How to solve calligraphy problems caused by bad paper

If you caught my last blog post on characteristics to consider when choosing paper for your calligraphy project (if not, catch up here) you know that the paper or medium you write on can really affect how your calligraphy project turns out.

So what happens when your client is providing the paper and you aren’t able to change it? This happens a LOT, especially with envelope jobs so as a professional calligrapher you need to be able to “roll with it” and produce a quality job without changing the paper.

The world deserves more beautiful calligraphy projects, so today I’m sharing how to solve calligraphy problems caused by paper!

Ink Globs

This is the most common issue I see with beginner calligraphers! 99% of the time, it is caused by too much ink on your nib. I keep a little scrap paper next to my project and make little tick marks on it to ensure that ink isn’t going to blob onto my project after I’ve re-dipped. If you are certain you’re not using too much ink your problem could be the ink is running on the page..

Ink Running

This is a common one with those “slippery” metallic papers that are popular with today’s invitation envelopes. As soon as you put your nib down, the ink seems to run/slip across the page, and what you intended to be a line has now become a puddle. This can also happen with lower quality, watery inks. The more watery your ink is, the easier it will be to apply to the paper, but that also means it will run easier. If you’re noticing your ink is watery, or you have especially “slippery” paper, add a little bit of gum arabic to your ink. A little goes a long way, so I recommend slowly adding drops to get to the desired consistency.

Ink Feathering

Like we discussed in the last post, this typically happens when you have thin paper or paper with lots of fibers. The water in your ink is making it easier for the ink to soak into the fiber. In this situation, I’d also recommend adding gum arabic to your ink. This will help thicken your ink, and means it won’t be able to soak into the paper and feather as easily.

Ink Bleeding Through Paper

This is one of the most annoying paper problems! First, make sure that you’re not applying too much pressure (and consequently digging your nib into the paper) or applying too much ink. Most of the time, letting up on the pressure on your nib or applying less ink solves any issues with ink bleeding through the paper. If you’re sure you’re not using too much pressure/ink, add another piece of paper inside the envelope to ensure that the ink does not bleed through to the back of the envelope.

Nib Skipping / Dragging

I love calligraphing on handmade paper, but it is a slow and steady process! If your nib is skipping because of the texture/bumps on your paper, the first thing you should do is slow down. This will make your lines a bit more shaky, but with practice you can keep them smooth. Even the most experienced calligraphers have to slow down when using handmade papers! I’d also recommend trying out different nibs (the points on some will make them a bit easier to use). Also, check the condition of your nib. If you’ve been using it for awhile and the tines are damaged – it’s time to switch to a new one!

Nib Picking Up Paper Fiber

Usually this happens with handmade paper, or lower quality paper when you’ve applied too much ink. The extra ink makes the fibers loosen, and they get caught between the tines of your nib. I find that less flexible nibs are easier in these situations because they don’t open up as much and are therefore slightly less likely to grab paper fibers when they open up. But, the best way to solve this is to just watch for fibers in your nib. When wiping off your nib, try to use a microfiber towel, or take care to not get any pieces of paper towel stuck in the tines of your nib. You’ll find you grow an “eagle eye” for seeing when you have something stuck in your nib!

So that’s it! My favorite troubleshooting tips & tricks for solving issues caused by paper in your calligraphy! Feel free to comment below with any questions you have, and I’d love to hear if this has helped improve your calligraphy!


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