As with nibs, the choice of papers is almost staggering when you very first look at it. In fact there are relatively few papers that are suitable for calligraphy. I’ll talk you through them in the following post.
Slick paper works best
No matter how how powerful your paper is, in order for the nib to flow steadily across the page, avoid snagging, and produce even lines, your paper should have a very slick surface. Especially when you’re still learning. Structured paper can have a beautiful effect on the letters, but in the beginning you’ll save a lot of frustration if you practice on sleek paper.
Be aware that normal uncoated drawing paper is usually rough and the ink will bled a lot on it. Many watercolor papers are not optimal because of the rough surface, as well as paper that’s paradoxically called «calligraphy paper» – at least that’s the case here in Germany. Visibly glazed papers don’t work so well because ink forms little puddles on them.
For practice: Layout Paper
What works best for your daily practice is layout paper. under which you can place a guide sheet. Layout or marker paper ist utterly lean, sleek sketching paper which doesn’t bleed when you draw on it with markers or, in this case, ink. I usually use the Hahnemuhle Layout Pad. another good one is the Schollershammer Markerpapier. (Please note that all my recommendations are based on my local German art supply stores, in your country you’ll very likely find different supplies.)
A very useful variant is the Rhodia Dot Pad. it has little dots printed on, which makes it lighter for orientation and drawing straight lines.
There are some printer papers that work, too (laser printer paper is usually smoother than elementary copy paper). I’ve made good practices with the Biotop Trio Printer Paper (which has a lovely juice color) as well as HP Bright White Inkjet Paper (90g) . Both papers tend to bleed very little if you don’t use too much ink and they’re fairly inexpensive compared to layout paper.
For real projects: thick paper and archival paper
There will come the moment where you want to stop practising and use your abilities in a real calligraphy project, a beautiful invitation card or an inspirational quote for your wall. You should switch to thick, intense paper for this.
What works best for this is Bristol Board. This very white, very slick uncoated paper is available in different sizes and weights. It’s available in DIN A4 and A3 as a pad (Lana Bristolkarton 250g ), or in single sheets (up to A0). Bristol Board is available in different weights, it’s a very versatile paper for all sorts of calligraphic projects.
A beautiful cream-colored paper for calligraphy is the Hahnemuhle Nostalgie paper (220 g).
Difficult and unsuitable paper
Like I said earlier, structured and rough paper is more difficult to treat. Here is a list of papers you shouldn’t use for calligraphy:
- drawing paper
- printer paper
- all sorts of craft and recycling paper
- structured paper
- some watercolor papers, especially the rough ones
The writing characteristics depend of course on the nib and the ink, too.
General tips for treating paper
You should always place a petite lump paper next to the sheet you want to write on, for test and scribble purposes. You can also put another sheet of paper under your arm to protect the good paper underneath from ink blots.
Whenever you can you should get a few single sheets or puny pads of a fresh paper you’re just testing out. Some manufacturers also send sample sheets.
If nothing works right with a paper you absolutely want to use, you can attempt to write on it with thinned acrylic color – I’ve explained this mechanism in this blog post .
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