Paper Preferences

Once you become a stationery fanatic, you become more and more picky about the paper you write on… It’s certainly been a process for me.

In school I loved using Tombow markers, watercolors, and soft lead pencils for my sketchbook. As an architecture student, I’d often be sketching in and out of class. This meant that I normally had a Handbook Sketchbook in tow with me wherever I went. These sketchbooks come in various sizes and layouts, including my favorite landscape. The paper within has some weight and tooth to it making it a delight to use with both pencils and watercolors. Even now, when I want to do some quick sketching, I gravitate towards this paper.

For notes and day to day writing, I was using gel pens! The Pilot Hi-Tec-C was and still is my favorite. I know some people prefer the Uniball Signo DX gel pen with the conical tip. To be fair, it’s arguably a better pen, but I personally gravitate towards needle-point tips for gel pens. They give me just the right amount of feedback. Gel pens work pretty well on most papers so I wasn’t very picky when it came to note taking. For my every day carry and to do lists, however, I loved Moleskine Cahiers. They were lightweight and made me feel cool.

Fast forward to now. These days I prefer writing with fountain pens to gel pens, and I’m doing less watercolor and quick sketching. My paper choices reflect that. Below are some of my current paper loves:

Midori MD Cotton Paper

Arguably my favorite paper to use day to day is the Midori MD Cotton Paper. It’s a warm ivory paper without any lines, dots, or grids. The paper texture is toothy and gives you that pleasant feedback when you write across it. It also handles fountain pen ink like a champ!

It’s that goldilocks paper for me: has just enough tooth, blank pages, white pages with a hint of warmth, fast dry times for wet fountain pen inks and wet nibs, shows both sheen and shading, works well with pencils, ghosting is present but not enough to be distracting, the paper has enough body to paste in images and add decorative bits without much worrying, the binding is sewn and the paper lays flat, the B6 Slim size is perfect to fit in a handbag… the list quite literally goes on and on.

It’s an absolute pity that my favorite paper is suddenly getting discontinued in the A5 and B6 Slim formats. Why, Midori? Must you? I guess I’ll be hoarding my back-ups and hoping my local office supply stores are willing to cut down the silly F sizes for me in the future.

I’ve got my every day carry nestled in a Midori Goat Leather Cover, and it’s so lovely!

Tomoe River Paper

My other paper love. Midori’s Cotton paper is my ride or day every day favorite, but Tomoe River Paper is what I use when I want something a little special. I use it mostly for letter writing, but have previously used it in my Traveler’s Notebook for daily notes and thoughts.

Unlike the Midori Cotton, TRP is super smooth and incredibly thin. When you write on both sides of a sheet you can see a significant amount of ghosting, but you’ll never get any bleed through – with fountain pen inks at least. This paper also shows sheen more than any other paper I’ve used. Since its surface is so smooth, the ink takes a long time to dry. It’s that length of time and lack of absorption into the paper fibers that creates a perfect environment to get your inks to shine – quite literally.

The only thing stopping me from using this paper every day is the long dry times for ink since I love wet writing pens, and how my inks can sometimes get a bit smudgy on this paper. That said, my favorite forms TRP comes in are the lightweight paper refills from the Traveler’s Company and A5 loose leaf sheets which I use for letter writing. TRP is truly a classic, well-loved, favorite.

Ink testing with Tomoe River Paper!

Other Favorites:

  • Maruman Spiral Notebook Paper: I use this for work every day, and it takes fountain pen inks like a champ. I love the fast dry times and the shading this paper shows.
  • Leuchtturm Paper: This paper can be really annoying when you find a nib and ink combination which point blank doesn’t work, but when you do fine a combination that works… this paper sings! It’s got some tooth, has some warmth without being yellow, and the dot grid variant is rather lovely. I wish this paper showed more sheen, but I’ll often forgive that since I love the feedback from the paper to the nib so, so much.
  • Stalogy Paper: Out of the papers I have shown here, this is the least “fountain pen friendly.” I can occasionally get feathering or bleeding if I use a particularly wet pen, and the shading or sheen isn’t the best. However, the feel of this paper makes it worth testing for me personally. It’s got some texture and feedback, but in a different way to the papers above. It’s also very thin but in a different way than TRP? It’s a weird paper, not going to lie, but one worth trying out.

On the Fence:

  • Midori MD Paper: Though I like the regular Midori MD paper, it’s not my absolute favorite. It’s texture has a slight tooth, less toothy than the Cotton variant, but it does feel a little odd on the nibs sometimes. It’s also rather yellow which can be off-putting. I’ve only tried the grid variety though, and I’m hoping I’ll be a bigger fan of the blank.
  • Kokuyo Campus Paper: I’ve been studying for the Architect’s Registration Exam for the past few months, and this is the paper I’ve been using for all of my notes. Objectively, this is a great paper. It shows little ghosting and allows ink to dry pretty quickly on the page. I don’t really get much of any sheen on this paper, but the shading is good. However, there are 2 problems that keep me from falling for it: it’s slightly coated and the line ruling is too large. I prefer 5mm or 4mm grids or lines, and this one is 6mm. My small writing looks odd on the page, and I feel like I’m using paper too quickly. The coating on the paper makes my fountain pen nibs feel sluggish, kind of like how Rhodia paper feels. It’s not nearly as bad as Rhodia though which, spoiler-alert, I absolutely despise.

Eh, Clearly Not For Me:

  • Rhodia Paper: I know Rhodia is a very, very well loved paper. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. To be honest, the main thing which really puts me off, is the coating this paper has. It’s smooth to a fault and makes you feel like your dragging your nibs across an expanse of sticky honey. It’s weird. I don’t like it. Also, the dot grid is so dark and distracting. I just can’t.
Clearly, I enjoy some bright but earthy tones.

What are your favorite papers to use?

– Sanaa –

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