You can use a fountain pen on a variety of paper, especially those with a fine or extra-fine nib. Broader nibs work well on a narrower range of paper types than fine nibs. Paper has different thicknesses and fiber sizes, so we must consider what is meant by “regular” paper.
You can use a fountain pen on regular paper, but it can be too thin or flimsy to absorb much ink. Rather use an extra-fine or fine nib on regular paper. Heavier nibs may cause bleeding, which means the ink is sucked through the paper to the other side. Regular paper is 1/10th of a millimetre thick.
In Europe and many other countries, the thickness of paper is measured in grams per square meter (GSM). This means the number of grams that a piece of paper, one meter by one meter in size, weighs. The low-quality paper used in photocopiers is usually 80gsm while a firm’s letterhead is generally 100 gsm or 120 gsm, which is quite a bit thicker.
Using A Fountain Pen On Regular Paper
If you use a fountain pen on 80gsm paper, the ink may bleed through, so it is better to use heavier letterhead paper instead. The most commonly used paper in household printers is around 100 gsm, but you can check this on the packaging to make sure. This is usually thick enough to work with a fountain pen using standard inks.
Paper that weighs more than 170 gsm is typically classified as board. Business cards are around 350 gsm.
Coated paper usually has a smoother finish and is sold in gloss, silk, or matt variants. It is often unsuitable for fountain pens because the coating stops the paper from fully absorbing the ink. Modern fountain pen nibs are so smooth that they can skip over the surface of coated paper, leaving gaps in your characters. Coated paper is most commonly used for leaflets and brochures.
Uncoated, premium quality paper is usually used as business stationery and is also available in a range of finishes. Wove paper is a premium quality paper that is used mostly for business purposes. Bond paper is typically used in photocopiers and fax machines and is not suitable for a fountain pen. It is a cheap, uncoated wove paper.
If you are relatively new and just starting out with a fountain pen and don’t know how you will take to it, you may want to test it on regular paper before buying more expensive varieties. Bear in mind, though, that paper quality does affect your writing experience, and using good quality paper is recommended if you want to avoid bleeding, feathering, or ghosting. If this happens when you write, it is not necessarily the pen’s fault as it could be due to the paper.
Bleeding is when the ink seeps right through the paper to the other side, while ghosting is when the ink is visible on the other side but has not soaked through. Feathering is when the pen strokes are marred by tiny smudges that make them look a little blurry.
Improving Ink Acceptance By Regular Paper
You can try buffing the surface of regular paper to improve the way it accepts fountain pen ink, provided it is not too thin and won’t wrinkle.
Using a paper kitchen towel, rub vigorously across the sheet of paper you want to write on in multiple directions for a few seconds. This will not work on newsprint or other highly absorbent paper, but it can work on paper that is a little too resistant to the ink. Rubbing the paper’s surface ruffles some of its microscopic fibers and spreads them out a bit, so they react better when the ink is deposited.
You can also use inks that react better with regular paper. Iron Gall ink has been the standard writing ink since the fifth century and has a two-thousand-year history. It is made from tannic acids from plant matter and iron salts. In recent times, the formula has changed a bit since those early days when it used to be very acidic.
Modern iron gall ink is much more friendly to fountain pens. It is usually purple-black or blue-black. You shouldn’t use it if your pen dries out too quickly as it can form deposits inside the pen. However, if you use it every day, this shouldn’t be a problem. Some people use it for everything, while others avoid it like the plague, saying it is too corrosive. However, if you want an ink for use on regular paper, and you have a good quality fountain pen, it is worth trying as long as you order it from a reputable manufacturer.
Platinum’s carbon black ink is highly resistant to bleeding and feathering on ordinary copy paper, does not fade, and is water-resistant. Salix is a bright royal blue ink that dries to a deep blue-black. It is made by Rohrer & Klingner, writes well on any paper, and is an iron gall ink. Pelikan’s brilliant red also performs well on regular paper. Sailor’s Kiwa-Guro Nano Black ink and Montblanc’s standard inks are also recommended for ordinary paper. KWZ makes a good line of iron gall inks that are popular with pen enthusiasts.
Many household names in fountain pens such as Pilot, Waterman, Parker, Lamy, and Pelikan make standard inks that can write on regular paper because they want to appeal to the masses and not just hobbyists. Not everyone is an enthusiast who is prepared to spend their hard-earned cash on fancy paper. These companies’ basic ink colors, such as blue-black, red, black, and blue, will perform reasonably well on cheap paper.
You can practice your penmanship with these inks on regular paper until you get to the stage where you want to try out kinds. People tend to forget that fountain pens were the most commonly used type of pen for hundreds of years before ballpoints were invented and served very well in everyday applications.
Better Quality Paper For Fountain Pens.
If you want to get into scribing with fountain pens as a hobby, you should at some stage invest in some good quality paper that brings out the best in your writing. Art shops, high-end stationery stores, and fountain pen suppliers are usually the best source for this. You will need to try different kinds of paper to see which one suits you best.
Tomoe River paper is very fountain pen-friendly, and enthusiasts widely recommend it. Surprisingly, it is very thin at only 52gsm and feels like tracing paper. It can be purchased in loose leaves or bound journals and notebooks and has a high sheen. The risk of bleeding is low, but it is vulnerable to ghosting visible on the reverse side of the page.
A significant drawback with this paper is that it takes the ink a long time to dry on it, and it is not cheap. You can buy Tomoe River paper in 68gsm to avoid ghosting and improve your writing experience.
Midori paper is another one that handles fountain pen ink well. It also weighs 68 gsm and has a high sheen to it. It has a shorter drying time than Tomoe River paper and a low risk of bleeding and feathering. Some ghosting is possible.
Paper quality also affects the appearance of your handwriting. Paper that is fountain pen-friendly gives you crisp, clear lines with sharp edges. Poor quality paper will feather the ink giving the lettering a smudged appearance. The ink can also bleed through it onto the other side. Newsprint, the paper that newspapers are printed on, is not friendly to fountain pens as the ink will form unsightly blots.
Papermaking is a surprisingly complicated affair with many variables. Factors that differ across different types of paper include pressing, bonding, fiber composition, stabilizers, brighteners, and buffers. Some paper is made from cotton and is superior to that made from wood-pulp as it is more durable.
You can use most modern fountain pens on regular paper without worrying about feathering, bleeding, or ghosting. The common brands of fountain pens and their inks are made by manufacturers who want customers to use their products as widely as possible in all work, student, and artistic environments. You can also choose inks and different-sized nibs that will work well on most kinds of paper.