Handlettering on sustainable paper

Products 12/06/2021

Lettering "Be the Change you want to see in the world"

Hand lettering - the art of playing with beautiful fonts - is becoming increasingly popular. It is incredibly diverse in terms of pens and materials and the creative results can be great give aways so that more and more people are joining the trend and beautifully staging messages with fineliners, brush pens, markers or watercolors.

"Beautiful color gradients with watercolor brush pens work effortlessly on the right paper (Birch 120gsm)"

The different papers that are offered for this are just as numerous as the design options. Bristol paper, watercolor paper and mixed media paper are often mentioned. But not every one is equally suitable for all applications.

Since I am a big fan of blending (i.e. mixing different colors) with the brush pen as well as the use of metallic watercolor with the brush and at the same time the use of sustainable materials is important to me, I started looking for the perfect paper,
- on which beautiful gradients are created, i.e. the colors flow nicely into one another, but do not bleed (run out at the edge) or bleed through (shimmer through on the back of the paper),
- Fineliners and markers, gel pens, nibs and sensitive brush pens glide gently over its smooth surface structure,
- whereupon colors shine brilliantly and are not absorbed too much by the paper,
- that does not curl when water is used (e.g. with metallic watercolor) and
- that takes into account the concept of sustainability.

"A great contrast is created if the paper does not absorb the color too much (Black 150gsm)"

Metapaper kindly provided me with numerous sample papers that are sustainable in various ways and are not made from classic wood fibers, but also consist of hemp, straw, recycled wood fiber and mill waste.


The focus of the tests on the white paper with a thickness of 300gsm was on the use of brush pens with a "rich" color release (e.g. Karinmarkers, Ecoline, Tombow). For this I put different colors next to each other and let them run into each other. I also applied different colors with the brush pen and watercolored into each other with a brush and water. After these two steps were very successful, I wrote on the paper with both watercolor pencils and metallic watercolor, i.e. watercolor paint with glitter particles, using a relatively large amount of water. Depending on how generously you use the water, the paper can lift slightly, but after drying it has in all cases straightened out again and is therefore also very well suited for brush lettering with a brush.

"First prescribe with a watercolor crayon, then activate the pigments with a brush and water - many papers curl if too much moisture (Birch 300gsm)"

I tested the version with 120gsm with fineliners, gel pens and markers. This paper is not strong enough to use water. Here, my main concern was to see whether the colors bleed through or bleed, the colors shine and don't smudge when erasing auxiliary lines. That also worked brilliantly.
The Birch paper has a subtle yellowish tint, which gives the lettering a warm basic tone and allows the colors to come into their own.

"With metallic watercolor and black brush pen - the paper is perfect for both purposes and enables great contrasts (Birch 300gsm)"


The focus of the tests on black 300gsm paper was on white gel and acrylic pens, metallic colors and metallic watercolor. So far I had to use black watercolor paper for my letterings, which is only available from a few manufacturers and is relatively expensive. In addition, it usually has a structured, uneven surface that is not suitable for use in hand lettering because the pens “bounce”.

"Metallic watercolor and marker in use: brilliant colors (Black 300gsm)"

I was thrilled to find a really smooth black type of paper at Metapaper, which is suitable both for handlettering with popular gel pens (e.g. Sakura Gelly Rolls, Uniball Signo broad, Pentel Dual Metallic) and for brush lettering with a brush and metallic watercolor with a relatively large amount Water does not curl.

"With its smooth surface, the Black paper is particularly suitable for sensitive brush pen tips (Black 150gsm)"

Metapaper offers numerous sustainably produced papers. Many of the smooth papers are suitable for lettering with fineliner and gel pens, but absorb the colors more strongly and are therefore not ideal for using brush pens. The two Metapaper paper types that are true all-rounders, meet all of the requirements I have described and which I can warmly recommend for hand lettering are:

BIRCH - available in 120gsm + 300gsm (50% RECYCLING)
BLACK - available in 150gsm + 300gsm (100% FROM MILL WASTE)

A4 paper samples can be easily ordered for free in the Metapaper's online shop here.


Ann Pasternack loves to write with a brush pen, paintbrush and chalk. In 2019 she started handlettering to compensate, and since then almost not a day has passed without at least a short time for creative work. She gives workshops, can be booked for live events and designs blackboard lettering for the catering industry - and she is always open to new ideas.
You can find her latest works on Instagram at @pink.ink.lettering and at www.pink-ink-lettering.de.

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