Stillman & Birn Nova Series Toned Paper Journals

Watercolor Painting & Sketching Group, Community, and Blog Forums Art Supply Reviews Stillman & Birn Nova Series Toned Paper Journals

  • Stillman & Birn make a large range of watercolor & mixed media sketchbooks, varying the paper weight, color and binding. Their newest selection is the Nova Series 150gsm toned paper sketchbooks for mixed media. They generously sent me one of each new color (grey, beige & black) of toned paper they’re offering.

    The Nova series paper comes in individual (22″ x 30″) sheets, hardcover wire bound sketchbooks and softcover sketchbooks which are the ones that were sent to me. The sketchbooks come in many sizes, there’s a choice for everyone:

    I test drove both the beige and grey softcover sketchbooks, I will be giving away the black Nova Softcover in a future Giveaway so watch this space. Both the grey and beige paper colors were lovely to work on and as with other toned paper and sketchbooks, it was incredibly fun to work out the best way of getting the colors I wanted. That’s the best thing about toned paper, it gives the artist a little challenge because you’re starting with a colored paper, not white. One of the wonderful things about the Nova series paper is that it’ll take light washes. The paper is a heavyweight 150gsm medium grain paper, it is recommended to take both light washes and dry media like ink, pencil crayons and markers. I used Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolor pencils to create the ink bottle and the pinecone. My traditional watercolors were used to create the mistletoe (below).

    White gel pens also work well on this paper. I intentionally kept the the places that would be the most stark white blank then used Uniball Signo white gel pen over top of those areas. If I hadn’t kept the areas that I knew would be the whitest (in the ink bottle), any watercolor or pencil crayon I put under would show through slightly. If you use white gel pen over a watercolor it will pick up the color beneath slightly as you can readily see in the pinecone. This can be a good thing as it keeps the white from looking too stark. On clean toned paper the white pen covers opaquely (as in the whites of the ink bottle). If you want a subtler white, I just used white or ivory watercolor pencils.

    Each drawing has many, many layers to them. This way you get full coverage as more layers are added. The grain or tooth in the paper fill in over time. The great thing with Nova paper is that if you find there are areas that you don’t want to darken with more layers, you can move the color around with a little water and a good watercolor brush, remember, this paper WILL take light washes!

    If you want to use watercolors, this paper works well. I must admit, I was a little reticent to add water in the Nova sketchbook. But when I did I found it responded beautifully. I did use less water than usual but then I normally paint overly wet and that technique wasn’t called for with the mistletoe painting. I did have small pools of color that I dropped more color into so they’d blend though. I was tickled to see how wonderfully well this paper responded. I was absolutely thrilled with he results. The watercolors shine on this paper and I’m surprised that it isn’t dulled by the grey background. I use nearly all transparent and translucent paint, although the berries were done using Buff Titanium (Daniel Smith) and Uniball Signo White Gel pens. Even though my Daniel Smith, Schmincke & Winsor & Newton palette is transparent, the watercolors glow when used on Stillman & Birn Nova series paper.

    The leaves were done using Pure Yellow (S), Phthalo Yellow Green (DS), Hooker’s Green (Senn) and Indigo (W&N). The branches were painted using Burnt Sienna (W&N), Phthalo Blue RS (DS), Quin Gold (DS) & Payne’s Grey Bluish (S)

    Overall, Nova Series paper is a hit and works spectacularly with watercolors. It has a little more tooth than the Hahnemuhle Grey Book and it’s very similar to the Strathmore sketchbook smoothness. The one difference is it’s ability to take watercolor washes. If you love painting with watercolor then this is the journal for you. With lots of choices of sizes and bindings including individual sheets, you have nearly endless choices. I really love that and I know you will too. If you’re interested in S&B Nova series sketchbooks I’ve added convenient links to help you purchase them.

    Where it’s available… (links available on my site)
    Wet Paint Art
    Dick Blick
    Jackson’s Art Supply

    Great review! I’ll be doing one on the beige-toned wirebound on Thursday.  It was interesting to see your results compared to mine-very similar!

    I really was SHOCKED at how much fun watercolor was on this paper. I thought it’d be a chore, but it was thrilling. The transparent paint glowed through and the opaque buff tended to look better, less dull. I was truly thrilled and look forward to using it again and again. I really had thought there was no way I’d like painting on toned paper, was I wrong!

    I was amazed at how well color showed up.  In the past, when I tried papers like this the color was so dull it wasn’t worth while using it.  But, with this paper it adds a richness to the color without muting the color at all.

    Great review,,your work is beautiful,thank you for explaining your results so thoroughly…

    Thanks so much Pamela, Im glad to help.

    This is the only paper I’ve painted on so far, I just purchased Strathmore mixed media so I can do a painting or two for my mom. I’m looking forward to comparing the S&B with the Strathmore.

    Beautiful pinecone – making the most of the paper.

    thanks so much Sharon!

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