Thursday, March 9, 2017

What is Strathmore Windpower watercolor paper?

Do you know what the difference is between Strathmore Windpower Watercolor paper and their other watercolor papers? I recently asked this question to a representative for Strathmore and it turns out that the Strathmore Windpower Watercolor paper is the same as their 400 Series Watercolor paper, but the Windpower paper is made with renewable energy credits.

Both papers are natural white, cold press, 140 lb (300 gsm) and acid free.

The only difference is the price, as the Windpower is slightly more expensive! A Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor pad, size 18"x24", has a list price of $32.39, whereas a Strathmore Windpower Watercolor pad, same size, has a list price of $37.59, a difference of $5.20. For the smaller sizes, 10"x15" and 9"x12", the difference is less, around $1.64 and $1.24 respectively.

My only comment is that I find the naming a bit confusing and would have preferred the name "Strathmore 400 Series Windpower Watercolor" instead of only "Windpower Watercolor". As a matter of fact, in the Strathmore Dry and Wet Paper Media Guide, the Windpower paper is listed as "400 Windpower Watercolor"!

When I compared the two pads, the paper color, thickness, and texture did indeed match, although the paper in my particular Windpower pad had a slightly less pronounced texture (see picture). 

Comparing Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor (left) and Windpower Watercolor paper (right)
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book design and legibility

The older I get, the more particular I become about what I call the functional design of a book, which includes criteria such as book size, font, font size and color, paper, etc, all of which affect legibility. Here are my current criteria, always a work in progress:

Size

The standard hardcover book, with 9"x6" or 8"x5" pages, about 3/4" or 300 pages thick, generally works well for me. The 8"x5" softcover, about 1/2"-5/8" or 200 pages thick, is great as long as font size is not skimped upon! A book size any smaller than that usually compromises both font size and paper type.

Font and font size

I prefer a serif typeface similar to Times New Roman. Boring? No, legible! My preferred font size is 12 point or bigger - but not as big as in large print books. I have seen some books printed in a thinner serif typeface, but I find these fonts hard on the eyes.

Absolutely not a sans-serif typeface in a book (and I can't say I like it in a magazine either...) It may look good, but after a few pages, a serif typeface is still preferable for reading. If you must use a sans-serif typeface, at least please do not use the extra narrow version!

Font color

Black, not a shade of gray (nor a poor print job as sometimes occurs with print-on-demand titles...) Definitely not white on a gray background, or any other unusual color combination!

Paper

I like the paper to be thick enough that it feels substantial, that is, a page is easy to grip when turned. This is related to the paper quality, as certain cheaper papers wear out, become smoother, and curl up after many reads. Beware of paper of the type that feels rough to the touch, lacks contrast, and soaks up water like a sponge (not that I would ever spill water on a book ;)

Paper color

White, not off-white or grayish.

Hardcover preferences

Dust jacket? No thanks, I prefer the visual printed directly on the hardcover, leaving the dust jacket off completely. However, this practice is more common in Sweden than in the US.

Softcover preferences

I am happy as long as the covers are not so glossy that they will warp outward with exposure to humid climates or turn sticky over time, as may happen with certain covers, especially gloss covers.

A popular type of binding in Sweden right now is the so-called "danskt band", "Danish binding" in direct translation, which refers to a softcover with folded flaps of the same material. I could not find a specific term for this in English, other than "softcover with flaps". This is probably my favorite type of binding at the moment as it provides the softcover with a more upscale feel. 

More about binding

Since I like my books to last a long time without the paper falling out, the cheapest glue bindings are out. Several of my favorite books have loose pages, and an unfortunate few cracked upon the first read.

Portability

Last, but not least, portability. If you, like me, like to take a book with you at times, here is my preferred size: 5" to 5 3/4" wide by 8" tall, ideally 1/4" wide, but up to 1/2" wide is ok (yes I measured a few favorites). This format works better for me than the smaller but thicker paperback book.

What are your book design criteria?