Qualities to think about when buying paper
Generally, there are several significant qualities to a fountain pen-friendly paper, and depending on your priorities and choice of pen and ink, one quality may be more significant than another (or not significant at all):
- Bleedthrough/feathering. Many cheaper papers tend to exhibit a large amount of ink bleedthrough (sometimes across numerous sheets). A similar effect is feathering. in which ink may not necessarily bleedthrough the page but will diffuse laterally about the page, creating a “feather” effect to lines and letters. Bleedthrough and feathering are infrequently (if ever) desirable.
There is obviously some correlation inbetween bleedthrough and paper weight, but many high quality papers (such as Tomoe Sea paper, which is 52 gsm or 13.8 lb) withstand bleedthrough from most pens while remaining remarkably lean. At the other extreme, some cheap 24 or 28 lb copy papers commence to exhibit some bleedthrough from slightly moister inks.
Feathering tends to correlate with bleedthrough, but not always, and can sometimes be diminished by using an anti-feathering ink. If you use dry ink or a fine nib (or both), you may be able to avoid bleedthrough and feathering on most papers, albeit most fountain pen users tend to favor an all-around paper that withstands many combinations of pens and paper.
Showthrough is a particularly significant concern if you want to maximize use of both sides of the paper.
Sometimes, however, you’ll want a paper that has some grain or texture or a particular finish (without being too coarse, of course). Laid or wove paper, for example, has a nice texture in the forearm, which can be nice whether for business or correspondence or simply as your go-to stationery. Additionally, some writers may choose to feel the “grain” in the paper as they write.
Cotton content (e.g. 25% or 100%) may also be of interest but tends to be slightly less relevant to a paper’s qualities for fountain pen writing. Paper with high content content has a distinct feel that some may love. High-quality stationery paper with high cotton content is usually watermarked, which add some class to the paper (but not much in the way of functionality).
A (puny) selection of good papers for fountain pens
At a minimum, any good fountain pen paper should fight back bleedthrough and feathering from most standard medium-nibbed pens with most standard inks. There are a multitude of options available depending on your private preferences, but a few that I’ve sampled and have liked using include
Paper quality aside, one of the reasons Rhodia products have such a fan following is the sheer number of ruling or roping options available with Rhodia pads (slightly more limited with Clairefontaine).
As of this writing, there are a duo of importers who source the paper directly from Tomoegawa, but this comes somewhat at a premium. It’s by all means worth it, however, if you’re looking for a lightweight fountain pen-friendly paper.
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Fountain pen friendly papers are generally slick and strong.
There are of course fine papers that are textured, and they’re fine for writing letters and such, but for daily writing, it’s sleek and (sometimes) strenuous paper.
Rhodia/Clairefontaine and Tomoe Sea are the usual brands you’d encounter when talking to fountain pen people. Go to a store and touch them. They’re exceptionally sleek and has a sort of gloss to them. Now take a regular notebook and what was once very sleek for a ballpoint is now fairly rough. It’s this roughness (among other things) that makes fountain pen “feather” or where the ink travels through the paper fiber outside of your intended line.
Now, Rhodia and similar papers are actually lean enough papers. But if you’re looking for paper decent enough to write with fountain pens on without needing specialty paper, your best and always-available bet is copy paper! Again, smoothness is one of the reasons copy paper is good. Another is that they come in weights, and generally 80gsm and higher are good weights for fountain pen use.
For notes, I actually find corporate freebies fine. Those thick notepads have thick and satiny papers most of the time, and I choose to get corporate notepad freebies over say Post-Its.
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