Choosing paper for your fancy new fountain pen
I’ve written before about fountain pens here. Once you’ve caught the fountain pen bug, it’s hard to go back to ordinary pens. The variety of ink colors, textures, and even scents; the ease of writing; the pleasure of the pens themselves- all of these things are why I’ve used fountain pens for more than a decade. However, using a fountain pen will be an optimal experience only if you use the right paper. A visit to a fountain pen store, or a website like Goulet Pens, my personal favorite, will reveal a somewhat bewildering range of choices.
What are you looking for in a paper? Let me help you decide.
There are a lot of factors involved in choosing the perfect paper. If you really catch the bug, you’ll probably end up with a lot of different kinds of paper! To start, though, I think it’s useful to consider a few questions:
- What are you using the paper for? If it’s a journal, you’ll probably want to consider a bound book of some sort. Are you taking notes for studying? You might be more flexible and a letter sized pad, spiral notebook or loose leaf paper might work better. Are you writing letters? Then you might want stationery.
- Are you left or right handed? Left-handed people CAN use fountain pens- I am left handed and almost never smear ink. However, there are things to think about if you’re left handed. Some notebooks are designed to be used from back to front, avoiding the spiral where your hand should go. Some papers are faster drying, and therefore might be better for left handed writers since they may smear less (though I write from below, and never really smear ink).
- What size paper do you want to work with? Many of the better quality papers use the European style numbering- A4, B5, etc.
- When you write, do you prefer blank, lined, graph or dotted paper? There’s even paper ruled to help you with handwriting (french ruled).
My absolute favorites, in hardcover:
- The Rhodia Web notebook– a hardback that comes in several colors, with the smoothest, nicest paper ever. It has a paper pocket for small papers in the back, and an elastic band to keep it closed. Ink dries a little more slowly on this paper. Ink does not bleed through these pages! Comes in blank, lined and dotted varieties.
- The Leuchturm 1917: a hardback that comes in a ton of colors, and has an optional pen loop you can buy for a few dollars more (which could actually stick to any of these notebooks). It has nicely numbered pages, which many notebooks do not, and an index at the beginning. It closes with elastic as well. The paper dries faster, so is theoretically nicer for left handed people, but I am not as fond of the paper as I find some inks bleed through. Comes in blank, lined, dot grid, and graph. This is the journal of choice for the Bullet Journal.
- Shinola journals: Similar to the Rhodia, but with bookcloth covers instead, and a little harder to find. This is a brand from Detroit that has been re-vamped recently, and I am impressed.
Paperback journal favorites:
- Apica A4 journals:I actually think this is the best paper on the market. It is very smooth, no bleed through and a pleasure to write on. This is a bound paperback journal, and I like to write in these when I’m taking reading notes. It comes in a lot of other sizes, too.
- Shinola journals: these come in all different sizes and colors, but in paperback bookcloth instead of hardback, as above.
- Rhodia: Rhodia comes in every shape and size. You can get spiral bound, reverse bound, and stapled composition book sizes. I use the composition book sizes if I want something light to carry with me.
- Field notes: small, fits in your pocket, nice paper. Basic. I carry these around for random thoughts.
- Traveler’s notebook: a piece of leather that holds one or many small paper notebooks with a piece of elastic. There are planners, credit card holders, plane ticket holders, etc, as well as notebooks. I carry these when I’m, well, traveling. Cool in an Indiana-Jones kind of way.
Favorite letter writing paper:
- Rhodia A5 pads: smooth, plain, white paper. A very basic, inexpensive pad of paper that shows off ink nicely.
- Tomoe River: thin, dries VERY slowly, but shows ink with shimmer nicely.
- G. Lalo: beautiful, thick paper in several colors- perfect for a love letter or something weighty, like a condolence letter.
Another great way to try notebooks is with a variety pack. Companies like Goulet pens have reasonably priced variety packs that let you try several kinds of small notebooks to see what you like. I hope you explore writing by hand soon. Please let me know below if you have any favorites!