In progress: our first notebook collection

In progress: our first notebook collection

Posted by Sidonie Warren on

Our first collection of Papersmiths notebooks launches next week so here's a glimpse of what's been going on behind the scenes.

This collection is all about colour so my first port of call was to delve into my favourite resources for colour research. From compendiums of colour to swatch books, I was on a mission to find the ideal hues.


Playing around with colour combinations because each colour needs to work together in pairs, trios and as a group. After all, they'll be sitting on the shelves beside each other (once our shops reopen!). They've got to be individually strong, too. While spending the best part of a decade working with GF Smith papers for various client projects, I've been dreaming up notebooks made with their hues. Embossed textures will add depth to an otherwise flat block colour. 


You found this blog post so you probably know how much we love burnt orange here at Papersmiths. I knew I wanted to create an orange notebook. But whether to choose tangerine, terracotta or ginger tom cat? Here’s Morello with all of the orange-ish swatches and samples. Can you lab dip a cat?


Road testing paper samples. It's got to be fountain pen friendly paper and have minimal show through. 


Nailing this next design aspect has been the most satisfying bit of the process. I never thought that numbered pages would be within budget for our everyday notebook. It means printing different artwork on every single page. So when our printer, Rupert, told me this was possible and that I could print every page with different colours, I was OTT excited. ⁠



I sought inspiration from all my favourite colours plus a gem of a book; Collecting Colour by Narayan Khandekar. In it, Khandekar takes us through the Forbes Pigmet Collection which is kept at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at Harvard University. Khandekar is the director of the centre which contains over three thousand natural and synthetic colouring agents. The edit of pigments presented in the book are arranged in colour order, beginning with Dutch process lead white and moving through Mars orange, purplish murex shell and genuine ultramarine ash. 

As you turn the pages of Collecting Colour, you see a rainbow in motion as jars and tubes of pigment fly past. And this provided the inspiration for my page numbers.


They'll be printed in a gradient of colour that shifts as you flip through the notebook. To create the artwork, I called on my trusty companion The Print Handbook to make a CMYK colour chart which Rupert printed up for me so I could see how each colour would come out on the printer. ⁠The final colour is rarely exactly what you see on screen, and can vary from printer to printer or change depending on the stock you're printing onto. So these test runs were vital.



I went on a journey through the colours on the test prints, settling on the route my page numbers will take, while highlighting the correct CMYK codes on the chart.⁠ That was the fun part. Then I spent the entirety of lockdown 2.0 on Indesign inputting the codes for every single page. 



The best zines and gins and jackets are hand numbered, and there's something pretty special about the person who dreamt a thing up having numbered their creation by hand. This first edition of Papersmiths notebooks will be a limited run and each creation will be hand numbered. Any excuse to get my pens out!



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