The Moleskine Cahier Journal, in the Large Plain “Brown” Kraft option has been my absolute favorite sketchbook over the last 2 months. Starting August 1st of 2020, I went out and got a pack of these (they automatically come in three packs, 80 pages per, for around $14.99) at Target, I even returned a extra Moleskine Art Sketchbook that I had bought from them because I was getting tired of pages being inconsistent with ink (certain pages were like Bristol board in how they accepted ink, then the next page feathered like crazy), and it was also hard to justify the price per page to just doodle in the thing ($21.99 per sketchbook for 104 pages).
It was hard for me to just use the Sketchbook Moleskine as a sketchbook. I described this problem in my LEUCHTTURM1917 Plain Journal Review a few months back. One of my problems with that sketchbook was that there was ghosting to the back side of every page. Meaning a book that had 250 pages effectively only has 125 pages now, since I’m not drawing on the back of the sheets. I’m not really saving money.
That’s where the value of the Cahier comes in.
The Cahier has 80 pages per journal in the 3 pack (for the Large varieties at least). That means the 3 pack has 240 pages total. As you can see above and from nearly all the photos in this post, the Cahier is going to ghost just as bad as the LEUCHTTURM1917. Thin paper is going to ghost. It’s something you have to deal with (I’m learning to at least). So that’s 120 pages total you’ll be drawing on (I tried double sided again at first, but I end up getting upset with the results so I quit). That works out to 13¢ per page or so for the Cahier, with my local taxxes factored in. The Moleskine Sketchbook is 23¢ per page, and the LEUCHTTURM1917 is 17¢. I feel a lot more free to do whatever I want at the Cahier 13¢ price range.
Beyond price is the paper. This paper is much more consistent in it’s acceptance of inks, pencil, and colored pencil. I rarely had any ink feather. I have seen feathering with Platinum Carbon Black ink, but none with Noodlers and both the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and the Pentel Pigment Ink Brush Pen, and I felt like the tooth of the paper was grabbing more graphite in a way that I really liked. This paper just feels good to draw on, truly. It is similar to the LEUCHTTURM1917, and right now I couldn’t say which I prefer.
Again, the paper does ghost, and you can see bleed through with some inks, but since I’m not using the back side of the page, I’m not as upset about this.
Now this thing doesn’t lay particularly flat, which is a strike against it. At this size with the amount of pages folded and sewn the way that they are, I’m not really surprised because it may be physically impossible to lay flat, but it’s a consideration. I have a special work around for this, which I actually really enjoy drawing sitting down in my recliner this way: Use binder clips to attach it to a clipboard.
This is one of my favorite ways to sketch when not at a table I’ve ever hard. It makes up for a lot of issues, but it is a work around still, I’ll admit.
Also, since there are only 40 sheets (80 pages) per journal, they are way thin, making the “cliff” from your hand to the table much smaller. AKA, I can rest my hand on the Cahier AND the surface I’m drawing on much easier than with a thicker book, making it easier to draw.
I also like how easy it is to draw and customize the covers of these, since they take ink extremly well (graphite tends to rub off, which makes sense). I feel a little worse putting a sticker on them since I know these will disappear quicker than a bigger sketchbook would. But that’s OK, and I like that they “disappear”. That’s what I wanted. I finished one up last month, and I’m halfway through one this month. I think that’s awesome, and my last Moleskine Sketchbook took 5~ months of drawing, and thats with the first 10-20 pages already being filled up from 2 years before. I’m using this more, and I feel better about using the Cahier.
Now I don’t watercolor much, but if I did the Cahier would not work for me. You can see the warping above, that was with very little work. So I would suggest sticking away from this if watercolor is your speciality.
I’m also curious how much damage these things can take. I haven’t been able to travel much with these yet (COVID 19 yo), but that might make for an issue. We’ll see as time goes on, I might want to get a Moleskine Hardcover Journal with Plain paper, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. The XL Cahiers look nice too, and have way more paper, but I haven’t seen any locally (plus I can’t put them in my clipboard then, lame).
Otherwise if you are sticking to pencil and ink and have been having the same “precious” issues I’ve had with sketchbooks, I’d give these a shot. The Moleskine Cahier Journal with Plain Paper gets 4 Zaffino Crazy Face Franks out of 5.