For many writers and artists, what they love about using a fountain pen is the amount of control they have over their finished product. They can choose the ink color, the link thickness, even the comfort of their writing experience. What maddens so many about the occurrence of “feathering,” is that it lessens their control over their lines and strokes, taking what is meant to be a crisp, precise line and giving it soft, bleeding, even jagged edge.
There are multiple factors that can cause feathering. To learn how to optimize your fountain pen writing experience, minimize feathering, and take back control of your writing and drawing, follow our best practices.
What is Feathering?
Feathering occurs when fountain pen ink is absorbed by the paper, and spreads through the paper’s fibers to create a fuzzy, uneven edge. You’ll know that you have experienced feathering when you draw a line of ink with your fountain pen and instead of seeing a precise line with clean, hard edges, the line appears to have an irregular, even jagged edge.
There are several factors that cause feathering. The most impactful, is the quality of paper that you choose.
Feathering is most likely to occur when you use absorbent, highly porous paper. Such paper products tend to be made with longer, coarser, and more irregular fibers, leaving an uneven surface for your fountain pen ink to adhere. In addition, the pH level of your paper plays a part in your risk of feathering. For best results, use an acid-free paper free. Also, choose notebooks and papers with a high cotton content. Their fibers are optimal for fountain pen use.
For best results, we recommend Rhodia and Clairefontainenotebooks. The paper quality used by these two brands is exceptional. Their acid-free, smooth surfaced papers offer an ideal writing surface for producing clean, feather-free lines.
The quality of the ink used always matters. An ink with a faster flow, and slower drying time, will be more prone to feathering, while a quicker drying ink may help you prevent fuzzy lines. Remember, however, that with quick drying inks, you will need to clean your nib more frequently to prevent clogs. Your best solution will be to use a reliable, high quality ink that offers vibrant colors and a comfortable flow without being too thick or wet. We recommend J. Herbin or Noodler’s Inks for the most reliable writing experiences.
A broader nib that releases a greater amount of ink will result in a wetter line, more likely to absorb unevenly into your writing surface, leaving behind the telltale jagged edge. If you need guidance for choosing a nib least likely to cause feathering, look for a fine or extra fine nib. Medium to broad nibs tend to produce wetter lines and may be more prone to feathering issues.
If you tend to write or draw with a heavier hand, you will release more ink from your fountain pen. Similar to the issue with using a broad nib, a line drawn with heavy amounts of ink will be more likely to feather. Try lightening up your touch for best results.
If you’re wondering how much to fear a dreaded feathering incident, know that depending on your project, a little bit of feathering may not be detrimental. If you are notetaking and find your paper is causing a feathering effect, it may not impede the clarity of your communication. Certainly if you are journaling, writing letters, creating fine drawings, sketches, or calligraphy, you will want to invest in a quality product to ensure the best possible finished product.