When writing with fountain pens, it’s utterly significant to have good ink and good paper as well

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.

  • Ghosting/showthrough. Ghosting and showthrough are more strenuously correlated with paper weight—the stronger the paper, the less the showthrough—than bleedthrough and feathering are, albeit some coatings can reduce showthrough even on rather lean papers (however there’s a limit to the extent to which this will work). If using high-quality copy paper or writing paper, you’ll want paper that’s 24 lbs or higher. If using specialty papers (such as Rhodia), 20 lbs or higher can often suffice.
    Showthrough is a particularly significant concern if you want to maximize use of both sides of the paper.
  • Smoothness/texture/finish. Many high-quality copy or writing papers will have relatively minimal bleedthrough, feathering, or showthrough, so very likely the quality that separates the boys from the guys is the smoothness of the paper. For most everyday writing, you’ll want paper that’s as sleek as possible. The finish, weight, and absorbability of the paper (in addition to the pen and ink) all factor into how sleek the paper feels.

    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).

  • Weight. Depending on purpose, you might choose a stronger or crisper paper, albeit most fountain pen users care about paper weight only insofar as it affects bleedthrough, feathering, and showthrough.
  • Tone/color/brightness. Even in the traditional white/off-white color, there are many different tones and brightnesses available: bright white, natural white, juices, ivory, etc. Off-white appeals to some as more traditional and less harsh on the eyes.
  • Ruling. There are many types of ruling including blank, ruled (with lines of different weights and spacings), and graph (square or dot). One of my individual favorites as an all-purpose ruling is the Five mm-ruled dot pad. There are also calendar, planners, etc. available for those who want them.
  • 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

  • HP Premium Choice Laserjet (32 lb). This is the go-to loose-leaf paper for many fountain pen enthusiasts, which is somewhat unusual since the HP paper wasn’t originally designed for pens in mind. On the other arm, however, it’s perhaps not that unusual of a coincidence, as high-quality laser printer paper needs to be fairly sleek to print well. The sheer weight of the 32 lb paper means that bleedthrough and showthrough are a non-factor for all but the most saturated nibs and ink. However, feathering can be an issue for moist inks, especially with utter ripple nibs.
  • Strathmore 25% or 100% cotton writing paper. There are a number of brands of high-quality stationery paper, but I haven’t yet found something I choose more than Strathmore (under Mohawk) for a textured/grainy everyday stationery paper. I personally love the natural white color with wove finish.
  • Rhodia/Clairefontaine. Rhodia and Clairefontaine are both under the same roof and produce enormously sleek vellum-coated paper. At just 80 gsm (or 21.Three lb), it’s fairly light but resists bleedthrough, feathering, and showthrough remarkably well—I’ve been able to fully ripple vintage Waterman nibs with moist Iroshizuku ink with no bleedthrough or feathering at all (in fact the only way, I’ve gotten any significant bleedthrough is by staking a nib on the page and waiting for the ink to leak through leisurely).

    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).

  • Tomoe Sea. Tomoe Sea paper (from Tomoegawa in Japan) is a bit of a pervert of nature: despite weighing in at just 52 gsm (or 13.8 lb), it resists bleedthrough and feathering like a charm and is wonderfully slick. Fortunately, it also displays relatively modest showthrough for a paper of its weight. Some of these coincidentally fountain-pen friendly qualities are due to the fact that it was designed for commercial printers who needed to produce high-quality color catalogs for which thickness was a concern (thus the low weight).

    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.

  • 8.5k Views · 16 Upvotes · Not for Reproduction

    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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