Hahnemühle ZigZag Sketchbook - Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

REVIEW: Hahnemühle ZigZag Book

Accordion? Concertina? Fanfold? Leporello fold? We’re talking watercolor books here, so what do those words mean?  Except for that cool elastic band across the corner, the new Hahnemühle ZigZag book looks like any other sketch book, right?

Hahnemühle ZigZag packaging example

What it means is that the Hahnemühle ZigZag has one long single sheet of paper, glued at each end to a hard cover, and folded like an accordion.  You end up with eighteen pages. There are ten on the front, including the inside front and back covers, and eight pages on the back.  So, the book above, opens out like this ….

Hahnemühle ZigZag Accordion Fold Sketchbook

You can paint on one or two pages as you would with a traditional style watercolor book, or you can clear some space, spread the book out, and work on several pages at once. It is excellent for urban sketchers, panoramic landscapes, elongated subjects, and storytelling. Once you are done, you can set the book up on a table or counter, where the work can be seen as a whole.

Hahnemühle USA sent me an A5 book so I could give it a whirl, and let you know what I thought. My video lets you see it in action. The written review gives you more detail and time to study the various points of interest.

Hahnemühle ZigZag Book Specs

  • 300 gsm/140 lb.
  • fine-grained, natural white, acid free
  • 18 pages, 1 fan-folded sheet
  • cloth-bound hardcovers

The ZigZag book comes in four sizes:

  • A5 (5.8 x 8.3 in)
  • A6 (4.13 x 5.83 in)
  • 14 x 14 cm (5.5 x 5.5 in)
  • 5.08 x 5.08 cm (2 x 2 in)

The Hahnemühle ZigZag is part of the Akademie line, with alpha-cellulose paper. Although the Akademie is considered student grade, I felt this paper was more of an artist’s grade.  Here’s a video so you can see the action – especially some of the drippy watercolor work.  Then the written review goes into more specific detail and you can take your time looking at things.

Hahnemühle ZigZag Look & Feel


Hahnemühle ZigZag Cover Front And Back

The first thing that catches your eye is the Elastic Band that stretches from back over the top right corner.

Hahnemühle ZigZag Spine Photo

The Zig Zag book has no spine, so covers that extend past the paper help to protect it.

Zig Zag Book Side View

Because the pages are folded the book has more bounce than most sewn binding books. The covers overlap,  when you have the book open to a two page spread, which helps to even this out.  Or you can open the book to three pages or more and eliminate the problem entirely.

Sketching Example Zig Zag Book

The paper is hard-sized, stiff enough to hold its shape when standing upright.  The surface is fine-grained.  Hahnemühle does not describe it as cold-pressed or matt, but that is what it is.  This pencil shading gives you a pretty accurate idea of the texture.


My 37th wedding anniversary is coming up at the end of this month and I decided to use my ZigZag book to paint an illustrated story that I could give my hubby, while testing the paper thoroughly as well.  I didn’t have time to finish the story for this review, so I’ll make a video of that once it is finished. I’m hoping you’ll all be spell-bound and eagerly awaiting to see what happens to Diggory Wombat!

I decided that I would use the first two pages to see how the paper handled pencil and pen, as well as testing to see how the paint handles.   I also checked to see how well it held up to abuse.

Sorry for the quality of this photo.  I had to punch it up in order for all but the darkest pencil to show.

Graphite On Zig Zag Paper Example

Graphite pencil goes down dark but because this is watercolor paper, you do need to layer the pencil and *burnish for solid coverage. This gives you a wide range of values and lots of texture.  If you are penciling in for preliminary work, you should use a hard lead and be careful to avoid smudging.  All but the darkest, most burnished areas erase easily.

(*burnish – Making your pencil work polished, by rubbing layer upon layer of pencil into the paper until it is solid and glossy.)

I worried that the pencil lines might smudge and dirty the paint color, but even though I left most of my pencil work intact, that was not a problem.

Pencil Sketch by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

I used an .05 nib technical pen to draw the pictures. As with the pencils, there is texture from the paper so the lines are dark, but ever-so-slightly jagged.  This is perfect for my style and I squirkled and hatched with abandon.  Fine-grain watercolor paper is too harsh for delicate pens, and this paper is no exception.  I use sturdy technical pens so that was not a problem.

Watercolor Painting Painting In ZigZag by Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

For these pages, I tested wet-into-wet, saturating the page until the paint pooled.  The left side is the inside cover, glued to the hardcover, so there was no dimpling or buckling.  On the right, I did get slight dimpling but I was impressed with how little.

The paint flow was excellent – just the way I like it best.  The paint flowed so colors blended well, giving beautiful soft and lost edges.  However, it dried quickly enough to give me control and allow hard edges where I wanted them.  I do think humidity played some part in how fast the paint dried, but given the hard-sizing of the paper I don’t anticipate too much difference when the weather changes.

I like to find the point of no return on a paper, so I overworked the layers.  I lifted color, scrubbing in a way that would make most people flinch (I’m cruel to my paper this way!)   It took a while before I saw even a little damage, in the form of pilling – bits of paper working loose.  

It’s sturdy paper. I’m impressed.

For the next two pages, I tested to see how well the paper handles masking fluid.

Masking Fluid On Hahnemuhle Zig Zag Book Example

Instead of using a pen, I did my initial drawing with masking fluid pens, one 0.7mm and the other 2mm.

I did my painting, using lots of wet-into-wet, and dry-brushing.

Wet In Wet Watercolor Painting Example - Doodlewash

I used some salt for texture.  Usually, timing is critical – not too wet or the salt will dissolve too much; not too dry or the salt won’t dissolve enough.  However, I dropped salt into areas with different levels of wet and got decent texture throughout.

Removing Masking Fluid On Zig Zag Watercolor Paper

I removed the masking fluid and … oh! This paper is MADE for masking fluid.  It came off so easily.  The .2 mm pen I used will leaves blue stains on some paper, but there wasn’t a bit of blue here.  I don’t want to seem dramatic, but I don’t think I’ve ever had masking fluid work so well before.

Another common problem with masking fluid is that it will roughen the paper.  You may not see it with the eye, but when you draw or paint over it the pigment won’t stick or will be dull.  Pens might catch and leave distorted lines.

Nope.  None of that happened here.  The pen worked as well after the masking fluid as it did before.

Watercolor Painting Example Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

There was no difference in paint flow, color or intensity.  It was the same in the areas covered with masking fluid as the areas without.

I’m worked the next six pages as one painting.  I did need to find a space large enough so I could have the book opened wide.


Hahnemühle zigzag book painting example

It was wonderful to work this in panoromic style, creating a compositional flow that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Hahnemühle ZigZag Accordion Fold Sketchbook Painted Example

I just kept moving back and forth – painting a little here, a little there.  It was so much fun watching it all come together.

For this review, I felt I needed to paint on the other side of the paper, and subject it to the same testing that I did on the front.

Watercolor Sketching Example - Sandra Strait - Doodlewash

I used masking fluid, erasing, wet-into-wet, heavy saturation, lifting, and scrubbing.  The paper held up as well on the back as on the front.

Both sides are sturdy, holding up well to everything I threw at it!


I found the Hahnemühle ZigZag book a joy to paint in.

It held up well to masking fluid, overworking, lifting and scrubbing. Colors are bright, flowing and blending well., You can get drippy effects but still have good control. I felt I gained a wonderful cohesion of composition and color because I was able to work several pages at once.

Because it is an accordion book, I wouldn’t use it for plein air, unless you had a very cozy setup – the pages might be difficult to control.

I feel it has a good paper for beginners because it will hold up to damage caused by bad technique, and a good paper for more advanced painters because it allows for a wide range of techniques.

The elegant over-the-corner elastic band gives the book a sophisticated look.  The accordion format allows for panoramic subject matter and storytelling.  Last, but not least, the finished book becomes a unique decoration.

Be sure to check out the March Doodlewash Giveaway for a chance to win all four sizes of the ZigZag book and DaVinci watercolors.  I also have a giveaway at my blog for a 2 x 2 ZigZag book, an A6 Hahnemühle Nostalgie book, a six-pack of Zebra Zensations Technical Pens and one Uniball Signo Broad White Gel Pen.


Where can you find the wonderful toys I used in this review?


Hahnemühle USA sent me an A5 Hahnemühle ZigZag Book for the purpose of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post contains affiliate links which help support Doodlewash community features. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Hahnemühle has produced paper since 1584, making it the oldest German paper mill for artist papers. They have offices in the UK, France, USA and China. Their Akademie line of watercolor paper is produced on a Fourdrinier machine, which uses natural felt  to obtain the surface structures. The papers and boards created this way are suitable for watercolors, gouache, tempera, pastel, charcoal, pencil and crayons.

Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

34 thoughts on “REVIEW: Hahnemühle ZigZag Book

  1. Great, thorough review! This looks like a fun book to try. I like the accordion format, and your paintings demonstrate it well.

  2. I already signed up for contest. It was such a pleasure watching you draw and paint. I love your lunchbox postcards everyday and so envious of your talent. The video was great and yeah! for the good music! A lot of videos use music that make me want to put my head in the oven, but since it’s an electric oven, wouldn’t do much except make me see I need to clean the oven……

    1. Thank you, Susie! I agree with you about the music. Of course, it’s hard to please everyone on that account, but I do try to choose music that’s good for its genre. Fortunately, YouTube has a great selection of free music.

  3. excellent review, Sandra, and I love your artwork! your storytelling with Diggory is fun and I love watching you work. this book is going to be a big seller for Hahnemühle!

  4. I’m already planning to get some of these books, but your review was so thorough and a great help to know what I can risk with the paper. I like to mask areas with fluid or tape but hate it when the paper can’t handle that. Great to know it can. Thanks for all the detail. And your paintings and story they tell are stunning!

  5. Thanks for the review, Sandra. I have looked at these journals online but didn’t pursue buying one because I saw it wasn’t professional grade (and all cotton) paper. I will have to reconsider.

  6. All I can say is WOW on this wonderful “TOY” Hahnemuhle has created, I can tell you enjoyed working with this and giving us your thoughts. I agree, the book is classy and what a great gift for your Husband, no doubt he will treasure it. Happy Anniversary to you both, and many more. Thanks for sharing your wonderful talent.

  7. Thanks for another thorough review! I especially appreciated knowing about the “bounce” when working on a 2 page spread–I wouldnt have thought about the difference the spine made. Gorgeous art, as always 😁

  8. Wow. I just bought a few of these to see how Iike them but after this review I can’t wait to try them. I actually bought them for plein air and I think they’ll be fine. After reading this I might even try a masking pen. I’ve only used a bottle and brush but being able to take a pen out would be awesome, especially if the zig zag behaves as you review.

  9. Wow, Sandra, I’m enchanted by this review. I’m going to purchase one of these accordion watercolor books because of your thorough visual description of everything that can be done. But I have to tell you how awed I am by your creative process and prowess. What a gift for your anniversary, and may you and your husband have another 37 years of enjoyment.
    I plan to re-watch your video about 37 times just for the pleasure of seeing a master at work.

    1. Thank you so much, Sharon. I’ve just finished another write-up with the finished book, discussing my process in writing and illustrating the book. I’m not sure when it will be published, but it will be soon!

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