This is meant more as personal reference for myself, but I thought it might be useful to other people too. This isn't a "fountain pen friendly" list, it's a broad
nib friendly list. Why? I got tired of seeing brands getting stamps of approval from reviewers who only tested with an EF or F nib. If it won't work with a B nib, is it really
fountain pen friendly?
Country Brand Budget Sourcing
By CountryTypically safe:
France, Japan, Germany, Poland
Sometimes safe, sometimes not:
Vietnam (~70/30), India (30/70), Taiwan (30/70), Egypt (30/70)
Korea (25/75), China (25/75), United States (15/85),
Post-COVID-19, many notebook companies have changed their sourcing. Paper quality from any country is even more inconsistent than before. So, for the time being, take the information in this section of the page with a grain of salt. These are very hazy guesses at this point. The brand specific information is more reliable. Only use this section if the brand is not on here and cannot be found on other fountain pen friendly lists.
Paper is very smooth, sheen will show up less, quick drying, very good quality but typically pricey in the USA and online.
Has more tooth to it, sheen will be very vibrant on this, slow drying on this paper, a little thinner than most paper, high amount of sheen visible. Can be gotten in white or cream colors.
Tomoe River (Old formula):
Very similar to Midori, Tomoe River is very high quality and can take very thick inks without feathering, but paper is thin and easily damaged if not careful, moderate to long dry time depending on the ink, very high amount of sheen visible with inks. Several brands use this paper, including Hobonichi. Currently my favorite. Never tried the new formula, but both have now been discontinued. *cries in Hobonichi*
Similar in price to Mead, but better with sheening, can handle very thick inks.
The only recycled paper I've found that works with broad nibs. Minimal sheening, but quick drying, review here
Excellent quality paper and office suitable that will be easier to come by than Clairefontaine and Midori in person if you're in the USA. It's more expensive than UStyle. Good amount of sheen and feedback. Not super silky smooth like Clairefontaine and Rhodia, so if you don't like the super smooth paper types, this may be a better fit for you. Sold in OfficeMax/Office Depot, on the pricier side, but can be gotten at a reasonable price during sales. The note system is similar in style to the Happy Planner, except the paper isn't trash! The extra small papers that can be gotten are good quality, but a warning. Some of the sticker/sticky notes have a different paper sourcing. I haven't tested them, but they likely will be a different quality than everything else in this line. Check the label before buying.
West Emory (Vietnam):
A relatively cheap brand I've seen at Target. No feathering, a nice amount of tooth, and a decent amount of sheening. Even crisp with a 1.1mm stub. Great for a student on a budget. No forestry certification.
Lisa Frank/Innovative Designs (Glitter cover+Pink lines):
Surprisingly excellent paper! I figured given the huge emphasis on the cover designs, the paper would suffer as a result, but I was very wrong. Found these at Target after my wife pointed them out, and decided to see if the old 90's brand was actually worth a damn. Has a fair amount of tooth to it, and a little sheening is visible. Lines are very crispy, even with a 1.1mm stub. Great for students, or people who like really flashy designs. No forestry certification that I could find. Vietnam sourcing.
Lisa Frank/Innovative Designs (Non-glitter cover+Blue lines)
This paper is excellent, but it is "tougher" feeling than the ones with the glittery covers and has less of the smoothness. Sheen shows up a moderate amount, and shimmer is nicely distributed. Paper feels slightly thinner than the fancier covers, but very sturdy. Paper sourcing is Vietnam, same as the other version.
HP Papers Office20:
No sheening, but no feathering, a very good amount of shading, and shimmer shows up very beautifully. Tested with B and 1.1mm stub with heavy inks. I assume Premium32 will work as well, but haven't tested it yet. Not too pricey and very easy to find in most stores. Dries relatively quickly, but not super fast.
No sheening, but very crisp lines even with a 1.1mm stub and thick inks. Paper is sourced from Taiwan, no forestry certs and not recycled. Very, very thick, sturdy paper. Designs run feminine to neutral. Some would be office suitable. I would expect this paper to work well with thicker gel pens and markers as well.
Five Star/Mead/ACCO (Vietnam):
Little sheen will show up but dries in a decent amount of time, paper sometimes inconsistent.
Office Depot Stellar:
Very similar in feel and quality to Five Star, but I would rank is slightly better quality, which goes with it's slightly higher price tag.
Jane Davenport (Mixed Media):
Scratchy paper due to what it is, but no bleeding or feathering, not ideal for writing but might be good for art projects.
More Than Magic (Vietnam):
Paper feels a little weird to me, it's okay but makes ink look dull.
Not much sheening on this one, and while it can handle a Broad with most inks, it can't handle very thick inks, I would expect a stub nib to feather on this
While this is definitely a fountain pen friendly brand, it takes so long to dry and is more expensive than some of the above options that I only purchase it if it's heavily marketed down.
I got this expecting it to be the worst out of Jot's options, but it was actually the best. Very decent, no feathering, but no sheen whatsoever. Extremely cheap.
Unlike their planners, the other paper products sold by the company don't use TRP. Hobonichi Papers uses an uncoated paper. It's smooth and very absorbant. Inks dry very quick on it, but there's absolutely no sheening, shimmer will gravitate toward the center of the ink, and you cannot use this paper with heavy inks or a 1.1mm stub. Safe for up to a B nib with dry to moderate inks. Lines are pretty crisp on those. Heavy inks with a B nib look splotchy, and 1.1mm stub feathered. For most inks and pens, it should be fine. Test each ink before regular use. Depending on the ink color, you might be able to use the backside or you might not. There's a lot of show-through. Given this product was aimed more to just quickly jot down on the front side, this likely isn't too much of a concern.
ForYouHZ/Hangzhou ForYou Cultural Creative Co:
Found on AliExpress, though brand was not listed when bought. The journal I got was themed around The Little Prince
with a magnetic piece to close it, various art pages, monthly pages, daily pages, a calendar, a soft cover, and a pop-up piece at the front of the journal. There's several journals in this type on AliExpress in other themes. I assume they're by the same company. I emailed the seller if the journal was fountain pen friendly, and they sent back that is was, but I know in a lot of Asian countries, smaller nibs are typically preferred, so the only real way to know was to buy it. Testing with a B nib, with heavy inks, it feathers just slightly. It's an acceptable level. With dryer inks, it doesn't feather at all. So I can say M nibs and lower should be okay to use regardless of ink type, and it's B nib friendly so long as you don't use a heavy ink. How it looks with dryer ink I would place it in the excellent category, but with really heavy inks, it belongs in the low tier, so I'm placing it here in "decent". I was honestly surprised it did this well. Paper is very thick. It should hold up to gels too, but I don't know if I'd try painting on it.
Markings/CR Gibson, LLC (Vietnam):
Brand from Walgreens. Mostly good, but there is some paper inconsistency to these, and you will notice a very tiny amount of feathering here and there. The amount is so minimal it would be unnoticeable to anyone unless they were looking for it. Lines overall are pretty smooth though, and a good amount of shading. Not much sheening. For the price, definitely good for things like school notes. This version has slightly thicker paper than the Chinese notebooks by this brand.
Markings/CR Gibson, LLC (China):
Like a lot of notebook brands, Markings uses multiple paper sources. I expected the Chinese sourcing to be the cheaper quality one, but the Vietnam and Chinese papers are pretty much identical in quality and properties except the Chinese paper is sligthly thinner. The Chinese sourced ones seem to be used on their planner, big divided notebooks, and bullet journal-themed ones, while the Vietnam sourcing seems to go for notepads and general notebooks for this brand. I don't really see any differences between them beyond the ones made in China having better made covers. Both are very budget friendly in price. Good for school notes.
Very toothy. All inks come down feeling 'dry' on this, even wet inks. Dries fast, but feathers. Dryer inks don't feather to a noticeable degree, but wetter inks will. No sheening. Shimmer clumps together toward the center of ink. It's not terrible looking, but I wouldn't use it for anything beyond jotting down quick notes or to use with a really dry ink as a journal or something else I don't intend to pass on to someone else. It's definitely readable, but at the same price as Lisa Frank and more expensive than Mead, I don't see a reason to buy this except on sale for scrap paper. Sourcing is Vietnam. Covers are "retro", very early 90s and unisex.
Floor 9 (Lined, China)
: I found a few of this brand's notebooks in a Bargain Hunt. Each notebook had a different paper quality/source. As far as I can tell, this brand doesn't seem to really exist anymore. The lined journal with Chinese sourcing faired the best. Feathering was very, very minimal and effectively unnoticeable. I find it acceptable, but there's certainly far better notebooks out there. For what I paid for it, it was alright. No sheening, pretty sturdy paper.
Brand commonly seen on AliExpress. Makes planners blatantly meant to be knockoffs of the Hobonichi Techo. Paper quality is lacking compared to the real deal. Printed grid lines are much lighter, pages and calendar are unnumbered, and has none of the extra pages, just weird strips of scratch paper at the end. For a broad and a stub, it feathers, though not as much as I expected. It's barely noticeable, but more than that, the ink doesn't look crisp like it does on quality paper. Letters look fuzzy, almost blurring. It would probably be acceptable with an EF or F, and maybe with an M nib. Highlighters didn't fair well, and gel was clear, but very visible on the other side. Would be best for ballpoint and pencil only. It's useable for a B nib, but if I hadn't really wanted the cover, I'd have considered this venture a failure.
Jalepeño Paper Co:
Paper is made from 100% post-consumer recycled waste, but also made in Vietnam. Given how the quality of paper from that country is not as consistent as it used to be (as what eventually happened with Egyptian paper quality) and the 100% recycled paper, I wasn't sure what to expect. It feathers, though it's near unnoticeable and may not be enough to matter to some. The main issue with the paper is less the near unnoticeable feathering, but the amount of show through on the back is so bad that you can really only use one side of the paper. Which, I mean, then you're kinda just wasting paper anyway. It would likely not feather with an M or lower, certainly not with an EF, but with this amount of show through, does it really matter? It's useable, it's recycled paper, but it's definitely not good paper. If you really want 100% recycled paper that works well, use Yamamoto Ro-Biki instead. If price is a bigger issue for you, and you still want to try to be eco conscious with your paper sourcing, use Mead (Vietnam version) or UStyle.
Just the slightest bit of feathering with a B and almost nonexistant with an M, would be none with an EF or F, acceptable enough.
No feathering but tons of show through and dull ink, with a dark enough ink and a B nib, the back of pages may be near unusable.
Very light feathering with a B, but really noticeable feather with a 1.1mm stub. No sheening. Would be acceptable with an M or lower.
There is just a slight bit of feathering, so faint you wouldn't even notice unless you were really looking for it, no sheening whatsoever. Very cheap to get.
A brand easy to find on Etsy and Aliexpress. Very light feathering with a B and 1.1mm stub. Would likely not feather with smaller nibs, and isn't too badly noticeable on the bigger nibs. It's too muh for me, but may be acceptable to some.
Hobonichi Memo Pads:
This uses a different paper than the Techo and the Papers products. It's very thin paper, and feathers heavily with thick inks in a B nib or with a 1.1mm stub. It's not very crisp with dryer inks either, but is acceptable enough and readable. It doesn't feather with dry to moderate inks, but you can tell the paper can barely handle them. The back will be pretty much unusuable. These would be best for jotting down info really quickly with a dry ink. Would likely work fine with an M or lower. If you have the space to carry it around, the Hobonichi Papers is the better deal.
: Made in USA. For sticky notes and US paper sourcing, these worked okay. Lines aren't too crisp, and a thick ink would feather to a very noticeable degree, but it's decent and very readable. Dryer inks would be better for this. No impressive sheening, but good shading.
Floor 9 (Sketch, China):
Despite both using Chinese paper sourcing, the lined journal and sketchbook had very different paper. I expected, given its more artsy nature, that the sketchbook would fair better, but it feathered more. Still very good for sketching, though, but I wouldn't use any heavy inks in this. The feathering was noticeable, but not so awful as to be unuseable.
Noticeable feathering. It's not the worst I've seen, but it's definitely visible enough to be too much to ignore for regular usage. It's a shame because some of the notebooks the company makes are actually rather neutral (I expected nearly all overtly feminine) and the outside covers are very sturdy. Another sad loss for Vietnamese paper quality though. It really is becoming more hit or miss.
This is the worst I've ever seen paper come from Vietnam! This brand and Gartner Studios have made me move my listing of Vietnam as near universally safe to just sometimes safe. As soon as the ink touched the paper, it feathered like nothing I've ever seen before. Awful paper. I'm also labeling this as a partially greenwashing brand. Until I see either a 100% recycled OR a forestry certification stamp on there, I will be side-eyeing products that say "save the bees plant more trees clean the seas". From their website: "Our Chattanooga, TN production facility has received FSC and SFI certification." That's nice, buddy. Your paper is made in Vietnam, and according to your website, is just one of many countries you source from. Your notebooks certainly don't bear these certifications in stores. Seeing deceptive crap like this really pisses me off. If I have to be in debt hell over that damn degree, don't think I'm not going to point out your BS.
GreenRoom is the Target version, MintGreen is what they sell under at Walmart, they're both awful paper quality for anything other than pencil.
One of Michael's store brands, this one actually used to be okay, but it seems all of Michael's paper is now made with very cheap paper sourced from China and sucks.
Rite in Rain:
The company has the courtesy to tell you exactly what pens/pencils will work and which will not on the notebook itself, these were made for obviously writing in wet conditions and fountain pen ink in general will not hold up in wet conditions, great brand over all just not for fountain pens.
Five Star/Mead/ACCO (USA):
These will proudly display their American flag at the bottom to tell you it's shitty, feathering paper. The Vietnamese sourced ones are far superior to the American ones from this brand.
Overpriced horseshit, I've seen F nibs feather on these.
More overpriced horseshit that somehow has even shittier paper than Leuchtturm, from my memory, I recall Moleskine and Leuccturm both used to have better paper quality, they've really gone down hill over the years.
The Open House:
Another one of Michael's store brands, this one used to be really good since it was geared more towards artists but all paper supplies by Michael's have gone down hill and use cheap China paper now but are still the same price as before.
Why use this fake outdoorsy/manly lifestyle brand when Rite in Rain exists? It's not cheaper than other similar sized pocket notebooks and offers you no extra benefits beyond every Manly blog seeming to sponsor it. Garbage paper. Might work with an EF maybe, but really designed for pencil and taking photos of for your Instagram.
I've had non-fountain pen pens not work great with this, seems to work best with pencil despite having a pretty hefty price tag.
Class Act/Pink Chandelier:
Lots of feathering.
Lots of feathering.
Shining Polar Bear/Fancy Lobby:
Moderate amount of feathering.
While the Stellar line is fountain pen friendly, regular Office Depot/OfficeMax notebooks are not and will feather on you, they have different paper sources than the Stellar ones. China vs Vietnam, same situation as Mead/Five Star's two lines. Stellar uses Vietnam and the regular versions use cheap Chinese paper.
The Happy Planner:
Pretty covers, lots of extras to buy, pretty formats, and absolutely garbage feathering, bleed through hell trash paper. Clearly all the money went into the design and not functionality!
I expected this would be the only one that worked in the lot, and it was the only one that didn't! Another failure as of late from Vietnamese sourced paper. It's not the worst I've seen, but the amount of feathering is enough to bother me. If you were on a tight budget, it may be acceptable, but given that the Chinese and Indian sourced ones are the same price, there's no reason to buy this unless the other two were out.
Floor 9 (Sketch+Cover, India):
I expected this one, judging from the price and covers, would fair the best, but it faired the worst. Writing feathered to the point of barely being readable and bleed through. Paper quality is very poor compared to the other sketch notebook from this brand. The cover seems to be where all the price and effort went to. It's a pretty cover, though once I got it out of the packaging, the cheap leather smell is pretty powerful. It's definitely real leather, but uh, you can also definitely tell it wasn't acquired in any ethical manner either at this price point and low quality level. The notebook is meant to just be an insert for the pretty cover, but they really put zero
effort into this insert. I'll be using it for scratch paper and using the cover for a better notebook.
Fringe Studio (Korea):
This company has notebooks that come from multiple paper sources. I didn't test the Vietnam sourced sketchbook, as these are a brand I've never heard of and quite expensive. I wasn't able to find much on this company, aside from they make a bullet journal notebook they advertise as fountain pen friendly on K-mart, for some reason. This notebook was listed as a "diary" and also a "planner" in Target's system, but the spiral notebook didn't have any advertising about bullet journaling, so that version may have yet another paper sourcing. This one definitely isn't FPF period. Ink immediately feathered as soon as it touched the paper. My ink also changed to a very strange color I've never seen it shift to on any other paper, and when I wrote with it on some Tomoe River paper afterwards, my pen was still writing strangely for a few lines. The paper is definitely coated in something, and it doesn't agree with fountain pen ink. The effect was very similar to writing in one ink color below another ink color and accidentally pulling some in when crossing over part of a letter on the line above, but lasted much longer. The paper itself, and cover, are both very nice feeling. At this point, I've come to accept fancy/nice covers on notebook in America means shitty paper, unless it's Lisa Frank, and finding anything neutral or masculine that isn't just black/black+red or a school notebook that'll work with a broad nib is next to impossible here. Very disappointing.
Mead/Five star/ACCO (Vietnam) (typically second cheapest option for basic notebooks)
Jot (China or India) (cheapest option)
West Emory (Vietnam)
Lisa Frank (best quality notebook without discounts)
More Than Magic (Vietnam, decent notebook)
UStyle (second best quality notebook without discounts)
Clairefontaine (price varies by location, multiple types available)
TUL (when on clearance/sale, most office friendly, planner options)
Office Depot Stellar (during sales, basic notebooks)
Rhodia (during sales, best for journals, notepads)
HP Office20 (printer paper/office friendly)
Mara-Mi (under $10 for very large sized journal/notebook with thick paper)
Mead/Five Star/ACCO (Vietnam): FSC certified
UStyle: FSC certified
Rhodia: PEFC certified
Clairefontaine: PEFC certified
Yamamoto Ro-Biki: 100% recycled
Jalepeño Paper Co: 100% recycled
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