illo Sketchbook Premium Elastic Enclosure Hardcover Sketch Book

Last updated date: August 7, 2020

DWYM Score

illo Sketchbook Premium Elastic Enclosure Hardcover Sketch Book

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We looked at the top Sketch Books and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Sketch Book you should buy.

Overall Take

The illo Sketchbook Premium 122lb Hardcover Notebook features a hard cover made of leather. This not only protects the sketch pad from damage, but also provides an anti-slip coating to prevent you from accidentally dropping the book. The square design of the pad makes sharing your artwork a breeze on social media sites. As an added bonus, the pages are thick enough to use markers and watercolor washes. In our analysis of 71 expert reviews, the illo Sketchbook illo Sketchbook Premium Elastic Enclosure Hardcover Sketch Book placed 2nd when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note November 11, 2019:
Checkout The Best Sketch Book for a detailed review of all the top sketch books.

Expert Summarized Score
4 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
266 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
The sketchbook comes with 112 heavyweight pages and works with pens, pencils, inks, pastels, markers, and can be used with light watercolor paint. We also like that the book measures 8 inches by 8 inches, perfect for sharing square images of your art on Instagram.
- Spy
August 2, 2019 | Full review
The paper on the illo sketchbook is really, really nice. I'm not kidding when I say it's like bristol board, pretty close to a smoother plate bristol, but there is a ever so slight tooth to the page. It handles nearly every ink like a dream, and the front and back of the page of a sketchbook handle in about the same.
- Timo Weaver
The binding is sewn and it lies perfectly flat with no training or spine-bending necessary. Even the first few pages lie flat right out of the package. I've seen some very fancy notebooks fail that test, so I was quite impressed with the binding.
- The Pen Addict
October 11, 2018 | Full review
It lays flat and is designed with social media in mind. “Our 8″ x 8″ Perfect Square Ratio sketchbook,” they say, “allows you to go from paper to social media without the awkward cropping.”
- My Modern Met
March 8, 2019 | Full review
What experts didn't like
Unlike the Strathmore and ARTEZA, the illo doesn’t have perforated pages, making it difficult to remove individual sheets. The illo paper isn’t acid free, which cuts down on cost, but also cuts down on the longevity of the artwork in the book.
- Spy
August 2, 2019 | Full review
My only complaint is the size. It's not that it's square, which I originally thought. It's just that it's too small of a square for me. 8 inches tall is not what I want out of a sketchbook, I usually like a 7"x10" or, 8.5"x11" (A4-ish).
- Timo Weaver
The paper is coated, so there may be some longer dry time for wet media, and powdery pigments may smear a bit if you're not careful.
- The Pen Addict
October 11, 2018 | Full review

From The Manufacturer

Designed by artists for artists. illo Sketchbooks are 8x8 in creating a square drawing surface perfect for any artist at any skill level. Take your drawings from paper to social media easily without the awkward cropping. Gray hard cover/ 112 pages / 122lb, 180 gsm paper / elastic enclosure/ stylish ribbon marker / back page pocket, layflat design. This sketchbook works well with all mediums. Perfect for dry mediums. Water based media should be used lightly.

Overall Product Rankings

Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad
1. Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad
Overall Score: 9.5
Expert Reviews: 8
Pentalic Sketch Book
3. Pentalic Sketch Book
Overall Score: 9.4
Expert Reviews: 8
Canson XL Series Mix Media Paper Pad
4. Canson XL Series Mix Media Paper Pad
Overall Score: 9.3
Expert Reviews: 10
Leda Art Supply Perfect Premium Sketch Book
5. Leda Art Supply Perfect Premium Sketch Book
Overall Score: 9.3
Expert Reviews: 13
Arteza Sketch Book, Pack of 3
6. Arteza Sketch Book, Pack of 3
Overall Score: 9.3
Expert Reviews: 3
Bellofy Sketchpad Artist Pro
7. Bellofy Sketchpad Artist Pro
Overall Score: 9.1
Expert Reviews: 9
Elans Journal Personalized Artist Sketchbook
8. Elans Journal Personalized Artist Sketchbook
Overall Score: 9.0
Expert Reviews: 1
Canson Artist Series Universal Sketch Pad
9. Canson Artist Series Universal Sketch Pad
Overall Score: 8.8
Expert Reviews: 7
Master Class Art Premium Spiral Hardcover Sketchbook
10. Master Class Art Premium Spiral Hardcover Sketchbook
Overall Score: 8.0
Expert Reviews: 4

An Overview On Sketch Books

You never know when your next creative idea will strike, so it’s a good idea to have a sketch pad and drawing utensils handy. Not all sketch pads are created equal, however. So before you purchase one, you’ll want to take into consideration a few important features.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

First, determine whether the company producing the sketch pad takes measures to protect the environment. For example, the makers of the Pentalic Sketch Book only use paper created from certified sustainable forests. They prominently display a sticker with this information right on the front cover of the pad.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

Next, decide whether you’d like the sketch pad to have a soft or hard cover.  Soft covers tend to come with a spiral binding, which allows you to quickly flip through the pages. But, they can also be susceptible to damage and tearing when placed in a bookbag. Hard covers protect the pages better, and if you opt for a leather cover, you’ll also enjoy the anti-slip surface.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

Consider the shape of the sketch book pages. Traditional pads are rectangular in shape, but now artists have the option of buying square-shaped sketch pads, like the illo Sketchbook Premium 122lb Hardcover Notebook. The benefit to this shape is that it’s better for sharing pictures of the sketches on social media.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

The size of your sketchbook is also important. “Is it something you plan to carry with you and use on the go? If so, think about where it needs to fit,” says art educator Amy Markham. Her podcast “Starling” helps artists develop their creative process. “Will you carry it in a backpack, a purse or a pocket? Some people prefer to have a smaller sketchbook to carry around and a larger one for planning out ideas when they are at home.”

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

Finally, you’ll need to think about what sort of paper is best suited to your needs. “If you are mainly using your book for pencil sketches and the occasional pen, then standard sketchbook paper will work. If you are using markers, inks or some light watercolors, opt for a mixed media paper,” says Markham.  “Sketch paper will not absorb wet media. If you know you are going to be painting often in your sketchbook, go for a watercolor paper sketchbook.”

Don’t forget to check the thickness, weight and absorbency of the pages as well. Thinner pages will leave press-through impressions on the pages behind them.

DWYM Fun Fact

The Oxford dictionary refers to a sketch as “a rough or unfinished drawing.”  Sketches were originally designed to give an artist a way to put their ideas down on paper. People sometimes refer to this as doodling. Later, the sketches would be used as a starting point to create the final masterpiece that the artist had in mind.

Today, however, creative minds often use sketch pads to create work of arts and not just rough drafts. The most commonly used medium for drawing in a sketch pad is the pencil. Did you know that just one lead pencil can create a straight line that is an astounding 35 miles long?

The Sketch Book Buying Guide

  • Check to see if the company has a money-back guarantee policy. This isn’t necessary, but it does add a layer of protection in case the sketch pad doesn’t live up to your expectations.
  • You can frame your favorite sketches and give them away as gifts or use them to decorate your home. If the sketch pad page is not the same size as a traditional frame, you can take it to a craft store and have a custom frame made.
  • Sketching just a few minutes every day is a great way to improve your speed and accuracy.
  • You don’t have to confine yourself to using the sketch pad for drawings only. You can also write to-do lists in them, create calendars or documents your observations when bird watching. Another option is to use the pad as a visual journal, combining your written thoughts with important images that remind you about the day. If you travel, for example, you may wish to draw the Eiffel Tower and then write about the sites and sounds you experienced from the observation deck.
  • Keep your sketchbook away from any liquids. Accidental spills can ruin the pad’s pages.
  • When it comes time to compare sketch pad prices, you need to consider whether the book has a hard or soft cover. Sketch pads with a hard cover, like the illo Sketchbook Premium 122lb Hardcover Notebook and the Pentalic Sketch Book, command a higher price than those with soft covers, like the Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad. The Arteza Sketch Book, Pack of 3 contains multiple pads, so you’ll need to divide the number of pads by the total cost to determine the price per sketchbook.