A sketchbook is a "a book or pad with blank pages for sketching," and is frequently used by artists for drawing or painting as a part of their creative process. The exhibition of sketchbooks at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University in 2006 suggested that there were two broad categories for classifying sketches
Sketchbooks come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, with varied covers, and differing numbers of pages. Sketchbooks began as a way to provide a readily available supply of drawing paper in the convenient form of a book. Finish of the work found in the sketchbook varies widely from artist to artist, with some having very simple drawings and lots of notes, and some having highly worked images. Over time, it might allow others to see the artist's progress, as his/her style and skills develop. Many artists personalize their sketchbook by decorating the covers.
Sketchbooks made out of high quality paper, differentiated by weight (referring to density of the sheets) and tooth (also called grain), allow for a wide variety of techniques to be used, ranging from pencil drawings, to watercolor, to colored pencil, to pen and ink, and so on. Certain paper characteristics might be more desirable for use with certain mediums. Sketchbook paper also comes in a variety of tones, ranging from pure white, to yellow, and includes less common varieties, such as gray.
The sketchbook is more frequently used in displays of contemporary art, as well as historical retrospectives, now that 'intimate' and 'ephemeral' records are increasingly seen by some as more informative than the planned and finished drawing, painting or sculpture.
The form is also now being used as inspiration for the development of online/digital sketchbooks.
The World Wide Web has made a big difference to the scope to access documents such as the sketchbooks of famous artists which previously would only be seen in an exhibition. A number of the sketchbooks of famous artists have been digitally recorded and are now available online. Links are provided in the external links section below. Sketches are sometimes removed from sketchbooks at a later date.
David Hockney has produced a DVD of fifteen palm-sized sketchbooks (of 25) produced during for a period of 18 months in 2002–2003 (copyright/published by David Hockney/Gregory Evans Inc.). The sketches chronicle his home, his studio, his travels, landscapes, still lifes, hotel rooms, his friends and their families.