A Word or Two on Ink Testing Paper

Looking back to all sorts of ink reviews/test I have done on this blog, one element I have noticed is the change in paper.  In the earlier days, most ink testing is done on Rhodia classic N°16/N° 18, either grid or dot ruled.  As time goes on, I shifted to Japanese paper, mostly Maruman, with similar ruling.  This observation prompts me thinking about why I use a certain paper for ink testing.  When I first rekindled interest in fountain pens five

years ago, it was an utter surprise to find out that normal paper (i.e. commonplace printer paper in the US) shows little affinity to most fountain pen ink. This surprise may seem naive, but it is not unfounded.  Most exercise books that I used in elementary school were not the fanciest kind, yet the paper tolerated fountain pen ink with minimal to no feathering. Needless to say, using printer paper for ink testing would defeat the purpose.  After all, having colorful yet illegible caterpillars crawling on paper would not be a constructive ink review.


As mentioned at the beginning, I have gradually shifted from European to Japanese brands. There is definitely no shortage of nice and fountain pen friendly European paper, but it is evident that I am often curious about paper available on the market.  One of the benefits of living in Southern California is access to good selection of Japanese stationery items. While ambling in the aisles of Kinokuniya (紀伊國屋), new paper goods are added with each new visit. Usually I just pick up any brand that caught my eye without a strict acquisition plan. For ink testing purpose, since I scan the writing samples, a notepad is usually used instead of a notebook.

Paper color

I have a penchant for off-white paper, may it be gray, cream, or anything in between, as I often find white paper too bright. For ink testing, though, the whiteness of paper can help bring out a truer hue, while off-white can absorb and dull the brightness. The balance I strike is that the paper color should not be too yellow, like the Rhodia R pad, but it will not be bright as a 120 watt LED light. Since I have just made ink swatches, these samples will convey and determine the color of the ink.

Weight of the paper

Though premium paper, such as Life Noble or Apica Premium CD, is enticing since most are supple to look at and smooth to touch, I usually opt for everyday paper for ink testing. Writing instrument is designed for everyone to use on a daily basis and personally, I believe the evangelic work on stationery goods can be facilitated would be more  an everyday item is used.

What am I using now?

The current go-to ink testing paper for me is a B5 Maruman Report Pad, with grid rule. A larger size of it used to be sold at JetPens, but unfortunately, it has been discontinued. I like that it is light weight, with ruling that is barely noticeable, especially when scanning and copying. The surface is smooth but not glossy so smearing accident can be minimized. Even with a web/broad nib, the ink does not pool on the surface too long, but there is no feathering as the ink slowly seeps into the fibers.


Paper color comparison: Rhodia dotPad (bottom) and Maruman Report pad (top)



Unobtrusive grid. Take most ink/nib combinations beautifully



Minimum ghosting, not too shabby for thin paper


Do you use a particular brand of paper to test drive a new ink? Do you have any particular preference for paper?

12 thoughts on “A Word or Two on Ink Testing Paper

    1. It is good to know another person who prefers cream colored paper! I agree that a darker cream paper can absorb the brightness of colors, but a light cream color rather complement it, such as Leuchttrum1017. I wish I am more loyal on paper brand or type of paper, but I just like to try out new ones too much!
      Thank you so much for stopping by!


  1. I test new inks on white Tomoe River paper, because I’m most familiar with it and how it works with my small arsenal of pens. The idea is to limit the number of variables when evaluating the ink.


    1. Thank you for your comment! Your approach is definitely more systematic and scientific. Personally, I am just too curious to try out different paper to stick to one type 🙂
      I am always curious to know which ink works well with most paper type, so using paper that is more readily available will definitely verify that.


      1. My paper collection is very small, so I have to be scientific out of necessity! T.T I appreciate all the work bloggers like yourself are doing to test out pen/ink/paper combinations that I don’t have access to.


  2. Thank you for this insight. I should have a look at this paper and in what form it is available here.
    The part about the caterpillar and the inner about the LED light is very funny.
    The copy paper we had in the office used to be better for ink. The new one isn’t. The old Send to deteriorate over time, maybe storage makes it worse. My suspicion is that this is due to the coating of paper to make it less feathering (I think starch is involved): Maybe the manufacturers of copy paper save money on that coating, thinking no one will write on it with ink (whereas in the past this was more important) and maybe this coating deteriorates over time (humidity etc).


    1. Thank you for your nice comment, glad to know that you enjoy my rather odd humor 🙂
      Sizing of the paper (application of the coating), environmental factors, and even sebum from our hands can change how paper reacts to ink. While living in Virginia, I have noticed that most Rhodia pads feather even though it is known as a fountain pen friendly paper. Since humidity is high in Virginia, I speculated that the environmental factor may have interacted with the sizing.
      By the way, if you like to try the Saruman pad I mentioned in this entry, let me know. I am glad to fetch you one 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your nice comment. Rhodia does have nice paper, but while I lived in Virginia a batch of them that I purchased all feathered on me, probably due to the level of humidity. I am also spoiled by the stationery varieties in Los Angeles and I am just too curious about what is out there. I do hope to go back to Rhodia sometimes, so keep your fingers crossed!


  3. I use Leuchtturm 1917s but only because I am lazy and appreciate that it comes with an index and pre numbered pages, saving me the time and trouble of doing it myself. The paper is “middle of the road” being neither the best nor the worst which is my idea of being fair. I also do card swatches but the only cards I can get (being in Canada) are HORRIFIC. I do them anyway so I can compare swatches easily (tough to do with notebooks) and my rationale is that they are all equally horrible. Please let me add that I appreciate your work and thank you for sharing it.


    1. Sorry to hear that the card selection in Canada is limited. In case you are interested in making swatches on more tolerable paper, have you thought about using a watercolor sketch book? Since watercolor paper are designed to tolerate wet washes, perhaps you can get better results.
      People have been recommending Leuchtturm notebooks to me, but I have not yet tried it. Will do sometimes down the road.
      Thank you for stopping by 🙂


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