the dots down a little differently, and the drawing went quite a bit faster.

And lastly, I used artist quality watercolor.  As mentioned before, no rippling, buckling, curling or pilling.  I used a moderately heavy wash for the background. I was able to lift color where I needed, and repaint without much damage to the paper (lifting always damages the paper to some extent).

The Stillman & Birn Beta Softcover Sketchbook has the same quality mixed media paper that you find in the hardcovers editions.  It's light enough to carry and sturdy enough to hold up to a reasonable amount of wear and tear.

The paper is a heavyweight cold press that is almost smooth enough to be hot press.  I've never used a media that didn't work well on it, which makes this suitable for sketching, plein air painting, cartooning, and art journaling.  It is my personal favorite sketchbook paper.


Who Can Enter
Anyone. This giveaway is International!

One winner will receive the Stillman & Birn Beta Softcover Sketchbook that I'm holding in this photo. Size 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 in (14.0 x 8.9 cm).

How to Enter
Type or cut and paste the words  'I want to win a Stillman & Birn Beta Softcover Sketchbook' into the subject line of an email, and send it to me at LifeImitatesDoodles [at] gmail [dot] com.

Start and End of Giveaway
The giveaway starts on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 09:30 AM PDT, and ends Saturday, September 24 2016 at 11:59 PDT.  I'll notify the winner by responding to their email on Sunday, September 25.

Disclaimer: I purchased both of the Stillman & Birn Beta Softcover Sketchbooks used for this review and giveaway.  I received no other compensation.  I'm excited about hosting this giveaway, but tried not to let it influence my opinion, and all opinions are my own.