What about paper?

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is some amount of interest in quality analog writing tools; pencils, pens, & fountain pens. I've begun a search for blogs or podcasts about another part of the equation — one of the substrates we use with these tools — paper.

I haven't found anything very satisfying as yet for depth or detail about paper.

A drawer of unopened Field Notes notebooks
Just a few field notes

I'm not looking for paper crafting, or the wealth of information that's out there for letterpress enthusiasts. Granted, paper is perhaps not the most exciting subject versus colors and performance of inks, or the simple elegance to the gaudy showiness of pens (and even some pencils). But, paper choice can make or break the writing or drawing experience for some of us.

We were set on the path of acquiring some additional Waterman ink at one point because we thought it was the ink that was drying quickly (a bonus for left handers - you will note a theme here along those lines). It turned out that it was only drying quickly in one particular pocket notebook of Dan's. It was the paper! Don't get me wrong, there is Waterman ink that I really like, but the color range is, shall we say, rather staid or tame compared to other ink available to fountain pen users. The paper options in our household cover quite a range, so we had the opportunity to test widely, and it definitely wasn't the ink.

We have many of the usual suspects available around here; Blackwing, Clairfontaine, Doane, Fabriano, Field Notes, Rhodia, Word, Tomoe River and a few freebies of unknown manufacture, to name a few. We have pocket & sketch, journal & meeting notebooks to choose from - look for the longer list and links to reviews below. Almost all perform well with pencil.

A large group of notebooks and journals
Just a few samples of notebooks and journals we've been trying.

Some perform better than others with fountain pen and I’m certain there are people who will be looking beyond fountain pen to performance with markers. Note that I didn’t mention Moleskine in that name dropping up there. I really don’t like the paper, haven’t for a very long time, and they are absolutely everywhere - not that a couple of others aren’t - like Clairfontaine. Part of the reason I can list the others is due to having acquired at least one in search paper that would perform well for my uses.

From my printmaking, publishing and art days I have an even wider variety of loose leaf sheets to play with. There is an almost staggering variety of paper available to explore just for the intended use of writing. An extremely wide range of paper types work well with pencil. The range of pencils available can seem almost as broad as the paper selections you can try them on. A somewhat narrower selection of paper works well with pen and ink.

A lot of people just discovering journaling, note-taking, and the like, are finding that many releases from Field Notes may not be quite so friendly to the fountain pen user. They aren’t the only notebook maker with this issue, however. You need a decent surface, and weight (that “gsm” number you see noted), which can make a pocket notebook start to get less pocket friendly. Those of us raving about Tomoe River paper can be a bit baffling to the pencil folks (as noted on Erasable podcast #46). The thinness of Tomoe River gives us more pages in a notebook that’s a tad thinner than Field notes can manage with sub-optimal paper for our writing tool of choice. However, for writers who prefer pencil, it’s much less appealing.

I really enjoy the wealth of information available about ink colors, and the methodologies folks are following to test them out. It gives us all an opportunity to make more informed choices about what color and properties of a specific ink might work well for us personally without breaking our budgets trying inks that will possibly just be left to dry up on a shelf. The same goes for the reviews of pens and pencils, letting us see how the nibs perform, pencils compare.

Three current notebook favorites
My three current favorites

What is still missing for me is which paper(s) worked well or poorly in these same types of reviews. If I have a Clairfontaine vs. a Rhodia, how do they differ with various inks, pens, pencils? What about ink on white, vs. ivory vs…. It’s a bit daunting. Crossing the inks or pencils with the paper types in an seemingly increasing and changing product market - definitely daunting.

I’ve noticed my focus tends toward information aggregation — not necessarily outright reviews. I’ll still review things I end up using everyday, but I’m a researcher at heart. The fruits of some current research is below for your reference. Absolutely let me know if I’ve overlooked your favorite!

Fountain Pen Friendly Paper:

White vs. Ivory?:

Special Use/Topic Notebooks:

Notebooks (and a bit of paper ) — not exhaustive, but pretty long none-the-less. A few noted below are still on my “need to acquire and test” list:

Baron Fig


Blackwing Slate








Fabriano EcoQua


Field Notes








Quo Vadis






(looks like I need to review the journals worth writing in) 😉

Tomoe River
JetPens has Kanso Sasshi booklets now - pocket notebook sized






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