Papers for Calligraphy: How to choose the right paper


Hand lettering paper

Individual and creative. Lettering enjoys great popularity. Colors, styles, and fonts can be tried out and combined in new ways depending on taste. For this, however, the quality of the handlettering paper must be right. Because once pressed too hard, it can damage the pen or the paper.

As versatile as the lettering, is also the assortment. Especially when it comes to paper selection, there is a lot to consider, as not all papers are suitable for the same techniques. We clarify when you should reach for which pad.

Rule of thumb for good lettering paper

In general, if you want to create beautiful lettering, you should look for high grammage paper. If the paper is too thin, pens can bleed through or even bleed out. Furthermore, care should be taken to ensure that the paper does not crease, or the surface becomes rough when erasing. We, therefore, recommend a grammage of at least 170 g/cm. This not only guarantees clean lettering, but also has a higher-quality feel.

Smooth surfaces for fineliners and brush pens

Smooth surfaces are particularly important for brush lettering or working with fineliners. Brush pens have a flexible brush tip that can quickly break if the paper is too rough. With fineliners, meanwhile, unsightly lines can result because the applied ink sticks to the grain of the paper.

Hand lettering meets watercolor

Whether for illustrations, creative color gradients, or unusual lettering. Watercolors have now established themselves as an integral part of the handlettering scene. Mixed techniques with pens such as brush pens and fineliners are also possible if these are then applied to the watercolor. However, the paper must not curl when it comes into contact with water, which is why a combination of thick, absorbent paper with a smooth surface texture is best suited.

Suitable for this: Guide to Watercolor Papers for Beginners

With a grammage of 300 g/cm and a satin surface, unique works of art and gifts can be created with brush and pen. Thus, there are no limits to your creativity.

Tracing paper

For delicate calligraphy we recommend tracing paper, this is also available in bulk and is even by the piece. It is especially suitable for lettering with waterproof and smudge-proof pens such as the Farber Castell Pitt Artist, gel pens, or smudge-proof fineliners.

Advantage of tracing paper: You can trace directly and do not need to prescribe anything.

Kraft paper

Kraft paper has a very special look for lettering. White calligraphy pens look especially beautiful on Kraft paper. You can use a one-piece paper, or notepad, or even a block with different strengths in brown Kraft paper, black paper, and white paper.

A special feature of those blocks: The paper is wonderfully smooth and is even suitable for brush pens.

handlettering paper

Paper for Brush Pens

With most brush pens, the rule is to use smooth, coated paper. The reason? Many brush pen tips, especially brush pens that have a fiber tip, are very sensitive. They need smooth paper so that they can glide easily over the surface when writing and not fray. If you’d like to learn more about this, feel free to check it out here: Why do Brush Pens fray?

Smooth, coated paper for sensitive brush pens

Bush pens actually very insensitive, and some can be used well on paper other than smooth paper. Nevertheless, it is much more important to practice with smooth paper, especially in the beginning, so that you can enjoy your brush pens for a long time.

For blending techniques

One of the most popular lettering techniques is blending, and this also requires special paper. If you want to letter directly with the brush pens on the paper, then the very smooth paper is also recommended here. If you want to work directly with brushes and paint drawn on foil, you can also use paper for watercolor lettering.

Blending can be done with brush pens, which are watercolorable. There are really many suitable brush pens on the market.

The following pens, for example, are well suited for blending: edding 1340, Molotow Aqua Color Brush, Tombow ABT Dual Brush.

Especially for the Tombow ABT Dual Brush you should only use smooth paper because they are very sensitive. And also with the edding 1340 blending works very well on the following two papers. For the Molotow Aqua Color Brush use watercolor paper that is not too rough.

Lettering on the go

Inspiration can be found everywhere: in a café, in the park, or in the city. So much the better when pens and sketchbooks are right at hand. That way you can get creative at any time and in any place. Here, too, the paper should have a high grammage, which is why a normal notebook is usually unsuitable for lettering.

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There are no limits to artistic writing. Try using tracing paper, cardboard, panels, or even window panes and combine them with individual fonts, colors, and decorative elements. The main thing is that the pen and the surface match.


Can you do calligraphy on regular paper?

You can use pretty much any paper you want for any project, but you may need to experiment a bit to find the right ink for the project.

Is calligraphy more difficult for left-handed people?

Lefties who don’t have a problem keeping their hand under what they’re writing generally experience a smoother transition into calligraphy. Lefties who write with a hook might have a little more trouble figuring out the optimal hand position.

Is parchment paper good for calligraphy?

Probably, yes. Smooth-surfaced papers are generally a suitable choice for calligraphy, but sometimes a little “tooth” or roughness will help “grab” the ink and also be maximized to create artistic effects.

Paper Types – Video

Additional Questions

What is the optimal paper weight to use for calligraphy?

Typically, the ultimate choice for calligraphy would be paper with around a 90g/m² or 24 lb weight. Although this might sound overly simplified, it is essential to note that straying too far from this range can lead to undesirable calligraphy outcomes. For instance, going for a much higher or lower weight can result in your letters’ edges appearing blurred or “bleeding”. From my years of experience practicing and teaching calligraphy, I can affirm that sticking to this paper weight range generally yields the best results.

Is there a need for purchasing specialised calligraphy paper?

While some may think specific calligraphy paper is necessary, in reality, any ink-accepting paper will do. However, you need to consider the size of the paper. Sizing is key to prevent the ink from feathering and bleeding. There are two main sizing methods: internal sizing, where sizing is across the entire paper, and surface sizing, where sizing is only on top. In my professional work, both types have proven to be equally effective—it mainly comes down to personal preference.

Which is the most suitable surface for calligraphy?

Calligraphy can be performed on various surfaces. However, an interesting option that you might not have considered is freshly-picked leaves. The leaf’s texture offers the perfect balance of resilience and flexibility, ideal for enabling the nib to deposit ink smoothly. Personally, using leaves as my calligraphy surface has not only enhanced my creativity but has also added a certain uniqueness to every piece of work.

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