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Calligraphy paper: The best paper for beginner practice & final projects

Selecting calligraphy paper when you are a beginner can seem like such a silly thing to go over in a full post because, after all, paper is paper, right? Well, Not really. Selecting the right paper for practice can not only affect the speed of your progress, but it can also help you prolong the life of your brush pens and nibs.

paper for brush pen calligraphy

Not all paper is created equal, and selecting the right one can not only impact your practice but also help the longevity of your brush pen and nibs.

So yes, the correct paper can impact your practice in a big way, and contradictory to what most people believe. Selecting the best paper for calligraphy doesn't mean that you have to invest a lot of money, because even though there are some very expensive alternatives, I will cover options that are also very budget-friendly.

What's the best paper for Calligraphy practice? My favorite and most cost-efficient option for calligraphy paper for practice and for printing is this HP printing paper, for less than what you pay for two coffees, you get 500 pages of smooth paper that has a great thickness for use with brush pens or pointed pen.

At the end of this post, I will also give you FREE printable grid paper and worksheets to get you started!

I know that there's a lot of questions that you might have as a beginner and that selecting materials can be a little overwhelming. This is why I will cover everything you should know about calligraphy paper here. If you want to read about brush pens, I have this post right here that covers everything you should know about brush pens, including the best ones for beginners.

The first thing that we should cover is that the paper we select will greatly depend on what the purpose of the artwork is. 

If you just want to practice, I think a budget-friendly option is more important than having the best quality available (while still being very smooth).

If we are going to create a final piece that will be shared or framed, we might want to up our paper selection a notch and take into consideration other characteristics of the paper that will guarantee longevity.

not all paper is good for calligraphy

What to look for when selecting paper for Calligraphy

When we want to select the paper for calligraphy practice, there are some characteristics that we should consider, and depending on what we value the most, select the paper:

  • Thickness: When working with inks, the thickness of the paper is essential because if a person is too thin, it can bleed to your table. Thickness is also an indication of how transparent the paper is. The thickness of the paper is measured by weight in two different ways. In lbs. Or in grams, the way that both methods are measures is very different since when the paper is measured in lb, what they do is stack 500 sheets of paper (a ream), but the sizes of measurement can differ. This makes it a little confusing. When measuring in grams, the measurement is more accurate because the sample size is the same across the board (1 square meter, one sheet). If you want to learn a little bit more about how paper is weight, check this post by Strathmore.
  • Smoothness: Paper smoothness refers to the amount of evenness the surface of the paper possesses. Factors that play into how smooth the finished paper includes the type of material used to make the paper and the surface treatment it receives in the later phases of production. Smooth paper is critical when using brush pens and nibs because the abrasion caused by a rough surface can permanently damage your calligraphy tools (nibs and brush pens)
  • Finish: The finish of the paper refers to the surface treatment that some papers have; these treatments are what can make paper matte, gloss, high gloss, etc. This finished layer can impact the absorbency and also the smoothness of the paper.
  • Acid-Free: Acid-free paper is paper that, if infused in water, yields a neutral or basic pH (7 or slightly higher). The acid-free paper addresses the problem of preserving documents and preserving artwork for long periods. When a paper is acid-free, it means that over time it will not get yellow and old-looking because of change in PH balance.
  • Size: I like to work on large size paper for practice, and small size for on-the-go sketching or thumbnail creation. So, of course, you want to pay attention to how big the ream or pad is so that it serves the purpose you buy it for better.
  • Price: When it comes to practice, I like to keep my paper at the best price per quality. And, of course, I recommend the same thing, this is why my favorite overall practice paper is a ream of better quality print paper.

What paper is best for calligraphy practice?

As I already mentioned, I think it's very important that if you are working analogically (with pen and paper instead of an iPad or tablet). You take into consideration the price of the paper you are using when you practice; after all, this is paper that will be tossed or used for drills.

paper for brush pens

And while I do like to save some of my drills for future comparison (this is the best way to actually see your progress), I only keep less than 1% of my drills.

My favorite paper to practice because of the price is:

The best practice paper

hp calligraphy paper

HP Smooth Choice LaserJet Paper

I love this paper, it's way thicker than regular printer paper, and it's also very smooth. It allows you to use very juicy brush pens without having huge bleeds, and it absorbs the ink reasonably fast.

With 500 sheets on each ream, you have plenty to work with, print drills, and guidelines directly to practice.

Check it at Amazon

More practice paper

rhodia pad lettering

1Rhodia 80 Sheet, Dot Pad: This little pad is the most recommended and loved paper-pad among lettering and calligraphy artist because of it's great smoothness. It comes in different sizes so you can use it for drills or just to create small pieces, it's more pricey than other pads, but it treats brush pens very well. The covers are Black or Orange, just make sure you select the dotted pattern.

CHECK AMAZON » | CHECK BLICK »

tracing paper

2Canson Tracing Paper Pad: This is my favorite paper for inking and also for brush calligraphy since it's super smooth and it does not absorb all the ink as some do, but because of this you need to be careful and wait for the ink to dry, or you will have a mess in your hands and your paper! It has 50 sheets and measures 9×12 inches.

CHECK AMAZON » | CHECK BLICK »

strathmore tracing paper

3Strathmore tracing paper: This is my second favorite tracing paper, the pad has 50 sheets, and it measures 9×12 inches. It's a very smooth paper and works great with brush pens.

CHECK AMAZON » | CHECK BLICK »

marker paper

4Canson XL Series Marker Pad: This pad is also a great alternative when using brush pens, it's definitely not as smooth as tracer paper, but it gets the job done. It's a lot thicker than regular paper, so it will not bleed (or at least not as much) when using super juicy markers or brush pens.

CHECK AMAZON » | CHECK BLICK »

hp paper calligraphy

5HP Smooth Choice Laserjet Paper: This is definitely the more economical alternative for paper, I use this exact paper to print all my drill grids. It's a great way to save money while you practice so that you can use your special paper for projects, and your brush pens will not get damaged like they do with regular copy paper.

CHECK AMAZON »

What paper is best for calligraphy projects?

When we want o do a fancy piece to gift, frame, or as an original to sell, we need better quality paper than what we would typically use for practice. So here, I want to share some of my favorites because they are extra smooth and thicker than the paper I shared above for practice.

cardstock calligraphy paper

1Accent white cardstock paper: This is one of my favorite cardstocks, its 100lb and super smooth, and allows ink to hold out and quick drying. It has a great weight for finishes pieces, and each ream comes with 200 sheets of heavy-stock.

CHECK AMAZON »

fabriano mix media

2Fabriano Mix media pad: Mixed media is all about layering, and this paper is strong enough to withstand a variety of wet and dry techniques, due to its combination of sizing and texture. This pad holds 150 sheets of 108 lb (160 gsm), acid-free, 9×12 inches paper.

CHECK AMAZON » | CHECK BLICK »

strathmore mix media

3Strathmore Mix Media pad: This pad is super versatile because you can use it for wet and dry mediums, but because of the light texture, I would not recommend it for practice. The glue-bound pads contain 15 sheets each and feature flip-over covers. This paper weights 184 lb (300 gsm), so it's perfect for long-lasting artwork.

CHECK AMAZON » | CHECK BLICK »

Strathmore marker paper

4Strathmore Marker Pad: The Strathmore 400 series marker paper has a super smooth surface for markers and brush pens to glide right over, the pad has 24 sheets of acid-free, 50.5lb heavyweight paper that is bleed and feather resistant.

CHECK AMAZON » | CHECK BLICK »

Can you use printer paper for calligraphy?

It depends on the kind of printer paper because just like in any other category of paper, printer paper has a wide variety of thickness and smoothness.

Regular printer paper is terrible for your brush pens. It's very porous, it doesn't absorb ink well, and it's very thin.

BUT.

There are premium versions of print paper, like the one I already recommended that offer everything we are looking for a good practice paper: Smooth finish, good thickness, big size, and good value.

What is the best paper for brush pens?

As previously discussed, what makes paper the best for you is the use, so if you are looking for paper just to do drills with your brush pens, I would go with an economical alternative. Still, if you are looking for something a little more premium, the most popular paper pad for use with brush pens is this one:

My favorite paper pad

rhodia pad paper calligraphy

Rhodia Dotted Paper Pad

As I mentioned before, Rhodia pads are extremely popular in the Lettering & Calligraphy community, and I love the quality of the paper and brush pens glide without a hiccup on them. They come in different sizes, and I especially love this reversible one.

Check it at Amazon

cardstock calligraphy paper
hp laser smooth print paper
canson tracing paper
strathmore tracing paper

I linked to my top 5 paper for brush pens above, but if you have another brand of paper that is smooth and doesn't bleed, feel more than welcome to use that instead! Just stay away from regular copy paper or any other paper that doesn't feel smooth when writing.

paper for brush pens

Is watercolor paper good for calligraphy?

Watercolor paper is not the best choice to use with brush pens and pointed pens when it comes to practice. But it's the right choice if you want to create a finished piece that has good texture.

One important thing to consider though, is that watercolor paper is very fibrous, so some of them can have so much texture!

And texture is the enemy of your brush pens. If you are only making one piece, you can risk the pens or nibs, but the tips will catch, and you will have to be extra careful and glide extra slow.

MAKING WATERCOLOR LETTERS

waterbrush pens
Water brushes
watercolor paper
Watercolor paper
watercolor inks
Watercolor inks
mix media paper
Mix media paper

Now, watercolor paper is a GREAT option is what you want to do is to make letters with an Aquabrush pen. You are in the clear because obviously, watercolor paper works wonderfully with watercolor paints and brushes.

[ image by Rifqi Ali Ridho via Unsplash ]

Do you need a special paper for calligraphy?

To summarize the post, yes, you do need specific characteristics in the paper that will be used for Calligraphy with brush pens or with a pointed pen. 

You need the paper to be smooth, to have a good thickness, and if you want to use it for practice, the price can also be an important factor.

I have three affordable recommendations for practice:

  • 1 – Print the worksheets directly into this HP paper and work with your brush pens right on top of them.
  • 2– Print your worksheets in any print paper, and use trace paper on top of your worksheets to practice
  • 3 – Print your worksheets on any kind of paper, and using a bright pad, place a piece of this HP paper on top so you can see the worksheet or guidelines below so you can practice.

If you are looking for practice sheets that already have the guidelines for calligraphy, you can either buy a grid pad like the ones I have listed below OR you can download my free Calligraphy grid paper below and print as you need.

GRID CALLIGRAPHY PAPER

calligraphy grid paper
Practice paper pad
calligraphy grid paper
Practice paper pad
calligraphy grid paper
Lined practice pad
calligraphy grid paper
Practice paper pad

FREE Calligraphy paper printable for practice

I have set up a very cool printable for you so that you don't have to buy paper for calligraphy with a grid! Yay!

The sheets below have two different calligraphy grids (different angles) in 3 different colors (different greys in case you want to see more or less of it) and also two sheets of dotted paper in two different sizes.
calligraphy grid

All you have to do to download them is just to fill out the form below and subscribe to the newsletter. (If you are already subscribed, all you have to do is fo to the Letter Vault and download)

FREE Calligraphy practice sheets for drills

If you want full pages of drills to get started, inside the letter vault, I also have a brush pen basics workbook with all the basic strokes and a 30-page alphabet worksheet to get you making letters in different styles!

free worksheets
Workbooks for 30 different alphabets, letters and words, the best companion after the basic strokes worksheets.
worksheets alphabet
Workbooks with different font-based alphabets! So many practice sheets inside the Letter Vault!

Want to download them for free? Just head to the Letter Vault!

IN-DEPTH POST: Looking to get started with brush calligraphy? I have a post where I go over everything you should know, and if you are looking to learn cursive, I have a full guide for American cursive too!

Want to save this post for later? Just pin one of the images below =]

not all paper is good for calligraphy

paper for calligraphy

Pinterest images

paper for brush pen calligraphy

paper for calligraphy

I hope you enjoyed this post! And as always, if you have any questions, I didn't cover about paper for calligraphy just contact me! I'll be happy to include your questions =]

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ChloeK

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

So much great content! Thank you Joy!

Joy Kelley

Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

Thank you for reading! =]

Passante

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

A "ream" of paper? Now that's a measure I've never heard of before!

Joy Kelley

Monday 30th of November 2020

I am glad you found something you've never heard of before =]

Jessica

Wednesday 10th of June 2020

Thank you Joy!

Joy Kelley

Wednesday 10th of June 2020

You are very welcome!

Maritza

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

Muchas gracias por compartir, estaba super perdida, ahora me voy a comprar papel.....gracias...

Joy Kelley

Wednesday 10th of June 2020

De nada! Yo se que puede ser un poco abrumador esto del papel, asi que queria cubrir lo mas posible =]