At the beginning of World Watercolor Month, Hahnemühle kindly reached out to introduce me to their company and watercolor papers. At that point, I had never heard of Hahnemühle and didn’t even know how to pronounce their name (which sounds even more peculiar in my Southern dialect). I tentatively said “yes," and I'm so glad I did!
Before I jump into this post, I want to say that this review of the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book is probably the easiest review I’ve ever had to write. Normally when I write a review, I spend weeks or even months exploring and weighing a lot of factors about a product and deciding how to present each of my observations accurately.
After all, I recognize that my opinion is simply mine, and if I state a negative observation the wrong way, I might discourage you from trying an art tool or product that could turn out to be one of your favorites.
Or vise versa. I'd also hate to encourage you to try a product that turns out to be an utter flop. I try to test every product that I share with you to the utmost of my abilities, whatever those may be!
In regards to the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book, I really haven’t discovered a negative. Really. Hahnemühle sent me a small book that I’ve nearly filled and a larger one that I’ve already begun for National Mushroom Month.
In other words, I’ve tested this sketchbook and its paper extensively, and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it! The more I use it, the more I enjoy it, and the honeymoon phase has never ended. My full review below shares why.
Hahnemühle Expert Tip: To the best of my knowledge, Hahnemühle is pronounced phonetically like Hah-neigh-mool-ah. If your German is as rusty as mine, check out this video to hear it live. And by the way, the spellings Hahnemühle/Hahnemuehle are both correct. If there's no umlaut, an extra 'e' is added.
This German paper company may be new to you also, but Hahnemühle has been around a very long time—more than 400 years, to be exact. The company was begun in the late 1500s, but it has been known as Hahnemühle since 1886.
Hahnemühle’s main focus has always been fine art papers but they've concentrated primarily on printing papers, at least in modern times. I’m not exactly sure when their watercolor papers and books came about, but from what I understand, their watercolor artist products are rather new to the market here in the States.
I highly recommend giving their sketchbooks and watercolor papers a try. You can learn more about their watercolor paper at this post or see Hahnemühle's complete product line of fine art products at their website. I also have a list of current retailers at the end of this post.
Overview of the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book
When I first received this watercolor sketchbook, I’ll admit that I was a little wary. The sketchbook itself was lovely but the 200 gsm paper felt a little skimpy. In truth, my first thought upon opening the sketchbook was a dismayed, "Oh no."
While I often accept trial art supplies when offered (who wouldn't!?), I never promise a review or even a mention in exchange for product. Regardless of this policy, if I do share or mention a product, I always try to state something positive.
The Hahnemühle Watercolour Book paper had me a bit worried, but I quickly learned that this paper packs a big punch in a light package. At the end of this video, I share an overview of the Hahnemühle Watercolor Book that may be helpful to watch.
Specs: Hahnemühle currently offers their Watercolour Book in 5 sizes, and each sketchbook contains 30 sheets, or 60 usable surface pages, of paper.
Construction: The sketchbook’s sewn binding allows it to open completely flat, and I have no problems painting across both pages of a spread. So far, the sketchbook has proven to be extremely sturdy and, even after heavy use, the hardbound cover and binding appear brand new.
Paper Surface: The paper has a light surface pattern that isn’t distracting at all. At first, I thought the paper was too smooth for my taste, but then I painted on it. The paper has just enough tooth to keep pigments firmly in place and allow excellent control, but it's soft enough to fade into the background and permit watercolor to take center stage.
Pen/Pencil: The paper's surface takes pencil and pen very well, and graphite erased easily. I give it an A+ for all types of pen and ink—fountain, fineliners, and even dip nibs.
Watercolor: Though 200 gsm feels thin to the touch (similar to 90# watercolor paper) this paper has performed like a much heavier gsm paper, even under heavy water application. In fact, I was pleasantly shocked at how well it handled multiple layers of watercolor without buckling or curling. Yep, it's a trooper!
Performance of the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book
Instead of telling more about how the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book performs with watercolor, I'd rather give a demonstration. Not only was every example in this post completed in the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book, but I've got a nifty video example below.
Most sketchbook papers can’t handle multiple layers of masking, taping, painting, lifting, blending, erasing, etc. However, the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book can.
Watch to witness the beauty and hardiness of this paper!
Hahnemühle vs Pentalic Watercolor Sketchbooks
Until now, my favorite watercolor sketchbook has been the Pentalic Aqua Journal that I reviewed here. I still highly recommend the Pentalic Aqua Journal and enjoy using it. I also highly recommend the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. I think both sketchbooks are equally great but paint differently, so it depends upon your needs.
The Pentalic has more absorbent paper so pigments fade more and won't lift as easily. Also, Pentalic's basket-weave patterned surface (above right) can be distracting and a bit of a nuisance when using heavy washes or granulating pigments. But Pentalic's paper isn't as slippery as Hahnemühle's, and I can get softer edges in the Pentalic.
There is a bit of fading in the Hahnemühle (you can see this in the video), but pigments stay fairly true. Hahnemühle's paper has a slow drying time, and pigments lift so easily that I have to be more patient with this paper. As you can see in the photo (above left), the texture of Hahnemühle’s paper is unobtrusive.
In a nutshell, Hahnemühle paints more like a hot-pressed paper, while Pentalic is closer to a rough. I enjoy Hahnemühle's increased workability, but I also enjoy the Pentalic. As always, pick the best sketchbook for you!
Any Limits to the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book?
It's important to recognize that most sketchbooks do not contain 100-percent cotton, mold-made watercolor paper. Though there are advantages to sketchbooks, when it comes to watercolor painting, I don't think a sketchbook will ever replace a high quality sheet of watercolor paper.
Sketchbooks are for... well you know, sketching.
But still, before I wrote this review, I set out to push the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book to its limits. I do this with nearly every art tool that I use and review, so why stop now? My goal is to see what it takes to elicit failure in a product. After all, I need to find this out before I'm standing ankle-deep in mud, in the rain, trying to sketch a salamander.
With the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book, it took some work. For example, in the clouds above, I was able to complete at least four levels of glazing, reworking, lifting, blotting and scrubbing before the paper began to fail. (That botchy area right in the middle of the clouds is where I was forced to stop.) That's some serious stamina for sketchbook paper!
I mentioned the slight fading issue earlier, and though the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book's paper will take some scrubbing, it won't take erasing on damp paper. (I found that out while sketching these mushrooms. See directly above the left side of the big one's cap.) However, I've never met a paper that enjoyed this tactic. In fact, I've used artist-grade watercolor papers that are more finicky than this sketchbook's paper.
Where to Buy Hahnemühle Products
Below is a list of retailers that currently offer the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book along with other Hahnemühle products, but Hahnemühle is currently being added to many more stores. If you desire an updated list or live outside of the U.S., please reach out to Hahnemühle for current suppliers in your area.
Hahnemühle Watercolour Book Giveaway! [CLOSED]
Interested in trying this sketchbook for yourself? I'm partnering with Hahnemühle to give away a lovely A5 Watercolour Book to one lucky winner! Giveaway details are below. Best wishes, and happy sketching!
How to Enter:
This giveaway is open to legal residents of the U.S. and Canada ages 18+ with a valid shipping address. Enter only once from September 6-10, 2017, using the Rafflecopter entry below. Just follow the prompts for each entry. (Complete giveaway rules & policies are located here.)
How to know if you've won:
A winner will be randomly chosen and notified via entry email within 24 hours after the giveaway ends. Winner must respond within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.