I'm a full time college student, and as such, I go through a lot of paper. I print a lot of material for school, but get frustrated when I can't use fountain pens to take notes with. I always hear from people that copy paper is awful for fountain pens, and have experienced that myself, but some people say this brand is good or that brand is good, so I set out to find out for myself.
I gathered up Rhodia paper, and 8 different types of copy paper. To prep the paper, I printed a dot grid on each page to help keep my writing consistent. I used this square dots pdf generator to make my dot grid.
I used a bunch of different fountain pens and inks. I used a lot of sparkle inks because they tend to bleed through Rhodia more than other inks do.
Any paper that I use needs to handle highlighters, markers, gel pens, and pencils as well as fountain pens, so I tested all of the papers with these as well.
One thing I want to point out is that some inks are very paper dependent. Even if you use the same ink and pen, the color does vary by paper.
If we are going to compare anything, we need to have a control group. Rhodia paper pads are really considered to be the standard among fountain pen reviewers. I always hear about Rhodia being the most fountain pen friendly paper, so let's take a look at Rhodia paper first. The goal is to find a copy paper that does as well or better than Rhodia.
I used a Rhodia No. 18 Notepad, in Graph, (8.27 x 11.69) which is the closest size I could find to copy paper. You can get a 80 page notepad at Goulet Pens for $9.00, which means it costs $0.11 per sheet. It is 80 gsm, in extra white.
Bleeding: Low-two of the flex nibs
Dry time: 40 seconds
The only problem with the other writing instruments was bleeding from the sharpie. So now that we know how Rhodia behaves, and that it's our control group, let's look at the worst copy paper.
Wow Office Works copy paper is a generic brand paper I found at my grocery store. It was on sale for $3.49/500 sheets, making it less than a penny per sheet. It is 20lb in weight and 92 brightness. It is the cheapest paper I could find, and therefore had really low expectations.
Feathering: High-pretty much every ink feathered at least a little bit.
Bleeding: High-every single one bled through
Dry time: 5 seconds
The sharpie bled through, and there was a little bit of bleeding with the Koi brush as well. This is the worst paper you can find for fountain pens-this is the paper we want to avoid. Let's move on to the challenging papers.
The paper is $9.79/500 sheets, which breaks down to $0.02 per sheet. The paper has 92 brightness, and is 20lb (75 gsm). It is made from 95% sugar cane, which I had never seen in copy paper before.
Dry time: 40 seconds
Only the Sharpie bled. This paper has less bleeding than Rhodia, has the same dry time, and costs less, so I think this one is in the running.
Mike from inkdependence.com recommended this paper to me. This paper is $10.29/ream of 500 sheets, which breaks down to $0.02 per sheet. It has a 92 brightness and is 21 lb (80 gsm). The paper is made from wheat straw waste, and is 80% tree free. The hard part about this paper is that it's only sold online, not in stores.
Dry time: 30 seconds
Sheen: Medium-there is some sheen from Emerald of Chivor at the top, and a little bit of sheen in the swab of Sailor Jentle Sky High at the bottom.
The only bleeding was from the sharpie. I am in love with this paper. It behaves pretty perfectly-it has a nice low tooth without being scratchy. I love that you can see some sheen, and it has a faster dry time and is cheaper than Rhodia, so it's in the running as well.
This paper cost $13.49/ream of 500 sheets, making it $0.03 per sheet. It has a 95 brightness and is 24 lb (90 gsm). It is 100% recycled.
Feathering: Medium-half of the inks feathered
Bleeding: High-every ink bled at least a little
Dry time: 10 seconds
Just like all of the papers so far, the sharpie bled, but none of the others did on the second page. I don't like this paper. It is cheaper than Rhodia, but it bleeds and feathers too much to be in the running. Kicking this one to the curb.
This paper can be found at most big box stores, and on amazon.com
This paper was recommended to me by a lot of people, that I should get HP laserjet paper in anything over 24 lb. This paper has a 98 brightness and is 24 lb (90 gsm). You can get this paper for $5.94/500 sheets on amazon.com, making it $0.01 per sheet.
Dry time: 10 seconds
Like all of the papers, the sharpie bled through on the second page. This paper had more feathering and bleeding than Rhodia, so it is out of the running.
This paper can be found on amazon.com, but is no longer being produced as far as I know.
I paid $10.71/ream of 500 sheets, making it $0.02 per sheet. The paper has a 98 brightness and is 28 lb (105 gsm). This paper is harder to find now that it's not being mass produced, but I still wanted to test it since it's still available in some stores.
Feathering: Low-only the flex pens feathered.
Bleeding: Low-only the flex pens bled
Dry time: 20 seconds
Sheen: Low-there's a tiny bit of sheen in the large swab and in Emerald of Chivor.
The sharpie bled, but everything else on the second page did well. This paper did ok, but had more bleeding and feathering than Rhodia, so it is out of the running as well.
Staples Color Laser Paper:
This paper is only sold here at staples.com
This paper is $13.97/ream of 300 sheets, which breaks down to $0.05 per sheet. It has a glossy finish, brightness of 96, and is 32 lb (120 gsm).
Feathering: High-not only does it feather, but it also spreads across the page since the finish is so glossy.
Bleeding: High-every ink bled at least a little bit.
Dry time: 20
This is the only paper that the sharpie didn't bleed through, but it was horrible for the pencils. I hate this paper. The ink spreads out so much, I would never use this paper for fountain pens. I might use it to print pictures on, but that would be the only use for it. Out of the running.
This paper can be found at amazon.com and at office supply stores.
I purchased this paper at amazon for $12.84/ream of 500 sheets, which breaks down to $0.03 per sheet. The paper has a brightness of 100, and is 32 lb (120 gsm).
Dry time: 30 seconds
Sheen: Low-both Emerald of Chivor and the swab of Sailor Jentle Sky High at the bottom showed some sheen.
The sharpie bled through, but that happened with most of the papers. This paper had less bleeding than Rhodia, is cheaper, and dried faster. So it's in the running.
So now that we've tested all of the papers, where did we end up? Papers still in the running:
Sustainable Earth 20 lb paper: Behaves great-40 second dry time, no sheen (This paper performs well, but I wasn't crazy about the feel of it as I was writing).
Step Forward 21 lb paper: Behaves great-30 second dry time, medium sheen
HP Laserjet 32 lb paper: Behaves great-30 second dry time, low sheen
So what would I recommend?
If you prefer Rhodia as your standard paper, I would recommend the HP Laserjet 32 lb paper: It behaves very similar to Rhodia, but is a whole lot cheaper, dries faster, and even shows a little bit of sheen.
If you prefer Leuchtturm or Tomoe River as your fountain pen friendly paper, I would recommend the Step Forward 21 lb paper from Staples. It behaves better than Rhodia, and shows sheen as well. This one is my personal favorite.
Disclaimer: I purchased these products myself, all photos and opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links on this page.