So you have the fountain pen and you have the ink, but what about the paper? Surely you can just use normal printing paper, right? Well, actually, not if you want the best experience. Printing paper is just not high quality enough, and you might run into some problems with cheaper papers.
What problems do you ask? Well – feathering and bleeding ink for one, not to mention the damage to your pricey fountain pen. The solution is to buy a higher quality paper to use your fountain pen on.
So, let’s discuss some factors that have an influence on what fountain pen paper you should buy next time you visit the art store and what makes the best fountain pen paper.
Aim of the Paper
We’ve come a long way since the oldest paper book on record (256 CE) was found in China. In ancient times, documents were written on bamboo, diluted cotton, linen, or even silk.
Nowadays paper is made generally from cellulose, and trees are the main source of cellulose fiber (also known as wood pulp). That, however, does not mean that all paper is made of the same quality.
When choosing a paper, you need to be aware of what your intended use of this paper will be – writing, sketching, calligraphy, or anything else. You could even ask an employee of the shop which paper they would recommend for calligraphy, sketching, illustrations, and more.
The most important takeaway is that you can’t use the same paper for printing and your fountain pen.
If you’re not sure which paper would be best for your intended use – keep reading!
Color of the Paper
There are two main colors of paper when working with a fountain pen, white and cream color. Ultimately there is no better option. Your art will look distinct depending on the color you choose.
Some artists prefer cream colored paper and others prefer pristine white. We recommend trying both and seeing which feels and looks the best to you.
Quality of the Paper
Have you ever started to write on a piece of paper and the fountain pen ink starts to feather? Yeah, us too. That probably means it is not a good quality piece of paper for your fountain pen.
Paper is made of wood pulp, cotton, or a blend of the two. Paper made of cotton is generally considered as better quality as it is more durable, but that doesn’t mean that you should never use wood pulp based paper.
Feathering occurs when the ink spreads through the fibers of the paper. It gives a jagged and untidy appearance to your work. Every artist dreads feathering, and low-quality papers are a lot more prone to feathering.
Bleeding occurs when the paper is too thin (or absorbent). If you turn the paper around you might see uneven blotches of ink. Bleeding is not as detrimental as feathering though and some artists don’t care for it that much.
The smoothness of the paper is another important aspect of fountain pen-friendly paper. Fully coated paper is smooth but it is never a good idea to use a fountain pen on this type of paper as the ink will take ages to dry or the paper will reject it completely.
On the flip side, paper with no coating is rough and will damage the nib of your fountain pen. So you would need to find a sweet spot in the middle. A semi-coated paper is that sweet spot as it won’t damage your pen but it will absorb the ink.
Fountain pens should glide smoothly across the paper, if it feels rough or your nib gets snagged on the paper, it probably won’t look good. Even worse, a bad-quality paper might actually damage your nib.
Choosing the right paper for your writing or drawing style would require you to try different quality papers. If you’re using a fountain pen, choose the paper that feels best to you.
Size and Weight of the Paper
Most print paper bundles and notebooks that you can purchase are either A4 or A5 size. A4 paper, which is two times the size of A5, is usually considered the standard paper size.
Most artists and calligraphers prefer these two sizes for a fountain pen.
The weight of the paper does not refer to the physical weight of the paper, it refers to the thickness of the paper. The universal measurement is GSM (grams per square meter) so you would find most papers are measured in GSM.
Here are some weight comparisons to paper types you might recognize:
- 35-55 gsm: very light and feels like newspapers
- 90-100 gsm: copy paper that you’d find in the printer
- 130-250 gsm: good quality paper that feels like magazine covers – artists usually choose paper in this bracket to use a fountain pen on.
- 300 gsm and above: very thick and high premium feeling like cardstock.
Similar to copy paper, fountain pen paper comes in a range of styles. Blank, lined, block, and graph are just some paper styles that can be bought for a fountain pen.
These styles are ideal for beginners to practice calligraphy and ensure their strokes are a uniform length.
Cost of the Paper
Cost is a big factor for many artists, especially beginners. Basic printing paper runs around $0.1 per sheet, but as we mentioned above, it’s not the best option when using a fountain pen.
In contrast, a high quality paper can go anywhere past $0.50 per sheet, which might sound like a lot. However, you should keep in mind that these high quality papers won’t harm your fountain pen and will give you the best results.
Don’t bleed yourself dry though – printing paper can still serve a purpose. If you have an inexpensive fountain pen, you could use printing paper to practice your skills, or as scrap paper. Just be aware that your pen might wear down faster than average.
The History of Fountain Pens
The modern fountain pen was designed by Lewis Waterman in 1884, although the history of fountain pens goes all the way back to the 1500s. It is thought that Leonardo Da Vinci designed a pen with an internal ink reservoir for himself.
This is proven through sketches of this design that historians have found in Da Vinci’s sketchbooks. Although during that time quills and dip pens were all the rage and they were popular until the fountain pen became popular in the 1800s.
The fountain pen became popular because people found it inconvenient to carry around a dip pen and an ink pot, so a pen with an internal reservoir was the perfect solution.
Fountain pens have one big disadvantage though – they are only compatible with water-based ink. Pigmented ink will clog the ink reservoir. This is a detrimental flaw to some artists, so dip pens are still considered a popular tool for sketches and calligraphy.
Many factors come into play when choosing your fountain pen paper. These factors include the cost, smoothness, quality, and size of the paper. We know this sounds like a lot of information, but it takes time and elimination to find the perfect fit for you.
Hopefully, this article has helped you decide which paper is right for you and your fountain pen.