Don’t get me wrong. If you’re just dipping your feet into the shallow end, paper choice hardly matters. You can easily use any brush marker — or even a paintbrush — on any paper you have on hand. You’re just seeing if this is a hobby you’d like after all.
But if you’re slightly more serious about practicing every day, you may want to get a few beginner friendly pens and invest in good paper instead.
(Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click through and purchase something, I make a small commission — but you still pay the same amount! I only put affiliate links on items I use and love.)
Why Paper Choice Matters
Just as all pens serve different purposes, so do all types of paper! Today though, we’re talking about paper that is good for brush pens. Specifically, felt tip brush pens.
Felt tip brush pens are fantastic for beginners because they are less sensitive, making them easier to work with. But if you’ve used a felt tip pen for a while, you probably noticed them starting to fray — your upstrokes aren’t as thin, your turns are hairy… It’s awful!
Here’s why it happens.
Felt is made of tiny fibres pressed together. If you were to take a random piece of felt and rub at it, you’ll see little bits of fuzz appearing pretty quick.
That is what happens when you use a felt tip brush pen. The brush tip rubs against the paper and over time, it frays.
Fraying is inevitable, but you can slow down the process by using the right kind of paper: smooth paper.
What is Smooth Paper?
If you were to touch regular printer paper, you’d probably think it’s pretty smooth. The difference between regular copy paper and Rhodia pads may feel negligible — especially if you have plenty of calluses — but what you feel, your pen feels a thousand times more.
See, paper — like felt — is made of fibres. In the class of ‘smooth’ paper, the paper has been compressed and treated so there are less long fibres dancing around waiting to rip your pen to shreds.
Smooth paper is definitely the way to go if you’re practicing regularly. Your pens (and your wallet) will thank you for it!)
Paper Choice And Uses
There are many different types of smooth, brush pen friendly papers. It’s all a matter of what you’re planning to use your work for. I use brush pens almost every day for a variety of things.
For journaling, I use brush pen friendly notebooks so I can sketch note and decorate as I like. I use a Muji notebook as my bullet journal planner, but also journal and sketch note in a Midori Traveler’s Notebook. I’ve a Rhodiarama and Leuchtturm1917 in the wings as well.
For works-in-progress, sketches and practice, I’m more relaxed about my paper choices since they usually end up in the recycling bin — except maybe for a sketch or two. I use loose paper from Muji, or Rhodia pads. Many bloggers also recommend HP Premier Laserjet 32lb paper. Personally, I prefer vellum (i.e. tracing paper) though you have to wait for your pen ink to dry. These are also the papers I’d print worksheets on, because it’s relatively inexpensive and still brush pen friendly.
When I create prints to sell or give away though, it pays to be picky! Smooth heavy card is the minimum requirement — if I can get it acid-free as well, that’s a double win.* You don’t want to use paper that flops around and yellows quickly! I also keep a copy of some final works in a Maruman Mnemosyne notebook — it has insanely smooth paper!
*I may sometimes use watercolour paper if my background painting requires it or I want the textured look, but that’s with full knowledge of what it does to my pens!
Have you been using the right paper?
Let me know in the comments below!
Want free lettering lessons?
Sign up for the 14-day Brush Basics Booster challenge — 14 days of class right in your inbox!