Are moleskine sketchbooks good for watercolor painting?

Moleskine is a pretty famous brand when it comes to sketchbooks, and a lot of artists enjoy using them for sketching and drawing. What about watercolor painting, though?

Moleskine sketchbooks can be used for watercolor paintings if the paper is thick enough to effectively absorb water and pigments. These sketchbooks are very durable and last for a very long time, so you should have a great time using them.

watercolor painting equipment on a table

What makes a moleskine sketchbook suitable for watercoloring?

For most sketchbooks, the problems is the paper. They just aren’t designed for painting with watercolors. Rather, they are designed for sketching – as their name says

If you haven’t had much experience with how thick paper should be in order to be able to properly paint watercolor on it, you should just try it out in your sketchbook, even if it might look bad.

Sadly, sketchbooks are often used in the same way as actual canvases these days. Everyone wants the most beautiful sketchbook to share on social media, and fewer and fewer people actually sketch in their sketchbooks anymore.

But, you should do that. Test out the suitability of your sketchbook for watercolor painting. Even if it’s too thin to do detailed sketches, you can still use it for other purposes that I will cover shortly.

That’s pretty much everything a sketchbook should have so you’re able to paint in it. It just needs thick enough paper. The rest is rather irrelevant, so you don’t have to watch out for stuff like the binding and the cover etc.

If you’d also like to find out more about watercolor painting, I’d advise reading my article about laminating watercolor paintings.

watercolor painting

What should I do with a sketchbook that’s not suitable for watercoloring?

The majority of sketchbooks will have thin pages, which aren’t really ideal for watercolor painting.

You can still paint on them, but it won’t be the same as painting on watercolor paper.

However, you shouldn’t be discouraged as this opens up tons of new possibilities. You can see it as an opportunity to broaden your artistic horizons and your perception of art.

To begin with: Draw whatever the hell you like in your sketchbook. You shouldn’t care if it looks pretty or if it’s a perfect piece of artwork, as long as you can have fun with it. 

Your sketchbook is supposed to be a place where you can freely express yourself without worrying about the outcome, so nobody needs to ever see your sketchbook.

Now there are a few options to draw and paint for sketchbooks with thin pages.

Creating basic painting sketches

I like to sketch out ideas for paintings in a sketchbook before starting the actual painting.

This can be done with a pencil or whatever you prefer for this purpose, it’s up to you. Since pencils can be erased, I prefer them.

You probably have a number of ideas floating around in your head waiting to be painted, anyways, so shouldn’t you bring them to paper?

For each painting, I like to use at least two pages. On the first page, I like to sketch out the painting in pencil. I create a rough composition and then adjust what I don’t like along the way.

Once I’m satisfied with this, I’ll move to the next page, which is about finding the right colors for your artwork.

Even if your paper is quite thin, you can absolutely use this technique, since only one or two layers are needed.

There are two ways to do this. Either use the right page to experiment with colors and then use paint over your sketch on the left page, or use a new page to paint a copy of your sketch with the colors you just chose.

Again, this is entirely up to you. I recommend trying both out and seeing what works best for you.

Keep in mind that you’re not supposed to be painting some detailed paintings, but rather just block in the colors where you would like them in the painting.

Since this section is about thin paper, you don’t really have more room to experiment with. If your sketchbook has thicker paper, I’d recommend reading along for some more inspiration.

And if you’d like to know, whether you need gesso for watercolor painting, you can find out here.

watercolor brushes next to watercolor paint

What can you paint with watercolors in a sketchbook?

There is a more detailed explanation of this here, but I will give you a rough overview.

Making Full sketches of your paintings 

A sketchbook can be used for many things, but this is probably the most obvious. You can use it to make sketches.

It might seem simple at first, but it will help you tremendously in the long run.

Changing a composition drastically in just a few minutes and tweaking it numerous times takes much of the hassle out of watercolor painting.

It can be really frustrating to have to erase sections of a watercolor painting or start over from scratch, so sketching out ideas and compositions in advance will save you a lot of frustration.

By sketching out your painting before you begin to paint, you will be able to see flaws as soon as possible and the actual painting part will become much more enjoyable.

Sketchbooks can help you become a better artist

You can improve your abilities as an artist by keeping a sketchbook.

Firstly, you will improve your drawing because you will be forced to draw everywhere and quite often, or at least you will be able to.

Over time, you will greatly improve your skills as an artist if you get the chance to practice on the bus, in the train or while getting a coffee every day.

A few minutes of drawing every day will help you become a better artist than training once a week for an hour, so these little sessions can really be detrimental to your success

To improve in painting and drawing, it is important to maintain consistency.

So I recommend that every single artist, well actually every single person, owns a sketchbook, carries it with them, and actually uses it daily.

Instead of checking your phone for meaningless social media notifications, use your sketchbook to express your creativity in the fastest and simplest way possible.

Give it a real shot for a few weeks, even if you don’t intend to become a professional artist.

If you’d like to learn more about watercolor painting, I’d advise reading Does an easel allow for watercolor painting and Should you frame watercolor paintings with glass?


Watercoloring can be done in moleskine sketchbooks, provided the pages weigh at least 100 gsm. Use it to sketch paintings before you paint them and to create watercolor doodles. Further, you should carry it with you wherever you go, since it is a fun and easy way to express your creativity on the go.

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