Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook Review

It is the time to give my review on Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook.

Fabriano Venezia Sketchbooks- Artist Marialena Sarris- 2016

The first thing that someone can notice is the beautiful covers that are indeed very well made. The binding is very good and allows the books to open completely flat.


The next thing is that these books are larger than the equivalent sketchbooks from other brands. Their large one is larger than A4 and so does the smaller one that is larger than A5 size. See them below compared with some other of my sketchbooks.

Below is the small one compared with my Strathmore 500 series mixed media that is A5 at its size ( true A5)

Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook compared with Strathmore 500 series sketchbook- Artist Marialena Sarris- 2016

And below is the large one compared with my Neochart sketchbook that is a true A4. The Fabriano is by far larger.

Fabriano size compared with Neohart A4 sketchbook

It is great to have a larger working surface BUT it is not convenient at all when it comes the time to scan your work, especially if you try to scan the larger one. It exceeds the size of the scanning surface and so if your sketch or painting is spread on both pages and close to the edges of the pages, then the scanning has to be in three parts.
As you understand this is tricky and time consuming because it is impossible not to have a distorted image in the middle part, where the binding is.

Same for the smaller one that exceeds the size of A5 and so it is larger than an A4 page when it is wide open.
The A5 one can be scanned in one piece ( if you don’t paint or sketch close to the edges of the paper).

Lets talk about the paper now.
These sketchbooks are made with Fabriano Academia paper that some sort of cartridge paper. It has a nice white colour and a slight vellum texture that works good with pencil, gel pen and felt tip markers. When it comes to dip pens the ink tends to feather on the surface of the paper.
This paper buckles considerably on wetter washes ( I’m not talking about super wet washes.. average ones) and with an awkward way in my opinion. It holds for a while the colour and then suddenly .. it collapses completely.

See below what I”m talking about.


It becomes soft and starts leaving a kind of ( how to call this now? ) .. a thing like residue that tangles in the bristles of the brush. Like piling but not exactly.. like tiny wet bread crumbs. ( that’s it .. I found how it looks like!!).

When the paper dries becomes stiff and remains buckled.
See below what I’m talking about.

Extreme Buckling

It also has the tendency to suck the colour and make it look faded when dried making also very difficult to achieve clear lines.. ( the colour feathers on the paper’s surface).

See below how it end up my attempt to sketch a snail. This sketch is tiny about 7×7 cm and I didn’t use that much colour neither any sort of very wet wash. The paper though buckled considerably again. ( look at the right side of the image- scanned at 300 dpi) and my sketch looks blurry because the colour spread and sucked by the paper.

Failed Snail Sketch due to buckling

The paper doesn’t seem to have the same quality on all pages. Some pages performed better than others ( not that I painted the whole sketchbook of course. But that was the impression I got from the 8 pages that I sketched till now).

Below are some of the sketches I did on the large one. ( I didn’t bother to sketch anything else on the smaller one).
I needed countless layers of colour in order to make them look as they look like. Layer after layer after layer and waiting for quite long the paper to dry in order to remove the residue with an erasure and then apply the next layer of colour.
I did these sketches at my studio. but I wouldn’t have that much time if I worked outdoors, I mean to wait whole hours for the paper to dry.

On some of the sketches below it was impossible to achieve any kind of flat wash.

Lilly- Watercolour Sketch for Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook review- Artist Marialena Sarrris- 6-2016

A rose- Watercolour Sketch made for Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook Review- Artist Marialena Sarris- 6-2016

Conclusion: This paper has definitely problem with its sizing.
I have worked on other cartridge papers too, in fact one of my favourite papers is the W&N Cartridge Medium paper and none of these was so unpredictable as this paper is.

In order to conclude and finish my review.
These are very well bound sketchbooks larger than their equivalent on market ( something that can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on what are the needs of each artist).

The paper that are made off is not that good though, and has sizing problems. It buckles with an awkward way, it stays buckled, and sucks the colours making sketching and painting a tiring and time consuming work.

I would recommend these sketchbooks for the excellent binding, hard covers etc but not for the paper that performs purely and unpredictably.

Thank you for reading my review.

4 thoughts on “Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook Review

  1. Ouch! Those Venezia books had such a good reputation until Fabriano changed the formulation of the paper.

    • Fabriano, according to what I read online and to some tests I did on some of their more expensive watercolour papers, has serious issues the last two years with the sizing of its papers. This sizing issue probably affected the sketchbooks too.

      The sizing problems were reported by various watercolour artists on their websites and blogs. Fabriano responded and promised to deal with the matter. The thing is that even if Fabriano resolve somehow the sizing problem their faulty paper batches ( and sketchbooks) will be still available for sale at least for some time in the future and it will be probably impossible to distinguish the “good” from the “bad” ones.

      I didn’t have satisfactory results with the Fabrianos in the recent past and now I’m working exclusively on Strathmore papers for my paintings and some of their sketchbooks that perform excellently and have also the more bright white colour that I personally prefer.

  2. Nik

    Hi! I’m pretty sure that the Fabriano Venezia Sketchbooks are supposed to be for dry media (e.g. coloured pencils, pastels, charcoal) as they contain their Accademia paper. Though, they have said that you can use gouache (straight from the tube rather than with any water added). I think that may be why you’ve found it buckles and shreds when you used watercolour. I think it would even struggle with water-based markers.

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