Hand lettering - Part I: Smooth Surfaces

Products 04/30/2018

"Metapaper für Handlettering auf SMOOTH White 160g/m2"

In cooperation with Jennifer from styleslettering.de

Hand Lettering has become extremely fashionable these past few years. The writing and drawing of letters and fonts has probably never been more popular since the invention of the PC and smartphone. 

But what is hand lettering and what does Metapaper have to do with it?

Hand lettering is the art of creating beautiful letters and lettering. It doesn't draw from an individual's own handwriting but rather each unique letter is individually drawn. That's the great thing about hand lettering, anyone can do it and it doesn't matter how illegible your handwriting might be! Hand lettering includes brush lettering, calligraphy and, of course, typography. Brush lettering, as the name suggests, is created with brushes or pens with a brush tip.

What specialist materials do we need for hand lettering? As you might expect the pens are very important: marker pens, brush pens, felt pens, fine-liner pens, pencils, brushes and paint. And in addition to pens we need paper; not just any paper but the 'correct' paper. And that is where Metapaper comes into play. Metapaper can boast a wide portfolio of beautiful papers - and I very much looked forward to experimenting with and testing my favourite pens on a variety of different types of Metapaper papers in this multi-part blog series.

I received more than 12 different paper surfaces for testing and divided the different papers into three main categories: smooth, rough and special paper.

For today's post we look at the smooth paper types: 

Three surfaces and substances were tested: SMOOTH White (160gsm), EXTRASMOOTH White (150gsm), and GLOSS White (130gsm) for their hand lettering capabilities. All papers were presented in the Metapaper white shade. 

I used the following pens for the test:

  • Pencil HB
  • Tombow ATB Brushpen (brush tip and felt tip)
  • Edding 1340 Brushpen
  • Pentel Brush Sign Pen
  • Sigma Micron 08 (Fine-liner)

The papers’ performance and properties were tested in the following:

  • warm-up exercises (thin spreads and thick smears with a brush pen)
  • mapping out with pencil and usage of an eraser
  • ink absorption and distribution
  • the smoothness of the paper

For a better summary overview a pros and cons list for each paper type is provided after each evaluation.

Let's get started!


SMOOTH is a hybrid natural paper with a smooth velvety feel. And yes, the name SMOOTH White describes the programme perfectly! It is pleasantly smooth and has a nice white tone. The 160gsm thickness is ideal for letterings that you may wish to mount and frame. For the test, I first tried the pencil and the Sigma Fineliner – to write the headline. Both worked very well. The pencil lines could also be easily removed with an eraser.

During the warm-up exercises it was noticeable that the black colour of all the pens looked very good and the colour was very evenly distributed. The colour is also well absorbed and does not smear. This is also noticeable in the finished lettering. Because I pre-drew the lettering with pencil and then re-wrote with the brush pen when erasing the pencil lines it was clear to see that the lettering did not smudge. The Pentel and the Edding Brush penslide worked especially well on the SMOOTH White. The brush tip of the Tombow gets a bit heavier and bleeds a little.

Pros and Cons
Is more suitable for brushes without sensitive fibres (e.g. the Pentel Brush Sign Pen)
+ Good ink absorption
+ Does not smudge, pencil lines are easy to erase

Not smooth enough for sensitive brush pens (such as Tombow), it also bleeds out easily


Metapaper describes EXTRASMOOTH as a super-smooth, FSC®-certified, 100 percent wind-powered paper.

Visually I did not notice too much difference to SMOOTH. The white tone is the same (as intended by Metapaper) and the surface looks similar as well. Haptically, however, the EXTRASMOOTH surface is a bit smoother. I also noticed the additional smoothness whilst writing. All the brush pens slid a little softer and easier over the surface.

Pencil and fineliner can be used on EXTRASMOOTH without any problems. However, one must be careful not to start erasing too soon. With my impatience, I smeared my lettering with the Edding Brushpen. But if the paint is given a little more time to dry properly nothing will smear when erasing. It is also noticeable that the colour absorption is not as uniform as with SMOOTH. Especially with the thick smears, the lower part of the stroke is a bit paler.

Pros and Cons
Smoother than SMOOTH
+ All brush pens write very beautiful on EXTRASMOOTH
+ Does not smudge, as long as you allow sufficient drying time
+ Pencil and eraser suitable

- Ink absorption uneven, structure of the paper shimmers through the lettering


GLOSS is a standard coated paper and the semi-glossy counterpart to EXTRAMATT by Metapaper. As a result of the glossy surface light is reflected differently on GLOSS than on EXTRAMATT.

If you hold a sheet of gloss in your hand you will notice just how smooth the paper is. It is definitely the smoothest paper in this category. At first I was not sure if the pen ink would adhere and stay because of the surface of the paper, but lettering works very well. Mapping out with the pencil (HB) is rather difficult because the graphite is hardly taken by the paper. Erasing is also difficult.

In contrast, the brush pens glide all the better on the paper. This extremely smooth surface is ideal for sensitive brush pens. You can skate on the paper, so to speak (Hand Letterer slang for very smooth paper, which are optimal for brush pens). The GLOSS White 130gsm is slightly thinner than the other two.

The colour output of the pens is good, but not always uniform. Again, when lettering with the Pentel Brushpen the lettering smeared because it was not properly dried.

Pros and Cons
Super smooth and perfect for brush pens

- Ink application minimally uneven with thick smears
- Depending on your personal taste, the look of the paper might not please because it does not have the natural paper texture
- Writing in pencil is difficult because the paper does not take on the pencil line – and it is difficult to erase them


GLOSS has taken clear victory as the best surface for the beloved brush pens. The paper is super smooth and lettering is a lot of fun with it. I imagine a note pad with this paper would work very well for beginners because you can practice well without ruining your brush pens.

But EXTRASMOOTH is also one of my favourites. Letterings with the Pentel Brush Pen look very nice on this paper. However, I am not sure if the paper is smooth enough for Tombow and so forth. Also, the colour uptake is difficult, because the structure of the paper shines through despite the black colour. But this effect can also be quite nice and, personally, I like it very much.

SMOOTH is rather unfitting, at least for brush lettering. The brush pens have to fight a lot on this one. You can tell that SMOOTH and EXTRASMOOTH are designed for printing.

In the next part of this series I will test the rough and matt papers of Metapaper: EXTRAMATT, ROUGH and EXTRAROUGH. Until then, have fun lettering.

More hand lettering blog entries:
Hand Lettering - Part II: Rough surfaces
Hand Lettering - Part III: Watercolour

About the Author:
I'm Jennifer and I've been hand lettering for more than two years. I love pens, paper and letters. Very often I let myself be inspired on Instagram and try out new letterings. By now, I am running a hand lettering blog (styleslettering.de) and I am particularly active on Instagram (@kmlr.design).

Photography: Styleslettering.de


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