Tag Team: Copic Markers & Old Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks

21 09 2020

Copic markers occupy a weird place in my psyche where I could be holding a fistful of them in one hand, a single fountain pen I spent the same amount of money on in the other hand, and yet think to myself that the Copic markers are what’s expensive here. Logically, that makes no sense but emotionally? That’s where my head is at.

That hasn’t stopped me from acquiring a small army of them, I just think to myself “oo, pricey” whenever I add a few more

When I noticed a couple months ago that my local enabler, Crazy Alan’s Emporium, carried Copic markers now and I still had cash leftover from working the Baltimore Pen Show (ah, remember pen shows in the beforetimes?), I decided to nearly double my hoard of markers. Copic is pretty much the top name brand in the art marker world, and for good reason. In the hands of a skilled artist, they make magic happen. And even in the hands of an amateur like myself, you can make some cool art with Copic markers. They blend amazingly well, and no other markers I’ve tried can compare. When you hit on marker gold, why try anything else?

Not saying this is cool art, mind you, I just still like the blending on this drawing I did years ago and colored with a friend’s Copic markers

Some quick notes about Copic markers: the ink is alcohol-based, non-toxic, and low odor (though it does have a specific, particular, and not altogether unpleasant smell). They are refillable. The plastic bodies of the markers feel quite durable (this isn’t cheap plastic, and at these prices better not be). There have been stretches of time where I’ve certainly not used the original markers I had for over a year without any detriment in the performance of the marker (undoubtedly more than a year, I just have no clue how many years we’re talking). I enjoy the oval-bodied sketch markers the best, and nearly exclusively use the brush tip to color my art. And for whatever cockamamie reason, I decided that the paper I would use to make a lot of new sketches after acquiring a bunch of new markers would be a Moleskine watercolor pocket notebook picked up on sale years ago when Borders went out of business.

Given enough time, the elastic band on one of these bad boys will blow out, like an overtaxed pair of sweatpants after too many Thanksgiving feasts. Then you either have a loose and dangly elastic band, which sounds terrible, or you rip it out as demonstrated on the one on the bottom

Unlike standard Moleskine paper (which was so terrible the last time I checked, I swore off buying any further standard Moleskines—if this has changed in the past few years, please let me know and also send me a sample of good paper from a Moleskine as proof, because I don’t believe you), the watercolor paper is good for both its intended purpose (watercolor) and the juicy medium of liquid-based sketch markers. For the most part, I’ve not had any bleed through so far, and that’s including the time an overfull marker dropped a big honking blorp of ink on the page. I did find a couple spots that finally bled through elsewhere when I colored over a section approximately ten thousand times, which is not recommended.

I had to set this down, walk away, and have a good long think on my life and my choices before I was in a place emotionally where I could try to fix this.

Those of you with keen eyes might notice that the above image is lacking lineart. Here’s another Copic fun fact: it does not play well with anything besides more Copic. Copic Multiliner pens? Fine, great, no problem. But Sakura Pigma Micron pens, Col-Erase colored pencils? Well, the Copic marker treats your lines more as suggestions that it doesn’t particularly agree with.

Gaze closely and ESPECIALLY at the smudging

When I saw that the Sakura Micron pens would smudge, I decided I would add the lineart after coloring, and I would just sketch in Col-Erase pencils first instead. Guess what, the Copic ink will also push around the pigments of the Col-Erase pencils. Those pink ears there? I deliberately used the Copic colorless blender to push pink Col-Erase pencil around on the page. In my experience, it seemed like the blue Col-Erase pencil would get smudged the least, but all in all my strategy became sketch lightly, color with the markers, and then put lineart over top all while hoping for the best. The benefit of this strategy is when that blob up there happened, I was ultimately able to fix the drawing since I wasn’t yet confined by any lineart.

So I guess the moral of the story is that we all learned a valuable lesson about…something.

I still have much to learn in terms of properly wielding these markers, but I’ve enjoyed using them to make color drawings of my characters. I will continue to expand my Copic collection at every opportunity I can, because these markers are worth it.

Unless you don’t want to color artwork, in which case these markers probably aren’t worth it for you!

Moleskine Dotted Pocket Notebook – Soft Cover – Underwater Blue

23 03 2014

I can’t ignore the most popular and pretentious notebook maker, even when I’ve had extensive first-hand experience with their paper quality being generally terrible and all their products being overpriced. For one thing, I do like the format of some of their calendars—the extra small weekly calendar is perfect for keeping track of my work schedule. Plus, their notebooks are ubiquitous, and I denounce them at my own peril. Every so often I will check back in on the quality of Moleskine, to make sure my denouncements stand on experienced fact, and a brand new style of paper in the form of a dot grid notebook was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Underwater blue maybe if you're under water and drunk and looking at a robin's egg

Underwater blue maybe if you’re under water and drunk and looking at a robin’s egg

We’ve got this attractive robin’s egg blue cover that I would describe as almost distressingly soft. The corners of the front cover want to curl up when the elastic isn’t on. Soft covers are so strange to me. What is the advantage of soft cover anyway? Are they easier to stuff in a back pocket because they fold around your buns?

I will give bonus points for the color-coordinated back pocket accents

I will give bonus points for the color-coordinated back pocket accents

All the usual features are here: braided bookmark, back pocket, elastic band (all matching in color), and the “In case of loss” section in the front, with a newer dot-based Moleskine logo (or maybe it’s supposed to evoke apps? I know I’ve seen it before, perhaps online).

Ahahaha I forgot to take a picture of the back of the page...too late now

Ahahaha I forgot to take a picture of the back of the page…too late now

A cursory glance will tell you that this dot paper doesn’t look like it does as bad with fountain pen ink as a typical Moleskine. Let’s look at typical Moleskine for reference.

Notes section from this year’s planner

Notes section from this year’s planner

Now look again at the Moleskine dots paper.

Why the bluish tint? Why did I do all these backwards? These are the mysteries of a rainy day

Why the bluish tint? Why did I do all these backwards? These are the mysteries of a rainy day

Better. But a curious pattern emerges—the best performance by far on the Moleskine dots paper comes from using the Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa iron gall ink. Look at the difference.



Most regular inks are prone to some bleedthrough so bad you can’t use both sides of the page—not so with the Scabiosa, especially when writing in cursive. Lest we get too excited and forget what regular good paper is like, let’s look at some tests on Leuchtturm1917 paper.

Beautiful Leuchtturm1917 paper

Beautiful Leuchtturm1917 paper

Based on the evidence, I’m concluding the following:

  • This Moleskine dots paper is of better quality than most Moleskine writing paper
  • It’s still not as good as known fountain pen friendly paper (such as Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Leuchtturm1917, Quo Vadis, etc. etc.) but—
  • Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa iron gall ink is magical, and can be combined with the Moleskine dots paper for a fountain pen friendly experience.



I feel like this is the kind of product you can only offer a backhanded endorsement to. “I don’t always use my fountain pens in substandard notebooks, but when I do I prefer Moleskine dots (with Scabiosa ink).” It won’t give you the best performance but with the right ink the paper performs quite acceptably (of course, if you prefer using gel pens or ballpoints, this whole paper quality discussion is pretty much moot to you). This notebook is a fun spring color, and surprisingly not a complete waste of money. Good job, Moleskine!

Moleskine Notebook – Pocket – Dotted – Underwater Blue – Soft at Moleskine

DIY Phone+book Case

27 12 2012

This is a project that anyone with a complete disregard for the mind-numbing tedium involved can complete.


Making this project will turn you into a hipster lunatic, as pictured here

You’ll need a sharp knife, some kind of proper glue (for unfathomable reasons I chose a glue stick—Pioneer extra strong permanent bonding), a pencil, and a phone thin enough to fit in a notebook. Or a notebook thick enough to conceal your lumbering phone.


Not pictured: the requisite phone for the case

Unless you really hate your writing, you’ll want to get an unused notebook, preferably one with useless paper. No sense wasting good paper.


Got this on sale when Borders went under. Cool cover, but blank/plain Moleskine paper is pretty much the worst. Finally found a use for it!

The easy part: hold the phone next to the paper of the notebook, so you can see how far down in the depth of the paper will be sufficient to fully conceal the phone. Open up the notebook where, if the phone were in the notebook, the page would be flush with the screen.


This is the worst tutorial explanation.

Put your phone where you want it to nest on the page and carefully trace around it. Scream like a pterodactyl when you still manage to get graphite on your precious technological baby. Once you have your outline, start cutting. A metal ruler helps on the straight edges. Check your work periodically–get all the paper dust out of the hole and see how your phone fits. Keep cutting until the phone in the hole is flush with the top cut page. Once that’s done, start gluing. This part will be tedious. Say goodbye to huge swaths of time. Question your decision to undertake this project. Once you’ve glued all the cut pages together AND THE GLUE IS DRY, check your work again. You’ll probably have to do some touch-up trimming for the phone to fit properly again.


Almost like you can’t even tell. I swear it looks a little better in person. With the band on. With the phone actually inside instead of taking the picture.

When it’s done, the glue and your inability to line up the pages properly will give the notebook a slightly used look while concealing what’s inside. The downside: no access to ports, buttons, or the main camera. The upside: UNPARALLELED STEALTH.


And unparalleled nostalgia.

And I’ve left access to the back pocket, as well as some pages in front and back in case I absolutely need to write something on paper. It’s surprisingly secure (I cut carefully to make sure it would fit just so, though it will undoubtedly get looser over time) yet easy to get out by pushing on the back of the pages and flexing the block of glued pages a bit.
Or if you’ve got money to drop, you might do better to either get something like theGOODbook case, or pay someone to go insane making one for you.

Ink Drop Soup: The Moleskine Tradition of Quality

24 04 2012

Pretty sure "le vrai moleskine" still "n'est plus." Or maybe the legend has just always included centuries of shoddy construction and I just don't know any better.

In a world where “quality” is synonymous with “being mauled by a small bear.”

Not the first time I've had a random hole in the page in the cahier notebooks

I imagine the quality control process consists of one person carrying a box of notebooks over to the QC inspector, and then the QC inspector laughs brutally in that person’s face until they carry the box away to the shipping trucks.

I don't appreciate buying jeans pre-ripped, and I REALLY don't appreciate buying shrink-wrapped notebooks pre-ripped. Didn't care enough to stop me from drawing on them anyway.

If I hadn’t figured out how to make these notebooks for less than a dollar a notebook, I’d probably be peeved enough to write a sharply worded letter, or demand some kind of retribution. As is, I’m just shaking my head, wondering why I’m not the one making beaucoup bucks scamming consumers into paying top dollar for tripe like this.

Mini Review: DIY Notebook—Moleskine Cahier Style

21 03 2012

WEEP, MOLESKINE! YOUR REIGN OF TYRANNY IS AT AN END! ... oh who am I kidding, millions of people will still buy Cahiers anyway.

I love the Moleskine Cahier, but for all the wrong reasons. Let me explain. The Moleskine Cahier plain notebook contains what is by and far literally THE WORST PAPER I have ever encountered in my life. The only thing worse would be newsprint, or napkins. Used receipts would be a step up. And that terrible paper is why I love it. I use these notebooks for pencil sketches, and since the paper is so shoddy I’m not inhibited by the art-blocking psychological worry of wasting good paper. I end up drawing more, being more loose and creative, and I make better drawings as a result. I also like that the notebook is thin, so it has a low profile when I carry it in my already notebook-laden bag (what’s the point of leaving the house, really, if you don’t have at least ten notebooks with you?). Now, I like this notebook, but I’m not insane. I’m not going to pay top dollar for a product that I value CHIEFLY BECAUSE IT IS SO HORRIBLY CONSTRUCTED. I might as well staple five dollar bills together, draw on them, and throw them out the window. But, my friends, these are simple notebooks. After a bit of Googling I settled on this tutorial, and got to work on making a proof-of-concept prototype.

Bound left-handed-ways. Also, if you don't know Blenheim's Ginger Ale, it is the best ginger ale in the world. Period. Exclamation point. Semicolon; no exceptions.

Since I was using thin weeny repair-kit thread, I doubled it up. The tutorial said not to, but I like living dangerously

Then I made another prototype when I was bored at work (there’s often a lot of downtime) and realized I still had my needles and thread with me. I had just finished a delightful box of Triscuits, and it served me well in my boredom-fueled-craftmaking.

Delicious notebook

Cut the corners off Battlestar Galactica style, cause I'm cool like that. Also because I didn't have a corner rounder at the time.

Concept proven. Buying actual supplies was now justified. My local pen store had a 100-page pack of typewriter paper for $1.00 that was almost an exact replica of the thin, cheap Cahier paper. An additional 99 cents (plus tax) at the A.C. Moore scored me a 22in. x 28in. piece of black posterboard, and for 39 cents each I picked up five different colors of thread. Additional expenses include: $1.69 for another needle (pack of needles) (the ones I had were either too small or too big), $3.59 for a corner rounder (thank you 40%-off coupon), and $2.39 for super glue (couldn’t find any around the house). I already had a large needle that I used in place of an awl, and an X-acto knife for cutting the board and trimming the paper edges. Time took maybe a couple of hours? I’m not sure; I love doing stuff like this so I didn’t time it. End result:

It looks just like a real notebook!

Gotta be reppin' some turquoise

WITH POCKET, BOOYAH. Also note that this notebook is left-handed bound.

Materials expense per notebook: 20 pages ($0.20), maybe three feet of thread (comes to about $0.05 worth of thread), 8.5in x 15.25in of posterboard (about $0.21 worth of posterboard), and a wee bit of super glue (we’ll be generous and say that it was maybe $0.20 worth of glue) = $0.66 per notebook
Plus tools investment: Needles, corner rounder, superglue: $7.67
Total cost for making a set of 3 notebooks, including tools: $9.65

And now I’ll never have to buy another Moleskine Cahier again. :D

Moleskine Extra-Small Plain Notebook GIVEAWAY

1 12 2011

Featuring photos not by me! You can tell because they are on a normal, white background instead of something like my shoe, or the trunk of my car

I am still recovering from the  unspeakably delicious Thanksgiving turkey my dad made last Thursday, so instead of a review, lazybones here is instead going to do…ANOTHER GIVEAWAY! You can thank the good people at Jenni Bick Bookbinding for this one. They specialize in handmade books and customized Moleskines, and I suggested we give away some of the latter. In spite of my violently scathing vitriol well-intentioned criticisms of said notebook brand, I not only own, but use and continue to purchase its products in various sizes, formats, designed for various purposes….what can I say; they’ve got the market utterly cornered when it comes to variety. I am currently very fond of the extra-small hardcover notebook; I have one that I carry every day as a general all-purpose pocket notebook. That position was previously held by the soft-cover Moleskine Volant extra small notebook, but those tend to bend quite atrociously after a few days being tucked into a back pocket. Another advantage over the Volant: this one has a pocket! And a bookmark! And an elastic strap! And they’re cute and wee!


The notebook specs:

  • Measures 2.5″ x 4″
  • 160 plain pages
  • Fun new colorful Moleskine hardcover with rounded corners Comes in colors typically only seen in clucking, egg-laying rabbits
  • Elastic closure
  • Thread bound for durability
  • Acid-free paper
  • Bound-in bookmark
  • Expandable Inner Pocket
  • Can be personalized with embossing

Let me emphasize that last point: Can be personalized with embossing.

Raise your hands---who else feels like eating some pastel M&M candies after staring at these notebooks too long?




  1. There will be four lucky winners, one for each of these plain-page notebooks that Jenni Bick Bookbinding will customize for said winners—to enter, just leave one comment on this post any time between now and Thursday, December 8th 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Sadly, this contest is only open to U.S. residents.
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Make any kind of comment—but only one comment! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. Because my blog doesn’t seem to number the comments on its own yet, and I don’t have time/the willpower to fix it, I will hand-number all the entries in Photoshop like I did here because this is the kind of solution that sane people come up with. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner on Friday, December 9th. Winners will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.

As a consolation prize for everyone, Jenni Bick Bookbinding is offering a special coupon code for us—15% off valid at both MoleskineAndMore.com and JenniBick.com; the code is: 15NOPEN and it’s only good ’til December 31st. Oh man, that discount would go great with these notebook covers and having someone else buy one for me!

Good luck!

Mini Review: Moleskine Pocket Sketch Notebook Red Cover

17 07 2011

For your educational entertainment: 3.5 x 5.5 inches, 80 pages (40 leaves), allegedly 250gsm, hard cover, with elastic binding, bookmark, and back pocket

In my last Moleskine review, I mentioned that “there are some Moleskine products that are decent/not terrible/worth buying/actually okay/and pretty good.” I consider the Moleskine pocket sketchbook to fall somewhere in one of those “not the worst thing ever sold as a notebook” categories.

The Moleskine pocket sketchbook, in terms of paper, cannot even dream of holding a candle up to, say, Strathmore or Canson sketchbooks. If my only consideration is paper, it’s Strathmore or Canson all day, every day, until they stop making sketchbooks. But sometimes, I don’t want to use a wire spiral-bound sketchbook. Sometimes I want something that looks…ugh…more elegant, or simpler, or just less obviously like the art supply it is. That is when the Moleskine pocket sketchbook is perfect.

Paper you can use??? Are we sure this is actually a Moleskine product?

The paper is nice and thick, like cardstock. Ink dries very quickly, because the paper is unusually absorbent but not feathersome or fuzzy-prone. There are two peculiarities to the Moleskine sketch paper: first, there’s something, I don’t know what, about this paper and its absorbency that makes every (I’m guessing) water-based ink look muted. As though the paper, in exchange for drying quickly, sucks all life out of the ink. The india-ink-based Faber-Castell PITT artist pens and the ballpoint pens seem to be the only pens unaffected. The other oddity is that in unpredictable places, the paper does not want to take ink properly, as though the surface were…I don’t know, waxy? I don’t feel anything different while writing, but I can clearly see the lines take on an unusual quality. I think it’s easiest to see in the two Pelikan Griffix samples at the top, toward the middle; you can even see in the sample on the page to the right how, as the marks progress across the page, that weird quality goes away. Unfortunately, I have no idea why this happens, and no idea how to predict when this will happen. Maybe it’s rare! Maybe it’s something that happens on every page. I don’t know yet; for now, it’s a red flag, but not a deal-breaker. Also of note, the paper is an off-white cream color, not white. Whether this is good or bad depends on your preference. Unless the off-whiteness is the cause of all other oddities in the paper…

Given the amount of ink that dropped from my TWSBI, I'm surprised that only a little bit made it onto the next page. Good work, thick paper.

There’s some bleedthrough and show-through, but it varies obviously based on what you’re using, and how many times you go over your lines (alas, I tend to go over and cross lines a lot when doodling with fountain pens).

I've seen better. I've seen worse. Not much exciting here.

Being a Moleskine product, there’s a hefty “overhyped brand” tax included in the price; the cheapest I’ve found is at the Book Depository, which appears to have no tax and free shipping. But in spite of the weirdness of the paper, if you want to get a sketchbook that doesn’t look like a sketchbook, this isn’t a bad option, and it can be found at a decent price.

The Moleskine Pocket Sketchbook: at its worst, not terrible! At its best, actually okay!

Mini Review: Moleskine Pocket Ruled Notebook

16 05 2011

This Moleskine is over 3 years old, probably bought when they were still almost worth the cost, which was lower then.

The Moleskine is a notebook that has saturated the market (“the market” being defined as “Barnes & Noble”), whose general design is a ubiquitous notebook standard [I don’t know what notebook came up with the design first, and in keeping with the idea that a mini-review shouldn’t take me a ton of time, I won’t look it up for you]. There are some good reasons to buy a Moleskine lined pocket notebook. I will list them for you.

  • You need a lined, hardcover, pocket notebook right away, and Moleskine is the only brand available in this style/size/format.
  • You enjoy cream-colored paper of exceptionally poor quality.
  • You like paying more for a product than it’s worth.
  • Well-known brand names inflated with hype turn you on.
  • You don’t know any better.

Don’t get mad. I have fallen into some of these categories myself. Moleskine was the first brand of serious journal/notebook I cottoned to at the ripe and tender age of however old I was in the 9th grade. And there are some Moleskine products that are decent/not terrible/worth buying/actually okay/and pretty good. This simply isn’t one of them. If you have any self respect, you should not be paying around $12 for a notebook that’s going to treat you this poorly. Maybe at a sub $10 range, I would consider these worth the cost. The problem is almost entirely in the paper; considering that PAPER is the entire point of a notebook, this is a big problem.

My first extensive pen test, probably done months ago. Yes, I know no one should be using Copic sketch markers in a pocket lined Moleskine; I just wanted to see how it did.

Even if most of these look more or less fine from a distance (if you look a little closer, you can see the feathering, especially on the fountain pens), almost every pen can be seen through the page.

Well this side is now useless.

For the sake of science, I decided to replicate these findings with another pen test blitz.

Science concludes that this paper is terrible.

The back is even worse than the last sample.

Why even bother giving the paper two sides if I can't use them both?

Anyone who uses fountain pens, or rollerballs and gel pens with a tip size above around 0.5mm, don’t even bother. Donate your Moleskine to someone who would just be appreciative to have any paper at all. Just…just look at this!

LOOK AT IT! LOOK! THIS IS THE MOST AWFUL THING. Seriously, click and look at the bigger image.

So you only use ballpoints and fine-tipped, ink frugal pens? You still shouldn’t be paying this much! There are notebooks that are much better (Rhodia webnotebook), and definitely notebooks that are the same or better AND cheaper (Ecosystem journals, Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks, Piccadilly journals, for example). And all of those notebooks I just listed have the whole elastic closure, ribbon bookmark, back pocket nonsense you know and love in the Moleskine. Only, get this—with good paper. It’s crazy.

I’m not going to link you to a place to buy this Moleskine notebook. One, they are everywhere. Two, you shouldn’t be buying it.

Rock, Paper, Scissors–Shoot.

25 10 2010

I’d like to make note of what paper I’ll be using for the time being (paper is very important). Moleskine, in my experience, does very poorly with handling fountain pen ink/gel pen ink/anything besides ballpoint pen. The Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, on the other hand, does fantastically well (in that it doesn’t bleed through the page. You can still see the writing on the other side, somewhat…but a contest of paper is something for another day). Of course, I will be using neither of these notebooks; they both have off-white paper, and I want to maintain ink color fidelity in my scans. Luckily, a trip to Barnes & Noble unearthed a dot grid journal, the last in the store that appeared to have been taken out of its plastic wrap and gently mauled by a bear (a condition worth a 15% discount). Since the pages were still clean and unbent, I adopted this journal and its crisp, white, dot-grid pages as my own for testing pens. Please note I did not buy this thing to “bring sustainability to [my] productivity;” it was the only journal I could find with white pages that seemed sturdy enough to handle more than a Bic stic.