Sketchbook Review: Hahnemühle The ZigZag Book

Review by Tina Koyama

I have a penchant for teeny-tiny things, especially art materials. Tiny pencils, paint palettes and sketchbooks may be adorable, but unfortunately, most are too small to be practical.

As an urban sketcher, I am constantly trying to strike the ideal balance between portability and useability, and my sweet spot for sketchbooks has long been the A6 size. Although it’s easy to find sketchbooks and notebooks in that size, they often contain inferior paper, especially when using wet media. My current favorite is made by Hahnemühle, which contains excellent watercolor paper. That’s why I got so excited when I saw that Hahnemühle makes a teeny-tiny, accordion-folded sketchbook with the same excellent paper that comes in the German company’s A6 size.

Called the ZigZag Book, the closed dimensions are about 2 ½-by-2 ½ inches (18 pages; $7). That’s small enough to fit easily into a pants pocket (alas, if only I had one). Heck, that’s small enough to fit in my palm! It has a handy elastic strap to keep it from flying open when you pull it out. (Shown below with a few other items for scale.)

Although individual pages are 2-inch squares, the accordion format allows a much longer panorama if you have a landscape in mind.

I’m familiar with two types of watercolor paper that Hahnemühle makes: its premium 100 percent cotton watercolor paper and its “academie” watercolor paper (which is still darn good for student grade). Other than its 300 gsm (140 lb.) weight, the ZigZag’s paper grade is not specified in the product description.

From my tests below, I honestly couldn’t tell which paper it is, though from the texture and weight, my guess is that it is 100 percent cotton. (The good news is that I’m unlikely to make sweeping, wet-in-wet washes of watercolor, where the paper quality makes a big difference; hard to be sweeping on 2 inches.)

I took the miniscule book out for a test run, and it’s so much fun! (Below, I used a Uni Pin 003 fine liner, Derwent Inktense pencils and Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils.) Bonus: The page is so small, I finished this color sketch in about 10 minutes. Bring along a few markers or watercolor pencils, and you could take this on a backpacking hike or anywhere you want to be especially minimal. No more excuses – go out sketching this summer!

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

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5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Great review as always, Tina! Looking closely on my big monitor, it appears that the 100% cotton paper swabs are just a little bit crisper than the Akademie. Is that my imagination? I have the tiny sketchbooks in my cart, just waiting to get your opinion. You make them look too cute! Cha-ching. Anne HwH

    1. It does look that way to me too, but since it’s so hard to tell, let’s just say that the ZigZag is 100% cotton and that we love it! 😉 I sure do!

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