There are about a million different kinds of papers in the world, and I’m sure that this blog post leaves some of them out! However, I often receive questions about what paper to use for calligraphy, so I want to share some of my favorites with you. This post is broken into application categories: best…
Calligraphy papers and calligraphy inks are, well, kind of like people: some of them pair beautifully and complement each other well. Others can tolerate each other, but you wouldn’t consider them a match made in heaven. And some just don’t mesh at all! In this blog post, we’ll talk about some of the best calligraphy papers and the inks that interact well with them so you can make informed buying decisions, and help your supplies live in harmony.
I am often asked what papers are best for printing the Learn Calligraphy worksheets on. Unfortunately, printer paper can be a bit of a challenge to choose because some printer papers will work beautifully for practicing calligraphy, and others will cause your ink to bleed. The killer combination I’ve found with the worksheets is HP 32# laserjet paper and sumi ink.
I would recommend that you test out different inks on your current printer paper before you print out an entire worksheet. That way, you’ll figure out before printing whether the paper is going to work with any of the inks you have!
Best Calligraphy Papers for General Practice
There are several excellent choices out there as far as calligraphy practice papers go. Rhodia is one of my favorites (you can get lined, unlined, or dotted … whatever you prefer!), and I also love Clairefontaine and Tomoe River. I don’t really recommend one over the others: you can’t go wrong with any of them. I love all these papers for their über-smooth surfaces and low absorbency. In the world of calligraphy, low absorbency is good: it means your ink won’t bleed! You can see in the photo below how clean and neat the Kaitlin Style calligraphy on the Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper looks compared to the card stock.
Here, take a closer look at that card stock calligraphy:
See how the edges around the letters are fuzzy? That’s happening because the card stock is very absorbent. It soaks in the ink immediately after you write! However, when you write on any of the three papers I recommended, the ink sits on the surface of the paper and doesn’t soak in. The result is beautifully crisp lettering!
I actually haven’t found any inks that don’t interact well with Rhodia, Clairefontaine, or Tomoe River. While more watery inks (like the Winsor & Newton I used here) tend to throw a fit with other papers, they glide over these papers beautifully.
Though I recommend these papers for practice, they have a beautiful weight to them that also makes them perfect for writing calligraphed correspondence. I write nearly all my letters to friends on Rhodia lined paper!
Best Calligraphy Papers for Projects
If you’re making a commissioned project like the Quaker wedding certificate pictured above, watercolor paper is a fantastic choice. However, you’ve got to be mindful of your nib catching on fibers! Many watercolor papers are a bit fibrous and might prove difficult to write on if you are new to calligraphy. You’ve just got to remember to take it slow and be patient with yourself! The plus side to calligraphing on watercolor paper is that it’s compatible with virtually any ink because it has an extremely low absorbency. You can see in the photo below that almost all of the inks I tried look great on watercolor paper!
I use watercolor paper for a lot of my commissioned projects because it is so heavy and sumptuous. However, it is perfectly acceptable to use 70# or 80# drawing paper for commissioned projects as well! (The poundage should be identified on the cover, like in the photo below.)
When I first started TPK, I wrote out a lot of commissions like wedding vows and poems on drawing paper. I made nearly all of those pieces on that paper because it’s heavy, high-quality, easy to write on, and acid-free (which means it won’t interact adversely with the ink over time). I made all of the calligraphy and illustrations for the Kaitlin Style worksheet set on Strathmore 70 lb. paper, and was very happy with the results.
While I use Strathmore brand drawing paper, any other brand should work just as well! Just make sure you don’t buy 60# paper; the results of my experiments with that poundage have been lamentable!
Best Calligraphy Papers for Specialized Projects
You may have read through the list above and thought to yourself, “Okay … but what if I want to work on projects that aren’t based around a large, white piece of paper?” To be honest, you can write on just about any paper, but you might need to experiment a little bit with which ink is best. For example, check out the Paper Source place card below; I have written on it in Amy Style calligraphy with brown Winsor & Newton ink:
See how much that ink bled?! The place card absorbed the ink almost faster than I could write. One of the solutions to situations like this is gouache. Because gouache has a nice, thick consistency, it doesn’t bleed like runnier inks tend to do. Check out the same place card, written with brown gouache, in the photo below:
Beautifully clean and clear! For this reason, your mantra can be: “If ink won’t work … go gouache.”
Finetec will also work on just about any paper. Like gouache, it’s more viscous than your average ink, which means it won’t bleed on most papers (including absorbent card stock).
To summarize: you can use pretty much any paper you want for any project, but you may need to experiment a little bit to find the right ink for the project. As I said, papers are like people: it’s generally the combination of paper and ink that isn’t working, rather than just the paper or just the ink.
I hope you had a great holiday, and thanks for reading TPK!