SM.LT‘s Layflat watercolor stonebook is a fun surprise to pull out of your backpack. The stone cover is a neat, whimsical feature that garners attention, but the true value of this sketchbook is in the fine watercolor paper inside. The Lithuanian manufacturer generously sent me one to try out last year, after their collaboration in mine and Pedro Alves’ workshop in Barcelona, and I’m finally ready to publish some results.
The feature that gives the name to the sketchbook is its real stone cover. It’s actually a thin slice of dark slate stone glued on a hard cardboard panel, both in the front and the back cover. The slate feels uncanny, in a fun sort of way. Like you’re carrying around a slab of stone to chisel a landscape from it. Also, this makes every sketchbook unique, as the texture and pattern of the slate is never the same.
Both paper and cover are cut together to the size of 195 x 195mm, in angled corners, with no cover overlap, which makes the sketchbook a bit fragile to carry around in a bag or backpack for long.
Its weakest spot is definitely in the spine: the seams are showing, covered and held together only by a layer of transparent glue. With time and use, the glue starts peeling away as a whole – in my case, after a month of use – exposing the seams to wear and tear.
Despite the unusual cover feature, the strongest feature of this sketchbook is inside, in the paper. 32 sheets of quality 300gsm watercolor cotton paper, with a slightly coarse texture – just the way I like it – but soft enough for a nib pen to glide over it acceptably. The texture works wonders with dry watercolor brushing. Wet-on-wet techniques also handle very well, although drying is quicker than in professional watercolor papers.
The water absorption capacity is pretty good. My sketches usually take between one and three layers of watercolor, and the white of the paper still shines through in the latter case.
The endsheets are the same kind of paper, so your sketches can go end-to-end in the page flow.
Pros final count
- Affordable cotton paper sketchbook, for your watercolor dailies, or for making watercolor tests for later serious paintings.
- Stone cover gives it a unique look and feel.
- Square formats are usually very flexible.
- Just small enough to carry around, but big enough to paint a large scene.
- Opens flat.
- Robust stitching
Cons final count
- Spine protection subject to tearing away with transport and use.
- Fragile angled corners.
The SM.LT Layflat Stonebook is a good introduction to heavy duty cotton paper sketchbooks. Although better cotton paper sketchbooks might be available in the market, the Layflat is still a very affordable one, and finds its niche between sketching and watercoloring. The titular stone feature just makes it a bit more appealing.