I spent the better part of the last week trying different tools on the new Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album (large, 72 pages, $13.95) as well as comparing it to the standard Moleskine paper and the “Sketchbook” paper. The reason I spent so much time with it is that it is the first big push Moleskine has made to tout a “better” paper stock. It is listed as 120gsm/81lb paper. Moleskine has also started listing the weight on the Sketchbook paper. I think it says 165 gsm but its hard to see the label on the site.
I purchased the A5-sized book. Its a horizontal or reporter-style format. The new Art Plus Sketch Album does not have many of the elements usually associated with Moleskine notebooks. It has cardstock paper covers, no elastic and only a slit pocket in the back cover. Every page is perforated. The Art Plus Sketch is only available in a few sizes, blank paper only.
The first thing I noticed when comparing all three books and papers is that the shade of ivory paper is different for each book. The classic “sketchbook” paper is the most yellow, than the traditional plain paper is a little lighter and the new Art Plus paper is the lightest cream/ivory of all three.
At first, I tested just the Art Plus Sketch Album paper and while the tools I was trying seemed to work well I couldn’t be sure how it compared to the original paper or the “sketchbook” stock so I had to switch to a head-to-head comparison.
I wanted to test an array of materials as Art Sketch Plus somehow suggests an ability to withstand art-grade materials, possibly ink washes, markers and other tools. It’s more firepower than I would normally throw at a notebook but I really wanted to put it through its paces.
There was a little feathering with my TWSBI Mini EF and the Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku ink. The Copic alcohol-based CIAO superbrush pen bled through to the back vividly but did not smear or bleed on the paper. The Noodler’s Creaper flex nib was all kinds of feathery mess. I had a bit of a drying issue with the Retro 51 though I did not time it, within the normal time it took to switch tools, my hand did smear the ink. I didn’t see any other notable dry time issues though.
In comparison, the traditional Moleskine plain paper (large reporter, 240 pages, $18.95) had similar results with most tools. The Noodler’s Creaper splines and feathered way worse but the results of the other fountain pens was consistent to the Art Plus Sketch Album stock.
The Sketchbook (large, 80 pages, $19.95) stock had the best results with pen and ink with the least amount of feathering or bleeding.
The bleed through and show through for all three books was as to be expected. The plain paper had the most show through and bleed through making the reverse of the stock useless. The Art Plus Sketch Album had visible show through with all fountain pen inks, the worst being the flex nib and the big, bold Copic brush. If you’re only using felt tips, gel pens and the like, you might be quite please with the usability of the Art Plus Sketch Album. The sketchbook paper had the best two-sided usage. Only the Creaper and Copic had show through on the Sketchbook paper.
After all the testing, I will admit that the Art Plus Sketch Album stock is a minor improvement over the original Moleskine paper but the sacrifices (no hard cover, lines/grid, no elastic or gusseted back pocket) don’t really validate the increased price and loss of features.
There will not be a bonfire after all but I’m not blown away by the new Art Plus Sketch album either. Can I rate it “meh”?