Stillman & Birn Softcovers: An Exciting Announcement


I am so excited to be writing this post.  As many know, Stillman & Birn, my favorite sketchbook company, released a line of softcover sketchbooks not very long ago.  Sadly, what most also know is that there were manufacturing problems with those books and they had to recall all of them, at great expense, from around the world.  I applauded them for this as it hit their bottom line hard, but they didn’t want we artists to bear the pain of the problem.

Excepting the manufacturing problem, these softcover books looked like a dream come true.  Available in all of Stillman & Birn’s great papers, in a variety of sizes, and with cover colors that reflected the paper type.  The covers had an almost suede-feel to them.  They weighed only 55-65% of the weight of the equivalent hardcover and they were much thinner.  A dream come true for someone like me who carries several sketchbooks and walks a couple hours a day to sketching locations.

Stillman & Birn sofcover prototypes

Stillman & Birn sofcover prototypes

Well, they’re BACK!!!  Or at least almost back.  Stillman & Birn says they should be available ‘real soon’ and they sent me a couple of their prototype books to get my opinion about whether the problems are fixed.

To that I can say, they are fixed and then some.  I’ve gone through both of my prototype books, one page at a time, and the problems we saw with the initial release are gone.  But it’s better than that.  These books lay flatter than their early softcovers and certainly better than the hardcovers.  I didn’t have to bend them backwards as you do with the hardcovers to get them to lay flat.  They just do, though I still recommend going through each page, folding it out flat before using the book.  I do that with any sketchbook, regardless of brand.

As I said, the books they sent me are prototypes.  They came with Delta and Gamma paper so I could check both the 150gsm and 270gsm binding.  The covers are the same material as the production versions but these aren’t color-coded; they’re prototypes.  Still, they are amazing books and I’m downright giddy that I have them to use.  I was planning to get somewhere to do a sketch for this blog post but a snowstorm prevented that.  Truth is, everyone knows how great Stillman & Birn paper is so I decided it was more important to get this announcement into the ether.   So here it is, without a sketch.  Here’s the money shot of the books laying flat. Ain’t they gorgeous?  Coming soon to an art store near you.

Stillman & Birn softcovers, laying flat.

Stillman & Birn softcovers, laying flat.


11 thoughts on “Stillman & Birn Softcovers: An Exciting Announcement

  1. Woop, woop! I love my hardcover. But the more I think about my future sketchbooks (one for botanicals, one for insects, one for birds, one for…) the more I am excited about the softcover versions.

    • …I know the feeling. I used to be happy with one size sketchbook but I now like to choose, going from 4×6 to 9×12. Then there’s landscape vs portrait. It seems the combinations are endless and all have their virtues. And so I end up carrying a bunch of them. Like you, I’d like to start a nature only book to keep those sketches separate from my more urban sketching. I think these softcovers will lighten my load considerably 🙂 — Larry

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  3. Hi Larry – tried to find the most relevant and recent post to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. It was a post of yours, back in 2012, that fully convinced me I should start out with an excellent paper product rather than gradually “earning the right” as my sketching improved. Really got a lot out of the sidebar junk journal conversation that emerged from that post as well. Here in the present tense I have gotten so attached to this paper that I began buying full sheets through Artist Warehouse so I could customize my own books to include alpha, beta, epsilon and zeta papers all at once (insert that awesome Seinfeld gif right here). Now I can use a variety of mediums for line drawings, ink washes, watercolors and, here and there, include bits of collage all in the same place. These books I’m making won’t win any sort of bookbinding awards but they are very sturdy and well worth the short learning curve and production time it has taken for me to get proficient. I thought this venture would cancel out my desire to purchase ready made sketchbooks and simply planned to gradually use up the remaining cache but now I want some of these soft covers as well. Had sort of tuned out knowing about them until I was searching for a time-appropriate place to leave this comment. Thank you? I think?

    • Hi Alicia, thanks for stopping by. Sorry if I’ve gotten you thinking about buying a sketchbook if you’ve found a good solution to your paper needs. There is no right answer, of course, but I’m really enjoying the prototypes of these softcover S&B sketchbooks.

      As for so-called “junk journals”, I’ve certainly softened my stance on the need for quality paper for everything, though I think “junk journal” is a misnomer. I now have two kinds of sketchbooks. I’m not a stickler for the quality of the sketches I do in my S&B sketchbooks but I also carry sketchbooks with lesser paper. These are used to scribble out quick sketches, make notes, try different tools, practice techniques, copy sketches of other artists and anything else that might help me improve my sketching. Most of their contents don’t end up on my blog but nevertheless, these sketchbooks are my most valuable, because it’s within their pages that I’m learning to draw. — Larry

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