How Inks Look on Different Papers

One of the best parts of using fountain pens is getting to shop around for the perfect tool tailored to your needs, whether that's a pen that features a piston-filling system, a pen made out of rare celluloid, or a pen that has a clear demonstrator, perfect for inquisitive minds!

Next, you pick out the perfect ink. Maybe the ink is filled with shimmery goodness, or you prefer a solid-colored ink necessary for writing official documents.

Writing with a Fountain Pen

But, what most fountain pen enthusiasts often overlook is the appropriate paper. It may not be as exciting as choosing fountain pens and ink, but paper is just as important and can make or break a writing experience.

To demonstrate paper's significance, we tested three fountain pen inks on two types: Clairefontaine Triomphe 90gsm and sheets from a Mead notebook, typically found at school or work. Although all the inks chosen are standard, water-based inks, each behaves quite differently on paper, which is why it's essential to know how your fountain pen trifecta, a pen, ink, and paper, works together.

To showcase the differences in outcome based on paper and ink combinations, we're using the same fountain pen with a Goulet Pens Fine Nib to demonstrate what it looks like when you pair certain inks with various paper types. Specifically, we'll be looking at what happens when ink is absorbed into the paper very quickly, slowly, and somewhere between.


Noodler's 54th Massachusetts

Noodler's 54th Massachusetts is a beautiful blue-black ink with some interesting properties. This ink dries notoriously fast, soaking into the paper fibers quickly. The speedy dry time can be a good thing, but depending on how the paper is made, an ink that dries fast can create some serious feathering. 

When testing the ink, both the Clairefontaine and Mead paper quickly absorb its contents, with no real differentiation between them. Sometimes, certain inks will give consistent results regardless of the paper's quality.

Noodler's 54th Massachusetts on Clairefontaine

Clairefontaine paper

Noodler's 54th Massachusetts on Mead

Mead paper


Noodler's Southwest Sunset

Noodler's Southwest Sunset is a stunning shade of orange and perhaps one of the most notable fountain pen inks in this color. However, it takes a very long time to fully dry.

On a super-smooth, high-quality paper like the Clairefontaine, the dry time will be much longer than on a page from a Mead notebook. With paper like this, shading, sheen, and shimmer will be more visible, but smearing will be more of an issue.

On nonabsorbent paper like the Clairefontaine, this ink has some shading features. When pooling ink, you'll get a dark orange, but with normal strokes, you'll get a lighter orange. On the Mead paper, the color is much more flat and consistent because the ink doesn't have time to pull and create a shading effect. The ink gets absorbed immediately upon contact with the Mead paper and gives a uniform color with some feathering.

Noodler's Southwest Sunset on Clairefontaine

Clairefontaine paper

Noodler's Southwest Sunset on Mead

Mead paper


LAMY black

LAMY black is a great middle-of-the-road ink, and it doesn't have either of the extreme performance attributes of the other two inks previously mentioned.

There's slight feathering on the Mead paper, but not nearly as much as Noodler's 54th Massachusetts. You can also see the lines on the Mead notebook paper appear thicker than those on the Clairefontaine. Although it's not feathering, it can create a spread that gives the appearance of a thicker line.

LAMY black on Clairefontaine

Clairefontaine paper

LAMY black on Mead

Mead paper



It's best to note that none of these inks are better than the other, and the paper is also subjective. No ink or paper is perfect for every possible combination, but paper still matters.

Don't overlook paper's role if you've experienced feathering, spreading, and any other result of using a fountain pen. If you have an ink that you're madly in love with but doesn't showcase its properties well on your current paper, try out a few different types of notebooks from brands such as Apica, Rhodia, Leuchtturm1917, and more. 

Contact our Customer Care team if you'd like additional help picking the right paper or ink for your fountain pens. You can also check out the paper we have at our store we recommend for writing with fountain pens below. Write on!


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