When embarking on any calligraphy venture, whether project or practice, some sort of paper will be definitely involved. Walking into your local craft store you can be bombarded with the large amounts of types and kinds of paper. If you are anything like me you start questioning: What kinds of paper are best? What paper fits each type of calligraphy tool? Will it work for my purposes? In this post, I hope to answer these questions and give you a good idea to what the best paper for calligraphy is and what paper you should avoid using for calligraphy.
The Basics of Paper
On every type of paper that you can buy, there are two factors listed on it that are important when it comes to calligraphy: the “weight” and the material. Now you probably noticed that weight had quotes around it. This is because in the paper business weight does not mean what we intuitively think as weight, it is actually a mixture of paper density and thickness and is rather complex. To oversimplify, for calligraphy you will need around 90g/m² or 24 lb but may not want to go too much higher or lower as this will cause the edges of your letters to “bleed” or look fuzzy. That being said, it is not the only measurement of compatibility with your tools and need to be tested (as you’ll see below). The type of material that your paper is made up of also affects your lettering. For instance, the texture could be uneven and affect your lettering or the paper could absorb too little and blob up. So choosing the proper paper for your calligraphy tool will make your creations look much better and I’ll go through the 4 main kinds of paper used in calligraphy projects.
1. Printer Paper
The average weight of normal everyday printer paper is 20lb or 75g/m² this among the lowest available weights and reacts the way you’d think. Perfectly fine for the colourful Tombow brush pen and the Crayola marker, but the Pilot Parallel and the pointed pen are a little fuzzy (as you will see later in a side-by-side close-up). The cost of a ream (500 sheets) of printer paper is around $6.79 or around $0.01/sheet.
Overall: ★★☆☆☆ You get what you pay for and can work in a pinch, but for finished works that you want to show off you probably should upgrade.
2. Rhodia Dotpad
My absolute favourite paper to write on is the Rhodia Dotpad. The Dotpad’s weight is 80g/m² or 21.3lb, and instead of gridlines it contains dots which allow alignment without too much interference. It is by far the smoothest feel and best absorbency, not to mention the most satisfying to write on. As you can see from the image it has the crispest lines for the Pilot Parallel and pointed pen. My only issue (and it’s very minor) is that you cannot use this kind of paper for practice sheets. However, for scratching down new lettering creations or some unscripted practice this is hands down the best paper. The large size Dotpad is $10.88 which is $0.13/sheet. So a little bit more on the pricey side, but if you ask me it’s worth it.
Overall: ★★★★★ Perfect for practice, no bleeding but a little bit on the pricier side.
3. Southworth Linen Business Paper
Southworth Linen Paper is definitely my most used of all the papers with its perfect weight of 90g/m² or 24lb. For me, this My only complaint about this type of paper is one side is textured and will catch your pointed pen nib, which messes up your rhythm. For all other kinds of calligraphy it works great, so it’s an acceptable trade-off. The cost of this paper is either $13.79 for 100, ($0.13/sheet) or my favourite: $20.78 for 500 (only $0.04 a sheet)!
Overall: ★★★★☆ Best all around paper available for the value, also conveniently attainable through your local Staples.
Cardstock is typically used in crafts, cardmaking and sometimes calligraphy. It’s weight is 65lb or 100g/m² which you would intuitively think that a higher weight would mean less bleeding. Though it is more dense the material is more absorbent than normal paper. This makes the ink spread further than you initially intended.
Overall: ★★★☆☆ More for adding texture and firmness to cards and crafts. Can be used in a pinch as it still works with markers/brush pens.
Best Paper for Calligraphy Practice Sheets
So after showing how each tool reacted on the different types of paper, it was time for a close-up comparison to find the best paper for calligraphy. Below are two images that zoom in on the two most common kinds of calligraphy (blackletter and modern) to see which edges are fuzzier to give you a better idea on which paper you should get for the next project.
Best Paper for Modern Calligraphy?
On the printer paper you can see there is some definite bleeding on the bottom of the “t” and “s”, which means it needs an upgrade. The Rhodia Dotpad and Southworth Linen do not bleed at all in the close-ups but the Southworth has a minor texturing problem that can affect the shape of the letters. The cardstock has some minor fuzziness on the “c” and when writing it caused fibers to get caught in the nib.
Best Paper for Blackletter (Gothic) Calligraphy?
In this comparison, it is evident that both the printer paper and cardstock should not be used for blackletter calligraphy. The Pilot Parallel ink bleeds through them quite easily. The Dotpad and the Southworth linen both do not become fuzzy to give you those crisp lines you need.
All Around Best Calligraphy Paper – (2021 Update)
2021 UPDATE: If you are just looking for the best all around good, non-bleedy paper. I have recently found a solution. I have found that HP Premium Choice Paper is the best all around paper for all your calligraphy needs. It is not absorbent and not too pricey.
Thanks for Reading, Now Over to You!
Is there a type of paper I didn’t cover but should have?
Do you have a favourite that I have not heard of?
Leave a comment here to let me know and I will always answer it!