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Dealing with Ink and Paper Problems

Dealing with Ink and Paper Problems

Every calligrapher will have experienced a fabulous moment – however fleeting –  when all the materials (paper, nib, ink) are in harmony, and the letters are forming miraculously on the page!

When it doesn’t feel like that – when it’s a bit of a fight – it’s up to the calligrapher to work out what is wrong.

It’s worth having a few materials that you find are reliable for you (so for example it might be your favourite No2 nib, Higgins Eternal and Fabriano Artistico paper) – let’s call them your base set.

Suppose you’ve been tempted into trying some handmade paper, and a fabulous new ink you were given.  You’re using a tried and tested nib, but the result is hairy caterpillars where you were hoping for letters…. So is it the ink or is it the paper?

dealing with ink and paper problems in calligraphy 1

You need to go back to your base set and satisfy yourself that they are working well together – then change just ONE element.

dealing with ink and paper problems in calligraphy 2

Put the ink from your base set aside, clean your pen, and try using the new ink on your tried and tested paper from your base set – how did it go?

Now clean the pen again, bring back the ink from your base set, but swap to the new handmade paper and have another try.

You should now be better informed about the new ink and the paper –  and might have some thoughts on what to try in order to avoid the caterpillars!

If it was the ink you could try…
– giving the ink a good stir.
– having the reservoir further away from the nib edge, or a more sloped board.
– applying Gum Sandarac onto your paper.

If it was the paper you could try…
– using the other side of the paper.
– applying Gum Sandarac onto your paper.
– Adding a waterproof coating to the paper (this would take lots of experimentation, but for example a dilute layer of acrylic paint can create a good writing surface)

Gum Sandarac is a tree resin, and comes either as crystals or as a powder – as calligraphers we need it to be a very fine powder.

Because gum sandarac is water resistant it will be slightly resistant to the ink, meaning that the ink is less likely to bleed, so it’s time to experiment with the new ink and the new paper (maybe separately at first).

dealing with ink and paper problems in calligraphy 3

It’s not magic!  (You can see in the example that the fibres of the paper are coming loose – but the sandarac has certainly resolved the bleeding problem.)

If the ink or the paper in the example were particularly prone to bleeding then gum sandarac will not save the day, but it is a very useful addition to your calligraphers’ kit bag, offering you sharper lettering on some surfaces.

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