Hand Lettering - Part II: Rough surfaces

Products 06/08/2018

Hand Lettering Part 2 Visual

In cooperation with Jennifer from styleslettering.de

After introducing the hand lettering capabilities of SMOOTH, EXTRASMOOTH and GLOSS paper types in my previous guest post, today the blog turns towards the capabilities of ROUGH, EXTRAROUGH and EXTRAMATT paper products.

If you are not familiar with the term "hand lettering" or would like to revisit the first blog post, you can simply click here.

Today’s test will be conducted with the following pens:

  • Pencil HB
  • Tombow ATB Brush pen (brush tip and felt tip)
  • Edding 1340 Brush pen
  • Pentel Brush Sign Pen
  • Sigma Micron 08 (Fineliners)

We will be hand lettering on the following paper types:

To test hand lettering suitability I first drafted (and erased) a series of different letterings in pencil and then recreated them with the pens mentioned above. Whilst so doing I pay particular attention to the colour distribution and the smoothness of the paper.

Here we go.


ROUGH is the more open and textured counter to SMOOTH. SMOOTH performed well as a smooth paper for lettering.

Whilst described as rough, ROUGH still feels relatively smooth though less so than a paper described as smooth and when compared to SMOOTH. Pencil drawing on ROUGH works well and without any problems and erasing works perfectly fine.

Tombow, Pentel and Edding Brush pen, as well as the Mikron Fineliner, are great in application. The black reproduces very nicely. Only the Tombow Brush pen shows a little paper structure, which does not make the paint 100% black.

Pros and Cons
Pencil and eraser work without problems
+ Although the paper is rougher, the brush pens write beautifully on the paper

- The Tombow Brushpen is the least compatible due to the paper absorbing too much colour and the paper-structure show through.


EXTRAROUGH, like ROUGH, is the textured counterpart to EXTRASMOOTH. It was developed through a collaboration between the Mohawk paper mill and Yale University. EXTRASMOOTH was good with a matching pen for lettering and one of my favourites.

As the name suggests, EXTRAROUGH is an open, toothy and rough sheet. You can tell the paper has a distinct structure simply by its touch and feel. As an experienced hand lettering artist I knew immediately that the use of sensitive brush pens would be difficult. Nevertheless, I tried it. My feelings were justified.

For pencil, eraser and fineliner, the rough paper performs well with no problems. Even the Pentel Brush pen writes well on this paper. The Edding Brush pen glided over the paper quite well, but I would not expect too much from the sensitive tip for this paper. The Tombow Brush pen once again proved to be the most challenging. When I wrote I realized immediately that the tip would not last long on the rough surface. You can see it in the paint as, once again, the black is a bit paler than that of the other pens. 

Pros and Cons
Pencil, fineliner and eraser can be used without any problems
+ Pentel Brush pen writes without any problems

- Brush pens with a sensitive tip (Tombow, Edding) torment themselves on  this paper
- Colour output is uneven


EXTRAMATT is the roughest coated paper in the world. This characteristic is very noticeable while lettering.

It is easy to draw with a pencil, but erasing is difficult and leaves pencil marks. In addition, the colour of the Tombow brush pen smeared when erasing. The colour of the fineliners did not smudge but the colour did become paler.

The Pentel Brush pen works best on EXTRAMATT. The paint application is even and deep black. The Edding and Tombow Brush pen paint is uneven and the lower part of the font is slightly lighter than the upper part. The black of the Tombow Brush pen is much brighter than that of the Edding Brushpen. With both brush pens I noticed in writing that they were struggling to slide over the paper.

Pros and Cons
Pencil, Fineliner and Pentel Brush pen write well
+ The paint application of the Pentel Brush pen is particularly effective here

- Pencil lines can only be erased badly or not at all and can leave a residue
- The colour of the fineliner becomes paler when erasing whilst the Tombow colour can smear
- Colouring of Tombow and Edding are uneven
- Tombow and Edding have trouble gliding over the paper because it's too rough


The papers tested today have demanded a lot from the brush pens. Therefore, I would only use ROUGH for lettering, so the sensitive brush pen tips do not fray too much.

EXTRAROUGH and EXTRAMATT are definitely too rough for brush pens like Tombow or Edding. They do not slide so easily over the paper, which also makes the lettering more difficult. However, the Pentel Brush pen is an all-rounder. Because the Brush pen does not have a sensitive nylon fibre tip like the Tombow or Edding there are fewer problems writing on rough paper. The colour of the Pentel Brush pen on EXTRAMATT came out especially well.

More hand lettering blog entries:
Hand Lettering - Part I: Smooth 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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