Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review

Toned paper. I love it! I often make my own by painting it with coffee before drawing on it. In 2017, the Grey Book was released, and as you might suspect, it has grey-toned paper. Now, Hahnemühle has released the Cappuccino Book with light brown-toned paper the color of … wait for it … coffee.  Hahnemühle sent me a copy of each book in the A5 size. I can keep my coffee for drinking now!

Why would you want toned paper in the first place?

On white and ivory paper, light colors tend to be overpowered by darker colors. On toned paper, light colors are more intense and dominate. Darker colors are less intense, because there is less contrast against the paper. Even transparent color is more opaque because of this.  Some colors change. For instance, a yellow might appear greener against a grey-toned paper.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review - Doodlewash

But the toned paper also imparts an overall richness, and that reversal, light dominating over dark, gives your work a whole different effect that is excellent!  This effect varies between brands and colors of toned paper, so the first question I’ll look to answer is how these grey toned and brown toned affect colors.  Given that this is primarily a watercolor based group, the second question I’ll look at is whether these books can handle watercolor.

Look & Feel

The Cappuccino Book has light brown paper with a dark brown hardcover and a color-coordinated brown ribbon.  The Grey Book has light grey paper, a dark grey hardcover and a red ribbon.  These are the only differences between the two books.


Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Interior Photo

Each book has 40 sheets / 80 pages.  The paper is only 55 lb, but it is sturdy stuff.  It is acid-free and has a high level of longevity.

I love the texture of the hardcovers – it looks and feels like woodgrain. 

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review - Paper Grain Sample

The binding is thread-stitched.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Binding and Stitching

The edges of the cover extend past the body of the paper.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review Edges - Doodlewash

The books lie flat, allowing you to work across the seam.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book Interior Photo - Doodlewash

The books also fold back completely so they can be held in one hand, if needed.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Detail- Doodlewash


The official Hahnemühle description says these books are suitable for “Indian-ink pens, fountain pens and acrylic markers, as well as other water-based pens with minimum abrasion.” Based on my tests, I believe this, but I think they can handle other mediums as well.

I started out with a test page, writing with several different mediums.  I had no pilling or feathering and no show-through on the back from any of the mediums I used.  

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review Pen and Marker Drawing Samples - Doodlewash

The only bleed-through came from the Permanent Marker and the wet-into-wet watercolor test.  This was expected in both cases. Permanent Marker bleeds through everything unless it is specially coated or extremely heavy.  When you add wet paint into wet paint it tends to saturate the paper.  Watercolor paper is made for this, while sketchbook paper isn’t.  More on that later though.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review Bleed - Doodlewash

Flexible Nib Color Brushes

My next test was to see what difference there would be in color against the brown-tone and the grey-tone.

I wanted to tackle the question concerning brightness of color and transparency first.  I used Zebra Pen Funwari Fude color brushes, which are vibrant but semi-transparent, feeling they’d give me a good idea of both.

In the Cappuccino, the colors were fairly true. The yellow and orange were off the most, as expected. The blues were truest. All the colors were bright, but less intense than on white or ivory paper.

Illustration by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

In the Grey book, the colors were even less intense and darker.  I ended up using fluorescent gel pens to brighten up the page.  Having worked on grey tone before, I wasn’t surprised.  It brings out the bright, fluorescent colors that get lost on lighter papers.

Illustration by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

But watercolor! Ah yes! My favorite medium.  I had to try it out even though it isn’t a recommended medium for this paper.  And the result was good!

I started with the Cappuccino book, using Aquanut watercolors by Margaret Zaleski because they sparkle and I wanted to see if the toned background would bring that out (it didn’t).  Using negative painting, I added three glazes of color, and then started lifting to see how easy it would be and what damage it might cause.  I love trying to destroy paper!

Especially, when I can’t, lol.  I was able to get almost all the way back to the brown-tone (in the moon figure).  I was able to repaint over areas where I had lifted and I had no pilling of the paper.  There was no more damage than I would have expected with a decent watercolor paper.

Although the color was faded where I lifted, the initial layers were surprisingly bright.

Painting by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

Encouraged by my first test, I decided to try a sunset.  I was even more surprised by how bright the color was.  I do like surprises!

Painting by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

In these first two paintings, I was being careful with how much water I used and I had no bleed-through to the back.  The paper did curl at the corners while I painted but dried flat.  The paper is dimpled once dry.

Switching to the Grey Book, I decided go wet.  I taped the pages down to protect the rest of the book but it helped keep the pages from curling too.  There wasn’t much buckling.  To my surprise, the colors were bright!  I did not expect that.

I didn’t use wet-into-wet, where you add paint to an area already wet, but I thoroughly saturated the paper, painted one layer then let it dry completely before adding another layer.  The paint doesn’t move – once you’ve put it down, it stays without spreading.

 There were only a few dots of bleed-through on the back and I couldn’t get them to show up in a scan or photo. The paper dried flat with some dimpling.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review Using Wet Media - Doodlewash

I had no trouble removing the masking tape, and it did not damage the paper.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review Masking - Doodlewash

While I wouldn’t recommend this as a watercolor book, it will certainly take watercolor.

Questions answered.

How does the toned paper in these books affect color and transparency?  About average for toned paper.  Transparent colors are more opaque, and less true.  The grey affects the color more than the brown.  Both papers have that lovely light-dominate over dark effect.

How well do the books take watercolor? Much better than I thought.  The paper definitely dimples afterwards and I wouldn’t recommend wet-into-wet.  The paint doesn’t spread easily, so no drippy effects, either. The surprise was how bright the colors were.

Fountain Pen and Gel Pen

Fountain pen is always a good test for paper because it will often bleed through, show through, and sometimes even damage the paper. I used both a broad and a fine nib fountain and scribbled over the same area but had none of the problems listed above. The Cornaline d’Egypte ink I used has a sheen, which did not show up at all on the grey tone, and the color was less intense.

The Uniball white gel pen worked a treat. I love the way it blended in the areas I had shaded with the orange ink. Now this is what grey toned paper does best.

Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review White Pens - Doodlewash

After using this combination in the Grey Book, I was curious to see how it worked in the Cappuccino. The Cornaline d’Egypte was more opaque as it was in the Grey Book and there was no sheen. The white gel pen was as bright, but of course the contrast was less. I decided to try some Sakura Gelly Roll gel pen colors.

Cappucino Book Illustration by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash


This paper likes pen of any kind.  These Zensations Fineliners, which have a fabric tip similar to a technical pen, glided across the paper.  The color was muted, but rich nonetheless.

Cappuccino Book Basenji Illustration by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

Phineas the Basenji Photo Reference courtesy of Doodlewash.com

Ballpoint Pen

But what about the good, old fashioned ballpoint pen?  I mentioned earlier that I like to paint my paper with coffee for a toned background to draw on.  I usually use Zebra Z-Grip ballpoint pens in those drawings, so I was curious to see the effect with the Cappuccino paper.

The pens worked great.  No clogging or leaving bits of ink, which is a problem I often have with my coffee backgrounds.  Ballpoint will do that – it’s an established problem.  I think this paper has just enough tooth to help keep the pen point cleaned off, though that might differ from pen to pen and according to weather.

Cappuccino Book Seashells Illustration by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash


I don’t use pencil much, but wanted to see how it would work in these books.  The paper is a bit smooth for it.  Lefty that I am, I kept polishing the graphite as I went along and had to re-apply.  I used a Zebra Drafix mechanical pencil and I think I’d have done better with a softer lead, but I’m pleased with the result.  The paper takes erasing well, the lead lifting easily with no damage to the paper.

Grey Book Illustration of Carousel Horse by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

Carousel Photo Reference courtesy of Doodlewash.com


The Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book and Grey Book are toned paper sketchbooks with elegant hard covers.  The paper is only 55 lbs but surprisingly sturdy and able to take a wide range of mediums. Though not formulated for watercolor, it takes it well. The paper curls during the painting and dries flat but retains some dimpling.

As with all toned papers, some colors are more opaque and less intense than they are on white and ivory paper.  White and some lighter colors, especially fluorescent colors are brighter and more intense.

You can find a complete list of stores that carry the Cappuccino book and Grey book at my Life Imitates Doodles blog.


Hahnemühle sent me a copy of both the Cappuccino Book and the Grey Book for the purposes of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

53 thoughts on “Hahnemühle Cappuccino Book & Grey Book Review

  1. Very thorough review–thanks! I’ve been wanting to pick up toned tan paper that could handle a light wash of the Van Gogh paints. The brighteners in that brand seem like a good match for toned paper.

  2. Great review as usual!! Love the toned paper, I need a new sketchbook for my purse. I use fine liners for daily sketches and occasionally a touch of watercolor. These sound like just what I need!!
    By the way – incredible art as usual!!

    1. I only did a writing test, but based on the pencil drawing I did I think you’d want to use large, soft lead and very pigmented pencil or you’d work to build up color. Also, colored pencil tends to be transparent so colors would be darker and less true. Still I think they’d be pretty on this paper.

  3. yowza! now I can’t wait to get my cappuccino book! I never found the greybook took watercolors that well but I shall try again and definitely on the brown paper, it looked like ti took it even better. Great review my friend!

  4. I love these and love the color of the paper especially the Cappichino colored. I have wanted to try the Zensation pens also.
    Sandra your work always is stunning and your techiques amaze me. I love the leafy ones with the watercolor and the sheep are so cute especially the thinking sheep.
    I would love to win this as I need new creative items to inspire me to keep trying zentangle and drawing. Thank you for your reviews.

  5. I love toned papers and always have a toned sketchbook in my oil painting backpack. I use them to do thumbnails before painting because white charcoal on toned paper gives me a perfect map of the brightest brights in the scene and the paper is the instant mid-tone.

  6. Outstanding review! I really like how you tried so many different mediums
    with these papers, and how you showed so many nice examples of how
    they turned out. Don’t see many folks mention ballpoint pen during art supply
    reviews, but I use them, too–(along with colored pencils, ink, watercolors,etc.),
    so it was fun to see you mention this. I’ll be sure to check out your blog!

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