Fountain Pen 101: Paper

Welcome back to Fountain Pen 101. We’re down to the last two issues. This week I’m covering paper.

As a fountain pen user, you’ll have to give thought to what paper you use. You’ll want to make sure you use “good” paper, often referred to as “fountain pen friendly”. This term references paper that “behaves well” with fountain pens, and is, to some degree, personal preference.

In this particular case, it will be easiest to discuss various properties paper is judged on, rather than the paper itself. If you’re only interested in overviews of different paper and notebooks, then feel free to jump ahead to that section below.

Bleedthrough

Bleedthrough is considered a negative trait. As I mentioned before, this is how much an ink bleeds through paper. Particularly “bad” paper will cause bleed-through with nearly every ink, but some ink will bleed through on nearly every paper. Keep in mind that you can make virtually any paper bleedthrough if you lay down enough ink.

Examples of bleedthrough.
An example of minimal (left) and major (right) bleedthrough.

Feathering

Feathering is another negative property I discussed in the Ink issue. Feathering is where thin “veins” branch out from the line drawn/written. This tends to be based on the quality of the paper, with “bad” paper far more prone to feathering. However, some inks are more prone to feathering, and will feather on even the best paper.

An example of feathering
An example of minimal feathering.

Ghosting

Ghosting is a more neutral issue. It’s when you can see the writing from the reverse side of the page. Some people don’t mind it; I despise it. Darker inks are, of course, more likely to cause ghosting. Some paper has bad enough ghosting that you can see the writing from a couple pages back.

An example of ghosting.
An example of ghosting. Notice how you can see the writing on the reverse side as well as that on the following page.

Absorption

I wasn’t quite sure what to call this paper property, but absorption seems as good a name as any. Paper that is less absorbent will improve ink qualities like shading, sheen, and shimmer. A lower absorbance means that the ink will pool, rather than soak in, and dry slowly, improving desirable ink properties. It’s why “fountain pen friendly” paper is typically coated to resist ink.

Paper that is more absorbent will pull the ink into it, so you won’t see much, if any, of those desirable ink properties. Of course, you can use this to your advantage if you like a specific color but don’t like that it sheens, shades, or shimmers. Find a nice middle-ground paper that is absorbent but doesn’t feather.

Ruling

There are three main types of page ruling readily available:

  • Lined, aka ruled
  • Graph, aka squared
  • Dotted, aka dot grid

You can, of course, find blank paper as well.

Typically, graph and dotted paper have thinner ruling than lined paper — an average of 5mm ruling vs 7mm ruling. I personally prefer dotted, both for the thinner ruling and because it gives you a greater freedom for drawing or anything that doesn’t “follow lines”.

Color

You can find paper in four main color categories: cream, ivory/off white, white, and bright white. I won’t share photos of these since every screen is different and won’t show a faithful representation of the color. Keep in mind that I’m discussing actual paper colors below, not the designations applied to paper in descriptions. For example, you may find paper that is described as white, only to find ivory paper once you get it.

Cream is a very warm, almost yellow. I don’t care for cream paper as it will affect the color of your ink.

Ivory, or off white, paper is just slightly yellow. It is still rather warm, and can affect the color of very pale inks.

White paper is neutral, and generally best for showcasing ink colors.

Bright white paper is rather cool, tending toward blue. The blue tint, however, is minimal and unlikely to affect the color of you ink.

Texture

The term is self-explanatory, however, the amount of texture is not a guarantee of performance, or necessarily an indication of fountain pen friendliness. Generally speaking, however, you want paper with a tiny bit of texture for the easiest writing experience.

Heavily textured paper can cause skipping if the nib can’t get into the texture “valleys”. Paper that is too smooth can cause skipping as well if the nib can’t get “traction”, for lack of a better word to call it, to lay down ink.

Top Brands

Some of the best known “good” paper includes Tomoe River — widely regarded as one of, if not the best, fountain pen friendly paper — Clairefontaine, and Apica.

Other brands I, personally, think are worth looking into include Marumen Mnemosyne, Tsubame, Kokuyo, Field Notes, Moleskine, and Nakabayashi.

This is it for my overview of paper. If you’re interested in mini reviews of various notebooks I’ve tried, keep reading. If not, thanks for checking out this issue of Fountain Pen 101. Check back next week for an overview of brick and mortar fountain pen stores in the United States.

Overviews

For the notebooks that are widely available, I’ll try to provide a couple of purchase links. Prices do not include tax or shipping, Amazon links are for items available through Prime. Ratings are out of 5. Smooth paper is roughly equivalent (in texture) to basic copy paper. Silky paper is very smooth in texture, almost like plastic.

Apica CD Notebook A5 Red Graph

White paper, silky. Bleedthrough: 1 | Ghosting: .5 | Feathering: 0
Amazon ($11) | Goulet Pen Co. ($15.20) | Anderson Pens ($15.20) | JetPens ($13.75)

Artist’s Loft Dot Journal A5

Bright white paper, smooth. Bleedthrough: 1 | Ghosting: 2.5 | Feathering: 1
Michael’s ($5)

Kokuyo Campus Todai Series B5

Bright white paper, smooth. Bleedthrough: 1 | Ghosting: 3 | Feathering: 0
Amazon ($11.20) | JetPens ($16.50)

Leuchtturm1917 Medium Journal

Off white paper, smooth. Bleedthrough: 2 | Ghosting: 4 | Feathering: 0
Amazon ($19.95) | Goulet Pen Co. ($19.95) | Anderson Pens ($19.95)

Maruman Mnemosyne A5 N195 Notebook

Bright white paper, silky. Bleedthrough: 0 | Ghosting: 1 | Feathering: 0
Amazon ($6.55) | Goulet Pen Co ($6.80) | JetPens ($9)

Midori MD A5 Notebook

Cream paper, smooth. Bleedthrough: 0 | Ghosting: 2 | Feathering: 0
Amazon ($9.30) | Anderson Pens ($13) | iPenStore ($12.40) | JetPens ($14)

Miliko Transparent Hardcover A5 Notebook

Off white paper, smooth. Bleedthrough: 2 | Ghosting: 2 | Feathering: 1
Amazon ($12.99)

Nakabayashi Logical Prime

White paper, smooth. Bleedthrough: 0 | Ghosting: 2 | Feathering: 0
Unfortunately this one is difficult to find. We found it at the Sailor table at the DC Pen Show.

Northbooks A5 Dotted Bullet Journal

Ivory paper, smooth. Bleedthrough: 2 | Ghosting: 4 | Feathering: 4
Amazon ($12.48)

Rhodia Dot Pad A5

Bright white paper, smooth. Bleedthrough: 2 | Ghosting: 3 | Feathering: 0
Amazon ($6.61) | Goulet Pen Co ($6.25) | iPenStore ($5.69) | Anderson Pens ($5.75) | Bertram’s Inkwell ($5.75) | JetPens ($6.95)

Rhodia Goalbook A5

Cream paper, silky. Bleedthrough: 0 | Ghosting: 1 | Feathering: 0 NOTE: If it wasn’t for the cream paper, this would be my favorite notebook.
Goulet Pen Co ($25.95) | iPenStore ($24.97) | Bertram’s Inkwell ($25.95) | JetPens ($24.95)

Taroko Breeze A5 Notebook White

Bright white Tomoe River paper, smooth+. Bleedthrough: 0 | Ghosting: 3 | Feathering: 0
Etsy – Currently unavailable. Taroko Enigma ($30) is similar.

Tomoe River A4 Paper

Cream or White, smooth+. Bleedthrough: 0 | Ghosting: 5 | Feathering: 0
Amazon ($14.25) | Goulet Pen Co. ($14.25) | JetPens ($12.50) | Vanness ($20) | Anderson Pens ($14.95)

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