A few weeks ago I was in Northeast Portland for a business meeting. Upon the completion of the meeting I was driving home when a small art shop caught my eye. It was the Artist & Craftsman Supply store, a Pacific Northwest employee-owned chain. The insides were packed from floor to ceiling with supplies of all kinds. I saw an entire room of birch boards that I'd love to draw on, but my mission for the day was to inspect their paper stock. Tomoe River is fantastic in so many ways, but it can be extremely difficult to work with. I wanted something else.
Strolling down the paper aisle I tested nearly every paper there, searching for one that seemed smooth enough for my beloved fountain pens. They have a wide variety of papers including many I had never seen before, but one stood out in the touch-test; Borden & Riley's #234 Paris Paper for Pens.
The paper is 108lb, acid-free, pure white, and comes in a variety of sizes and two binding styles (spiral and glue). I was delighted to see that they also came in very large sizes that I couldn't find for other papers such as Rhodia, TR, or Fabriano. I've been wanting to do larger drawings so I picked up the 14"x17" pad.
I took my new huge pad home and excitedly got to drawing. For my first drawing I decided to just go all out and test a bunch of different inks on it. I used J Herbin Stormy Grey, J Herbin Rouge Hematite, Iroshizuku Yamabudo, and Kyo-Iro Moonlight. When it comes to color this paper has been very similar to Rhodia. So some sheen and shimmer from my J Herbin 1670 inks, but nothing like Tomoe River. The paper dried all my inks very quickly and had zero bleedthrough. It does have enough ghosting that I wouldn't use the other side, but it's fairly minimal (and I never use the reverse sides anyways).
The best part? No smearing! Well, almost none. It really does dry so quickly that it's very easy to avoid smearing at all, unlike with Tomoe River which will smear at the mere whisper of moisture. There's also no fibers that get stuck in my nibs no matter what size I use or how saturated the area I'm working on.
The worst part? There is a very tiny issue with feathering. Every line has tiny little deviations. They're almost completely unnoticeable, but I do notice them. Some inks do better than others, only Pilot Black in my EF Pilot Penmanship pen has been close to what I might call "bad." I can't really use my Pilot EF nibs on this paper anyways, just because that level of detail doesn't work with how big of a drawing I'm doing, but it's still a little annoying. I actually think with the thicker lines it gives them a kind of softness that I like, so ultimately it's not a deal breaker by any means for me with this paper.
Ultimately I liked this paper so much I went out and bought a 9"x12" pad as well.
Who is this paper best for? Not so much the writers among us. But I would definitely recommend this to fountain pen artists, especially American ones frustrated by the European paper sizes of virtually all other regularly recommended fountain pen paper. More sizes, less smearing, great color, very smooth drawing experience, and lovely heavy weight.
And here are the rest of the drawings I've done on Borden & Riley paper so far. Enjoy! And let me know if you have any other suggestions of paper for me to try.