Canson vs Strathmore: Which is the Best Sketchbook for Artists? Gone are the days when you were happy to sketch on a scrap piece of regular paper with your El Cheapo pencils and watercolors. As we mature as artists our needs for finer artists’ materials also mature which means that if you are a little fussy when it comes to art materials you may find looking for the right sketchbook a daunting task. With so many options available in the market, it can be challenging to choose the right one that fits your style and preferences.
In this article, I will be comparing two of the most popular sketchbooks in Canson vs Strathmore. I’ll take an in-depth look at the features, quality, and usability of both sketchbooks to help you make an informed decision.
Overview of Canson and Strathmore Sketchbooks
Let’s have a quick look at both sketchbooks. While both brands make many different sketchbooks, watercolor paper of varying weights and sizes for this comparison I will be comparing two sketchbooks that come as close as possible so that we are comparing ‘apples with apples.
Canson XL Sketchbook
Canson XL is a popular brand of sketchbooks that come in a variety of sizes, weights, and bindings. One of the main features of Canson XL sketchbooks is the acid-free, heavyweight (67 LBS / 100 GSM and up) paper that is ideal for a variety of mediums, including pencil, charcoal, pen, and ink. The paper is also micro-perforated, which makes it easy to remove pages from the sketchbook without damaging the rest of the book.
We need to be mindful that while we generalize that Canson XL is one variation of the brand that the Canson XL also comes in specialty paper such as:
- Canson XL Sketch
- Canson XL Sketch Extra White
- Canson XL Watercolor Paper
- Canson XL Fluid Mixed Media
- Canson XL Mixed Media Textured
- Canson XL Mixed Media Pad
- Canson XL Oil and Acrylic
- plus many many more.
I purchased the Canson XL Bristol pad as it comes closest to a good all-purpose general artist paper. I found using the Canson XL a great experience and I just love slowly tearing away a sheet and getting to work on it without having to worry to pre-treat it in advance for most mediums.
Strathmore 400 Series Sketchbook
Strathmore 400 Series is another popular brand of sketchbooks that is widely used by artists. The sketchbook comes in different sizes, bindings, and slightly higher weights than Canson XL with 80 LBS / 118 GSM to 246 LBS / 400 GSM in the range. The paper used in Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks is also acid-free and is suitable for dry media, including pencil, charcoal, and pastels. The sketchbook also features a hardcover, which provides added protection to the pages.
Like the Canson XL range, the Strathmore 400 Series also comes in a variety of specialty papers that are too long to list so I have provided just a few:
- Strathmore 400 – Sketch
- Strathmore 400 – Recycled Sketch
- Strathmore 400 – Toned Sketch
- Strathmore 400 – Drawing
- Strathmore 400 – Heavyweight Drawing
- Strathmore 400 – Recycled Drawing
- Strathmore 400 – Colored Pencil
- Strathmore 400 – Bristol
- Strathmore 400 – Charcoal
- Strathmore 400 – Pastel
- Strathmore 400 – Artagain
- Strathmore 400 – Grayscale
- Strathmore 400 – Acrylic
- Strathmore 400 – Oil Painting
- Strathmore 400 – Watercolor Pad
As with the Canson XL Bristol, I compared it to the Strathmore 400 – Drawing paper as opposed to the Strathmore 400 – Bristol to ensure we are comparing two like for like products as the Strathmore Bristol is more a vellum paper which is a bit different to how it is made.
Quality of Paper
When it comes to sketchbooks, the quality of paper is one of the most important factors to consider. Both Canson XL and Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks are made with high quality and with some recycled, acid-free paper, which ensures that the paper doesn’t yellow or deteriorate over time. The paper is also very white meaning it has been bleached but they both still feel quite ‘warm’ if that makes sense, they don’t feel like chalk white.
Canson XL sketchbooks have a variety of paper weights to choose from, ranging from 67lb to 140lb. The 70lb paper is a popular choice for many artists, as it is thick enough to handle a variety of mediums, including watercolors. The 140lb paper is thicker and is suitable for more heavy-duty applications, including oil pastels and acrylics.
Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks, on the other hand, use paper that is slightly thinner than Canson XL.
The paper weight ranges from 80lb to 130lb, with the most popular choice being the 80lb (118GSM)and 140lb (300GSM) papers. This paper is suitable for dry media, including pencil, charcoal, and pastels. I would suggest using a specialty watercolor paper, acrylic paper and oil paper from either brand if you intend on using wet media as they hold up much better as the wet paint dried, minimizing warping. You will find that the watercolor and wet paint varieties are cold press paper vs hot press paper.
The usability of a sketchbook is another important factor to consider. Both Canson XL and Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks have their own unique features that make them suitable for different types of artists.
Canson XL sketchbooks are wire-bound, and micro-perforated, which makes it easy to remove pages from the sketchbook without damaging the rest of the book. The sketchbook also has a durable cover that protects the pages and prevents them from getting damaged during transport. Additionally, the sketchbook is available in different sizes, making it suitable for artists who prefer to work on different scales.
Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks, are also wire-bound but have a harder cover that provides added protection to the pages. The sketchbook’s wire-bound spine allows it to lay flat on any surface, making it easy for artists to work on their art without any interruptions. Furthermore, the sketchbook is available in a variety of sizes and paper types, making it an ideal choice for artists who want to work with different mediums.
Price is always a factor to consider when choosing a sketchbook. Canson XL and Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks are both reasonably priced and offer excellent value for money.
While Canson XL sketchbooks are generally more economical than Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks, the prices can differ depending on size, weight and binding type.
I have purchased Canson on sale at my local art stores and office supplies store, you just need to keep an eye out for those sales.
Canson Vs Strathmore – Wrap up!
Both Canson XL and Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks are great options for artists. The choice between the two will depend on your personal preferences and the type of art you create. If you work with dry media and prefer a harder cover, then Strathmore 400 Series is the better choice. On the other hand, if you work with a variety of mediums and prefer a micro-perforated sketchbook, then Canson XL is the option for you.
Canson vs Strathmore? Well for me Canson wins but only just. I like both papers but I’m not a particularly fussy person to start with especially when these two products are both market leaders in this segment.
Choosing the right sketchbook is crucial for artists. Canson XL and Strathmore 400 Series sketchbooks are both excellent choices that offer high-quality recycled paper, usability and value for money. I hope this comparison of Canson Vs Strathmore has helped you make a better informed decision when choosing your next sketchbook. If you have any further insights based on your own use please let me know.
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Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
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