Sunday, 16 January 2011

What makes a good paper?

Well, since the blog is called Paper Pens Ink, I thought I would share (in turn) my thoughts and feelings on each of them!

What makes a good paper? It depends on the function of the paper I suppose – what makes a good paper for your laser printer might not be the same as for a nice handwritten letter. Since my love is of writing and not necessarily printing, I’ll focus mostly on the kind of paper you write on.

A big issue (for me at least) is, is it fountain pen friendly? There are a lot of papers out there that aren’t. For a fountain pen nib, you need a silky-smooth surface that is neither like blotting paper and sucks up ink like a camel refilling at an oasis, nor is so non-absorbent that the ink sits about on the surface for a week, smudging and making a mess. The paper also wants to prevent feathering – making the edges less crisp – and not bleed through to the reverse side.

In my hoard of papers and notebooks, there are a few angels and quite a few devils with respect to writing in fountain pen in them. I won't bore you with a list of all of them, but focus on the ones I use all the time.

My Moleskine notebooks (A4) are great to write in FP in! The paper is smooth, the ink doesn’t feather or sit on the surface for too long and although there is some bleed-through to the other side, it isn’t enough to make a meal of it.

My Ciak Journal (A5) isn’t quite so friendly. The ink feathers quite a bit and the bleed-through to the other side (certainly on this year’s paper) has made it impossible to write in FP in it. Even a black biro shows quite significantly on the other side.

My large Cartesio notebook (which tucks into an A5 Domino filofax just perfectly! Move the elastic closure off the cover and the cover slots into the vertical pocket as if the two were made for each other!) is silky smooth and has little feathering, but unless you write in pale-blue ink (which I don’t) has too much showing on the reverse side of the paper to be bearable, which is a shame because otherwise it is lovely to write in. Perhaps Italians don’t write in FP?

Paperblanks journals work well – both for smoothness and low levels of feathering, reasonably quick drying and little bleed-through.

Incidentally, The Journal Shop has a facility for getting a couple of sheets of a paper from a book/journal to test before you buy the notebook and there are great reviews of the different papers, posted here.

Okay, so beyond FP usage, what else?
The other main factor affecting whether I like or love a paper is its colour. I’m not a fan of bright white paper – I find it too harsh. My preference would be ivory or cream, but the cream mustn’t be too yellow. All of the notebooks I use have ivory or cream paper in them. I do have a couple that have snowy white paper in, but they are languishing unloved at the bottom of a box now!

For my A5 filofaxes, I print a lot of sheets myself, so the one place where there is overlap between qualities needed for printer paper and qualities needed for writing paper would be here! I have bought a ream of “Clairefontaine Trophee Colours Paper 80gsm” in cream and it works beautifully in the printer, has a silky smooth texture for writing on, there’s no feathering and almost no bleed-through. FP ink does take a while to dry though, so if you’re left-handed, it might be more of an issue if your hand passes across your writing as I think it would smudge. I also write in biro and pencil on the sheets and for all of them, the texture of the paper is superb. The colour is lovely.

I’m also one of the few remaining people who writes letters – yes, proper, handwritten letters – but that will have an entire blog-post to itself!

Hope you have enjoyed reading my musings on paper. I'm always happy to hear about other notebooks that people love, so feel free to comment!

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