Choosing the Best Paper & Notebooks for your Brush Pens

by | Jul 30, 2018 | Lettering | 0 comments

Yay, you have new fun pens to play with! Congratulations, and welcome to the pen hoarding club. But with great pen ownership comes great paper responsibility, as paper choice is just as important as selecting your fab pens. When you’re first starting to use your new pens, it can be tempting to use regular printer paper to practice. This is going to result in a shorter life span for your pens that you are so excited to start using. Fortunately, we’re (very) into paper and are here to share some tips on what will help your pens stay in good condition and last longer.

Let’s start by breaking down paper. Sheets of paper are made from pressed paper fibers that have been blended together. When these fibers are long or coarse, the paper has more “tooth”, which is the amount of roughness the paper has. Smooth paper has shorter fibers, resulting in a gentler surface for your pens. Although the tooth might not be noticeable to your touch, pens will definitely feel the difference! The images below show how brush pens react to smooth versus textured paper. You can see on the textured paper that the ink is uneven and rough around the edges – and writing on it tears up the felt pen tip!

Paper Finishes

As a pen owner, you should think of paper like a carpenter thinks about wood. Different woods are better suited for different purposes, just as certain papers are better for certain uses. So what are the different types of paper? Generally speaking, there are two basic categories of paper finishes: smooth or textured. Although wove, bond, and vellum are all considered smooth finishes, we recommend sticking to the actual smooth finish for best results. This will prevent your pens from fraying quickly, because no one likes a frayed tip! Stay away from the textured finishes such as laid, felt, or linen for your pens.

Practice Paper

When choosing your paper for lettering, think about what the purpose will be. Are you practicing or are you looking to letter a project for a gift or framing? Luckily there are great options for both that are easily available on Amazon, Michaels, or other craft supply stores. Here are our favorite practice papers to use.

Strathmore 370-9 300 Series Tracing Pad, 9"x12" Tape Bound, 50 Sheets

Strathmore Tracing Paper is great because you can easily copy over example letters to get a feel for how to form the strokes. You can also place guidelines or a pencil sketch underneath to then trace over with a brush pen.

HP Premium Paper is perfect to have on hand for practicing your lettering. It is affordable and super smooth.

Rhodia Classic Black Notepad 8.25x12.5 Blank (80 Sheets)

Rhodia Notepads come in various sizes and with different types of sheets. You can opt for blank, lined, dotted or graph paper. The guides are helpful for keeping your lettering a uniform size as well as keeping your lines straight.

The Canson Marker Paper works well if you’re looking to practice on a bound pad. The paper is great for any brush pens. It is semi transparent, so you can also put some guidelines underneath. The sheets are thin but ink does not bleed through.

Project Paper

When you are creating a lettering project that you’ll want to keep, use acid-free, archival paper as it won’t yellow over time. After spending time perfecting your masterpiece, the last thing you’ll want is for your paper to start curling or fading! Below are a few recommendations for quality project paper.

Canson Bristol Paper is great for finished pieces because it is heavy weight and has a smooth finish. It also comes in 11×14 if you’re looking for larger paper.

Similar to the Canon Bristol, we also recommend using the Strathmore Bristol Smooth Paper for a heavy weight smooth paper that won’t hurt your brush pens.

If you’re looking for smooth card stock for a final piece that won’t fade over time, this White Heavy Weight Stock Paper is perfect! You can trim down to your desired size, or even fold to create greeting cards.

Astrobrights Colored Card Stock variety pack is great if you’re looking for fun color options. It is acid-free quality paper so works well for finished projects.


Of course, it isn’t always possible to carry around a large pad of paper to practice your lettering. We usually carry pens and a few notebooks in our bags so we can easily letter on the go – you never know when you’ll be inspired! 🙂 Although some of these aren’t extra smooth paper, you can still use them with your brush pens, we just don’t recommend them for repeated, long-term practicing. We’ve noted which ones are smooth!

The Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Notebook is one of our favorite notebooks. With a dot grid and silky smooth pages that are great for your brush pens, we love this for sketching and practice. And it comes in a variety of colors!

We also love the Compendium Motto Journals for lettering on the go. They are pocket-sized notebooks with dot grid smooth paper pages and come in fun colors and quote options.

There are a variety of notebooks available at Muji, including both glue and ring bound in many sizes with blank, lined, dotted, or grid sheets. Since glue bound notebooks don’t always lay flat, the ring bound are especially useful for taking pictures of your lettering. Not all of these are smooth paper, but are great to have as options!

Of course, we love the gorgeous Rifle Paper Co. pocket sized notebooks. These have blank sheets and are always fun to carry around for inspirational lettering while you’re out and about. 

Happy lettering!

We can talk about pens and paper all day, but the main takeaway here is to not use regular printer paper for brush lettering. Since felt brush pens aren’t refillable, they won’t last forever, but if you take care of them using quality paper they will last longer. We’d love to hear about your favorite paper and notebooks for brush lettering!


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Welcome! We’re Amelia & Natasha and we’re into it

We love hand lettering and graphic design and we’re here to share some of our favorite things!

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