Choosing The Right Paper For Calligraphy

Calligraphy is the art of beautiful handwriting. The word calligraphy comes from the Greek words kallos meaning beauty and graphein meaning to write. Though the origins of calligraphy date back thousands of years to ancient China, calligraphy continues to be popular today for hand-lettering wedding invitations, diplomas, artwork, and more ( Calligraphy requires skill, patience, and the right tools and materials to master the elegant brush strokes and letterforms.

Key Characteristics of Calligraphy Paper

When choosing paper for calligraphy, there are three key characteristics to consider: weight/thickness, surface texture, and absorbency.


The thickness or weight of the paper is important for calligraphy. Thicker paper around 100-140 lbs provides a smooth, sturdy surface for calligraphy and helps prevent bleeding and feathering of the ink. Thinner paper below 70 lbs tends to buckle and wrinkle more easily. A good mid-weight option is 90 lb paper. Some popular calligraphy paper brands like Strathmore Writing Pad come in different weights to suit different needs 1.

Surface Texture

The surface texture is also key – too rough and the nib will catch, making it hard to write smoothly. But too smooth, and the ink won’t adhere well. A lightly textured surface provides just the right amount of tooth for calligraphy. Papers with a vellum or laid finish tend to work better than ultra-smooth papers. Some calligraphy papers like Rhodia pads feature specially coated surfaces designed for ink flow and consistency.2


The paper needs to absorb ink well so it doesn’t bleed or feather. More absorbent papers allow the ink to set faster so you can work more quickly without smudging. Papers with more sizing or coating are less absorbent. Finding the right balance of absorbency for your style is key. Testing out papers to see how fast they allow ink to set can help determine what works best.3

Types of Paper

There are four main types of papers used for calligraphy: Asian papers, Western papers, Parchment, and Papyrus.

Asian papers such as Xuan paper and rice paper have traditionally been used for Chinese and Japanese calligraphy. Xuan paper is soft, thin, and absorbent, while rice paper is delicate yet resistant to tearing. These papers are well-suited for brush calligraphy using inks and water-based paints.

In Western calligraphy, papers produced in Europe and North America are more commonly used. Examples include hot-pressed watercolor paper, mixed media paper, and Bristol paper. These papers have sizing and hold up well to repeated pen strokes. They work for both broad-edge and pointed pen calligraphy. 1

Parchment made from animal skin was originally used in medieval manuscript calligraphy, while papyrus from the papyrus plant was used in ancient Egypt. Both parchment and papyrus have a texture that allows ink to sit on top rather than absorbing in. These historical papers create unique calligraphic effects.

Paper Weight/Thickness

When selecting paper for calligraphy, an important factor to consider is the weight or thickness of the paper. This is typically measured in grams per square meter (g/m2) or pounds (lb). Some common weights used for calligraphy include:

  • 16-24 lb Bond – Very lightweight paper good for practice
  • 24-32 lb Bond – All-purpose practice and finished work
  • 40-60 lb Text – Medium weight excellent for general calligraphy
  • 60-90 lb Cardstock – Heavy paper good for greeting cards or accents
  • 90-110 lb Cover – Very thick paper great for decorative pieces

Lighter weight papers 16-40 lb are easy to write on and good for practice, but may buckle or warp when using a lot of ink. Heavier papers 60-110 lb can hold a lot of ink with less warping, but require more pressure and can be hard for beginners. Many experienced calligraphers recommend starting with a medium 40-60 lb text weight paper before working up to heavier cardstock or cover weight papers. It’s helpful to experiment with a range of paper weights to understand the differences and what works best for your style (Source).

Surface Texture

The texture or “tooth” of the paper refers to how rough or smooth its surface is. The surface texture significantly impacts how ink flows across the paper surface. Here are some key types of paper surfaces to consider for calligraphy:

Smooth or “hot pressed” paper is made by pressing the paper pulp through hot cylinders during manufacturing. This results in a non-absorbent, smooth surface. Ink tends to glide across hot pressed paper easily. While this makes writing easier, the ink may bleed or feathers more on very smooth papers.

“Cold pressed” papers are smoother than rough textures but have a slight tooth to allow the ink to grip to the surface. Many calligraphy experts recommend cold pressed for beginning and intermediate calligraphers as it allows good ink control.

Rough or “toothy” papers have an irregular surface texture which grabs and holds the ink readily. While they produce a nice looking calligraphy, rough papers can be difficult for beginners to control the ink flow and lettering.

In general, papers with some tooth allow the ink to grip and flow nicely. However, very smooth surfaces make moving the pen easier but can lead to feathering. Experiment to find the right surface texture for your skill level and style of calligraphy.


How absorbent the paper is for ink is one key factor when selecting paper for calligraphy. You want paper that will allow the ink to soak into the fibers but not so much that it bleeds or feathers. According to The Postman’s Knock, blotting paper is very absorbent and works well for messier ink techniques or removing excess ink, while cold press paper provides good absorbency with a nice texture.

Paper that is sized or coated is less absorbent. Sizing creates a barrier on the paper surface and inhibits how much ink soaks in. As Lettering Daily explains, the sizing used for calligraphy paper is less than regular writing or printing paper, allowing more ink absorption. Highly absorbent papers allow you to create vivid colors, while less absorbent papers give finer lines and details.

Finding the right balance for your style is key. Too much sizing can lead to ink pooling, while paper that is overly absorbent causes bleeding of letters. Testing out papers to see how your ink interacts is recommended to avoid issues like feathering or blotting once your piece is complete.

Paper Color

White, cream, and colored paper each have their own advantages and affects on calligraphy.

White paper provides high contrast for calligraphy, allowing the ink strokes to stand out boldly. This makes it ideal for practice and draft work. White paper is very common and accessible as well. However, the stark whiteness can be harsh on the eyes for longer works.[1]

Cream or off-white paper has a warmer, softer tone that is pleasing to read. The ivory hue also provides enough contrast for calligraphy without being too stark. Many quality calligraphy papers come in cream colors. The natural shade can make calligraphy feel a bit more refined.[2]

Colored paper adds flair and visual interest to calligraphy pieces. Subtle colors like grey, tan, or light blue are popular. Bright colored papers can provide exciting backgrounds for calligraphy titles or short quotes. However, heavily saturated colors may make calligraphy hard to read in longer passages. Most colored papers will require switching to a lighter colored ink like white or metallic.[1]

In general, darker shaded paper colors will increase legibility with lighter inks, while lighter shaded papers pair best with dark inks. Testing out different paper color and ink combinations is recommended to find the right balance for specific projects.

Practical Tips

When purchasing calligraphy paper, it’s wise to test out new papers before buying them in bulk. Get a small pack or single sheet to see how it feels and performs with your favorite tools and techniques. According to The Postman’s Knock, testing papers first helps ensure you don’t end up with a stockpile of paper you don’t enjoy using.

Proper storage of calligraphy paper helps maintain its quality and performance. Keep it flat in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Consider storing sheets in archival plastic sleeves or acid-free folders. Rolls of paper will stay cleaner if stored upright in a tube or sleeve.

For those on a budget, opt for student grade or economy packs of paper. Many craft stores sell affordable multi-packs. Bulk packs of printer or tracing paper can also work for practice. Go for the smoothest texture you can find. According to Lettering Daily, newsprint paper is very economical but the high absorbency provides little margin for error.


When choosing paper for calligraphy, it’s important to consider your skill level. Here are some recommendations for beginners vs. advanced calligraphers:

For beginners, some good options include:

For advanced calligraphers, some top choices include:

  • Rhodia Dot Pad – Ultra smooth finish great for crisp lettering
  • Arches Text Wove – High quality acidic-free paper good for finished work
  • Aquabee Super Deluxe – Heavier weight good for broad nib calligraphy

The type of calligraphy style you’re practicing may also influence the ideal paper choice:

  • For pointed pen styles like Copperplate, a smooth paper like Rhodia or Clarfontaine allows the nib to glide easily.
  • For broad nib styles, try a heavier weight paper like the Aquabee Super Deluxe mentioned above.
  • Papers with more texture like Strathmore Drawing can be good for rustic styles like Uncial or Blackletter.

So consider your skill level and the style you want to practice when selecting paper for calligraphy.


Choosing the right paper is an important part of the calligraphy process. By carefully considering the paper’s weight, texture, absorbency and color, you can find a paper that matches your style, ink and specific project goals. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different papers until you find one that brings out the best in your calligraphy. The most suitable paper will allow the ink to glide smoothly across the surface without feathering or bleeding.

The key is finding a paper that complements your personal calligraphy style and the specific ink you use. Be willing to try out many options before settling on your favorites. With so many papers to select from, you’re bound to discover some that make your calligraphy look its very best. While certain papers may be recommended for particular styles, the most important thing is choosing what works for your unique approach.

By taking the time to explore different papers and thinking about the distinct qualities each one offers, you’ll gain a better understanding of how paper and ink interact. This knowledge will allow you to elevate your work as you match paper to script. With the right paper, your calligraphy will come to life just as you envisioned.

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