Testing Ink Resist On Different Papers

John Bosley Paper 8 Comments

Have you ever been writing in a notebook and noticed that your ink doesn’t “stick” to the lines or dots that are printed on the page? If so, you’ve experienced something called ink resist. As the name implies, it is literally where part of the page resists the ink being applied to it. If the term sounds familiar, you may have heard it used in art terms where resists can be applied to work surfaces.

Today I want to take a look at a variety of papers that you can find in popular notebooks to see if any stand out as having more or less ink resist. I’m also going to test with a variety of inks, from low saturation to high sheen, to see if that has any impact on ink resist. While ink resist isn’t a huge problem, I’m hoping it will still be interesting to test a bunch of papers and see what happens.

montblanc corn poppy red ink resist
The Papers and Inks

All of the papers in this test come from notebooks that are available from local and online pen shops. While most notebooks have their own specific paper type (for example, you won’t find Midori paper in any other notebook than a Midori notebook), some papers are used in a variety of notebooks. The main paper I’m thinking of is Tomoe River, but Cosmo Air Light is also starting to appear in more and more notebooks. The reason this is important is that different notebook manufacturers may use different printing techniques, even if the paper is the same, thus giving different notebooks a different amount of ink resist.

Here is a list of the papers that I’m going to test, along with a link to my review of each one:

I also mentioned that I’ll be using a variety of inks to see if the ink makes any difference. Here’s a list of inks used:

  • Montblanc Corn Poppy Red – Saturated, no sheen
  • Sailor Apricot – Saturated, some sheen
  • Sailor Yama-Dori – Saturated, high sheen
  • Iroshizuku Yama-budo – Saturated, some sheen
  • Sailor Ink Studio 123 – Low saturation, no sheen
  • Kobe #53 – Low saturation, no sheen
  • Rohrer and Klingner Alt-Goldgrun – Low saturation, no sheen
  • Iroshizuku Syo-ro – Low saturation, some sheen
  • Sailor Souboku – Pigment ink
  • KWZ Aztec Gold – Iron Gall Ink
  • KWZ Blue 6 – Iron Gall Ink
The Test Process

Personally, I have encountered ink resist on what seems like a random basis when I’m writing. I knew that for this article random wouldn’t work, so I needed to come up with a reliable and consistent system for testing. After playing around with different ways to put ink on paper with pens, I noticed that if I ended on a line or dot when I was writing, the ink stayed put, but if I ran the pen across a line or dot, that’s when the resist happened.

I decided that, instead of using pens for this test, I’d use cotton swabs. This would give me a nice swath of ink across multiple line or dots, providing a look at more than just one data point. It would also make it easier to test a large number of inks (or at least I wouldn’t have to clean up a bunch of pens).

ink swab ink resist

As a control, I also inked up a few pens with some of the inks that showed the most ink resist so that I could try actually using a pen instead of just a cotton swab. Since I’m guessing most of us write with fountain pens and not cotton swabs, some real-world info would be nice to have in addition to the swab tests.

dot grid ink resist
The Test Results

I’m going to start out with some data and then go into some observations:

Paper – Number of instances of ink resist (out of 11 inks)

  • Apica CD – 2/11
  • Apica Premium CD – 4/11
  • Black n’ Red – 1/11
  • Clairefontaine Basic – 8/11
  • Fabriano EcoQua – 1/11
  • Graphilo – 2/11
  • Kokuyo Campus – 8/11
  • Leuchtturm1917 – 6/11
  • Life Noble Notebook – 8/11
  • Logical Prime – 0/11
  • Midori MD – 5/11
  • Mnemosyne – 0/11
  • Profolio Oasis – 2/11
  • Profolio Oasis Light – 2/11
  • Rhodia Dot Pad – 0/11
  • Endless Recorder (Tomoe River) – 5/11
  • Pebble Stationery Co (Tomoe River) – 1/11
  • Tsubame Note – 0/11

Ink – Number of instances of ink resist (out of 18 paper samples)

  • Montblanc Corn Poppy Red – 13/18
  • Sailor Apricot – 6/18
  • Sailor Yama-Dori – 1/18
  • Iroshizuku Yama-budo – 2/18
  • Sailor Ink Studio 123 – 2/18
  • Kobe #53 – 3/18
  • Rohrer and Klingner Alt-Goldgrun – 4/18
  • Iroshizuku Syo-ro – 2/18
  • KWZ Aztec Gold – 6/18
  • KWZ Blue 6 – 2/18
  • Sailor Souboku – 7/18

The first thing that you’ll notice from the above numbers and the images below is that Montblanc Corn Poppy Red does not like sticking to lines. In 13 out of 18 tests, it displayed ink resist. I was definitely expecting to see particular papers stand out, but did not expect to see particular inks stand out. This is already interesting!

The next thing that I noticed is that it doesn’t seem to matter whether the ink is dye-based, pigmented or iron gall… all seem to show ink resist on various papers. The same goes for saturation… both heavily saturated inks and desaturated inks show low ink resist on many different paper samples.

The papers that show the most ink resist are Life Noble, Clairefontaine Basic and Kokuyo Campus, all with 8/11 inks showing resist. That’s not the entire story, though. Looking at the swabs, the Clairefontaine seems to have more extreme ink resist. This carries through to the writing samples. On the Clairefontaine, both writing samples have noticeable ink resist, while on the Life and Campus, it is much less severe in the writing samples than the swabs might suggest.

While the swabs look very extreme in most samples, the actual writing samples are not nearly as severe. The Corn Poppy Red shows lots of resist in every swab, and while it also shows it in the writing samples, it’s not nearly as bad as you might expect. In many cases you wouldn’t even notice it if you weren’t looking for it. The Kobe #53 also shows a lot of resist in the swabs, but in most writing samples I don’t see any resist. Areas where the ink is shaded and has pooled and is darker show no resist.

While the two Tomoe River samples are different paper weights (the Pebble Stationery is 52gsm and the Endless Recorder is 68gsm), what really matters is the dots, and one shows more ink resist than the other. The Endless Recorder showed ink resist on 5 ink samples while the Pebble Stationery only showed ink resist on 1 ink sample. I had assumed that ink resist would be more dependent on the line/dot printing than the paper itself and it looks like this is the case.

The sheening capabilities of the paper doesn’t seem to have any affect on how much ink resist it has. Life Noble shows loads of sheen, but also has a lot of resist, while Logical Prime shows similar amounts of sheen and showed no ink resist. There are many similar examples, such as Graphilo/Tomoe River and Black n Red/Clairefontaine Basic.

The Test Images
Ink resist Life Noble Note
Ink resist Leuchtturm1917
Ink resist Clairefontaine Basic
Ink resist Graphilo
Ink resist Profolio Oasis
Ink resist Rhodia
Ink resist Fabriano EcoQua
Ink resist Apica CD
Ink resist Midori MD
Ink resist Logical Prime
Ink resist Black n Red
Ink resist Mnemosyne
Ink resist Apica Premium CD
Ink resist Kokuyo Campus
Ink resist Tsubame
Ink resist Profolio Oasis Light
Ink resist Pebble Stationery CO
Ink resist Endless Recorder

Ink resist is a thing. It is something that depends on both the paper and the ink used to write on the paper. I suspect that the pen you use will also affect it, with a finer or drier nib being more prone than a wetter or broader nib, although that is not something I tested. What’s interesting is that there is no apparent rhyme or reason as to which inks will show resist, be it dye-based, pigment or iron gall. Along those same lines, it also appears that the properties of the paper don’t affect whether or not it shows ink resist.

So how do you deal with ink resist? If you have a notebook that you use and find that you encounter a lot of ink resist, you should be able to find a few of your inks that work well with it. If your favorite inks don’t work with that particular notebook, you may need to pick up a different notebook from another manufacturer. The next, and arguably more important question is, does it even bother you? Most of the time ink resist isn’t very obvious. Even though I seem to encounter it fairly often, it isn’t something that I really worry about. In fact, I am somewhat fascinated by it. Still, not everyone will find it fascinating and some people will want to avoid it. If that’s the case, knowing that both the ink and the paper will affect it is very important to a future of writing without ink resist.

Comments 8

  1. Fun test! Did you identify what type of printing ink was used to understand if a particular type leads to less, or more resist? E.g. soy based ink…?

    1. Thanks, Elaine! I wasn’t able to identify the inks used for most of the paper samples. I can remember seeing some of that info on the various notebook packaging, but wasn’t able to track it down online. I’ll keep an eye out and will update the post if I can come up with anything conclusive.

  2. I write in lots of different notebooks with lots of different inks. I was so frustrated by my lined Clairefontaine notebook. When the ink hits a line, it fades out. I had no idea there was a name for this phenomenon. It did not seem to matter which ink it was, but I never looked closely, I only thought, well, I won’t buy this type of notebook again, even though I liked the size and the line spacing for certain projects. Thank you for this detailed post. Now I will look more closely at these notebooks.

    1. Glad to hear this post helped you, Carol. As you could probably tell from the post, Clairefontaine was one of the worst offenders. Hope you’ve found some paper that works better for you!

  3. I am so glad to see this test! Tsubame is the only notebook maker that I know of who makes a “big deal” about using a water-based ink for printing their lines, specifically to address ink resist (at least, that’s the story they came up with to market the fact that they use water-based inks). I’m glad to see that their claims were born out in the testing. My hypothesis about ink resist correlation with inks is the degree of solvents and dye load and their effect on the surface tension/spread of the ink. They ink would need to either “interact” with the oil-based ink used in the printing or to enable the ink to “spread” over the line without breaking. Inks that don’t spread as easily, I hypothesize, are more likely to show ink resist.

    I don’t know how accurately this is born out, but from your testing list it does look like there is some sort of correlation between ink dryness and ink resist. Whether that is because of high surface tension or something to do with viscosity in one direction or another I don’t know. It would be interesting to take some of the high ink resist papers and run a controlled test with inks based on their viscosity/surface tension to see if there is a correlation, as well as “solvent” levels, maybe measured by the acidity or alkalinity of the inks?

    1. I didn’t know that Tsubame uses water-based ink, but it makes sense. I put some water on it at one point and the lines actually disappeared!

      Sounds like quite a test you’ve come up with for me to do! 🙂 One of these days I may find the time to do more experimenting and testing. I’d really like to know more about how/why some papers and inks show more resist than others. Thanks for the great thoughts!

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