I touched on this in a prior post and felt it warranted more detail. The right paper is just as important as the right pen when it comes to mastering modern calligraphy – and when it comes to finished products. For this post, though, I am focusing on my favorite papers to use for practice.
As with all other tools, there are infinite options when it comes to paper, and it can be overwhelming to navigate through the different textures, weights, and uses. I broke this list out by medium since different types of paper work best with different tools. I’ll include specific papers as well as characteristics so you know what to look for when you’re shopping.
For brush pens
Smooth is the key word here. If paper has any tooth, texture, or roughness to it, it will fray your brush pen tips. (Even standard copy paper has some texture to it and therefore is not a good option.) A smoother paper also allows you to get a cool ombré effect with your markers as they glide down the page – see the ‘g’ or ‘t’s in ‘glittering’ below for good examples of that. When you’re shopping, look for anything branded “marker paper”.
As I’ve talked about before, my favorite paper for practice is the HP 32# Premium Choice Laserjet. Since its intended purpose is for printing from a laser printer, you can get it by the ream, making it an extremely economical choice. You won’t feel like you are ‘wasting’ paper.
Affectionately called the Rolls Royce of marker paper (by me), the Rhodia Dot Grid paper is the treat-yo-self choice for brush pen practice. This is the smoothest paper I have ever felt in my whole life, and they really need to make bedsheets out of it. The dot grid provides guidelines to help ensure your letters are consistent.
For nib & ink
Unlike with brush pens, you really want paper with some texture when using a nib. You need something for the nib to grip onto so the tines open and close properly. That will get you the smooth strokes and consistent ink flow that you need. This is actually the easiest and cheapest paper to find – you likely already have some at home.
You can actually use regular old printer paper to practice with a nib; you’ll just want to be cautious that the ink doesn’t bleed through since standard paper is on the thinner side. If you have construction paper or cardstock, those will work nicely.
Strathmore writing paper and drawing paper are good options as well.
Watercolor papers could warrant a whole post on their own since there are so many options as you dig into watercolor artwork. As you can imagine, you want a paper with a lot of texture (aka ‘tooth’) so it can pick up and absorb the color. To keep it simple, you can really pick up any paper that’s branded “watercolor”, and for practice, you don’t need to purchase a top-quality, expensive option. Papers at a lower price point will work just fine!
My favorite paper for practice is the Canson XL Watercolor paper. This is considered a “student grade” paper so it’s not super expensive. It comes in various sizes, and I like to get the largest size and just work from a page at a time.
I also really like the Canson XL Mixed Media paper for watercolor. Mixed Media paper is a bit thinner than traditional watercolor paper (so you get more sheets per pad) but still has that toothiness that grabs the color. Additionally, because it’s thin, this paper absorbs less paint, hence you use less. (This doesn’t necessarily result in significant cost savings, but I like that I am able to be somewhat cost-effective with my supplies.)
For mixing up your practice
I wanted to give a special shoutout to black mixed media paper. Like I mentioned, you can use mixed media paper for watercolor, and metallic and pearlescent paints look stunning against black paper! This paper is also ideal for pastel, metallic, and neon gel pens. Definitely worth picking up to try out those gorgeous effects and play around with color!