One of the questions I get most often is what paper to use for lettering or calligraphy.
Can’t I use just any kind of paper? Yes, but the results will not be the same, and depending on which paper you use, you can damage the tips of your markers and the ink will last less.
So I recommend you use a soft, non-textured paper. But I'd better explain it in more detail.
To Practice- The most renowned paper to use in your practice of both lettering and calligraphy with brush pen or nib is Rhodia pads. You find them in different formats and sizes, you can choose between blank, graph, lined or dot grid paper. My favourite is the dotted A4 pad, because the dots serve as a guide but without being as invasive as the graph or lines. In addition, Rhodia paper has the advantage of being ultra smooth and resistant despite not having a very high grammage.
But maybe you find this paper a bit expensive or you want single sheets to print your templates (or my guides). For that you can use printer paper, but it is better not to use just any paper, because if it is not smooth and has a lot of fiber it can damage the tip of the marker, especially with brush pens like Tombow, Faber-Castell Pitt Artist or Arteza TwiMarkers, which have somewhat delicate tips. In addition, the markers will not flow as easily and the paper will absorb too much ink.
- A highly recommended paper is the HP Color Laserjet 120g (or the HP Premium Choice Laserjet Paper). It's super smooth and great for your practices. You can also buy it in a lighter weight to be able to trace worksheets or use one of any other brand, but always making sure it is soft and with little fibre.
- If you are practicing with worksheets, it can be very useful to use tracing paper or vellum paper, since its transparency makes it ideal for tracing and repeating letters without having to reprint. It is very soft and holds the ink well, so there is no need to fear for the tips. It is also very useful for making compositions and working on sketches, since it allows you to modify your sketch without having to redraw everything again. You can also use it for projects, although it may require some practice and is not ideal for use with a lot of ink or water. Being so transparent the result will not be useful for final projects or comissions, but for example I use it for personal projects.
- I've also read very good comments about the Canson XL Marker, which is a soft and quite thin paper (70g), but as I haven't tried it yet, I can't give an opinion.
- And if you're going to use a nib (or fountain pen) it's very advisable to use laid paper, like Torreón paper.
For projects and final artworks
When we are going to make final artworks we usually want a thicker paper, with a more elegant finish. In addition, we may want to apply several layers of color and make blends, so we will need a resistant paper that does not curl. We also don't want the paper to bleed, as sometimes happens when using Karin Brushmarker or Spectrum Noir Sparkle.
The first thing we have to consider, then, is what material we are going to use and what result we want to obtain.
If we are going to use alcohol or waterproof markers, like the Pitt Artist or the Sakura Pigma, a very good option is the Bristol paper. It is an extra smooth and slippery paper, ideal for permanent ink, so it is used a lot for manga and comics. It is found in higher weights (180-250g) and gives a more final look to the piece.
With the Tombow, Arteza or Pentel, even with the Ecoline, it can also serve you and it even allows gradients (without water). But with juicier markers, such as the Karin, it will probably bleed and the final result will not be to your liking.
- Some good brands of Bristol paper are Canson, Sakura or Tombow.
To blend with water or to apply super juicy markers it is best to use a watercolor paper without grain (hot pressed) or a smooth mixed-media paper. So if you want to know which paper you can make blends with the Karin Brushmarkers without suffering the so feared bleedings (the million dollar question) and of course with other brands, read on.
- Tombow Aquarelle Paper: A super soft 300g paper that blends beautifully and without bleeds. It is very delicate and easily damaged if you erase without care, but otherwise it is a great paper for lettering, acid-free, light-resistant and age-resistant, which makes it ideal for final and original artworks.
- Arches Watercolour Hot Press: Probably the most prestigious brand of watercolour paper. A 300g (or 185) quite soft, 100% cotton, acid-free, light-resistant and age-resistant paper. What can I say, it allows you to achieve perfect results without bleedings and with great finishes. If price is not a problem for you, it's a very good option for your originals (I admit that I almost cried when using it for testing 😝).
- Canson Imagine Mix Media: A soft, 200g, acid-free mix media paper that blends beautifully, with which you can use your Karin with hardly any bleeding (taking a little care). It is also quite resistant and admits water. It is not as thick as the other two brands, but more than enough for most pieces. The advantage is that it is a much cheaper paper, which you can find in 50 sheet pads. So it's a very good choice.
If you want a paper to use with your waterbrush or with normal brushes to apply watercolor, you can choose, in addition to the previous papers, watercolor papers with grain, either thin or thicker for a more dramatic look. For this you have a huge range of papers. I'm going to tell you some that I like and why:
Watercolor, waterbrush or worn look
- Canson XL Aquarelle: a basic and quite economical paper, fine grain, acid-free and 300g. Although the quality is, as I say, basic, it's very good for practicing without fear and for your personal pieces. There are a lot of people who use it with Karin, although with my way of using them they bleed, and for some other brands of brush pen I don't recommend it because it's easy that you end up spoiling the tip of the pen without getting too many expressive effects like worn out lines or grain.
- Fabriano Blocchi per Artisti: I use this paper a lot to paint with watercolor because it has a quite good quality (50% cotton, 300g, acid free) without having a price as high as other brands or models. It has a fine but noticeable grain, so you can also use it with brush pens to make fast and worn out strokes and get very cool effects.
- Arches Watercolor Fine Grain: A great, sturdy, 100% cotton, acid-free, light-resistant and age-resistant paper. It allows you to work a lot on it, to get color out, to make transparencies, layers... You will find few papers with the same quality, but its price is high. The fine grain one is also rough enough to use with brush pens to achieve worn out effects.
If you have metallic watercolors or metallic, opaque or acrylic markers, a nice way to use their potential is black paper. I can recommend two brands:
- Canson XL Dessin Noir (or Black): soft grain and deep black paper, quite strong. Although it's not very thick, 150 g, you can use metallic watercolors as long as you don't abuse the water. It's a pretty cheap paper that you can find in 40 sheet pads and that also works great for metallic or opaque markers of other kinds.
- Black Spectrum Noir paper. Although it is designed to be used with metallic pencils or pastels, it is also interesting to use with watercolor or metallic marker. Its 240g will help your piece to have a more final result.
Finally, if you want to have your pieces organized in a notebook, these are some good options.
- Moleskine watercolor notebook: acid free paper, 200gs and 25% cotton. A lot has been written about this brand, so I’ll just say that although it has grain it is quite soft and you can use it with markers with caution. In the tests I've done with the Karin's they haven't bled, so they can be a good option to use them.
- Hahnemuhle Watercolor Book: Acid free paper, 200gs, less smooth than the previous one and with a bit more evident grain. Ideal for watercolor, I would not recommend using it with brittle-point markers. Although in the tests with Karin they have not bled either, I would choose the previous option first for that use.
- Arteza Sketchbook A4: The paper is quite thick even if it’s designed to sketch (175 grs) and acid-free. The grain is very fine, typical for use with pencils, but it allows working with markers (with a little care) and it holds several layers and color dragging well, allowing soft blends without water.
Arteza also has watercolor notebooks, although I haven't tried them yet, so I can't give an opinion.
From all this, a note: you don't need to use expensive paper for your pieces, that's not going to make your lettering better. Moreover, surely if you use cheap (or at least, not expensive) paper you will practice more, and that will make your lettering better.
If you've made it this far, thank you very much! And if you have doubts or want to tell me what paper you use, don't forget to write your comment. I'd love to know your opinion and your favourites so I can share more and better information.