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In this thread I'm going to start showing some scans for an ink torture test for papers that I have devised as a means of helping me to better understand paper behavior and to predict behavior over a wider range of conditions. The test is simple and requires an and ink a sheet of paper and a cotton Q-tip. The testing procedure is as follows:


  1. Saturate Q-tip and apply a single swab stroke in zigzag pattern. This is a standard swab with no overlap of the strokes (or very little) and represents a standard heavy application of ink to the page. 
  2. Resaturate Q-tip and dab the ink into a small puddle of ink on the page. This represents the heaviest possible application of ink in a concentrated form, and is like a droplet of ink.
  3. Resaturate Q-tip and rub a swab repeatedly over the same general area like you would a regular swab but going over the same area in a zigzag pattern repeatedly until you have partially abraded the paper surface. This is an extremely harsh test but tests what happens to the paper as it degrades or loses its primary surface coating. It also replicates what can happen when you rub over an area with a nib, or when a nib partially removes the paper's top coating because of sharpness or simply because you're filling in an area and go over the same area multiple times with a nib quickly. It's important to continue rubbing until some of the paper is clear "destroyed" a bit, but not so much that you simply mechanically remove the paper. With most papers there is a distinct shift in feel when the initial paper surface is disrupted and that's the point you want to get to, but not far past that. 
  4. Allow these three ink applications to dry and then examine the page for feathering, bleed, shading, sheen, color, and especially, ink texture. You can make a note of the dry time.


I'm doing this test because my desires for paper have not always fully aligned with the desires of a lot of other reviewers. Particularly, I don't consider shading or sheen to be inherently desirable, and I do consider dry time to be relatively important. I consider the color of the ink more important than its shading and sheen, so if a paper demonstrates good sheen and shading but somehow disturbs or otherwise perverts the inks color excessively, then I might not like it as much, particularly if it takes a long time to dry. Furthermore, feather and bleeding and ghosting are larger problems to me (with ghosting a very far down third) than getting maximum sheen or shade. 


Often times, too much shading in a paper means that the relative saturation of an ink will tend to seem less, and that makes the ink seem less vibrant and colorful to me. The same can go with sheen, since if the page isn't "taking" ink well enough, then it might not give a nice, smooth line, nor allow the color to build up and saturate in a single place, thus leading to a less desirable or bold color than might otherwise be possible. 


What I've found is that papers all behave wildly differently in how they "fail". They don't at all behave in the same way when you push them, and they don't fall on a continuous, linear spectrum, either. Some inks will destroy one paper but sit nicely with another, and some papers will take one ink exceptionally well that normally bleeds through most papers, but then allow for other inks that are normally fine with other papers to bleed through. 


Additionally, a paper might seem to be great at first, but when working or using it, hand oils, rubbing, or other working of the paper may cause the paper to "fail faster" than other papers under the same conditions, so I want to test the inks not just on pristine pages, but also what happens after the pages have some physical contact. The above test ensures that I get to see a range of how the paper performs under a variety of conditions. 


Finally, I have a particular interest in the texture of an ink on the page. I have found an interesting correlation between paper qualities and how the ink texturizes on the page. Some papers with some inks will produce a more mottled texture, while others tend to produce a clean, even color, while others produce heavy shades and swirls. These generally help to illustrate the construction qualities of the paper and provide an additional lens on how the paper behaves under adverse conditions. 


I have done a bunch of papers and a bunch of inks in these tests, and so I am going to start slowly scanning these in as I have time and get them put up here. The inks I'm using are:


  1. Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo. This is a typical, high-saturation, high-penetration ink. I've found this ink to penetrate and bleedthrough where other Japanese style inks would not.
  2. Sailor Blue. A saturated but reasonably well-behaved standard blue. This represents a sort of middle of the road ink with sheen potential but also pretty normall characteristics.
  3. Waterman Serenity Blue. A well-behaved, baseline dye-based ink that resists bleedthrough IME but can also produce sheen and either very light or very deep colors depending on the paper, thus making it a good candidate for paper tests.
  4. Platinum Blue Black. A classic blue black iron gall ink that is very well behaved, representing iron gall inks.
  5. Sailor Seiboku. A reasonably well-behaved pigmented blue ink. I wanted this one because it has a tendency to give some pretty stark contrasts and shading with respect to different papers and how different papers take ink, while also not bleeding through easily.
  6. Noodler's Legal Blue. A super high penetrating, high surfactant, insta-dry monster of an ink that behaves like the Borg and assimilates, coopts, and consumes all it touches, while stubbornly resisting any sheen and shade if possible. An exceptionally brutal ink. 


Armed with these 6 inks and some cotton swabs, I have so far done at least 12 different papers, and now I just need to scan these in. This may take a while, but I hope to have them up here at something of a regular, if slow, pace. 

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Here's the first baseline paper: Tomoe River, old stock. Since this is such a well known paper, I figure that this will be the first good test so that we can compare how others do relative to it. 


A few things to note. For a paper with a sheening reputation, I honestly think that the sheen intensity isn't as high as some other papers, nor the shading, though it did manage to extract some sheen out of pretty much all the inks except for Legal Blue, which is about as stubborn as it gets. The paper's big weakness in terms of ink soak is that inks *will* make it through on heavy applications for a wet enough pen, but a strength is just how stable the paper is, even in the presence of aggressive rubbing. While the paper did a little worse with the rubbing, it wasn't by much, whereas some other papers are not so well off. It's also remarkably consistent, so that its behavior with pretty much all the inks was very reliable, so the variation of behavior between each ink was much less than with some other papers, which do great with some inks and not so great with others. This is particularly revealed by the fact that even the pigmented inks and IG inks had a touch of bleed or very close to bleed, but on the high penetrating inks, it resisted the bleed very well. 



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And here's the ever popular Apica C.D. paper (medium weight). This is *not* the A.Silky 865 Premium paper, but their standard paper, which I think they used to call their "1000 years" paper. 


  • Note the high penetrators penetrated more on this paper vs. TR, but the better behaved inks penetrated and ghosted less. 
  • Note the slight feathering under duress with high penetrating inks
  • Stronger contrast between the regular swab and the abrasion swab
  • All the inks take on a more green-ish hue over the more red-ish hues of the TR, this, to my eyes, make the colors a little less vibrant
  • Notice the strong mottling of the inks. This is something of a feature in Apica paper across all Apica papers that I have tested.



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Next up is another very popular paper: Midori MD Cream writing paper. 

  • Very significant sheen when it shows up, but certain inks just didn't show sheen when they might have otherwise
  • Texture of the page really shows through on the Legal Blue
  • Surprisingly rich color fidelity. I find that inks tend to "pop" on this paper and gain a bit of depth, this is likely due to the lack of absorbency. 
  • Texture and color distribution is consistent.
  • Bleedthrough is generally excellent, except for the two penetrators, which can defeat it, and 
  • Good abrasion resistance
  • High ghosting
  • Surprisingly, for such an ink resistant paper, it's slightly more prone to feathering, as can be seen on the Legal Blue the most. I actually think this is the result of its ink resistance. Other papers which are smooth but more absorbent may have more ink spread, leading to a wider line but less feather effect. This paper, though generally feather resistant, when it fails, will feather rather than spread. 

Overall, I think this paper deserves its good reputation and the hardness and feedback of the page is unique among papers of this level of ink resistance and weight, IME. I find this paper somewhat frustrating to use with a wide stub like a Platinum Music nib because of the excessively crisp lines (making it more sensitive and thus requiring more work to keep a Music nib on point), but with B or M nibs it leads to a very precise, clean experience with lots of precision. I only wish that the notebooks, charming as they are, were available in more practical formats and sizes (A4 ruled or B5 ruled at small and large page counts). As they stand, I consider them an almost perfect BuJo journal if you want to go for a sort of clean but crunchy aesthetic, as they are one of the few fountain pen papers that will work well with all sorts of other media. I think this might be why they are marketed and have achieved some level of success with artists. Mixed pencil, charcoal, ink, and the like will all work well with this paper, and you'll be able to do excellent work with fine or broad nibs, including flex. 


However, when you do the price per square meter on this paper, you'll find that it's crazy expensive compared to some of the others. 



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And here is the somewhat controversial Apica A.Silky 865 Premium paper.

  • Careful observation will show that this paper feathers in a different way to some others, with low feathering on some, but high feathering on others that were less in other papers
  • Color is actually pretty good on this page and for some inks this paper does bring out the true tone quite well
  • Bleeding is where this paper gets its drama from. The paper is relatively thick, but it has what I would call a harsh "break point." This means that you don't get a slow spectrum of different bleeding rates like you see with TR paper, but instead, the paper tends to be very ink resistant until you reach its failure point, at which point it just sort of dies. Depending on your ink that the nib, this can mean that you can get spot bleeding on the page. Interestingly enough, the quick dry, high penetration of the Legal  Blue probably helped it out in this case, because it got in and then stopped penetrating relatively quickly, which is an advantage for this slightly thicker paper over some of the thinner competitors, where the bleeding was more severe with Legal Blue, such as Midori MD. On the other hand, inks like Tsuki-yo and Sailor Blue were less kind to this paper because of that critical break point.
  • Ghosting is where this paper really shines, however. It is thicker and very shielding, for lack of a better word, which means that if you don't hit the break point of the paper, then there is practically zero ghosting, which is a lot better than many ink friendly papers that are this thin. 
  • This paper retains what I have now come to call the characteristic Apica mottling of the inks. 
  • Sheen and shading are on generally average, and IMO, don't get this paper in trouble and don't get it out of any either

Of course, while this is a competent set of paper, the whole point of this paper from the beginning was optimizing a unique and addicting paper feel, and frankly, Apica did a great job in this respect. it has a soft feel that feels great to handle with your fingers but that also manages to deliver one of the most unique writing experiences around, with a soft, gentle smoothness that is uncannily rich. It has the ability to "tame" feedback and misalignment on nibs in a way that I haven't seen in other papers. Feedback on other papers sort of yells at you (MD especially), but A.Silky paper just whispers at you. When you get a very smooth nib, you don't feel like you're ice skating like a hard smooth paper, but there is also no drag as with sticky coatings. It's very strange. It really does capture "Silky" in a way that other papers just don't.  


It doesn't hurt that the notebook quality surrounding this paper is also spectacular, with subtle French sparkle paper on the cover and matching internal stictching colors. It also has some of the tightest and cleanest binding around, while being exceptionally flexible in the binding (unlike other tight bindings like Monokaki). 


I think that so much of the Apica C.D. Premium notebooks is done perfectly that the rather harsh nature of its ink handling with respect to bleeding can make the bleeding stand out that much more to people, thus leading to a strong emotional reaction to this paper, either in love or disgust. 




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I really appreciate these kinds of threads. Very helpful. Thanks arcfide.

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1 hour ago, LizEF said:

OK, you convinced me.  I've added the cheapest version I could find on JetPens to my wishlist.  I'll get it eventually.

Haha! Well, I hope you enjoy it when you do get it. I don't know whether you're still digging EF these days or not, but this paper is one of my favorites to use with broad and stub IG ink. If you use super wet, broad nibs with penetrating inks, you will likely get spot bleeding, but I find that this is one of those notebooks that I can write a long time in without fatigue and feel quite emotionally satisfied with by the end. It's "easy going" paper in some sense, compared to the rather intense experience that some other papers deliver. Still, I've got some hidden surprise gems coming up! Going through the popular papers first will make the less talked about ones in the future seem all the more interesting. 😉

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3 minutes ago, arcfide said:

Haha! Well, I hope you enjoy it when you do get it. I don't know whether you're still digging EF these days or not, but this paper is one of my favorites to use with broad and stub IG ink.

I use mostly Japanese and western fine nibs these days.  The Japanese EF is only for my reviews.  I rarely use anything larger than my Pelikan m405 fine nib (which I think is like a wet western medium).  Anyway, I'm sure I'll enjoy it - how much is the question.  And I'm sure I have many nibs that will work well with it.

5 minutes ago, arcfide said:

Still, I've got some hidden surprise gems coming up! Going through the popular papers first will make the less talked about ones in the future seem all the more interesting. 😉

Looking forward to it! :)

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Next up we have the LIFE Noble Note paper. 

  • Feathering is pretty consistently good across the board
  • Bleed is generally quite good, but if you get a high surfactant ink it can be absolute damnation for the paper, as seen with the Legal Blue. 
  • Shading is pretty typical for Japanese papers, IMO, and maybe a little on the higher end
  • Sheen is actually a strong suit of this paper if you like sheen. Tomoe River paper I find gives sheen consistently more often with more inks than this paper, but with inks that are wont to sheen, the sheen tends to seem more vivid and intense on this paper
  • This is fairly ink resistant paper, so dry times can be quite long
  • For cream paper, the color is pretty good if you are writing thickly enough, but I find that the cream really starts to affect the color of writing if you are working with anything that lays a drier line, such as wide stub nibs that aren't gushing wet, calligraphy broad edge pens, or dry medium to broads, &c. 
  • There's very little mottling with this paper, and it's pretty consistently toned throughout, except for the death by car wash ink that is Legal Blue. 
  • Relatively high ghosting

This paper is pretty distinctly "Cream" over "Ivory" with more yellow in it than many other Cream papers. This is very good paper with some distinct weaknesses. Like MD paper, the ghosting on this paper is pretty high relative to others, but unlike MD paper, the line it writes is more relaxed, without the "crisp" element to MD, and without the associated potential annoyances with ink sensitivity that can come from that. On the other hand, between LIFE and MD paper, the colors on MD paper are distinctly, significantly better, with the color of inks on LIFE paper suffering when you have a shading ink, particularly with some IG and pigmented inks. On the other hand, LIFE takes a much better line with some of those same inks than on the MD paper. 


For laid paper, it has a pretty good feel to it, but it's definitely on the harder side of laid paper. A careful observer will also note some line ruling showthrough on the page, where the line rulings repel ink somewhat. This isn't as strong as on some papers, but it is there. 



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And here is the ever dominant Kokuyo's highest grade MIO paper:


  • feathering, bleed, shading, sheen, color, and especially, ink texture. You can make a note of the dry time.
  • Some small feathering, but otherwise quite good
  • Nothing crazy regarding shading or sheen, but there's some
  • Colors are somewhat more muted on this paper compared to others, I find that they tend to come out a little greener
  • Ink texture is smooth and even with good ink uptake and spread
  • Bleeding is the interesting one on this paper. It's a thin paper, so it has some of the same general weaknesses as Tomoe River in this respect, but Kokuyo tackled the hard task of trying to find low-ghosting, lightweight, soft feeling, quick-drying thin paper targeted at gel pens. That's a tight rope if there ever was one, and you can see it in the backside. You can see that with inks more like gel pens, such as pigmented inks, the paper behaves well with low ghosting, despite how thin it is, and with normal dye inks, the paper is only a little worse than tomoe river, but like the Apica A.Silky paper, it has a relatively unforgiving breakpoint, and once you make it through, the inks hit hard. If you hit the wrong part of the page with a glob of ink, then you will see some spot bleeding or heavy ghosting. 
  • The advantage of this paper over Tomoe River is that if you are writing quickly or using this paper in a diary, such as Kokuyo's Jibun Techo, it takes ink precisely and dries much more quickly than TR or a lot of the rest of the competition. Especially in tight spaces, with fine nibs or the like, that anti-smudge feature can be quite welcome. 
  • The feel is very soft and smooth, so it's very nice to handle this paper and flip through it.

Overall, I think this paper deserves more credit than this paper gets in the FP community. Yes, it's not quite as FP-friendly as some other papers, and Kokuyo didn't expressly have fountain pens in mind when they were developing it, at least based on their marketing, but when you get to writing on the paper, it *feels* pretty good to write on, especially with a hard sort of cushioning (as opposed to the soft cusion of A.Silky) that gives you a precise feel. It's very practical though, whether in notebook form or diary form, as the paper dries quickly, handles well, and is lightweight, so you get nice, flexible, easy to work with notebooks and lightweight diaries. Kokuyo's Campus High Grade notebook with MIO paper is relatively unassuming, but it was surprisingly pleasant and addictive to use. It doesn't look like much, but the binding is *much* more durable than I expected, and there is just a svelte sort of handling to the book. It's the sort of notebook that just sort of gets out of the way and let's you get work done without ever getting in your way. In that sense, you find yourself reaching for it more than others just because it's so utterly reliable and dependable, without requiring much from you emotionally in return. 🙂 


Maybe we can call it the Labrador of notebooks? Not too fancy, but a solid, dependable breed that just makes you happy and encourages you to play with it? 


If you need a paper that is a little less brutal/intense and a little more gentle than the Apica breeds, and you can handle a more relaxed, laid back feel, then give this paper a try. 




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Up next is the Itoya Oasis Profolio standard notebook:

  • Little to no feathering
  • Reasonable sheen, less shading
  • Color is okay, but the cream paper does somewhat affect the color
  • Ink texture is fairly consistent
  • Relatively low ghosting.

This is one of those surprising papers. For a relatively inexpensive notebook, it has an interesting ruling and nice paper. It's not ultra smooth paper, which gives the feedback which some people will much prefer, but it has more ink absorb than MD paper, so you won't get the strongly crisp lines that you would with MD paper, which, again, some people will prefer. It has remarkable bleed resistance except with the strongest penetrating Legal Blue. The surface is a little more delicate than others, as can be seen from the abrasion testing showing more spot bleeding. 


This is another one of those papers that is pretty thin, but does a pretty good job of preventing excessive ghosting. Nothing groundbreaking, but a very solid showing, and at an above average value. However, if you're dealing with an ink like Legal blue or the like, then this isn't the sort of paper for you, as it will be very susceptible to those sorts of high surfactant inks. It's also not appropriate or possibly less good for those who are very hard, scratchy writers or people who want to go back over their inks with more ink, such as a lot of drawing or filling in. 



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Next up we have the Oasis Profolio LIght:


  • A bit of feathering with Legal Blue
  • Bleedthrough was restricted mostly to the Legal Blue case, though you can see the change in ghosting because of the abrasion testing
  • Higher shading
  • Decent sheen, but not excessive
  • Color tone on this paper is a little weird. It seems to dull the inks just a bit
  • Texture of the paper shows just a hint of mottling with Legal Blue

This is thin paper that is much smoother and more ink resistant than the standard Oasis paper. I think that the thicker paper has a better writing feel, as this paper has a little bit too much of the surface coating feel. However, the paper does significantly better at resisting bleedthrough than the standard Oasis under abrasive conditions. It's also a bit better when it comes to the naughty inks like Legal Blue.


Price/performance ratio is really good on this paper, and probably the best among the light, Japanese style notebooks that I have seen anywhere. The paper is technically good, but it does have a sort of meh feel during writing and when viewing the colors. Otherwise, it's probably some of the best around. 



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Now we have some interesting paper that you don't see talked about much: Kokuyo THIN paper. 

  • Very little to no feathering
  • Mostly resistant to bleedthrough
  • Low ghosting for its weight
  • Not a big shader
  • Color can be a little muted or less vibrant than other papers
  • Sheen is actually not too bad, but not super high
  • Smooth paper texture with good glide, no stickiness
  • This paper is very eager to grab ink, so you get a much thicker line than normal
  • Slower dry times compared to MIO paper

This paper is Kokuyo's replacement for Tomoe River paper in their Jibun Techo journals, and it shows their pragmatic, rather than romantic emphasis on paper. Where other brands like Kobeha are using things like their Graphillo line to emphasize the romantic elements of paper, Kokuyo's focus on their THIN paper was to make a paper that was more practical than Tomoe River for the same use case, that is, journaling and small diaries. While this might not be a popular opinion, I have to say that I think they succeeded. The paper is thin and light, like Tomoe River, but is intentionally designed to be more robust, and less soft, so it doesn't crinkle or knurl at the edges of a notebook nor suffer page creasing unintentionally in the same way that the Tomoe River paper will. It's thin, but stronger than Tomoe River. It also has significantly less ghosting compared to TR, by a surprisingly significant margin. 


One of the main goals of this paper was to have TR-like paper that stood up to more abuse for pens like the Pilot FriXion pens and the like, where you were doing more erasing of the page and hard erasers could bunch up the TR paper. In this respect, Kokuyo did a good job. All around, the paper is more pragmatically usable than TR is, IMO. 


Of course, the reality in the FP world is that people don't buy TR to be practical, they buy it for its neat properties. And in this respect, if you love the romantic elements of TR, such as the soft crinkliness, the high-sheen, or the way that the colors do something a little different on the page, then this is *not* going to be your jam. Inks have what I am now coming to see as the signature muting effect of Kokuyo papers (I have seen this on all Kokuyo paper that I have tried), in which greens in an ink seem to come out a little stronger, and reds seem to recede, leading to somewhat more mellow colors that aren't excessively bright nor rich to my eyes. Additionally, I don't see as much sheen on this paper as compared to some others. And while Kokuyo made the THIN paper more practical in many ways than TR paper, the THIN paper is still significantly longer in dry times than the MIO paper from Kokuyo, so if you want good dry times, the MIO paper is still better in that regard, though perhaps a little thicker paper and softer. 


Kokuyo did nail the feel of the paper though. It's a pleasant writing experience with a good glide and an excellent nib feel. It tames the extremes of a nib without reaching into the super slick territory or the overly waxed territory. You still get a very good glide. Part of this might be the way that the paper lets the ink pool quickly onto the page, thus maybe increasing the inks lubricating effects on the nib. Between this and the competing OASIS Light notebook paper, I consider this paper the more pleasant writing experience, and the colors probably look a little better on this paper than on the OASIS Light, but with less shading. 


So, for my money, I find myself purchasing more of these little THIN books than I do of TR paper, and I have to admit that I enjoy writing on this paper probably more than TR simply because the TR paper can be somewhat finicky to work with, and I use this paper when I don't want to deal with finicky. They are terrific for use in the IDEA booklets that the Jibun Techo comes with, and I think they are an excellent choice in that form factor for that use case. 



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Sorry but what makes you think that Kokuyo Idea note is Kokuyo's replacement or alternative for Tomoe river? 


As far as i know, the paper used in these narrowed B6 booklets IS Tomoegawa paper. At least from my long term experience of it, and from many sources that can be found on the internet. I am therefore quite assertive.


Indeed very enjoyable. 


Hobonichi Plain Notebooks A6 and A5 are a good alternative too. 


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