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Calligraphy Paper: Choosing the Best Papers for your Calligraphy

Calligraphy Paper: Choosing the Best Papers for your Calligraphy

Design
Alice Young

Alice Young

Calligrapher & Designer

Paper choice has a big impact on the results of your calligraphy. Successful calligraphy is the result of matching the right ink to the right paper. There are so many ink and paper choices, that it can be confusing and overwhelming to find the best combination! Lets explore how the ink that comes with the Pilot Parallel pen – Pilot Mixable Colour – performs on various papers.

The following video is an excerpt from my class, “Getting Comfortable with the Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen” which you can check out here. (In a second class, I focus on using other inks.) 

On some papers, your ink will spread from your pen stroke and feather out into the page. This is called “bleed” and it is typically one of the first challenges calligraphy students will encounter. On other papers, bleed will be minimal. On the best papers, you’ll be able to see the ink “pooling,” but it will not bleed.

Papers to Avoid

Let’s look at four papers you that you might logically want to use, but may find disappointing:

  • Card Stock: the first would be card stock. Widely available, and in lots of great colours, it would make sense to acquire this type of paper and assume you can create something fabulous on it. Sadly, it tends to bleed - sometimes a lot!
  • Paper for Pens: another type of paper you would expect to work, yet, in my experience, it tends not to be the best solution.
  • Office Bond: this might actually be a better option than “card stock” or “paper for pens,” but it’s still not an ideal option. However, for practice, where bleeding isn’t that problematic, I will use it if nothing else is available.
  • Pastel Paper: often this paper starts out looking as if it’s going to be great, but with a little bit of time, your ink bleeds. Bleeding will occur where your hand moves a bit slower, leaving heavier ink coverage on the paper.

So, what can you use? Recommended Papers

Paper preference varies, but these are my personal recommendations:

  • Bleed Proof Marker Paper: this paper takes pen & ink quite nicely and is translucent, making it ideal for working through rough designs and drafts.
  • Premium Ink jet Paper: This is what I commonly use for practice. It’s a convenient and affordable paper to use for practice - you can print your guidelines right on it! It may bleed just slightly, but for practice, that’s okay!
  • Clairefontaine Triomphe: my favorite for final work that will be scanned and reproduced. It is a fine French paper and it’s just a dream to work on. You can even “pool” the ink up, quite heavily, and it seldom bleeds. It gives you fine hair lines that will stay really crisp and clean. You can purchase Clairfontaine Paper from fine stationers or online.
  • Hot Press (smooth) Watercolour Paper: generally too expensive for everyday use, but it will give you beautiful hairlines and crisp edges. It is what I use for commissions. I look for lighter weights so I can see guidelines through it.

To recap, 

Paper for Practice:

  • Premium Ink jet Paper from stationery store
  • Bleed proof Marker Paper from art supply store
  • Fine Tracing Paper from art supply store

Option: Use paper you have! It may bleed, but while you learn, that is OK! You can choose to save expensive paper for nearly final work.

Paper for Final Work:

  • Clairefontaine Triomphe (blank, not lined) from fine stationers
  • Arches Hot Press Watercolour Paper (90 lb.) from art supply store

Other tips:

  • Use a hair dryer, set to low, to speed the ink drying process.
  • Since our hands can be oily, it’s a good idea to wash your hands before you start; even a touch of skin oil may affect your work.
  • Avoid pausing or moving very slowly, which facilitates bleed. (That can be challenging for beginners, but as you gradually work faster, bleed becomes less of an issue.)
  • If you don't have access to these papers, consider using gouache, which doesn't bleed. (See my second class for tips on working with gouache.)

This tutorial is an excerpt from my class, “Getting Comfortable with the Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen” which you can check out here.

In my second class, “Colour & Curves with the Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen”, I demonstrate how to work with various inks. You can find that class here.

Alice Young

Calligrapher & Designer

Alice is a GDC Certified Graphic Designer, with 20 years of experience in design and communications. She spent a decade working in the studios of multi-national ad agencies (Leo Burnett, Publicis, BBDO) in Toronto, Canada before moving to Canada’s west coast in 2000. She continues to work on local, national and international accounts, as a member of the team at Taiji Brand Group. Her specialties are typography and hand lettering.  Her love of letterforms carries through to her practice as a calligrapher and her work spans a broad range of applications – from commercial (logos and wordmarks) to just-for-fun (greeting cards) – to exploratory fine art (asemic calligraphy on canvas). Her calligraphic paintings on canvas have been exhibited and sold internationally. Along with fifty other international calligraphers, she recently participated in the International Exhibition of Calligraphy for 2015, held in Moscow, Russia at the Contemporary Museum of Calligraphy. Teaching on Skillshare allows her to reach around the world while staying at home and continuing to work with her reactive rescue dog, “The Mighty Quinn”. Website: aliceyoung.caYouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCK677EzBvyBscKOaSV1U16wFacebook: facebook.com/onlinecalligraphyclasses

Alice Young

Calligrapher & Designer

Alice is a GDC Certified Graphic Designer, with 20 years of experience in design and communications. She spent a decade working in the studios of multi-national ad agencies (Leo Burnett, Publicis, BBDO) in Toronto, Canada before moving to Canada’s west coast in 2000. She continues to work on local, national and international accounts, as a member of the team at Taiji Brand Group. Her specialties are typography and hand lettering.  Her love of letterforms carries through to her practice as a calligrapher and her work spans a broad range of applications – from commercial (logos and wordmarks) to just-for-fun (greeting cards) – to exploratory fine art (asemic calligraphy on canvas). Her calligraphic paintings on canvas have been exhibited and sold internationally. Along with fifty other international calligraphers, she recently participated in the International Exhibition of Calligraphy for 2015, held in Moscow, Russia at the Contemporary Museum of Calligraphy. Teaching on Skillshare allows her to reach around the world while staying at home and continuing to work with her reactive rescue dog, “The Mighty Quinn”. Website: aliceyoung.caYouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCK677EzBvyBscKOaSV1U16wFacebook: facebook.com/onlinecalligraphyclasses

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