Have you ever noticed that writing on some sizes of line spacing feels too cramped for your handwriting, while writing on others feels perfect? Have you ever paid attention to which works the best for you? Well I have noticed that some spacings feel better than others, but have never really paid attention to which I prefer… until now! I decided to try out the most popular line spacings and see which best fit my handwriting. Read on to see how I did it and try it out for yourself.
Paper Line Spacing
Let’s start with a quick discussion on line spacing. As you probably know, different brands of paper can come with different line spacings. The most popular tend to be 5mm-7mm. Even within the same brand, line spacings can differ, especially between grids and lines. Most grids, whether they are dot or line grid, are spaced at 5mm. Open lines are typically spaced a bit further apart at 7mm. Of course, there are always outliers. I have seen 2mm grids and 10mm lines.
My Test Sheet
Instead of grabbing a bunch of sheets of paper with different spacings, I decided to create my own test sheet. It has line spacings ranging from 2mm up to 10mm so that all of my testing could be done on one sheet of paper. To create this test sheet, I made individual sheets of each spacing using this Lined PDF Generator. I then digitally cut out a few lines from each sheet and pasted them all into one sheet, along with a note for the line spacing of each set.
Now that I had my sheet, all that was left to do was write! I usually write in a few different styles, so I tried each one, figuring that the spacing that works best for my all-caps print may not work best for cursive. I also tried a few different nib sizes. While I usually use broader nibs, I sometimes use a fine nib and find that my writing looks different, so I wondered if maybe line size had something to do with that. Here is my test sheet with writing:As you can probably tell, I had one pen that ran out in the middle of testing, so I switched to another with a similar nib size. That ink didn’t agree with the paper, so I switched again. Once you get past all of the different colors, a few things stand out. For example, the smaller line spacings are definitely too small for a broad nib and I wouldn’t recommend them with a medium nib. The fine nib, on the other hand, actually felt comfortable to use on even the smallest 2mm line spacing. The larger line spacings didn’t feel comfortable to me with any nib size. As expected, the line spacings in the middle sizes worked the best.
For my own writing, I think the 4-5mm range is my favorite for fine nibs, 5mm my favorite for medium nibs when printing, and 7mm my favorite for broad nibs when printing. For medium and broad nibs and cursive, I think 6-7mm are my spacing of choice.
Not everyone is going to write on every single line. I find that when I write in cursive in a notebook with 5mm spacing, I usually write on every other line. This not only gives my writing a bit of breathing room, making it easier to read, but also keeps my descenders from letters such as p, q, y, f, j, z and g from colliding with the words below. I have another notebook with 10mm spacing that, in essence, I use the exact same way. By writing on every line, but not skipping any lines and only using half of the line height, I am doing the same thing as writing on a 5mm line and skipping a 5mm line (5mm+5mm=10mm).
If you prefer writing on blank paper and using a guide sheet, you can try getting creative with the line spacing for a better writing experience. Using the Lined PDF Generator I mentioned above, I was able to create a guide sheet with 7mm lines for writing that are spaced 4mm apart. To do this, I used the values “7mm, 4mm” in the Line Spacings box. To make it a bit more obvious which lines to write on, I made the baseline thicker using the values “.5pt, 1pt” in the Line Widths box. Here is how my generator screen looked and how the resulting guide sheet looked.
Notebooks and Notepads For Each Size
If you know what your favorite line spacing is, you’ll want to find paper that has it. Here is a list that has a variety of different notebooks and notepads with as many different line spacings as I could find.
- 2mm: Grid – Life Kleid, Ro-Biki Note
- 3mm: None that I could find, so consider printing a custom guide sheet
- 4mm: Grid – Fabriano EcoQua, Graphilo
- 5mm: Grid – Rhodia, Tsubame Note, Fabriano EcoQua, Clairefontaine Basic, Life Noble, Century Edition, Midori MD, Mnemosyne
- 6mm: Grid – Logical Prime, Lined – Century Edition, Apica CD (is actually 6.5mm)
- 7mm: Lined – Rhodia, Tsubame Note (is actually 7.5mm), Kokuyo Campus, Logical Prime, Midori MD, Mnemosyne
- 8mm: Lined – Clairefontaine Basic, Graphilo, Life Noble, Clairefontaine Triomphe
- 9mm: None that I could find, so consider printing a custom guide sheet
- 10mm+: Dot Grid – Logical Prime (1.2mm), Lined – Life L Writing Paper
If you want to download and use my test sheet so that you can try a variety of line spacings on a single sheet, you can! It is available as a PDF, which you can download here: Line Spacing 2-10mm – Letter
This is great John, thanks so much for doing this! I seem to only use 7mm spaced lined paper but often find it a bit too much. 5 is too narrow so I’m printing out a 6mm test page thanks to your link.
This will also come in very handy when using my TR blank sheets.
I’m glad you found it useful, Geof! Glad you can print out a test page that will fit your needs. Happy writing!
This is great stuff.
May I suggest you start a Youtube channel where you can give presentation such as this. Keep them just like your blog – informative, fast, and to-the-point. This is what so many fountain pen channels lack. They’ll spend 10 minutes taking a pen box out of the shipping package, ten minutes taking the pen out of the box, and 10 minutes down the rabbit hole.
Think about it. Youtube needs reviewers who can give the information fast. You do that in your blogs; you could do it on youtube.
Keep up what you’re doing because it works!
Thanks, Sg. I actually do have a YouTube channel, but am working on adding content at the moment. I have found that I tend to make longer videos than I’d like. It’s not anything that I think is unnecessary, but I go into it wanting to make a 10-minute video and come away with 20 minutes due to the amount of content. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQMNrgPHxtCOj1iFIB9GalA/
You are so right about this. I lose patience at the removal of the sleeve.
Thank you, John for the explanation and the list of brands with line spacing. I don’t do well writing on narrow lines as I use a broad or stub nib most often. Now I know what to order.
Glad to hear you found it helpful, Joy. Hope you can find some new paper to try!
Interesting, John. I don’t like lines or guides. I trained myself years ago to use eye and judgement; also I consider if I’m trying to be artistic, using a fine or broad italic nib or writing a shopping list. Long ago I used a writing pad with a guide underneath but found I was better without the guide. Straightjackets, all of them. However, it’s getting more difficult to find plain paper so I need to find the least irritating line spacing. Amazon UK is selling Rhodia A4+ pads; £6 for dotted, £1.20 for squared 5mm. It seems squared doesn’t sell. I bought some of the pads and found why they are so cheap. I can’t use them. The squares are so bold and dominating, and small.
I’ve downloaded your 2mm to 10mm sheet. That seems a good idea. I shall try it shortly, but I’ll not try the 2mm. Did you use a magnifying glass and an extra-fine nib? I want to be able to read my writing!
An idea I haven’t tried yet is to make guidelines with a heat-sensitive ink (such as Pilot), do my writing and then hold the paper over a gas ring or other heat. It would be useful for poster planning. Admittedly the guide lines are still there although invisible, but you won’t see them unless you put the paper in a freezer for 10 hours. I think it’s better than using soft pencil then erasing it.
Noel, that’s a really interesting idea about using heat-sensitive ink for guidelines. Definitely better than erasing! I only tried the 2mm lines because they exist on paper, otherwise I personally would never use lines that close together. 🙂
This is a great post, John, thank you! I do the 5mm every other line thing. I like the way it looks with cursive and even printing.
You’re welcome, Linda! I think for most people the every other line at 5mm should work pretty well. I need to try it with printing someday.
I’ve discovered that 4mm line-spacing is nice. I use alternate spaces. Within the 4mm space I write the a e i o u w c letters; the ascenders and descenders share the in-between lines. Since plain high quality paper is less common, and more expensive, than lined paper I shall look for 4mm. Thanks John, and thank you for the link to Nap Cat Studio printing.
Yay, glad you found one that works! Hope you can find some 4mm paper.
I neglected to mention earlier today that I really liked your photograph at the top of your letter today. It was artful, but simple.
Glad to hear it, Joy. I wasn’t sure exactly how to create a catchy image that showed line spacing, so I figured a scene with lined paper would work just fine. 🙂
Hi John, In that photo Joy mentions, what’s that very sharp notebook?
Hi William, that notebook is the Itoya Romeo notebook. Unfortunately, not the easiest to find, but really fun paper! https://fountainpenlove.com/reviews/itoya-romeo-spiral-notebook-review/
I second William’s question about the notebook in the top photo….
Linda, it’s an Itoya Romeo notebook. https://fountainpenlove.com/reviews/itoya-romeo-spiral-notebook-review/
Hey, John! Great article. I prefer lined paper (being unable to write a straight line without it!) and one of the first things I look for before buying a new paper is the line width. I can’t go any smaller than 7mm. In spite of having small hands, I write fairly large, and I favor broad nibs and stubs. 8mm lines are my favorite, but 7mm will do nicely. Any smaller than that, and I just can’t stay within the lines! Before fountain pens, I never gave a thought to line width.
Thank you, Debi! It’s great you already know which line size you prefer. I’d have to agree that with broad and stub nibs, anything under 7mm is pretty tight.
I really enjoyed this post. It kind of captures the difference between someone who enjoys stationary stuff as opposed to making a hobby of it.
As a side-note: I’m not sure if anyone else is having this issue, but when I visit your site to find new posts I keep getting brought to your home page which shows your Tsubame Fools review as your most recent post. Even if I were to click your mast head from this post, it would bring me to the same home page with an older review and I wouldn’t be able to actually find anything newer. I only came upon this newer post because of it being shared by TGS in his weekly links on Monday.
Glad you enjoyed it! That’s very strange that you’re seeing such an old post as the most recent. I’d bet it’s cached in your browser somehow. You might look up how to clear your browser cache and see if that fixes it. If my site is cached and showing older content, I’m sure others are as well.
theoddcopy – on the right hand side of this page towards the top you will find Get Updates Via Newsletter. If you leave your email address you’ll get notice of new topics.
Regarding “enjoying stationery as opposed to making a hobby of it.”, what is the difference? I enjoy hobbies and I hope you do.
Thanks for the helpful comment, Noel! 🙂
If the ruling is too close to use every one, but too far for every other line then I use one and a half, writing one line sitting on the ruling then the next one across it.
That’s not a bad idea, Alan. It sounds confusing, but I’m sure once you start writing you get into a rhythm and it’s easy. 🙂
7 mm.. good for a fine nib, still usable for most of my medium nibs. I can use 5 mm as well, but only when leaving an empty line in between, making that effectively 10 mm.. so a waste of space 🙁
I completely agree. The other spacings are usable, but 6-7mm feels just right. 🙂
Great post! I create my own inserts for my Franklin Covey Compact planner. I prefer for my grid to be college rule height to accommodate my large handwriting. So, I typically go with 6.4mm to 7.2mm.
Many designers on Etsy make their grid way too small. However, I just found a designer that is willing to customize her grid insert to 7mm for me. I’m super happy about that!
It’s always nice to have people who are willing to work with you and customize their products. Glad to hear you’ve found one!
Really interesting post. I started journaling this year with a notebook I got from Ali Express, it is not a bad notebook, but not that pen friendly. When I start my second journal with Midori MD, I realized that the line spacing 7mm is a bit small for me when I write in Chinese. I then start look around and realized that there are just not any line spacing notebook from popular brands that have wider spacing. Bummer. Guess I will write in English till I find another notebook or just switch to grid system…
Thanks, Barry. As you have found, for lined paper, 7mm is going to be the biggest you can easily find. If you want to switch to a dot-grid layout, Logical Prime comes in 12mm spacing. I use one of these for my book journal and find that I really enjoy the amount of space on each line.
WOW. You are fantastic. I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your valuable research, study. It takes a lot of time, energy and money. Thanks
Thanks for the kind words, Ben. I’m glad you enjoy what I do!
I cannot believe I found this page! I was grumbling to myself about a new journal I bought because the lines are too far apart, and I began to wonder where is my ‘sweet spot’ of line spacing? Thank you for the very useful printout. I have four copies now to play with. Once I figure out what is best for me, then I can buy notebooks and journals with the ‘proper’ spacing. Thanks so much! (And it’s good to know that I am not the only handwriting nerd.) 🙂
I’m so glad you found it and printed out the worksheet! Hope it helps!