Fountain pens are quite temperamental when it comes to putting ink to paper. They may even reject a paper that claims to be ‘fountain-pen friendly’. To help you narrow down the endless choices of paper, we’ve created this detailed rundown of the best writing paper for fountain pens plus all the things you’ll want to consider before choosing the best paper for your needs.
All You Need to Know Before Selecting Fountain Pen Paper
Several different factors come into play when choosing the paper for your fountain pen projects. A particular style of paper that works for one fountain pen might not work for yours. So, here is a list of basic fountain pen jargon as well as an overview of considerations that’ll help you select the perfect writing paper for your pen.
Feathering is when the ink spreads out too quickly on the paper, similar to tissue paper soaking up water. When fountain pen ink feathers, you’ll see little spikes on the edges of the letters or numbers, extending beyond your intended lines.
This is mostly seen in low-quality papers and the best way to prevent it is to get paper that has a coated surface – this will discourage the feathering effect.
The bleed-through effect is when the ink seeps through the paper onto the next page or beyond. It is quite common when using a fountain pen and there are a number of reasons why this may be happening. The most common one is a nib is too wet or the ink is runny.
Aside from using thicker paper, an easy (and cheaper) fix is to use quick-drying ink to stop the fountain pen from bleeding through the paper.
Also known as ghosting, the show-through effect is when the ink leaves a mirrored impression on the other side of the paper. It is usually seen in thin, flimsy papers (even if they have a coated surface). To prevent the fountain pen ink from showing through, use paper with a higher GSM count i.e thicker paper.
A common complaint of left-handed fountain pen users, smudging occurs when the ink takes some time to dry and smears across the paper. It is most likely to occur on a thick, smooth-surface paper. The recommended fix for smudging is to get quick-drying ink.
Fountain pens are most lauded for the easy manner in which they glide across paper. To achieve this, you’ll have to look for paper that is coated and has a smooth texture. Rough textured papers have a lot of ‘tooth’ and tend to catch a lot of ink, resulting in a nib that feels ‘scratchy’ and can cause considerable bleedthrough.
Do You Need Special Paper for Fountain Pens?
In short, no. You can workaround the need for specialty papers if you use an extra-fine nib fountain pen. However, in the likelihood that you venture out towards fine, medium, or broad point nibs, you’ll have to get good-quality paper. Here’s what you need to consider:
Characterized as ‘GSM’, fountain pens generally work well on thicker papers that are at least 90 gsm or 100 gsm in weight. Make sure they have a high absorbency rate too as the ink tends to take a while to dry on thick papers.
Fountain Pen Nib
Nibs for fountain pens come in four different sizes: extra fine (EF), fine (F), medium (M), and broad (B). The first two work well for people that place light pressure on the pen and have small handwriting. The larger nibs are recommended for people that have large handwriting and are heavy-handed.
As a general rule of thumb, the runnier the ink, the more likely it is to bleed through the paper and take a while to dry. There are quick-drying inks designed for fountain pens as well as blotting sheets to absorb excess ink.
An Overview of the Best Writing Papers for Fountain Pens
Now that you have an excellent idea of what to look for in a fountain pen paper as well as the jargon used to describe them, here is a guide to the best fountain pen papers available on the market. They are of the highest quality and are used by experts all around the world.
The best in the business, Clairefontaine checks off all the boxes required for a paper to be fountain pen-friendly. The pads and notebooks are equipped with 90gsm paper that has a well-coated surface, perfect for creating a smooth writing experience. This brand offers pocket-sized products too – a great value for the price!
A sister subsidiary of Clairefontaine, Rhodia has leveled up the high-quality paper game. In addition to offering smooth-surface paper with great weight, the paper is highly absorbent. This means the ink dries fast. There is little to no bleed-through, show-through, or feathering. You can even see the sheen of the fountain pen ink on the page once it dries.
Most recommended for beginners, Midori products are usually made of cotton and its woven texture works great with fountain pens. It does not have the characteristic tooth of fabric paper. Instead, it is highly absorbent and has a fast dry time. Midori sheets are on the pricey side, however.
A Japanese production, Tomoe River is lauded for its incredibly slim paper that weighs no more than 62 gsm. This may make it seem like a poor choice for fountain pens but the paper is actually coated so well that the ink doesn’t bleed through or impress upon the other side. The only characteristic that shows through is the sheen of the ink which, by the way, also dries fast.
Cosmo Air Light
A great alternative to the Tomoe River paper is the ultra-thin and lightweight stationary from Cosmo Air Light. While the paper texture is similar to that offered by Tomoe River, Cosmo Air Light is considered to be the better of the two when it comes to absorbing the ink quickly.
One for the vintage enthusiasts, Sumkin produces ink-friendly paper manufactured by hand ensuring the best quality out of all the fountain pen papers combined. It does have a steep cost but the absorbency of ink and the ability to show color and shine is unmatched.
A great choice for students and working professionals, Maruman Mnemosyne paper is known for its perforated sheets that hold ink well, prevent feathering, and allow perfect scanning of notes. Your fountain pen will glide like water across the page.
Widely available, Apica paper is mainly prized by students for its smooth feel and great performance with fountain pens. It is easy to write on and does not catch the nib or feather the ink. Despite the slim width of the paper, it does not need blotting sheets to dry ink.
Notorious for their great absorbency, Write notepads are a good choice for travel and professional use. They will proudly display your fountain pen’s sheen, color, and shine. Extra fine nibs glide over the textured paper and do not bleed through. They hold their own very well and are mostly used for letter writing.
The perfect addition to an artist’s kit, the Kokuyo paper is characterized by its cheesecloth binding. Aside from the tooth-free texture, fast drying time, and great weight, these sheets will lie perfectly flat and won’t scrunch up when the ink is dry. It is easier to write on, works well for sketches too, and is quite durable.
An Outline of the Best Writing Papers for Dry Fountain Pen Inks
Fountain pen papers that are highly absorbent, thick, and have a smooth surface most likely have a considerable ink drying time which can risk smudging. This might not work well for students that need to quickly jot down notes. A simple fix is to get a quick-drying ink and use any of the papers below:
A gold standard in the fast-drying realm, the Baron Fig papers are an excellent choice for students – especially those that work with extra fine or fine nibs. The sheets hold ink well but don’t feather or bleed through to the next few pages. However, this style of paper does not show the ink sheen as well as other options.
A recent addition to the fountain pen paper market, Lamy uses fibrous paper which, despite being textured, has a smooth feel and does not scratch the nib. It is available in lined grids, perfect for sketching and journaling.
Most commonly available, Leuchtturm offers a high-quality, high-end paper that works exceptionally well with fountain pens. It has an incredibly quick drying time, does not feather the ink, and is lightweight. Their notebooks are perfect for beginners and have a wonderful page count that can easily last an entire year.
A great pick for Tomoe River enthusiasts, Stálogy papers work well with EF, F, and M nib fountain pens. With their excellent absorbency and non-smudging sheets, these notebooks are perfect for all the left-handed writers out there.
Milligram is an Australian-based brand loved by professionals worldwide for its woven texture that has a smooth feel. Fountain pens with extra fine to medium nibs will glide easily across the page. The ink will not fade or feather and your writing will display an executive sheen long after the ink dries. Not to mention, it is quick drying and comes with pocket-friendly options.
Sized equal to a standard notebook, Tsubame Fools paper is a popular pick for students that are required to use fountain pens. Light enough to be carried around in a backpack, Tsubame Fools notebooks have quick-drying paper, keeping your notetaking trim and neat.
Designed in neutral tones, Kobeha Graphilo paper is used by professionals all around the world for its formal aesthetic. It is an ideal product for fountain pen users who like to write wet. The ink doesn’t feather, the lines are crisp, the drying time is short (comes with a blotting paper as well) and the sheen is great.
On the high-end spectrum, Life paper is a step above Tomoe River. Like much of the stationary options on this list, Life paper is high-absorbency and smooth textured. The pages are extremely slim but incredibly durable which makes this option ideal for letter writing.
A perfect pick for creative individuals that use colored inks with their fountain pens, Yamamoto paper is lightweight but holds its own and will beautifully draw out the color of your ink. With 18 different paper style options to choose from, Yamamoto has got you covered.
A Guide to the Best Writing Papers for Fine Nib Fountain Pens
If you’re a pen enthusiast that loves to scribble with all types of pens but can’t seem to find writing paper that works well, there’s great news for you. The following list entails great quality paper that is textured enough to work with every single pen without bleeding ink. The only catch is that you have to use a fine nib with your fountain pen.
Most commonly available, Moleskine paper isn’t usually recommended (especially for beginners) mainly because it tends to feather and bleed ink. However, it works well with extra fine nib fountain pens. It is an easy alternative to use if you’re back-ordered on your favorite fountain pen notebook.
Considerably higher quality than Moleskine, Doane Paper is a delight to write on with extra fine and fine nib fountain pens. The lines are crisp – there is little shadowing but no feathering and the paper is considerably smooth.
Found in Oxford notebooks, Optik Paper is best used in European schools for its pocket-friendly price and crisp white theme. It is a professional paper that will not bleed ink or smudge. Optik Paper is also specially designed to be resistant to wear and tear.
A budget-friendly choice, TruRed paper works incredibly well for professional and craft use. On this style of paper, your ink will only take seconds to dry and won’t leave an impression on either side of the paper. It is lightweight but highly absorbent, a great choice for you no-nonsense fountain pen enthusiasts.
With their wide selection of notebook designs and themes, Silvine notebooks are a great choice for students and avid notetakers. These notebooks have great ruling and the paper is thick enough to prevent ink bleed through. Although the paper is uncoated, it works well with fountain pens with extra fine nibs.
Designed in colorful themes, Fabriano Ecoqua notebooks have a sturdy cover and durable pages that hold ink excellently, and show the sheen well, with no smudges in sight. Though it is slightly textured, fine-tipped nibs of fountain pens do not feel ‘scratchy’ on the paper, instead have great feedback.
Widely available, Caliber paper has a great gsm and works well for all pens including fountain pens. It is on the drier side but the texture complements the feedback of the ink well. Your writing will not feather, bleed, or ghost and the ink dries quickly. Available in loose sheets, this paper is perfect for refilling three-ring binders and taking a lot of notes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a craft paper fountain pen friendly?
Yes, craft paper can hold ink well without feathering the written content, bleeding to the other side, or leaving a mirrored impression. Though it does not show sheen well, the smooth surface does leave great feedback with fine nib fountain pens.
Is cotton paper good for fountain pens?
Cotton paper is woven to reduce texture and coated to increase smoothness. Fountain pens glide well on cotton paper unless the texture is so thick that it catches the nib. The tactile finish offers great feedback for wetter fountain pen inks and absorbs them well so there’s no bleeding or feathering.
How to quickly dry ink on fountain pen paper?
There are several ways to dry ink on fountain pen paper but the most commonly recommended method is to employ blotting sheets and lightly dab to remove excess ink. For safe measure, you could also add an extra sheet on top before closing the book – this works well for sketch artists.
How can I make my fountain pen nib less scratchy?
The easiest fix would be to get a higher-quality paper that has less texture. But before you make your purchase, check if the tines of the nib are misaligned. If they are off-center, push them back gently and see if that works. If it doesn’t, try sanding the tip of the nib very lightly until it has a ‘foot’ that glides well.
Why does my fountain pen dry out?
It is most likely clogged with ink. Submerge the nib in clean water for a few hours and then wipe it clean. Flush out the pen with water and write. If it’s a new fountain pen, you may need to break the seal of the ink cartridge to start the flow.
How can I make my fountain pen less wet?
The easiest way to get a fountain pen nib to write dry is to squeeze the tines of the nib together. Place your forefinger and thumb on either side of the tines and gently push them toward each other. Make sure they are equal as misalignment can be damaging. Practice a line on a sheet of fountain pen paper and adjust as needed.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the best writing paper for fountain pens, it’ll be easy to zero in on the one that’s perfect for you. Happy writing!