Review: Viviva Colorsheets and Sketchbook

Have you ever been out painting on the go, or even in a small area at home, and wondered how to carry everything and where to set it all down? Viviva Colorsheets are an elegant answer to this age-old problem.  They come in a small booklet that you can slide into a pocket.  They’re so light, you can hold them in your hand for long periods of time.  Long lasting with bright vivid colors, they’re an artist’s dream for quick fun sketches and even some pretty sophisticated paintings.

Viviva Colorsheets Packaging and Sketchbook Exterior

Video

Viviva Colorsheets

Viviva Colorsheets Front Face Panel Packaging

Viviva Colorsheets come in a handy booklet with two colors to a page.

The booklet cover states that the colors are super vivid and transparent, and they are. They are made of concentrated mineral dyes and a binder. In a 2017 review, the founder stated that the reds, yellows, and orange are lightfast and won’t fade, but the magenta, violet and the blues will.  I don’t believe they have been officially tested for lightfastness however, and dyes are notoriously fugitive, so I wouldn’t recommend using these for something you plan to sell, or want as a keepsake.

The colors are listed as non-toxic, but as with any pigment or dye, you shouldn’t eat them. They probably don’t taste very good, anyway.

The founder also claimed that each color chip is comparable to a half-pan’s worth of paint. I believe that is true, but only if you are careful with how much water you use.  More about that later.

What these colorsheets definitely are is convenient, super-easy to carry, and fun to use.

Viviva Colorsheets color index

There is a color index at the bottom of the booklet, making it easy for you to find the color you want.

Viviva Colorsheets Mixing Panel Sheet

In a bit of brilliance, a small mixing sheet was included with the booklet.  The sheet is heavy paper with a water-repellent surface that you can wipe clean. It comes as a separate piece with an adhesive backing that you stick to the booklet.

I found this worked nicely if you were able to sit the booklet down while you painted. If you were holding the booklet, and got too much water in your mix, then it got messy.  I think possibly there is a technique that would make this easier – controlling how much water you use, and how you hold the booklet.  I haven’t found it yet but I’m working on it.

Viviva Colorsheets Interior of 16 color set

The dye is bound to a heavy paper, and cut into chips which are glued, two to a page. A translucent water-repellent sheet is layered between each page of color, so they don’t contaminate one another.

It’s recommended that you don’t close the book while the paint is wet.  I found it was difficult not to get paint on the water-repellent sheets, but that it didn’t matter, because the color lifts off easily.

The paint color is different – in many cases, shockingly different – than the color of the dried dye chips. I felt it was important to show you the difference, so I scanned the chips and paired it with a swatch of the painted color.  The sketchbook that I received is an off-white. That is bound to affect such transparent color, so I also included a swatch from a bright white watercolor paper.

Some of the colors are very similar. I didn’t mind as the colors that are here make a nice basic palette, and it means you’ll have more of some. However, I wouldn’t have minded a wider range of colors, either.

Crimson and Deep Pink.

Vermillion and Dusk Orange.

Notice that the Vermillion chip looks a bit different in texture from the other colors. That is because I used a photograph rather than a scan.  Why? The Vermillion had smeared onto the separator sheet, and as I leafed through the book, it came off on my fingers.  I didn’t want that color on my scanner surface.

So, I do caution – be careful as you hold the booklet.  All the colors are staining, and it’s fairly easy to get color on your hands, and possibly your clothing.  I found it easy enough to avoid once I was aware of the problem.

Chrome Yellow and Gold Ochre.

Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna.

Light Green and Sap Green.

Viridian and Peacock Blue. Surprise! I’ll bet you weren’t expecting the painted colors that came from these chips!

Persian Blue and Violet.

Packaging counts for me, and I love the envelope that the Viviva Colorsheets came in.  I plan to keep my booklet in it, and both will fit into the pocket of the sketchbook I received with my colorsheets.

The Viviva Sketchbook

I received one of the special edition sketchbooks with the Inktober label. These are sold out, but the Viviva A5 Cotton Sketchbook now available is exactly the same except it only has ‘Viviva Colors’ stamped on the front.  Unfortunately, mine arrived with some damage to the cover.

SPECS

  • Cover: Shiny, black faux leather (no Inktober branding)
  • SizeA5/5.8 x 8.3-inch landscape, 
  • No. of Pgs: 40 pages, 
  • Weight: 300 GSM, 
  • Paper: 100% cotton, rough texture

Viviva has another sketchbook (not shown here) available with an Easy Sketching Mirror.  It has the same cover but different paper.  It is not shown here.

  • The Easy SketchBook A5/5.8 x 8.3-inch landscape, 64 pages, 240 GSM, Ivory cream Lessebo Design paper, smooth texture

The paper is an off-white, and is soft and thick.  It makes me think of hand-made paper. Though the color is even overall, there are some tiny darker bits on some pages, like the *inclusions you get with handmade paper.  I was very excited when I saw it, and couldn’t wait to try it out.

*Inclusions – bits of fiber and plant matter, that are included in the paper pulp to add texture and decorative elements.

The cover extends past the edge of the paper.

The book has an inner cover of a light non-watercolor paper and a glued binding.

The cover only attaches to the paper pad at the back.

This makes it easy to fold the cover back, making it easier to hold in one hand if painting while standing. If you set it down with the cover folded back, it tilts the paper slightly. This makes it easier to draw your perspective correctly, and also gives your paint a downward flow.

The book lies flat when opened.

Viviva Sketchbook Interior Pocket

There is a pocket in the back.  It’s a little tighter than most, but just the perfect size for your Viviva Colorsheet booklet.

Performance – Viviva Colorsheets and Sketchbook

I was testing out both the colorsheets and the sketchbook, of course, so all of these examples are done in the Viviva sketchbook.

It seemed to me that a waterbrush, one of those plastic brushes with plastic bristles, and a barrel full of water, would be the perfect match for this set. Well, maybe.

Viviva Colorsheets watercolor pattern painting example

This first painting was drawn first, with technical pen, and then painted with a waterbrush.  Usually I try to destroy the paper with my first painting, to see how much you can fuss before ruining your painting. But one of the good things about a waterbrush is that it is kind of hard to destroy paper with it.

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t like waterbrushes.  I find it hard to control the amount of water and squeezing too much water onto the Viviva color chips created a mess.  I like to lift color off the page, once it has dried, to lighten and blend. Waterbrushes don’t lift paint well.  As in, pretty much not at all.

I love bright color (who doesn’t!), but if everything on the page is bright, it can get confusing. Contrast of color is good, but you need contrast of value – light to dark – to help guide the eye.

My painting needed more light values.  I knew immediately that the problem did not lie in the colors themselves.  It was in the amount of water being used.  More water, lighter, less water, brighter.  The other possibilities were the paper and the waterbrush.

Easy enough to eliminate the waterbrush!

Watercolor Pumpkin painted with Viviva Colorsheets watercolor
Photo reference for this painting courtesy of Nietjuh at Pixabay

For my second painting I used a cheap brush that I knew didn’t hold too much water.  Ah, much better!

Things were tidier, and I had far more control over my values. Does this mean you shouldn’t use a waterbrush with these paints? Not necessarily.  Just because I’m a klutz with them, doesn’t mean you are.  But if you are using one and constantly getting puddles of water where you don’t want them, or can’t get a good range of values, consider trying a real paint brush (that goes for any painting, not just with Viviva watercolors).

Soft, thick paper is often very absorbent, which means the paint won’t flow well, colors are less bright, and sometimes the paper will come off in little pills, refuse to accept many layers of paint and may just turn muddy. My test was geared to see if this sketchbook had those problems.

The sketchbook did NOT have any of those problems.  I made this my destruction piece, layering and lifting until I finally did get some pilling.  I have had paper that allowed more fussing, but this paper had a higher than average toughness.  The color flowed well, stayed bright. I was able to add many layers, and lift color well.  The lifting surprised me, as these are staining colors.

I already knew that technical pen worked well on the paper, but some watercolors are difficult to draw on with pen.  So, once my painting was dry, I used the same pen to draw on it.  The ink went down smoothly, creating bold lines.  There was no catching on damaged paper or feathering. The watercolors are easy to draw on, and more proof that the paper held up to my overworking.

Viviva Colorsheets watercolor on sketchbook paper painting example

At this point I knew I get bold lines with my technical pen.  If you look close at the lines, you see they are broken due to the texture of the paper, but it isn’t apparent unless you do look closely. I wanted to try gel pens, too.

I painted color first, using the wet-on-wet method.  I misted the paper until it was thoroughly wet, but had no puddles. The paper curled a bit, but did not dimple or buckle.  Then, I added colors with a very wet brush and let them swirl around. I splattered some color as well.  Then I let it all dry.

Viviva Colorsheets and Sketchbook Painting example

I used both a white and a black gel pen.  I saw a Hoopoe bird in the colors, and brought out the shape by drawing patterns around it.  If you are into tangling or doodling with patterns, the Viviva colors are perfect for it!

The ink went down like a dream, no skipping, catching or feathering. It does take a little time to fill in solid areas, because the paper is soft.

Viviva Colorsheets And Sketchbook – Overall

The Viviva Colorsheets are a light, portable way to carry your paints.  The colors are bright, and the booklet is well-designed. You do need to take care not to get the color on your hands and clothing, and this can happen even before the paints are wet.

The Viviva Sketchbook has 40 pages of 100% cotton, thick, soft, and off-white. The paper handles both pen and paint well. It has a rough texture that adds an elegance to your painting.

About Viviva Colors

Aditya Vadgaonkar founded Viviva Colors while in Med School. Aditya loved watercolor, but found it difficult to carry all the tools around, and he seldom painted because of it.  One day, he was performing a diagnostic test that required depositing a substrate on a plate to observe the color. It occurred to him that having color in a similar form would make it easy to carry them around. His grandmother’s initials are Vi Vi Va, and he decided they made the perfect name for their colorsheets.

Tools

Other sketchbooks available

The Easy Sketchbook

Disclaimer: I received a 16-color set of Viviva Colorsheets and a cotton Inktober 2020 Sketchbook for the purposes of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post contains affiliate links which help support our Doodlewash Community. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews
22 Comments
  1. monique 3 weeks ago

    I have the sheets and I took them to Provence in 2018.Wonderful travel companion!Fun to use.. convenient..
    paper looks interesting!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 3 weeks ago

      I really liked the sketchbook. Rough enough for interesting texture, but easy to work on.

  2. Karen Fortier 3 weeks ago

    Great review Sandra! What a great idea for urban sketching. I’m thinking it work great for me for Doodlewash sketches. I tend to do them as tiny sketchbook DOodles while curled up on my loveseat with waterbrushes.

  3. Mary Roff 3 weeks ago

    Wonderful review, Sandra! Looks like a fun product to try in a sketchbook where you don’t have to worry too much about lightfastness.

  4. Susan Cuss 3 weeks ago

    Super review Sandra! Thank you.

  5. Mugdha 3 weeks ago

    Hello Sandra,

    Thanks a ton yet again, not only for such a wonderfully thorough review but also for shedding so much light on the different elements that could go into watercolor. I always learn lots from your reviews. Thanks so much for that and I loved the splash-and-splatter painting that ultimately became a hoopoe. 🙂

    Love,
    Mugdha

  6. Priscilla DeConti 3 weeks ago

    Nice review..I have the sheets and have tried them..I have not used on the road but they seemed to be for smaller sketches..I agree the colors are very similar so I need to practice mixing a bit more to see what happens. Love the new sketchbooks as well..will try them soon(out of stock right now) Thanks!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 3 weeks ago

      Thank you, Priscilla! The sketchbooks are supposed to come out on October 15th. I really like mine.

  7. Kellie 3 weeks ago

    Thanks for this review, I really wanted to see it in action then realised I had somehow missed the vid 🤔 The vid was great. Appreciated the swatches of colour comparison, really thorough review thanks 😊

  8. Alice 3 weeks ago

    I’ve had their sheets for several years – got mine back when they had their first Go Fund Me or whatever service they used to get started. I have experienced many of the things you mentioned in your review. I would be interested in that journal 🙂 you know me. I can never have too many journals

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 3 weeks ago

      Thank you, Alice! I thought I remembered you mentioning these sheets way back when. Yeah – how could anyone ever have too many journals, lol.

  9. PennyH 3 weeks ago

    These do look like a lot of fun! Nice article.

  10. Heidi S. 3 weeks ago

    ” Usually I try to destroy the paper with my first painting”
    *Grin*
    I’m always so careful with sketchbooks, although, WC-paper – I love to take that to it’s limits 🙂
    Thorough review again, Sandra.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 3 weeks ago

      Thank you, Heidi! I’ll admit that I used to be more careful before I began reviewing. Then I discovered that I learned so much about how to use different kinds of tools by working this way. So many people will only paint on cotton paper, or use transparent colors – nothing wrong with that, but I think they miss out on some of the fun!

  11. Kristi B 2 weeks ago

    So informative! I honestly read just about every review you write just because it’s interesting and I learn. Generally I am not thinking about purchasing the items but enjoy all you describe in your reviews. The Hoopoe bird is very pretty. I studied it for quite a while-it drew me in that way. I have seen these advertised a lot, they do seem like a cool idea.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 7 days ago

      Thank you, Kristi! Your comments are much appreciated!

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