Calligraphy, or the art of decorative lettering, takes skill, practice, and patience. So, once you get the hang of the motion needed to create the letters, start to consider your tools. 

First things first: paper. Your paper choice has a big impact on the results of your calligraphy. In fact, successful calligraphy is a combination of matching the right ink to the right paper. On some papers, the ink spreads from your pen stroke and feathers out onto the page. This is called “bleed,” and it is typically one of the first challenges calligraphy students encounter. On other papers, bleed will be minimal. On the best papers, you’ll be able to see the ink “pooling,” without bleeding.

With so many ink and paper options, it can be difficult to find the best combination. Let’s explore how the ink that comes with the Pilot Parallel pen—Pilot Mixable Color—performs on various papers.

Papers to Avoid

The feathered edges are the result of bleeding.

Card Stock

Widely available, and in lots of great colors, this type of paper seems like the logical choice to create something fabulous on it. Sadly, it tends to bleed—a lot!

Paper for Pens

This is another type of paper you would expect to work, yet, it tends to have less than optimal results.

Office Bond

While better than the first two options, office bond still isn’t ideal. However, for practice, where bleeding isn’t that problematic, choose this paper over the others.

Pastel Paper

This paper starts out seeming like it’s going to work well, but, over time, the ink bleeds. Bleeding occurs when your hand moves a bit slower, leaving heavier ink coverage on the paper.

So, what can you use? 

Papers to Use

How strokes look on different papers.

Bleedproof Marker Paper

This paper takes pen and ink quite nicely and is translucent, making it ideal for working through rough designs and drafts.

Premium Inkjet Paper

A convenient and affordable paper to use for practicing because you can print your guidelines right on it. It may bleed just slightly, but again, it’s perfect for practicing.

Clairefontaine Triomphe

This is a favorite for final work that is going to be scanned and reproduced. It is a fine French paper and a dream to work on. You can even “pool” the ink up, quite heavily, and it seldom bleeds. It gives you fine hairlines that stay crisp and clean. Clairefontaine Paper can be purchased from fine stationery stores or online.

Hot Press (Smooth) Watercolor Paper

This is generally too expensive for everyday use, but it gives you beautiful hairlines and crisp edges. Look for lighter weights so you can see guidelines through it.

5 Calligraphy Tips

  1. For practice, use the paper you have. It may bleed, but while you learn, that’s OK! 
  2. Hands can be oily, so wash your hands before you start. Even a touch of skin oil may affect your work.
  3. Avoid pausing or moving very slowly, which facilitates bleed.
  4. A hairdryer, set to low, will speed up the ink drying process.
  5. If you don’t have access to these papers, consider using gouache, which doesn’t bleed. 

Written by:

Alice Young