Paper for Brush Lettering and Blending Brush Pens
What is the best paper for brush lettering and blending brush pens? Paper is important because you need a smooth paper that won’t fray your brush pens. I’m going to compare different paper options to use with brush lettering and which ones work for blending brush pens as well. When I started hand lettering, I used regular paper for my brush pens and they frayed pretty quickly. Hopefully, you will see what options you have so you don’t make the same mistake I did.
Best Paper for Brush Lettering
A while ago I shared a post with the Best Paper for Hand Lettering. I still think the paper I shared gives you the most basic options. I wanted to see what paper would also be good for blending which is what I am sharing in this post. This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. To see a video with a demo of each paper I compare, watch it here:
HP Premium 32 paper
HP Premium 32 paper is my top recommendation for beginners because it is perfect for practice. It is budget-friendly and super smooth. It comes with 500 sheets of paper so you don’t have to worry about wasting expensive paper with your practice. However, this paper doesn’t blend well. You can blend by swiping your pen in another color before lettering, but you can’t blend directly on the paper. The ink sets into the paper right away and doesn’t allow you to move the ink to blend it. This is why we need another option for blending brush pens.
Strathmore Bristol Smooth paper
Strathmore Bristol smooth paper is a great option for blending. It’s 100 lb so it’s thick enough that it feels more professional if you are doing a final piece that you will be giving to someone. The ink sits on top of the paper a little longer so you can pick up the ink to blend it. I was surprised it also worked with a water brush to blend Tombow dual brush pens. Overall, I think this paper is a great option.
Canson Bristol Smooth Paper
Canson Bristol smooth paper doesn’t feel quite as smooth as Strathmore even though they are both called the same thing and they’re both 100 lb. Blending on the Canson tore slightly more. The ink didn’t sit as nicely on the paper in my option. But it’s still a good option for a thicker, professional paper. I just like Strathmore better personally.
Strathmore Marker Paper
Strathmore Marker paper is really smooth so it works great with brush pens. The one I tried was 50 lb so it wasn’t quite as thick as the bristol paper, but it felt slightly smoother. It was still thick enough to feel professional for a final piece, but it maybe can’t blend as much since it isn’t as thick.
Canson Marker Paper
Canson Marker paper is also really smooth. The one I tried was 18 lb so it was a lot thinner. It felt like a step up from tracing paper so it was honestly like expensive practice paper. It’s very smooth and it did actually work for blending brush pens with a water brush, but it did bleed through the paper slightly.
Rhodia Paper Pads
Rhodia paper pads are great practice notebooks for brush lettering. There are different variations of types and sizes. You can get graph paper, dotted paper or blank paper. It’s super smooth and having the dotted paper can be helpful to get straight lines while practicing. If you like practicing with a dotted sheet in a notebook, this is a pretty affordable option.
I only have a couple of hardbound notebooks so I don’t have much to compare. I don’t bullet journal so I don’t have a lot of experience with hardbound notebooks for lettering. The first one I have is a $5 notebook from Michaels and the other one I have is a more expensive notebook from Clever Fox. The Michaels notebook paper is super thin so basically all pens bleed through. It’s not the greatest for lettering so I only use it occasionally.
Clever Fox sent me their notebook to review. They have planners and other customizable notebooks that are great for bullet journalers. Since I don’t bullet journal, I’m not sure exactly how I’ll use mine yet. The paper is thicker and pretty smooth. It’s not as smooth as the paper I mentioned earlier, but I’d feel comfortable using brush pens in it. I like that the pages are numbered. This notebook would be good for sketches and maybe some final pieces with brush pens especially if you love having a hardbound notebook.
Canson XL Watercolor paper
My favorite watercolor paper to blend brush pens is Canson XL watercolor paper 140 lb and cold press. I don’t want to use brush pens directly on it since they will fray on the rough surface so I pick up the ink with a water brush. I love the texture you can get on this paper when blending. I use this technique a lot and even have a Skillshare class all about Rainbow Watercolor Backgrounds with Brush Pens. This paper is less expensive than other watercolor paper out there but it is good enough quality for everything that I do with it.
Canson Mix Media Paper
Canson Mix Media paper is 98 lb so it’s thinner than watercolor paper. You can’t use as much water to blend brush pens but it still works well for simple things. It is not as textured as regular watercolor paper, but it is still a little rough and will fray brush pens. I like to use the fine tip of Tombow Dual Brush pens so I can lay the ink right on the paper and then blend with my water brush. If you want to see more with that technique, I talked about it in my Rainbow Lettering with Faux Calligraphy tutorial.
Strathmore Hot Press Watercolor Paper
The difference between hot press and color press watercolor paper is that hot press is smoother and cold press has more texture. The Strathmore hot press watercolor paper I tried was 140 lb so it was the same weight as my Canson watercolor paper. It was definitely smoother than cold press but not smooth enough for brush pens. It felt like the texture of mix media paper but slightly thicker. I really liked it even though the texture was a little different.
Which paper do you love for brush lettering? Any that I missed?
Thank you. This was the most helpful review I’ve ever watched. I’ve been trying to blend Tombow markers using the HP higher grade copy paper and totally failing. I just tried blending them using mixed media paper and it was so much better
Oh good! I’m so glad this was helpful and you were able to get your blending to work! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Strathmore Mixed Media paper w/ the vellum finish is the bomb for water color brush pens…(in my opinion). I can color, use a water brush to blend and it’s fabulous. The paper does not fray my brush pen tips, however, the water on the paper takes a bit longer to dry up…so worth it though.
Thank you for sharing that! What a great tip!
I am curious how you hold your pen. I have noticed when I worked on college campuses, the younger generations held their pens and pencils in more of a grip than we baby boomers were taught. Wondering if that gives you more control and eliminates the callous that forms on my middle finger with lots of writing.
Great video and thank you.
Oh that would be so interesting to compare! I haven’t thought of that! I have a blog post about how to hold a brush pen, but I don’t talk too much about how the fingers hold it. Thanks for bringing that up! You can see the blog post here: https://ensigninsights.com/how-to-hold-a-brush-pen-for-hand-lettering/
I am really enthusiastic about Journaling. I write in three journals. How many do you use?
Thank you so much for this video. I have several of these papers, and I use the HP and the Rhodia a lot for practice. I especially appreciate the tips about blending on the watercolor paper. I have some of this Canson Watercolor paper, and I was afraid to use my brush pens on it (as you say), but now I will just pick up the color from the brush pens with the waterbrush, as you suggest! This is really well done and informative!