The Muji F1 & F4 Sketchbooks as ink testing books.

A while ago I was looking for a notebook suitable for testing inks that would appear as ‘Ink Of The Month’ and I tried out a few and Tomoe River came out best but the cost, for this purpose, was a little prohibitive.

So, I started looking around for an alternative. My requirements were simple; A5 or bigger, thick white paper suitable for sloshing ink on and binding that would allow the notebook to lay flat.

I tried a few different notebooks and had reasonable results, but still not quite what I was looking for; and then I remembered seeing a sketchbook in Muji and I went back to have a look. 

A sketchbook, I assumed, would have paper suitable for such pursuits as water colours and should therefore be equally suited to ink testing. I found some in my local Muji and bought one of each size, took them home and successfully tested them and went back the following day and bought more.

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Initial testing.

The sketchbooks come in two sizes F1 & F4; essentially large and small (F1 225 x 162mm // F4 332 x 241mm). They have a thick craft card back cover and a lighter craft card front cover, double wire binding which allows you to either lay flat or fold over completely without any issues and they are secured using two black cotton ribbons, one attached to each cover.

At a rough guess the paper is around 160gsm and it is a textured matte finished white paper (20 sheets/40 sides per sketchbook), so very suitable for photographing as there is no reflection of light from it.

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Close up of the textured surface of the paper.
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Close up of the textured surface of the paper after testing Visconti Blue.

As the images show there is a degree of absorption which is only to be expected from art paper, but it was far less than I expected. When tested the F1 has space for two ink tests per side whilst the F4 could manage between four and six ink tests per side, in both cases it is dependent upon the extent of the test. Whilst there is no bleed through you can, with some inks, see a little bit of a shadow but I think it may still be possible to use both sides of the page, but you might need to experiment to reach a final conclusion on this.

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Text sample.

Overall these are a far less expensive alternative to using Tomoe River notebooks and so far the results have been very good and looking at the sketchbooks I can see it would be possible if you have access to, or know someone who does, a guillotine and some binding equipment to easily reconfigure them to produce bespoke ink testing books.

At £3.95GBP / $5.90USD for the F1 and £5.95GBP / $8.50USD for the F4 they are good value, very well made and the paper is ideal for ink testing. I am happy to recommend them and the next time you are in a Muji have a look at them and if they have a tester take a pen and try it out.


Disclaimer: The sketchbooks were purchased with my own funds at retail price. The opinions expressed in this review are my own; and I am not connected with either the retailers or manufacturers in any way.

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