Review: Stillman & Birn Nova Series Beige-Toned 6 x 8 inch Wire-bound @StillmanAndBirn @ZebraPenUS #NovaSeries

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I was so excited when I saw that Stillman and Birn was coming out with a series of toned sketchbooks.  I don't have every one of their formats in every size, but I have at least one of every series and every format.  Except the new Nova series. Can't have that! Wwhen I was making a purchase at Wetpaint, I saw this Beige-toned wire-bound sketchbook and here we are.

Cover: Extra Heavyweight Binders Board, Textured, High Density, Resistant to warping
Paper Color: Beige
Paper Weight: Heavyweight 150 gsm
Paper Surface: Medium Grain Mixed Media, Internal and surface sized, Archival,pH Neutral, lignin & chloride free
Withstands multiple erasures,Superior wet and tear strength, Uniform fiber distribution
Size:  6 x 8 in. ( 15.2  x 20.3 cm). See info at end of review for all the available sizes.
No Pages: 50 Sheets - 100 Pages
Binding: Double Wire Binding
Rated for: Dry Media, Light Wash, Ink
Complies with international standards of responsible forestry.
Bound in the U.S.

Look & Feel
The covers are textured black extra heavyweight binders board.  They might be too heavy for some to carry, but they are definitely sturdy.  Going by my previous wire-bound Stillman and Birn sketchbooks these covers are resistant to stains and very difficult to bend, crease or break.

The only difference between the front and back is the Stillman and Birn Logo debossed on the bottom of the back cover.

The sketchbook lies flat. The double-wire binding has a little give so if you're a lefty like me it's comfortable enough to rest your wrist on.

The paper feels smooth to the touch.  I was surprised when I started drawing on it, to discover it did have some tooth.  The color is a neutral beige - it didn't turn my yellows green or my reds brown.

It seemed to me that there was more play in the cut-outs for the wire binding.  This is both a pro and a con.  If you want to glue things in this book it gives you more room for expansion.  But the pages don't lie evenly to form nice, straight edges. Some of us are disturbed by things like that, lol.

The paper is heavyweight, so it can withstand any wear and tear from sliding around the wire-binding.  I held one page by a corner and shook the book for several minutes with no bending, tearing or fraying around the wire.  No creases or bending in the pages, either.

All the mediums I used worked well on this paper.

The beige-tone add a darker value to the colors, but they stayed true, just slightly darker.  Yellows stayed yellow, reds, red, etc.  I could get a good degree of transparency with watercolor, but fineliner pens didn't show up as well.  The lighter colors become more of a tint than a full color.

Brush Pen
Because the paper has some tooth, you can get get a variety of line types.  I went for solid, bright lines, but by varying the pressure, I could easily get broken lines for a more textured effect.

Gel Pen
Gel pens really like this paper.  The coverage is smooth, but the tooth is just enough to really pull the ink from the pen.  The colors stay bright, and surprisingly, the beige background doesn't change the colors.

Colored Pencil
As with the gel pens, the paper pulls the color from colored pencils.  It might wear them down faster than some papers, but you get bold, bright color, with an underlying richness.

The paper is rated for light washes, but, yes, I had to try and destroy the paper.  It is wonderful to try destroying things like a three-year old and act like I'm performing controlled and scientific test... because I am.  Really, in control, and highly scientific.

I didn't soak the paper, but I did use some very juicy washes, and I painted wet-into-wet.  I scrubbed and lifted and re-painted and lifted.

The paper held up well. It did dimple (see photo below this one).  I used small pieces of tape at the outside corners to hold the paper down and there was no curl (and the tape didn't affect the paper either).

Lifting color was surprisingly easy.  I never got to the point where the paper was pilling.  It was easier to get soft edges than it was hard edges.  Glazing helped me to get the darkest values, but I had to work to get them.

I decided I wanted to turn this into a mixed media piece, so I quit at this point.

The paper is only rated for light washes, and they would certainly be easier, but you can heavier watercolor work if you work at it.

I think this is why the paper is only rated for light washes.  I kind of like the dimpled texture so I'll continue to use heavier washes, but you can avoid the dimples by heeding the rating that Stillman and Birn gives the paper.

Mixed Media-Technical Pen & White Ink over watercolor

I decided that I wanted to finish this as a line and wash, so I added detail with a technical, waterproof ink pen, and highlights with a white, opaque ink.  It soon became apparent that the walnuts were really popping off the page and I was reminded of the 'Little Shop of Horrors'.  With my sense of humor, I had to emphasize that!

Even at this point, I was able to lift color without damage to the paper. 

Mixed Media - Fineliner Pen & Opaque White Ink

As I mentioned above, the lighter colors - mostly the yellows - become more of a tint than a full color on this paper, but the other colors do quite well. One of the issues I have with fineliners (and most marker pens, for that matter) is that the colors all tend to have the same bright, intensity and it can screw with your values.  On this paper, the colors are toned down, just a notch, so it is easier to get a good range of values - except the lightest.

The Stillman and Birn Nova Series Beige-Toned Wire-bound Sketchbook is a sturdy, well-made product.  It might be a bit heavy for some to carry.  The wire-binding gives room for expansion if you glue things into it. The paper is archival.  It's rated for light washes. I wouldn't recommend it for wet-into-wet, but I think you can do much heavier than light washes, if you don't mind dimpling in the paper.

The beige-tone darkens the value of the colors, but yellows stay yellow, reds stay red and so on.

The Nova Series is available Beige, Grey and Black paper in the the following formats and sizes:

3.5x5.5 in/8.9x14.0 cm
5.5x8.5 in/14.0x21.6 cm
8x10 in/20.3x25.4 cm

6x8 in/15.2x20.3 cm
7x10 in/17.8x25.4 cm
9x12 in/22.9x30.5 cm

Individual Sheets
22x30 in/55.9x76.2 cm

Other Reviews
Just Add Water Silly
Larry D Marshall
Fueled by Clouds and Coffee

You can find Stillman & Birn Nova Series Beige Toned Sketchbooks at many stores, including:

Wet Paint
Hyatt's All Things Creative
DaVinci Art Supply
Jackson's Art Supply

Disclaimer:  I bought this Beige-Toned Nova Series Wirebound book with my own funds.  Stillman & Birn did not ask me to review this book and they did not know that I intended to do so.  I received no compensation for this review, and all opinions are my own.