The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Fountain Pen Paper

At Quill And Fox, we have a deep appreciation for all things paper. We understand the importance of finding the ideal combination of pen and paper, especially when it comes to the exquisite experience of writing with a fountain pen. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 92% of fountain pen users prioritize the writing experience above all else. However, finding the right paper can be a challenge. But worry not, we’ve conducted thorough research on the wonderful world of pen, paper, and ink to help you discover the best paper for your fountain pen.

Do Fountain Pens Cause Paper Bleeding?

In most cases, fountain pens do tend to bleed through paper. However, this phenomenon can be attributed to the paper itself rather than the pen. When an ink pen doesn’t work well with a certain type of paper, it can result in various issues. Before we dive into the details, let’s familiarize ourselves with some relevant terminology:

A Glossary of Pen and Paper Terms

  • GSM: This stands for “grams per square meter” and is the standard measurement of paper thickness in the UK. Common notebooks typically range between 60 and 120gsm, while standard printing paper is usually 80gsm.
  • Feathering: Have you ever noticed your ink seeping beyond the lines of your letters, creating an unintended pattern on the paper? This effect is known as feathering and can be influenced by factors such as the paper’s texture, whether it’s made of wood pulp or cotton, and the wetness of the ink.
  • Ghosting: Ghosting refers to the visibility of previously written content on the other side of the paper. While this might not bother everyone, it can be an issue if you desire a professional or sleek look, or if the ghosting affects the readability of the current page.
  • Bleeding: Bleeding occurs when the ink literally seeps through the paper, resulting in unsightly smudges or even small holes.
  • Sheet vs Page: A single piece of paper is referred to as a sheet. When inserted into a notebook, it becomes two pages or sides. For example, a 300-page notebook contains 150 sheets.
  • Coatings: Coatings can either be a fountain pen user’s best friend or worst enemy. They contribute to the smooth texture found on a new notebook’s pages. Coatings can minimize feathering and create an additional barrier against ink bleeding. However, excessive thickness or slipperiness may cause ink to take longer to dry and potentially smudge, particularly for left-handed writers.

How to Select the Perfect Paper for Fountain Pens

For an optimal fountain pen writing experience, it’s generally best to choose paper with a higher GSM. In simple terms, thicker paper is less likely to bleed. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Manufacturers of a little-known Japanese paper used to create astonishingly thin 64gsm paper (similar to the onion skin paper found in bibles) that, thanks to centuries of expertise and coatings on both sides, remained smooth and ink-resistant. Unfortunately, this paper is no longer in production and has become increasingly rare. As a starting point, opt for paper with a GSM above 80-90 to minimize bleeding or a minimum of 100gsm to avoid ghosting.

When selecting paper, consider the desired color as well. Most fountain pen-friendly paper comes in white, off-white (which may have a hint of blue, pink, or peach in some correspondence papers), or cream. If you enjoy experimenting with different inks and colors, white paper will showcase them best. Cream paper, on the other hand, is often chosen for a softer or vintage look, as well as to add a touch of luxury to invitations.

The intended purpose of the paper is another crucial factor to consider. If you’re seeking a portable notebook, opting for something as heavy as 180gsm might make it cumbersome. On the other hand, if you’re looking to create invitations or desire a vintage aesthetic, a toothy cream cardstock weighing around 300gsm would be ideal.

Ultimately, personal preference plays a significant role. Some individuals can’t stand seeing anything through a sheet of paper and prefer the thickest pages available. Others may find bright white paper harsh on the eyes and opt for off-white options, such as our luxurious tinted correspondence paper available in a variety of pleasing shades. Quality paper and notebooks are an investment, so take your time and carefully consider your options before making a purchase.

The Pen’s Impact on Paper

Writing with a well-crafted fountain pen offers a unique experience, particularly with pens like the timeless Kaweco Classic Sport, which exudes vintage charm dating back to the 1930s. This pen’s popularity is such that it frequently makes appearances in period dramas set in that era.

Different fountain pen types perform differently, adding to their allure. While exploring all the aspects of fountain pens would require an entire blog post of its own, the key elements influencing pen performance on paper usually boil down to the nib and ink.

Ink can either be wet or dry, despite both states being liquid. Wet ink takes longer to dry and flows faster, while dry ink exhibits the opposite characteristics.

The nib also plays a crucial role as its thickness can determine whether it catches on the paper’s texture or remains in contact for an extended period, increasing the chances of bleeding. Most standard fountain pens come with a medium nib, such as the exquisite resin model by Ystudio, providing a smooth writing experience similar to that of a fineliner or gel pen. Depending on the model, nibs may be interchangeable, but exploring the intricacies of this topic would require another discussion for another day and another blog post.

Another important consideration is the use of dipping ink pens, which we happen to adore. With these pens, the amount of ink on the nib—and consequently on the paper—is more challenging to control, resulting in varied outcomes. The joy of dipping pens lies in experimenting with different pen and ink combinations, where the paper’s behavior will vary from one stroke to the next. We salute those daring rebels who wield these pens with aplomb!

It’s important to note that when we discuss whether a particular paper type works well with a fountain pen, it isn’t a criticism of the paper itself. Some papers are exceptional but may not be suitable for use with fountain pens. At Quill And Fox, we firmly believe that the act of putting pen (or pencil) to paper should be an enjoyable and cathartic experience, regardless of the writing instrument. However, if you choose to write with a fountain pen, the last thing you need is to return home, bursting with creative energy, only to discover that your chosen paper or notebook is incompatible with your beloved pen. This comprehensive guide aims to prevent such disappointments.

That’s precisely why our notebooks are crafted with a minimum of 100gsm paper, ensuring compatibility with fountain pens. They also boast the added bonus of lying completely flat, providing you with the best possible writing experience every time.

So, embark on your fountain pen journey with confidence, armed with the knowledge of choosing the perfect paper to complement your beloved writing instrument. Happy writing!

Quill And Fox