Two New Tangle Patterns & Review of the Clairefontaine GraF-it sketchpad

Clairefontaine Graf it Sketch Pads

Exaclair sent me an A4 size GraF it Sketchpad and I'm so happy to review it for you!  Thank you!

Format: Glued & Top Stapled; Microperfed sheets
Paper Weight: 90g/41lb 
4 Sizes: 4x6 inch (A6), 6x8 inch (A5), 8x12 inch (A4) & 12x17 inch (A3)
Paper Color: White
Texture: Matte
No. Sheets: 80
Covers: Cardstock front & Cardboard backing-several colors available

Overall Look and Feel
At first glimpse, the GraF it sketchpad doesn't look much different than sketchpads you see on any store shelf.  But the minute you touch the paper you know there is something different.

Based on sight, I expected the pad to be heavy--it seemed so well bound and just sturdy, even though the front cover is a light,flexible cardstock.  The word 'workhorse' came to mind.  You know, that tablet that lies around, stacked on top of things, or under things, is carried from room to room, gets shoved into drawers and pulled out for any and every purpose when paper is needed.  

The paper looked as though it would be soft.  It is not. It has a hard surface for non-cardstock, but it is not stiff.  It is smooth but not slick.  It folds and takes creases well.  When you hold the paper to the light you can see the threads running through it, so there is a degree of translucence.  I found to be interesting paper, lol.

I used several pages to make my Exacompta Pocket portfolio journal and it was easy to tear by hand to get edges that were fashionably ragged without having chunks missing or ripped pages.  The microperfing is excellent.  I held the edge of one page in my fingertips and bounced the pad vigorously with no tearing whatsoever.  But when I pulled at the microperf, the paper came away cleanly.


The pad has pencils illustrated on the cover.  You may be aware that I don't care to work in pencil, but I was curious to see how they would work on this paper.  Leftie that I am, I didn't try to avoid smudging--it's part of the test to see if it will.

I used a mechanical pencil, mainly because I didn't have any other sharpened pencils around, lol.  

The lead did smudge, as you can see to the lower left.  I was able to get a good degree of tonal difference, though not as easily as I would have liked.  The plus was that the lead erased very easily and cleanly.

You would need to use a fixative if using this paper with pencil because the color did transfer onto the page next to it.

Colored Pencils

The next logical step seemed to be tryiing out my Lyra Rembrandt colored pencils.  I have slight arthritis and find it painful to apply much pressure while coloring.  Since the GraF it paper is so smooth, it does require some work to build up color.  With some paper, wax builds up, and you can't add more color--that wasn't the case here.  I do feel this drawing needs more color, but just didn't add it.

The smoothness also means that you need a fixative because the color will rub off on the page next to it.

Fountain Pen

I mislaid my box of fountain pens, lol, and thought I was going to have to skip this test.  At the last moment, I remembered where they were and did a very quick tryout.  Clairefontaine is noted for being fountain pen friendly, and I believe the GraF-it qualifies.  Where I wrote with my Lamy and Preppy there was no spotting and little show-through on the back.  Even where I saturated the paper with ink, there was minimal spotting.  I used a Sharpie marker to show the difference.  Since alcohol markers do bleed through, I suspect a very 'wet' pen or ink would bleed or show through, but the Graf-it would work nicely if you take just a little care with your choices.

Wet media-Twinkling H2Os
The Sheep Prepares for his Night Job
The GraF it paper really shone with my twinkling H2Os!  The color ran and blended beautifully.  There was the slightest curving at the corners but very little dimpling!  Strangely, the yellow tinted the back of the paper but none of the other colors showed through.  Also, the 'Twinks' have mica suspended in them and are usually glimmery, but were not on this paper.  The coloring is certainly dramatic though, so I didn't mind the lack of shininess.

I decided to try a second page.  Acutually, the left half of this is alcohol marker, but I liked the way the colors worked together, so I did my tangle as though both sides were one page.

This time, the teal color showed through on the back, though not as strongly as the yellow had, and there was no glimmer.  The alcohol marker color is a bit subdued, but not unpleasantly so.  

On some other papers, I've had trouble drawing over the Twinks, but both Micron Pigma, American Craft Precision pen and Pentel White Gel pen worked well in this case.

I'll be trying out other water-soluble media and will let you know how it does.  In fact, I will probably use the GraF it paper mostly for watercolor overall.  I really like the results, even though the results are different than I expected.

Alcohol Markers
Front of page                                                         Back of page color bleedthru
As I mentioned above, alcohol marker color (Spectrum Noirs, in this case) is a bit subdued, but as you can see from the purple here, not terribly so.  I did a bleedthrumanade (got lemons? Make lemonade.  Got marker bleedthru?  Make bleedthrumanade)  Color bleedthru is about 75-80%.  

Stamping and Embossing

On the left, I stamped using a couple of Fiskars clear acrylic stamps and Tsukenko's Brilliance stamp pad ink in Tiramisu and Peacock.  On the right, I embossed this fine bird fellow, using the peacock stamp pad again and Ultrafine Clear embossing powder.  

The images stamped extremely well. There was no dimpling or warping when I applied the heat for embossing, but the stamp pad color did bleed through to the back of the page. 

Fabric tipped art pens and Gel pens

I used Micron Pigmas and American Craft Precision pens (tangle steps were drawn with Stabilio Point .88 pens)  The line work is bold with no feathering, bleed through or show through.  

I used Sakura's Gold Shadow metallic gel pens to color this example, and a strange thing happened.  I used a purple, a red, a green and a gold pen.  But when the ink dried everything was red or gold!  However, the color bled through to the back...and the colors show up!  I've since discovered that these pens do that on other papers as well, so it isn't the GraF it--it's the pens.  

Note about the tangle patterns: I often take spells where I create the steps to several patterns all at once, and then post them over time.  Occasionally, for one reason or another, the patterns will be set aside for a while, and I can't remember if I've posted them or not.  That is the case with these patterns.  I've looked through my patterns on my hard drive and Flickr and didn't see them, but it is possible that they were posted in the past under a different name.  I decided to post two in the hopes at least one is really new, lol!


My first impression of the GraF it was of sturdiness, and after working with it for a while, I still have that impression. It is a workhorse.  You can use it for almost anything.  It is a pad, and you are as likely to tear pages out and use them, as to work in the pad itself.  

Even if you are familiar with the media you choose, your results may be slightly different than with other papers.

Pencil and color pencils will need fixative, and some pressure to work up tonal values and color.

The paper is great for penwork.  It's fountain pen friendly, though I didn't try really 'wet' ink or pens.

Some watercolors may bleed through to the back of the page, but the paper holds it's integrity well with little to no dimpling or curling.

The GraF it is good for stamping, and holds up to embossing, though the heat may cause the color to bleed through to the back of the page.

The GraF it would be fantastic for art journaling, quick sketches, or detailed artwork. 

You can find a list of stores that carry Clairefontaine GraF-it Sketchpads, as well as other Clairefontaine products, at the Exaclair catalog

And check up on all things journal related @ the Rhodia Drive blog and on their facebook page.

About Clairefontaine

The name Clairefontaine comes from the town where the paper mill is located 'Etival-Clairefontaine by the River Meurthe', and a rough translation is 'clear water'.  The name refers to both the company and to the paper they produce.

Clairefontaine paper is chlorine-free, and the mineral calcium carbonate is responsible for the paper's trademark qualities of extra white and smooth. You can find more information about the company's commitment to minimal environmental impact here.


  1. Thanks, Sandra, for a very complete review of this paper. As usual, all your art is spectacular.

  2. thanks for such a thorough review. I use Graf-it Sketch Pads for Zentangle drawings all the time, and really enjoy them for that purpose. I have had good luck with Sakura Pigma Micron markers and fountain pens on Graf-It pads.


Post a Comment