Posts Tagged 'Clairefontaine'

Blank Book Showdown: Habana v Rhodia

…but really, they’re from the same parent company, so think of it more as a “meeting of similar interests” than a showdown.

Rhodia “Webbie” Webnotebook

  • 5-1/2″ x 8-1/4″
  • 90g blank ivory Clairefontaine paper
  • Orange Italian leatherette hard cover with an embossed Rhodia logo
  • 96 sheets (192 pages total)
  • Inner pocket, elastic closure, rounded corners
  • Ordered mine from Goulet Pen Company for $18.75 (thanks Brian!)

Quo Vadis “Looking For A Nickname” Habana Notebook

  • 6-1/4″ x 9-1/4″
  • 90g blank extra-white Clairefontaine paper
  • “Leather-like” semi-flexible cover (anyone know material these covers are actually made of?) with discrete embossed logo
  • 80 sheets (160 pages total)
  • Inner pocket, elastic closure, rounded corners
  • Got mine as a free sample for review, but available for $18.75 from Goulet Pen Company

Compared: First Impressions

So, as you can see from the top image (and the macros above), the Rhodia’s embossed logo is front and center, while the Quo Vadis logo is more discretely placed in the lower right corner. Neither are obtrusive, and the Rhodia logo’s placement fits with the rest of their line of notebooks. The  Webbie looks and feels sturdier, which I suppose is the difference between a “leatherette” cover and the Habana’s “leather-like” cover. The webbie is also a bit fatter, as it contains 96 sheets instead of the Habana’s 80.

Snuggling Notebooks

Although they are both square notebooks with rounded corners, the Habana’s spine is more squared off, while the Webbie’s is more rounded.

Pardon my Shadow!

As far as size goes, these are both very, very portable notebooks. Neither of these sizes is going to fit in your pocket, but they’re both definitely “tuckable” –into bags, notebooks, whatever. What the Rhodia has in its small size, the Habana notebook has in slimness.

Compared: Delving Inside the Covers

Inside the Front Cover

Looks like similar construction to me...

So the Rhodia has sort of a monotone-thing going on, when it comes to color scheme. The elastic closure and the ribbon bookmark are both as orange as the cover, and the covers are orange on the inside as well. Depending on your perspective, this could be seen as minimalist chic, or as just way too orange. Compare this to the Quo Vadis’ color scheme: key lime cover, white inside the covers, and black bookmark. Which, again, could be chic or gaudy, depending on your perspective.

So keep in mind that I’ve been using the Quo Vadis as a journal for a while now, which is why it looks a little stuffed in the above picture. But this image might give you an idea of each notebook’s color scheme. As an artist and graphic designer, I honestly would never have picked ivory paper and orange covers, but between the two of us, the Webbie’s combination does seem a smidge classier than the Habana. (It’s a shame that the Habana comes in my least favorite notebook colors: raspberry, red, lime, and black. I was really hoping for the taupe version with blank paper…)

Back Pockets-- both equally handy!

One of the most significant differences, though, is the actual paper that you’ll be writing on. This is, after all, the reason that you buy a notebook in the first place, is it not? Although both these paper are listed as 90g, I find that the Habana’s paper seems a bit thinner. I think this is because the bright white color seems more transparent than the Webbie’s ivory paper, and the larger size makes the paper feel more, um, “floppy.” In any case, both papers perform superbly with fountain pens– and there have been enough tests on this already that I don’t really need to do another.

So, there are the varied hues of your new writing surfaces. Ivory and bright-white are very different to write on, and both have their pros and cons. If moleskine-lovers are having trouble transitioning, they may enjoy the Webbie’s ivory tint. Designers, comic book artists, and some illustrators may prefer the bright white of the Habana for more color pop.

The Big Difference, Though…

…is that I’m using one as a journal:

and one as a wine journal and a recipe book:


An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review

In this post, I outlined my initial impressions of four different Clairefontaine papers, which I received generously from Exaclair and bound into a short-term, multi-purpose book (what some people call a “journal”). I used this book during the last weeks of classes, as well as through the madness of Senior Week, and Graduation itself.

And it felt good (really good) to put this book aside after graduation– to start brand new, on a blank page. (What a handy metaphor, no?)

As it turns out, my blank page was on the other side of the country. But now I’m here in Colorado, and yes, I promised fuller reviews. So here we go.

Digital Color Printing Paper

Pentel Pocket Pen and ink on DCP Paper

First, to clarify: this paper isn’t meant for traditional writing and media. It’s for machines, and I’m sure it works superbly that way. But I’m not interested in machines (except, maybe, Leo Marx’s). I wanted to test a loose-leaf Clairefontaine paper– one that could be used for bookbinding!

This has perhaps been one of the few drawbacks to Clairefontaine products– they’re more like, well, office supplies than art supplies. So I really appreciate trying out some loose-leaf paper, which can be used as a raw material for a variety of art projects. The DCP paper is also available in a variety of weights (90 to 350 gsm), which allows for even more customization.

The short version: Use your fountain pens, markers, brush pens, and crayons on this paper; leave the paint and wet media alone. Water-soluble pencils/crayons/pastels have the potential to work well (perhaps if they’re more oil-based) but don’t overdo the water. Stephanie at Biffybeans did a review of this paper, and had similar findings.

Also, this is the time to experiment with bright colors. So channel your inner pop artist.

However, for whatever reason, I found that I did less art on this kind of paper. When I did draw, I used my Pentel Pocket Pen, which left beautiful, clean, high-contrast lines. Writing (in ink) on this paper was pleasurable, but the paper was too glossy to use a pencil, and the thinness also encouraged more minimalist approach.

Stamped! Notice the wet spot to the left; that's bleed-through from the drawing posted above

Continue reading ‘An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review’

Combined: Blank Habana and Pelikan M400

This combination must be the personal “grail” that they talk about in the pen world: a large BLANK (!) Habana notebook by Quo Vadis, and a Pelikan M400 in (limited edition) white tortoise, with a fine flexible nib.

The Pelikan fountain pen was a joint graduation gift from four of my aunts. I don’t come from a family with a lot of disposable income, so this was a big gesture for all of them to purchase together. And when I came home from my graduation luncheon, I had a package with a large blank Habana notebook waiting for me– which I’m going to call a freebie graduation gift from the ever-generous Karen Doherty at Exaclair.

Now, before I start the, ahem, Very Official Review, I’ll give you my totally unprofessional, 100% emotional reaction:


I actually love this combination more than words can express. Okay, that’s not totally true– I’m an English major, and I do have the words to express. For example:

The large blank Habana has all the qualities that moleskine-lovers love about moleskine– a streamlined and elegant design, opens flat for writing, includes a ribbon bookmark and handy pocket inside the back cover– except for one small thing: the Habana notebook is far superior.

Here’s why:

  • The paper in the Habana is 90g “Clairefontaine” paper. (I’m not sure why “Clairefontaine” is in quotes on the label, but I think they’re just making sure we know what kind of paper is inside). It’s responsive to fountain pens and refuses to allow bleedthrough. There is some show-through, but not enough to bother me (which is saying something– usually I’m a stickler about show-through). Compare this to– well, we all know how moleskine responds to fountain pens…
  • Clairefontaine makes their own paper, which is SO rare in a globalized world. This cuts down on exploitation (both environmentally and in terms of human labor). They have an amazing documentation of their paper process: made from from sustainably managed forests (certified by PEFC), they don’t use any bleach, and they compost their factory waste? Holy crap. On the other hand, basically no one knows where moleskine paper comes from… although they have started a new line of “earth-friendly” products (a phrase that I don’t trust at all).
  • The large Habana notebook is definitely larger than the regular size moleskine– in a good way! When I used moleskine notebooks, I remember my hands would begin to cramp about halfway through, and I had to abandon any chance of good handwriting. The large Habana is definitely still slim and compact, but large enough for an artist who likes to draw and design in her notebooks.
  • The blank pages are a new thing for the Habana notebook. This was the one reason why I never purchased a Habana notebook before– because I need some blank pages to draw! And now– well, now they’re seductively blank…
  • Did I mention that it opens flat? Or has a pretty sexy color scheme? And a handy pocket? And a ribbon bookmark? Alright, I’ll just let the pictures talk from here.

Handmade Book with Clairefontaine Paper

In this post, I hinted at a new Book that I was binding using several different sample Clairefontaine papers: Graf It sketch padDCP Digital Color Printing Paper,Calligraphy Art Pad, and the Ingres Pastel Pad.

All the papers serve very different functions, so binding them into one journal is a way for me to provide a more extensive review of each type of paper. And, a way to keep me artistically on my toes! (Sure, we’ll go with that).

I used a simple long stitch and then glued the bound signatures into the cover. To make the cover, I used leftover mat board from an art project, and covered it in some blue ribbon.

(Making a new book without buying anything new = so rewarding.)

I’ve already been using this book throughout the exam season, so that’s why there are already some extra papers sticking out of it.

I think the order of use is: DCP copy paper, pastel paper, Graf It sketch paper, and then the calligraphy paper. I’ll try to post more extensive reviews as I finish each section. However, I have played around with all four papers already, so I can at least provide some preliminary thoughts…

  • So far, I’m loving the paper from the calligraphy pad— especially the off-white color, which I’m not used to seeing in Clairefontaine/Rhodia products. This paper is SO smooth, but less “slippery” than regular Clairefontaine paper. Plus, it’s a bit heavier which means it can handle wet media (sort of).
  • I was actually surprised how much I liked the Graf It sketchpad: it seems like a similar product to those “all-use” sketchbooks that you can buy at craft stores, with the rough-ish paper, but the quality of the Graf-it paper is a huge step up.
  • I love the DCP printing paper because it seems like basic Clairefontaine paper, but has the benefit of being available as loose sheets. I think when I bind small books for gifts in the future, I’ll use this paper instead of regular computer printer paper to fill them. Like the paper in Clairefontaine notebooks, though, it doesn’t offer the same versatility that the calligraphy paper and graf it paper do– it’s definitely more light weight, and not compatible with wet media. My guess is that it’s best used for writing and inking (and of course, printing. I’ll get to that in a later post)
  • The paper from the Ingres pastel pad seems really, really similar to the paper in the Exacompta sketchbook: it’s off-white, laid paper. And hey, I love the Exacompta sketchbook, so this just may be excellent paper. I found that it takes both wet and dry media equally well, and pastels are buttery smooth when used on this paper. This will be my first extended paper review, in the next few days.

Binding A New Journal, Courtesy of Exaclair

Exaclair Papers (except the blue)

This title is a bit misleading: I don’t really “journal,” in the traditional sense of the word. I use to write my thoughts, yes– but also for my creative writing and to write articles, and also as an art journal or sketchbook, and also for boring things like to-do lists and academic planning. Whew.

I always emphasize this to my friends ( it’s a BOOK, not a “DIARY”) who have this image of me sitting down, probably in Victorian clothing, to write, “Dear Diary, today I…”

So. I finished my Kunst & Papier Book with a really awkward amount of time left before graduation. I kept thinking, “Oh, of course this Book will last me until I graduate! and then I’ll make a lovely clean new one for my post-college life! Blank slates all around!”

But oh, no. I finished my Book with four weeks till graduation. So, what, should I start a new one that begins four weeks before a major life transition? That seemed really unbalanced and strange, so I decided against it. Instead I’m going to make a short little Book that I can use for the next month.

And how perfect! I received a lovely assortment of papers from Exaclair to review. Along with a Rhodia dotpad and some stationary, I received a Graf It sketch padDCP Digital Color Printing Paper, a Calligraphy Art Pad, and the Ingres Pastel Pad. So, I decided the best way to test them all would be to bind them into one multimedia writing-art-planner Book.

Clairefontaine Generosity

I’ll update when the book is bound!

European Companies Surpass US yet again…

So, both the Quo Vadis blog and the Rhodia blog recently announced that Clairefontaine has revised its environmental standards to an even more impressive level. One of the things that first drew me to their products was their attention to the environmental impact of paper producton. So, for example, they are one of the only companies that still produces their own paper for their products, and only using wood from PEFC certified sustainably-managed forests. They recycle water during the production process, and don’t use chlorine to bleach their paper.

Now, they’ve changed their inks from petroleum/solvent-based to water-based, using vegetable oil pigments instead of mineral ones.

Funny. I’m going to an environmental conference this weekend in Oberlin, OH. One of the things we’ll be talking about is the fact that the United States really has nothing to bring to the table when we attend the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December.

Read more about Clairfontaine’s environmental practices here.

The Roundup: Rhodia Drive Raffle Prize

StackOh boy. Through farmwork and thesis work, re-carpeting my parents’ home and moving myself into a new temporary home, I haven’t gotten a chance to sit down and upload some photos of my Rhodia raffle prize.

These were graciously sent by Karen Doherty of Exaclair, and I want to note how impressed I was at the way the raffle was handled. Not only did the Rhodia Drive blog feature my blog when announcing the first winner, but I received an email from Karen congratulating me and asking my “favorite colors” –which was confusing at first, until she explained that she was just hoping to tailor the notebooks to my liking, for ink colors and cover colors.

Well, gosh.

I really like the opportunities for personal connection that the world of blogging allows. Although it’s part of my firm belief to never confuse the digital world for face-to-face interactions, I must admit that there is a certain social etiquette in the blogging world (much more professional than the “dear-diary” of livejournal land) which opens up a door for cool opportunities– like this one!

So, a box arrived at my door a few days later, containing:

Basically, that’s a lot. I did the math, and the total retail value would be $174.25. I think knowing that makes me appreciate it even more, because it means that I won’t have to spend money on school supplies this year. Little blessings are especially nice when they come with pretty inks 🙂

I’m not going to do full reviews of anything right now, especially because I included the new inks in my recent ink comparison and because  so many of the notebooks are near-duplicates (all the Rhodia blocs, for example). But I will include a few initial thoughts, mainly–

What the heck am I supposed to do with this teeny tiny notebook?!


I’m not sure this picture does this notebook justice in showing its size (I have small hands). Its about twice the size of a matchbook, 2″ x 3″. I also have English-major Carpal Tunnel syndrome, so writing in a cramped size is not an option. My male friends with larger hands just sort of laughed when they tried to hold it. Any suggestions?

My other initial reaction was: UH. Ironically, I received the exact same Exacompta sketchbook that I’m using as my personal journal right now.


I’m nearing the end of my journal, and now I’m wondering whether to use this new one as a replacement or move to another notebook. It’s such a beautiful book, but I’ve always been the type to try new formats when I start a new journal. A gift, perhaps?

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