Concertina sketchbooks

I’ve tried using concertina/accordion-fold sketchbooks in the past, but found them very awkward to use when out and about. They’re usually spineless (like this Seawhite version and my homemade one below) with no hinge between the covers, so you can’t use a double page when standing up, or without a table to rest on. The fun of concertinas is in doing wide, panoramic, overlapping and continuous sketches across several pages, so this lack of support is a problem, especially when urban sketching…


I tried adding a taped hinge to the two covers (how the Moleskine ones are constructed), but this only worked when sketching in the concertina one way; one side of the paper still didn’t get the support of both covers.

So… here’s a solution; a triple-cover double-hinged concertina sketchbook.


All the fun of using both sides of a full length strip of concertina folded paper, but with the ease of handling and stability of a conventional binding. You just need paper, glue, card, wide tape and a little time. Let me know how you get on, and any improvements or suggestions. At the very least it’s easier than my last ‘how to’

Here it is after a three day walk along the Mendips, both sides of the paper concertina full of sketches (note how the covers are flipped in the photos).


And here’s the concertina held open with a clip, creating a wide and stable base for sketching that doesn’t strain the hand.


To work!

1 – First buy the biggest possible sheet of your favourite sketching paper. For this book I used a sheet of Arches 90lb/200gsm HP, ‘Full Imperial’ 56x76cm. Decide how big you want the book; I went for 6 inches square. It’s small enough for a jacket pocket, and making it square means you can use it vertically or horizontally . Then cut the sheet into strips (I got three out of one sheet, with a thinner strip to spare) and use PVA to glue the strips together, placing the glued joints under weights to dry without buckling.


2 – Once the joints have dried, fold the long strip into the concertina, carefully aligning the sides to make a neat square folded stack.


3 – Cut three squares of reasonably thick cardboard, a fraction larger than the paper concertina.concertina05


4 – Join the card covers together using broad tape. It doesn’t have to be the best book-tape, so I used this cheaper version instead (Viktoria suggests duct tape). Press the tape down firmly around the edges of the covers to get a strong and flexible binding.


5 – Glue the end panel of the strip onto the centre cover, and weigh with a large book of your choice, keeping the rest of the concertina folded away from the glued section to avoid paper buckling.



6 – Finally you can glue in some end-papers to make the book lovelier; I’ve used some old maps. Keep the covers open and under heavy weights while drying to stop the cardboard from warping and the sketching paper buckling due to the damp glue.


It is done… Now go out and produce lovely long sketches that drift into each other. They’re especially good for journeys.

‘Here’s one I made earlier’ in detail, showing how the double spine allows the concertina to be used both ways. You fold whichever cover is ‘spare’ behind the book.


(Now, if someone could show me how to post a full length concertina sketch on this blog I’d be very grateful!)

About Ed Mostly

Enthusiastic daily sketcher based in Bath Uk
This entry was posted in concertina sketchbooks, kit, sketchbooks, technique, urban sketching and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Concertina sketchbooks

  1. Viktoria says:

    This looks great! A must-try, when I finish what I am working in. I have made one of the easy cut-fold books that Cathy Johnson does: and I was pretty happy with that, actually. But this looks better!

  2. miatagrrl says:

    Beautiful book binding! Bravo! To photograph, if you have a steady hand, you can try using the pano feature on your smart phone. Maybe lay the book completely open and as flat as possible on the floor, then move the camera (in pano) from left to right steadily. Not easy, but at least it will be one image without having to stitch together.

    – Tina

    • Ed Mostly says:

      Thanks Tina, the pano idea’s good. Now I need a widget to display the photo, something that scrolls horizontally inside the post. Hmmm, I shall consult Google

      • Fiver says:

        I do these. I have a handheld scanner ( – Skypix) that scans long strips up to A4 wide. I stitch the images easily as they are all the same width, using Pixelmator. Then I put them into iMovie and use the Ken Burns effect to pan across the long image slowly. It works a treat. See here:
        I hope that helps.
        I think we may have met in Manchester last week…

      • Ed Mostly says:

        Hi Fiver, I saw someone else using one of those scanners last week, very handy and cunning, thanks for the idea. An IT savvy friend has suggested s different approach using coding when posting images, creating a horizontal scroll, so I’ll give it a go and let you know if it works… Still enjoying the post-Manchester buzz?!

  3. Pingback: Accordion or Concertina? | Dana Burrell… Art

  4. dapplegrey says:

    I’m experimenting with concertina formats myself, and the posting of images on my blog/s has been something I’ve been thinking about too. I haven’t done really long panoramas, only 4 folds, but an intriguing way to publish an image like this on a WordPress blogs is to rotate it and put it sideways. This of course would be simply annoying on a computer, but on a tablet or smartphone it’s lovely – to view it you simply disable screen rotation and then turn the device sideways! I’ll let you know when I’ve actually published the post I’m working on like this – at the moment it’s only a draft.
    I scan the drawings on the scanner giving overlaps at the edges and then stitch the images together using an app on my smartphone, as I haven’t got a fancy editing programme like photoshop on the computer. Laborious but it works.
    I love your tips on concertina sketchbook bindings – thanks for the great tutorials. Only wish I could have joined everyone at the Symposium. (I’m a Yorkshire urban Sketcher). Glad to have found your blog!

    • Ed Mostly says:

      Clever! Hadn’t thought of that, possibly because I do most of my blog work on a PC. A friend has suggested a coding solution, so I’ll let you know if that works, and Fiver has a different approach, see comments above/below! Sorry you missed Manchester, but glad you’ve found the USk community.

      • dapplegrey says:

        This is all very interesting. I like the idea of the horizontal scroll – but not sure that I’m up for the coding. Anyway do keep posting on this it’s an interesting subject.

  5. Terry says:

    Motivating me to try making my own sketch books. Now if I could just find a way to “clip” my watercolors to the pad. It is the size of a business card holder. But this motivates me to experiment more, thanks

  6. Gill says:

    This is just what I’ve been looking for – thank you so much. What kind of width are the joints please?

  7. Pingback: New concertina sketchbook. | JEGS ART

  8. I made on of these specifically for the 30 day direct watercolor 2019. Posted it on FB gave you credit, but could not find a FB link for you. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. This is a wonderful idea. I’m going to pull apart an annoying concertina sketchbook I already have and insert a third cover using your method, and next time I want one will certainly follow these instructions. Thank you.

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