Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Stillman & Birn Wirebound vs Hardbound

Stillman & Birn Multi-media Art Journals

Stillman & Birn produces multi-media art journals in five different series--the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta & Epsilon series.  Each comes in a plethora of sizes.

And that's why this review is taking a slightly different direction.  The two Beta and Delta series are virtually identical except that the paper in the Beta is white and the Delta is ivory.

I have a Beta that is wirebound and now a Delta that is hardbound, so I've done examples in both sketchbooks and will discuss the features both have in common, as well as the differences between the two.


The Specs for both sketchbooks
Paper weight: 180 lb (270 gsm)
Surface: Cold Press, Rough 
Bound in the United States

Other Specs for Delta Hardbound
26 sheets, 52 pages

Other Specs for Beta Wirebound
25 sheets, 50 pages

Used in this review-Delta Series Extra Heavy Weight Sketchbook Hardbound 5.5 x 8.5 inches (14.0 x 21.6 cm) and Beta Series Extra Heavy Weight Sketchbook  Wirebound Sketchbook 7 x 10 inches (17.8 x 25.4 cm)

Look and Feel-Both
Both hardbound and wirebound have textured black binder board covers.  The Stillman & Birn logo and the series name embossed on the lower back cover are the only adornment.

I've always said that if an sketchbook (journal, etc.) has something extra special about it, the company will let you know--loud and clear--in the promotional wrapping.  The wrapper for Stillman & Birn has lots and lots to say about the quality of their books.  I'm not going to repeat it all here--it would take too long, lol!  The Look and Feel of the books give proof to the wrapper.  They look quality and they feel quality.  Especially the Beta and Delta, which have extra heavy weight paper.

The paper's thick, but light for the thickness.  (I won't say these are light books, though!)  The thought that comes to mind is eggshell, because you can feel the texture, but still get the impression of smoothness.

Look and Feel-Hardbound
The binding of the Stillman & Birn is stiff at first, and the pages want to spring up, but if you carefully bend the book backward, the binding loosens just enough so that the pages lie flat enough for two-page spreads and scanning.



Look and Feel-Wirebound
The first thing I always check with a wirebound sketchbook is how much wear and tear the paper will get where the coil rubs against them.  I held one page at edge between finger and thumb and shook the book.

An inspection afterwords didn't show any dents or tears around the coils.  Pages slid easily back and forth, and they hang straight rather than slanting downwards, as happens when the holes are too large for the coil (this was true with the Stillman & Birn Epsilon, also, which has the lightest paper of all the series).

The coil was small enough that it didn't get in the way of my hand, though, as with all coils, it is difficult to draw to the very edge of the page.

Performance-The Delta
Color pencil-Lyra Rembrandt

The rough surface of these two series are really nice for color pencil.  The color builds up quickly and it glows!

Alcohol Markers-Spectrum Noirs
Front of page-color laid down                Back of page-color that bled through
The paper is a bit rough for the fabric nibs of alcohol markers, so I wouldn't use them a lot in this book.  The color bleed-through is only about 10%.  I used the hard tip of a Tim Holtz Distress marker for the linework on the front, and an American Craft Precision pen for the linework on the back of the page.

Performance-The Beta
Fabric-tipped Art Pens-Micron Pigma/American Craft Precision pens

Despite the rough surface, the lines come out bold and crisp, yet by varying the pressure you apply it is easy to vary the thickness and tonal values.  

Acrylic pens-Elmers Painter pens

Elmers Painter pens have a very thick tip, so there isn't much fine detail, but the color applies easily and fairly glows on the white Beta paper.

Watercolor/Mixed Media-Twinkling H2Os, Punchinella and Gel pen
I decided to try for a little Christmas in July effect, though I didn't quite get it done in time for July!  The green and red are Twinkling H2O watercolors.  They glimmer, but the scanner seldom picks that up.  I then glued on some pieces of punchinella (sequin waste) and added some flowers, stars and spots with white and metallic gold gel pen.

The paper did warp and dimple from the watercolor.  I know from experience with my previous Delta that most of this will disappear if I leave a weight on the sketchbook.

Conclusion: I absolutely love the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, and this extra heavy paper make the Deltas and Betas my favorite.  The quality is superb from stem to stern, and you could use the books for almost any purpose.  I'm so glad I have one to giveaway.


You can find my other Stillman & Birn reviews at:
Alpha Series Review
Gamma Series Reivew
Delta Series Review
Epsilon Series Review
Comparison of the different series


Giveaway: I'm giving away a copy of the Stillman & Birn Beta Series Extra Heavy Weight Sketchbook Hardbound 5.5 x 8.5 inches (14.0 x 21.6 cm).  It looks exactly like the Delta reviewed here, but has the same paper color as the Beta reviewed here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was sent these Stillman & Birn sketchbooks with no requirements asked of me, and have received no other compensation for writing my reviews.  I have included options for the entrants of the giveaway that include visiting Stillman & Birn sites and following them.  I was NOT asked to do this.  I included the options because I think there are benefits--Stillman & Birn features great artists, whose work you might enjoy, they have occasional giveaways and link to giveaways, and following them is the fastest way to learn of new products or deals.  But I do understand that everyone must guard their time and may not wish to do these things.  For that reason, only the first option is mandatory to enter the giveaway, and it is weighted for more points than the other options.

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