The Paper Guide: A Cheat Sheet for High Quality Paper and its Uses

by Amanda Doyle February 18, 2019 6 min read


The Paper Guide: A Cheat Sheet for High Quality Paper and its Uses

"What paper is good for this?" "What's the difference with this paper and that paper?"

When you’re used to using plain old printer sheets, exploring high-grade paper and its many varieties can seem a little daunting. But as soon as you make the change, it’s so worth it.

Once you know which brands are the best quality and the ones to stick to, it becomes a lot easier to narrow down which papers you’ll want to use based on what purpose.

This is a guide to all of our high-quality paper products, from the brands we carry to what’s best for specific uses.

Japanese paper is going to be your highest-quality paper to pick from. The styling and attention to detail puts it way ahead of its counterparts.


Midori paper

Midori, or MD Paper, is some of the most well-known among paper enthusiasts, developing a bit of a cult following. The company started in Japan in the 1960s and their goal is "high writability." The result is softly cream-colored paper that's easy on the eyes and contrasts beautifully with a dark ink. The pages are made to prevent smudging and bleed-through, and are bound using traditional Japanese techniques. 

They come in many sizes, in lined, plain and grid, and the paper cover and binding make these the most Japanese looking. When paired with leather covers, these are elegance in writing at its best.


The Mnemosyne line is named after the Greek goddess of memory, and is known for their focus on practicality. The minimalist design comes in various sizes, and different paper types - lined, grid, black, and handy weekly/project formats - all distinguished by their 3 digit number on the front of their waterproof cover.

The spiral binding lets you lay it flat and open, and pages all come with a section for the date - some also include sections for a title and number. The pages are incredibly smooth, comparable to glass, but ink still dries fairly quickly on them. The big bonus: all the pages are micro-perforated so you can get a clean tear-out of anything you're working on (or anything you don't want to keep).

mnemosyne notebook

The landscape style is perfect for designers and writers looking for a more creative written experience. Our proprietress and owner, Tona Bell, has been using these since she was a high schooler in the 1980s! 

Life Co.

life paper

Life Co. is a small Japanese company that has been making their not-so-small line of paper products since 1946. A good way to remember the quality of Life paper is "it's all you'll ever need in life." A staple for any desk, inside each of the retro designs is incredibly smooth paper that's super pen-friendly and easy to tear out.



Life Paper can be the perfect writing pad, typing paper, notepad, and letter paper. They come in lined, plain, and grid, from the smallest memo pad, to large legal paper-sized pads. They even offer envelopes, and cotton typewriter paper that's incomparable.This is Tona's personal favorite line of paper.

Tomoe River

Tamoe River Paper

Tomoe River Japanese paper has a cult following due to its whisper thin texture. It's lightweight and smooth, and works wonders at absorbing ink. As thin as it is, there's no bleed-through for fountain pens with this paper. The loose sheets come in dot grid and plain, so you can make and customize the papers for whatever use: making your own notebooks, writing letters, or practicing your calligraphy on a flat, open surface. Tomoe has become so popular, they are starting to make notebooks - but we love the DIY feel of the loose sheets.


apica notebooks

Apica notebooks are a great introduction to high-grade paper. They're amazing quality, at an amazingly low price point. These are Japanese-made lined notebooks that come in several sizes, with classic colors and a Baroque retro styling on the cover. They're slim, flexible, and case-bound, making them a top pick for portable notebooks.

The paper has pretty sapphire-colored lines at the top, with a section for dates and numbers, and the matte paper is smooth to the touch. It absorbs ink quickly and won't hook your pen - fountain pens included!


kyokuto dot grid notebooks

The Kyokuto F.O.B. Coop is a Japanese notebook that comes in a classic, timeless design. It's filled cover to cover with smooth, dot grid paper. 

Dot grid notebooks are a favorite among journal enthusiasts because they offer an easy-to-follow guide for drawing and writing - both horizontally and vertically - without being as obtrusive as a grid-lined notebook.

kyokuto dot grid

The pages are thinner, and the cover is flexible, making it a lightweight portable notebook. Great for students who need a little organization on the go or in class. 

Our best European papers are majority going to come from France. They tend to rest on the thicker side. 



clairefontaine paper

Clairefontaine is a French classic notebook - great if you like modern styling. The paper is thick and opaque, a perfect choice for fountain pens. It's smooth, lined, and doesn't let ink bleed through on the next page.

G. Lalo

g. lalo

G. Lalo is a stationery company in France that makes a lovely line of classic sets with colored borders. They add a nice, formal touch to any of your written correspondence. 



Classicapaper is designed and made in Italy. They have a thick, yet soft, almost fabric-like feel to them. They come in classic stationery sets, in several sizes and dreamy colors.


alwych notebooks

The All-Weather Notebook by Alwych is a staple in the U.K., where they are designed and made. The covers are waterproof, and when closed, the inside pages are weather-resistant. Much of their fame comes from explorers and adventurers historically using Alwych notebooks. The chunky shape and rounded corners makes it a satisfying notebook.

Christian Lacroix

christian lacroix

Christian Lacroix is a fashion design label in France that also adds their unique touch to stationery. Their journals and notebooks are stylish, with intricate details throughout. The pages are thick and opaque, and often come with a gold trim. They bring the joy of journaling to a new level.

christian lacroix paper


We also carry a few American-made papers that have a wonderful quality to them.

Snow and Graham

snow and graham

Chicago-based company Snow and Graham makes notepads that are smooth to the touch and have a classic stationery feel. Their design looks refined, while still feeling whimsical and personal. Great for your desk or office.


oblation paper
Oblation is located in Portland, OR, and they specialize in handmade papers. This is one-of-a-kind paper, that's textured and full of personality. It's definitely a "bumpier" surface, but still has a gentle softness to it. The contrast of dark ink, or typewriter writing, looks incredible on the handmade texture.

Finding Your Paper

Now that we're familiar with the higher quality lines of paper, let's figure out what you are using your paper for, and what's the best brand for it.

Fountain Pens

All of the papers listed above are great choices for fountain pens, but especially Life, Clairefontaine, Mnemosyne, and Midori. These will all offer super smooth, opaque surfaces that won't snag onto your nib.


If your paper is good for fountain pens, it will also be good for a nib and ink dip. Once again, all of the above papers are great for calligraphy. Tomoe River loose sheets are a great open canvas for practicing your lettering, and the featherlight thinness will give you little resistance while practicing.


If you're sketching with a pencil, a paper with a little more "tooth" to it is ideal. Midori's spiral bound notebooks are an excellent choice. Mnemosynes will definitely be a smoother option, but their larger-sized blank notebooks, like the 181s, are a great canvas, as they can be laid out flat, and offer perforated pages to tear out your work.

Rollerball and Ballpoint

All of the above papers are good choices if you're writing with a rollerball or ballpoint. They'll absorb ink fairly quickly and prevent bleeding.

Typing on a Typewriter

Life's Typewriter Paper by far will give you the best results with your typewriter. It's a lightweight paper that won't cause you difficulties while loading and typing, and the cotton material does a great job absorbing every punch of ink without smudging or blurring. This paper is also good for fountain pens.

Watercolor Painting

Midori's spiral bound notebooks are a good choice for watercolor painting. Although made by Traveler's Company, their Watercolor Notebook uses Midori paper and is by far your best choice for a watercolor journal.


Bullet Journaling

Any notebook is good for bullet journaling, but dot grid notebooks are a favorite, like the Kyokuto dot grid notebook.

Letter Writing

A go-to is Life's L. Label Writing Pads and their corresponding envelopes. G. Lalo will give your letters a little more class, and Classica will be thick and add a splash of color.

All Papered Out

We hope this guide has been helpful in figuring out what paper you want to use, and for what purpose. Of course, these are suggestions, not rules. If you want to paint in your Christian Lacroix, or journal on Tomoe River paper, go for it! This guide will leave you more informed on what to pick for whatever project you're taking on.


2 Responses

Christopher Carey
Christopher Carey

June 30, 2023

Thank you for such a comprehensive and well-written review. I had no idea these brands existed. I was searching for comparisons between Tops, Mead, and the Staples’ brand when I came across your blog. This review made me forget all about those brands. Thank you for taking me to the next level of note-taking.


February 26, 2019

I wanted to thank you for my resent purchase, it was a gift for my Dad – I shared it on my infrequent blog post

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