Mini-reviews-Clairefontaine Sketchpad, Watercolor pad, J. Herbin Fountain Pen Inks & more

Giveaway closed! 
A couple of days ago, I received a package from Exaclair.  Since the holidays are hard upon us, I thought a quick description of these products might be helpful in your quest for gifts.  I’ve only had the chance to try out a couple of them, so these will mostly be descriptions for now, and I’ll review them completely over the next few weeks.

For my own convenience I’ve provided links for some items at Paper Bistro, but they must be purchased there by case rather than individual item, so be sure to also check out Exaclair’s ‘Buy Our Products’ page where you can find lists of retailers, both local and online.

Clairefontaine Pad Fine Art Top Bound 9 ½ x 12 Calligraphy 25 sheets

Size: 12 x 15.5 (also comes in 9×12)
No. of Pages: 50 pages/25 sheets
Paper weight: 130g/ 60 lb
Binding: Glued
Cardstock front & Cardboard backing

The paper in this pad is smooth, but not slick. It’s a low-key white, not as brilliant as some of the other Clairefontaine papers.

Quo Vadis Habana Journal, Black, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4 Blank Ivory Paper

Size: 12 x 15.5 (also comes in 9×12)
No. of Pages: 40 pages/80 sheets
Size: 6″x 9″
Paper weight: 85g
Page Color: White (now only available in ivory, unless you find one of the older copies) exceptionally smooth satin finish –
Acid-free paper pH neutral
Binding: Sewn so it lies flat
Cover: Soft, leather-like feel.  Slight texture.
Extras: Elastic closure, round corners, inner pocket and ribbon marker

The Habana comes in several sizes and colors.  The paper is smooth without being slick, and is noted for the way it handles Fountain pen inks.  I’ve reviewed it a couple of times so I’ll just send you to them for further information. Past Reviews: 8.5 x 11.75 size 4 x 6 size

Clairefontaine Watercolor Pad Fine Art 
Size: 4 ¾ x 9 ½ (comes in other sizes, but with different art on cover)
No. of Pages: 40 pages/20 sheets
Paper weight: 300g/140 lb
Binding: Wirebound
Fine Grain Cold Pressed
Polypro Art-decorated Front Cover and both Polypro and foam core backing.

This is a handy size for travel.  The paper is smooth enough that it can be used for pen and ink, yet has enough grain for pencil, pastel or wet media, including the watercolor it was designed for.

I can’t wait to try this one out.

J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Fountain Pen Inks
Available in 50 ml Bottles

The J. Herbin 1670 line of Rouge Hematite and 1670 Bleu Ocean are beautifully bottled in 50 ml glass jars with a wax seal .  Both are dense saturated inks.

The Bleu Ocean is dark blue with a sheen hinting of purple.

The Rouge Hematite is a bright red with a metallic gold overtone.

Both inks shade so that there is a variation in color depending on the pen and paper used.   I’ve found that the Rouge Hematite looks bright red on some paper and almost terracotta on others.

You can find more information from this review at Ink Nouveau.

Eclat de Saphir Fountain Pen Ink

Available in 30 ml Bottle or Roller Ball Cartridges

A much lighter blue than the Bleu Ocean, it also leans toward the purple spectrum, and shades so that it will look slightly different according to the pen and paper.

You can find more information about this ink at Ink Nouveau.

I mentioned a giveaway?  These next two items are what I’m giving away, so I’m doing a more thorough review for them.

Basic Clairefontaine Life. Unplugged Staplebound Duo

Look & Feel
Size: 3.5 x 5.5 inches
No. of Pages: 96 pages (48 sheets)
Paper weight: 90g/60lb
Binding: Glued & Stapled
Ruling: 1/2 inch
Textured Cardboard Cover

The paper is smooth but not slick, with ruling that runs from edge to edge.

The paper is white with bluish gray ruling, smooth and just slightly slick.

The covers are a stiff cardstock with slight texturing and unadorned except for the Clairefontaine logo embossed on the front bottom.

The binding is both glued and stapled, which makes it a bit stiff.  You can fold it back totally, to hold in one hand, but the thickness of the pages leaves a bit of a gap.  The book will lie flat, if you carefully fold it back first.

It’s a bit thick for carrying in most pockets, though you can.  It’s a nice size for purses, backpacks and briefcases.

Clairefontaine paper is noted for the way it handles fountain pen ink.  The drawback is that drying time is longer, so you have more chance of smearing it (time will differ according to the ink).

On the other hand, I used the 1670 inks, both extremely saturated, and the only place it bled through was where I layered wet ink into wet ink.  The rest barely shows through.


I usually prefer sewn binding or wirebound, and I find the thickness and stiffness of the Life Unplugged unwieldy for my drawing and painting.  Nor would I want to use it for extended writing.  However, it is the notebook I use to carry in my purse, or have on hand while crafting, for taking quick notes or making lists. When I’ve finished the book, I tear out pages and use them in Mixed Media Artwork as ephemera.

Clairefontaine New York Cover Sketch Pad 

Look & Feel
Size: 8 x 8No. of Pages: 100 pages/50sheets
Paper weight: 90g/60lb
Binding: Glued & Stapled

Paper weight: 90g/60lb
Polypro Front Cover and Cardboard Backing

The artwork on this polypro cover is beautiful, and I was immediately attracted to it when I was looking through the Clairefontaine catalog.

As with all the clear polypro covers though, you have to decide what to do with the first page because it will show through.  In this case, some of the linework is so faint, that you will lose the detail unless you keep the first page white.

The paper makes me think of parchment in feel, but it isn’t as slick (nor as non-stick!) or crinkly.  It’s an off-white color.  

The wire-binding is a bit wider than I like, but if you wanted to use this sketchbook for mixed media and intended to glue things in it, you’d have plenty of room for expansion.  

I’ve been doing a lot of mixed media lately, so my first thought was that I wanted to test it for that.  But I also wanted to give it away, as I think it’s the nicest item in the package I received.  At a 60 lb weight, the paper is thin, but it felt sturdy and I wanted to test it thoroughly without using too much of it.  What to do?

I mixed my media, well and truly!

On the first page, I used acrylic paint markers (Montana markers) on the top of the page, and black gesso on the bottom.  I glued bits of paper, and then added linework with gellyroll pens, fountain pen ink, and pigma Micron.

The paper dimpled, and curved at the top corner.  After a night with a weight sitting on it, the paper flattened out nicely, though not completely.  The paper makes more of a crinkly sound than it did at first.  Nothing bled-through and there is no show-through on the back of the page.

For the second page, I used Gelato water-soluble sticks to create a water-color wash, and then used highly saturated fountain pen inks, layering it wet on wet.

Then I used Coloursoft color pencils to see if there was enough tooth for that medium.

The Gelatos did not blend easily, and there was some pilling and dimpling of the paper.  It was difficult to work up much of a wash, even though I used a lot of water. Fair enough.  This is a sketchbook pad, not really meant for wet media.  I always like to try it out though, so I know if a paper can handle it.  The paper dimpled a little, but not as bad as I thought it would.  I wouldn’t hesitate to add small areas of watercolor.  It made a wonderful base here.

The fountain pen inks worked beautifully, drying quickly, yet there was no show-through or bleed-through.  

The colored pencil went on smoothly.  I didn’t have time to really work up layers, but my impression was that it would be easy to do so.  The watercolor and color pencil worked really well together.

Some of the watercolor did show-through (the dark at the top is actually paint that flowed over, not bleed through.


This is a very nice sketch paper, and I’ll have to get myself another pad of it.  It will work nicely for the pen and pencil for which it is designed.  While it wouldn’t be great for watercolor, it held up well to the acrylic and gesso, and PVA glue.  It would be a good book for mixed media.

Often, with thin paper, you need to glue pages together to hold up to the weight.  I don’t believe that would be necessary unless you were adding metal or other heavy embellishments.

If you are interested in buying any of these items, visit Exaclair’s ‘Buy Our Products’ page where you can find lists of retailers, both local and online.

GIVEAWAY (U.S. only)

Prize: One winner will receive the Clairefontaine New York Cover Sketch Pad and one of the Basics Life Unplugged notebooks that I’ve used for the review above.

I’m including the two pages I used to try out the sketchbook (and I hope that makes the sketchpad more desirable).  I tried to be careful, but I did get a few small spots of watercolor on the third page.  Otherwise, it is like new.  The notebook has not been used.

When: Starts Friday at 12/6/13 14:00 PM and ends on Thursday 12/12/13 at 11:59 PM.

How to enter: Cut and paste these words “Clairefontaine Giveaway-December 2013″ into the subject line of an email, and send it to me at *****
Giveaway closed! *****.  The emails will be counted and each assigned a number.  The winner will be notified by a response to the email they send.

I hope you found my reviews helpful and good luck with the giveaway!

DISCLOSURE: Other than the products I’m reviewing, I did not receive any compensation from Exaclair, and all opinions are my own.  

I want to thank Exaclair for sending me these fantastic items.  It is always a pleasure to review their products!

Author: Life Imitates Doodles Art, Reviews & Tutorials

Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pens. I'm a self-taught artist who dances about with all sorts of artistic mediums. My main loves are Watercolor, Zentangle and Ballpoint pen. The subjects of my work are many and varied and change at whim. I'm a little bit crazy, but doesn't that come with being an artist? At my Life Imitates Doodles Blog, I post a list of resource links for Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways two times a week. I also write reviews, hold giveaways and share my art work.

2 thoughts on “Mini-reviews-Clairefontaine Sketchpad, Watercolor pad, J. Herbin Fountain Pen Inks & more”

  1. Great reviews and I love your mixed media page, especially that mix of black gesso and paint markers. So glad you mentioned about show through on the other side – that's huge. I love all their products and would be overjoyed to win these.

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