Pens and Pencils | Reviews and Data

illo Sketchbook

The illo Sketchbook has a clean design and heavyweight paper for a fair price. It’s one of the best-selling sketchbooks on Amazon.com.

The illo is a hardcover sketchbook that uses a 1:1 aspect ratio, meaning it’s a square book designed for art. This can mean sketching, but the heavyweight (180 grams per square meter) paper also works for markers, colored pencils, and even watercolor.

The illo is a simple notebook family with only one design — black in a smooth faux leather hard cover — and in just two sizes: 8″ by 8″ and 10″ by 10″.

illo Sketchbook Review

The illo is aimed at budget-conscious Amazon shoppers who demand good reviews and are willing to go with a brand they don’t know in order to save some money. The company plays this game well, offering a product with a lot of value, a clean design, and good-enough performance.

The paper isn’t going to rival something super high quality like the Legion Stonehenge Pad but it’s good enough for most people… myself included!

One major caveat before we get going: the paper does not seem to be acid-free. Almost all high-end paper will say “archival quality, acid-free” on it, which means you can store it for year and years with no degradation. illo’s paper doesn’t have this disclaimer, which means it’s likely not acid-free. This will only be of concern to professional artists and people who are creating work they mean to return to in 10+ years, so it’s a non-issue for most people. This is a particularly minor point considering this is a sketchbook, not a canvas, but it’s worth noting.

The notebooks are relatively no frills, but there are some useful features, primarily the elastic band closure and a tough cover that stands up over time, in your backpack, and to the occasional splash of water. There is a back pocket that can hold a few pieces of paper but not much, as you’d expect.

My favorite feature is the lie-flat design, which allows the sketchbook to fold open, lay down flat, and stay relatively flat. It doesn’t seem like a feature at all — it’s how a notebook should work — until you realize how many notebooks and sketchbooks are lacking in this department. This relies on a sewn binding to enable it to open fully enough to lie flat, which is surely expensive to manufacture but well worth it.

The closest comparison to this sketchbook that I’ve used is the Moleskine Art sketchbook, which is comparable in quality but you get a bit more size for your money with the illo.

illo Sketchbook Information

Street Price Check Price
Manufacturer illo
Cover TypeHardcover
Cover Material Faux Leather
Cover Color Black
Paper Color White
Paper Decoration Blank
Line Spacing-
Number of Pages 112
Weight (g/sq/m)180
Perforated Edge? No
Refillable? No
Paper Size Custom
Paper Size 20.3 x 20.3, 8 x 8
Paper Depth2.54 cm
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