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