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Review: Stillman and Birn Gamma Series

I came home a week ago and found on my doorstep a package. I was pretty surprised to have gotten a package since I had no recollection of ordering anything. Instead I’d been sent a box of Stillman and Birn sketchbooks for my use. I considered secretly hoarding these away and not telling anyone anything about them, I reconsidered and decided to make my gain yours as well by reviewing each and every sketchbook. I know, tough job, but someone needs to do it. (Please imagine me acting faint with my hand to my forehead for added drama.)

I’m reviewing the case bound Gamma series and I’m not going to mince words here, these are the best sketchbooks I’ve ever used. The paper is a heavy 100lb and ivory in color with a slight texture. The sleeve states it can take “light washes” of watercolor and is good for a variety of materials. I found all that to be true, plus it handled heavy applications of watercolor like a champ.
The covers of the case bound gamma are super tough and very sturdy. They hold up well to sketching in the hand while standing. Though it’s humid here they remain flat. The binding is perfect. I can find no flaws with it. The thread matches the paper color so blends in well and is not noticeable. The stitching is the same sort of binding that Moleskine sketchbooks use, smythe sewing. This also with some work allows this sketchbook to sit VERY flat. It does take some work to get it to open perfectly flat. That work is as simple as opening the sketch book up over and over again and touching the 2 covers to one another. Easy.
What I really like is how good everything looks on the paper. The warm color really shows off earthy colors and tones down bright colors. Watercolor layers on this paper wonderfully. It also lifts well. Nothing soaks through

It’s really nice to work in a sketchbook where I’m not constantly battling the paper with either my ink or watercolor. It’s nice to lay down a wash and KNOW how it will respond to either more color or to water being used to lift that color. I know that if I add more lines to the page how that ink will respond. While I adore my cheapo canson blue book for hashing out ideas and mind mapping, using paper I don’t have to fight with is the whole reason i got into bookbinding so many years ago. If Stillman and Birn had been around in 1998 I never would have started making books.

You can get them at EuropeanPaper.com Not sponsored just a happy winner of a sketchbook from them.