fountain pen friendly paper test

The Big Paper Retesting and Rerating

John Bosley Paper 4 Comments

If you’re familiar with this site, you know that I’m a big fan of good paper. So much so, that I came up with my own rating system to test different papers. These tests involve using the exact same pens and inks every time in an effort to get consistent results.

I have been using this system for more than two years now and have rated over 50 different paper samples. I recently got a new batch of paper and notebooks that needed testing and decided that I was going to retest all of the papers that I’ve already tested. Why would I do such a thing? Mainly for consistency. I was worried that my tests from months or years ago might be different from more recent tests. Environmental factors or even the age of my inks could potentially affect the results. Plus, I wanted to change up my testing procedure a bit.

The New Testing Procedure

As far as the overall testing procedure is concerned, nothing has changed. I’m still using four different inks that showcase different properties such as shading and sheen. I’m still testing dry time. What I did change are two of the inks and one of the pens involved in the tests.

I previously used KWZ Old Gold as my main ink that also helped test for shading. I decided I wanted an ink that had lower saturation and dried faster, as it sometimes seemed like the Old Gold, which is quite saturated, would have wet marks that took forever to dry, therefore skewing the dry times on some papers. While this might be an honest dry time, I didn’t think it was the best ink to use, so I switched to Troublemaker Kelp Tea. Kelp Tea is not highly saturated, has shorter dry times and great shading. In my new tests, I was very happy with how well it worked.

To test for sheen, I previously used Iroshizuku Yama-budo (which has sheen, but not on all paper) and J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor (which has a lot of sheen). I am still using Yama-budo, but decided Emerald of Chivor wasn’t the best choice for a highly-saturated, sheeny ink. I feel like it sheens inconsistently on different papers, which just doesn’t work when you need consistent results. Instead, I decided to use PenBBS #276, a saturated red with green-gold sheen. I find it to be very consistent and a good test for if a paper is going to bleed. Instead of my Sailor Pro Gear with a Zoom nib, I loaded it into my Hinze Americana fitted with a Karas Kustoms Medium Titanium nib, which is very wet.

I am also changing my sheen reference paper from Tomoe River 52gsm to Graphilo. You may be aware that Tomoe River production has recently changed, possibly altering the performance of the paper. There has also been recent news that Tomoe River may not be produced in the future. Since Graphilo has equally high sheen, I decided to use it as a reference instead of Tomoe River.

Any Changed Results?

After testing all of the papers and compiling the data, I was really curious to see if there were any significant changes. I assumed there would be some small changes and expected to see the most change in dry time (due to using a different ink) and also sheen (again, due to using a different ink). Indeed, I did see some big swings in these two areas.

For example, in my previous tests Fabriano EcoQua only scored a 1 out of 5 for sheen, meaning it showed little to no sheen in my tests. When I actually use this paper, I do notice that it shows some sheen. In my new tests it scored a 3 out of 5, which is much closer to the reality of using this paper. In high-sheen papers, I didn’t see much of a change. The big changes mainly appeared in lower-sheen papers, which makes me think the change of testing inks was a good thing.

Surprisingly, I didn’t see any major changes in dry time. A few different papers shifted up or down one point, which I totally expected. I feel like dry time is one of the criteria that is most susceptible to environmental factors. While I don’t have hard proof, I wouldn’t be surprised if dry time was significantly affected by relative humidity. This is why I felt it was important to carry out all of the tests in a short amount of time, instead of across multiple years like my previous tests. With all that being said, there was one paper that significantly changed in dry time. Mnemosyne dropped from a 4 to a 2 out of 5 (meaning my recent test shows it is slower drying than my previous test). Again, I feel like this correlates to my actual use experience.

Overall, I think most of the more expensive and premium papers either improved or changed less than the less expensive or non-premium papers in the list. For example, Apica Premium C.D. significantly increased while Apica CD decreased. The same can be said for many other papers.

So Now What?

Now that I have a bunch of up-to-date paper ratings, now what? I will be working on updating each individual paper review with the new ratings, as well as replacing the old test photos with the new test sheets. Other pages that use paper ratings have already been updated. This includes The Massive List of Fountain Pen Friendly Paper Ratings and my new Paper Search Tool. I also plan to update the page that details my paper testing system with new photos and more detail about how I test paper.

Another exciting result (and one of the main reasons I decided to do this now) is that I have over 20 new notebooks and papers to review! I had acquired many new papers and hadn’t had time to test them, so now that I have the tests done I can sit down and write up some reviews. My goal is to publish one paper review every other week, which should provide a steady stream of new information without overwhelming you with nothing but articles on paper.

Comments 4

  1. If the correlation is large, this is considered evidence for good test–retest . It is the great deal of work is required to design and evaluate a new measurement too. The only exception for a pencil-and-paper retake will be if a student has an accommodation for paper-testing only.

    1. Very true, Bradley. The fact that the criteria I assumed would change the most actually did change (but in most cases not drastically) gives me confidence that it was a good thing to do.

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