Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Single Moleskine Grievance

I love my moleskines. I truly do. But I have one grievance. None of my fabulous fountain pens work well on any of the moleskines. I have 2 regular Parker Fountain Pens 1 Parker Pen (expensive one, but can’t remember the exact model) 1 Waterman Fountain Pen On watercolour moleskine, the ink is absorbed in the texture of the pages. On that one, it’s understandable and I am not very bothered. On sketchbook, the pages are too smooth for the ink to stay properly. On regular – both plain and ruled moleskine, pages are too thin, so while the fountain pens work, you can see the impression on the back of the page, which sucks because I write on both sides of a page. Oh yeah, I also have a quill with an ink bottle, but haven’t tried that on moleskines. I really enjoy writing with fountain pens, especially in my journals or anything that I am likely to keep. It just looks better, and my hand-writing is nicer with fountain pens too, so I really miss not being able to use them a lot, especially since now I have officially converted to 100% moleskines for every type of journal I need. How about you? Have you been able to use fountain pens with your moleskines?


  1. I have Moleskines and fountain pens, both sketchbook, watercolor and plain, in multiple sizes and yes, I've noticed the same thing. I also write on both sides of my MS.

    I can't use any fountains pens really. I use Sakura Pigma pens. They work well and are archival quality ink.

  2. I also have Moleskines and fountain pens. In the end I settled for using Noodler's Black as well as Montblac Blue-Black ink for writing on Moleskines.

  3. I use Noodlers (bulletproof black) on my moles and this seems to work well for me. My Waterman (dune red Waterman Expert) is a fine however. This may make a difference in the amount of ink laid down. If you are doing sketching with watercolor, you'll need a heavier paper for sure. Here are a few tools I use for illustrated journaling and their relative success.

  4. Hi, many thanks for sharing.
    I use Cross and Waterman ink in my Moleskines and the bleeding is limited.

    I have added you blog to my blogroll too.

    Have a look.
    Best regards

  5. i agree on all accounts. i just started using fountain pens recently, and love the richness and line quality, but hated seeing smudges on the sketchbook paper. i agree with the watercolor paper, but i haven't been able to make a watercolor notebook my regular carry around book. and the thin paper, well, you just can't write on both sides and that sucks too.

    so i've resolved to keep using the regular moleskine books, but i now carry around a little green scotch bright pad and work it over the page before i set the pen to it. it seems to be enough to take the sizing sheen off the paper, and let the ink absorb a little more. also helps to take in quick watercolor washes.

    it does kinda suck to carry around a scotchbrite pad in your bag though. le sigh.

  6. I had the same problem. Try using (what I do now) a sketchbook rather than a regular moleskine if you are using a fountain pen. I cannot advice you on the watercolors because I don't paint. I do write with a fountain pen, and, although the sketchbook has only 104 pages (compared to the 240 of the lined notebook), at least the paper will withstand whatever comes its way. Hope this helps.

  7. I use the water color notebook and due to my inexperience with water colors, I don't really know any better. It satisfies my fits of creativity. Whereas with the normal non-lined notebooks (my favorite because I write smaller and neat enough to not need lines)

    I have noticed that everyone's favorite pen, the G2 Pilot, with a moleskine is nice and dark against the paper, but too dark for a person who like you, writes on both sides of the paper.

    I've tried to draw (I do ink drawings in the sketch notebooks) with sharpie pens, but those are not dark enough for me. I'm currently trying to find a good pen that won't bleed but will be dark enough for my liking.

  8. I use a Lamy Safari EF with Noodlers BulletProof Black. I was using a Pilot G2 .38 and I've never had a problem using both sides. See what size nib you are using. You may want a thinner nib, or have it worked on so that it applies less ink.

  9. Thanks everyone for your comments. I will have to try Noodlers I guess.

    But for a gel pen - especially for moleskine sketchbook, I have got the perfect pen. It's pentel Energel 0.7 and on the sketchbook pages it's perfect and dark.

  10. I have the same problem with my Lamy and Parker pens.Now,I had to use a pilotG-2 ballpen:-(

  11. I've used Waterman, Rotring, and Pelikan fountain pens with Moleskines with little to no bleeding. The "worse" pen is the Pelikan. I have Noodler's, Parker Quink, and Waterman inks as well. No really difficulty. In fact, its my preferred method of writing with the Moleskine.

  12. You shouldn't be limited to one bottle of ink in your Moleskine. Mole's have a great form factor, but the paper is simply not fountain pen ink friendly. Try a Rhodia Webnotebook or any of Clairefontaine's products. Plenty of journal reviews on my blog if you would like to check it out.

  13. If this helps: sketchbooks - I use watersoluble color pencils, Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils, India ink and gouche and heavily pigmented watercolor. For notebooks: Montblanc broad ball points and fine point FP with Parker Quink or MB ink with fairly good results. For watercolor books: any artist grade watercolors.

  14. Eric, what moleskine do you use? It would depend on the thickness of pages too whether a pen works best.

    Thank you. I will definitely check out your blog. I have used variety of journals over the years and I have enjoyed writing in them, but now I have just come to love moleskine. I am still not averse to buying an occassional fancy journal, but as a rule, I think I will stick to moleskine. I don't know...something about me this tingly feeling :P LOL

    Thank you for listing your materials. I will keep that in mind.

  15. I rotate my Lamy Safari FP's that have a variety of nib sizes, from XF to block (similar to a calligraphy nib). The finer points don't bleed through as much as the broader nibs. Probably, because less ink is flowing onto the paper. Try an XF nib. The Lamy Safari FP's are on sale many places for under $30.00 You also can't go wrong with the gel ink pens, like the G-2's (my favorite!). Good luck!

  16. I use a Lamy Safari w/ Noodlers Black ink and I have a 6x9 Moleskine 'Sketchbook' and it takes a LONG time for the ink to dry, like more than 15 minutes, so if I write with the Lamy I prop the sketchbook open with something to let it dry.

  17. NOODLERS BLACK (just gorgeous to write with) and a Waterman fountain pen work flawlessly for me on a Large Square Moleskine

  18. I too enjoy writing with my Cross fountain pen and a few other "china" fp ... but the constant bleeding through causes me to revert back to the Pilot G2 gel pen. Will give the Noodler ink a go. Thanks for the post.

  19. Hi, I love journals, and have been a fountain pen dealer and restorer for many years and I own about 50 journals in one form or another and thousands of paper sheets from around the world. Now, my advice is for writing your notes and journals in fountain pen, any color and any brand (Sheaffer makes/made the most useful welled-bottle it's inks are watery) is to use a paper sold under the name "Paper For Pens". If you are an experienced journaler, or fountain pen user you'd ideally obtain your tools in this order: First and foremost buy a pen with a buttery-smooth nib, second, buy "Paper For Pens". I buy mine at a store in manhattan's Chinatown called "Pearl Paint". It comes in a book like a legal pad so you can cut and fit it to anything you want, including making a stiched journal from it. For ink I like Pelikan because they make some quirky colors, like Khaki (long discontinued). Montblanc is expensive and over-rated. Parker is a fine, well-researched ink. Do not overlook vintage bottles of ink. The blue-blacks are amazing. But remember, you need a fountain pen with a silk nib or you're just writing with a scratchy, inky marker. You can get such a pen from a woman who specializes in smooth nibbed pens (there is such a person). Her name is Susan Wirth, and she calls herself "nib queen extraordinaire". Her web page is: Best of luck and if you have any questions feel free to contact me at Jim

  20. I became very tired of Moleskine books and started to create my own blank books, first for myself and then as a business. I still think Moleskine is very stylish but sometimes a little bit boring... My books are filled with colours, structures and thicker paper which withstands a lot.


  21. I have been journaling in moleskine for years. I use Sailor and several different Pilot fountain pens on both sides of the paper without any issues.

  22. Those of you who have bleeding problems, where you can see the writing on the back page, should just go have your fountain pen nibs adjusted. You need to have the nib a bit dryer so not as much ink comes out. This will fix that problem easily. I have a fountain pen that had that done which I use just for my Moleskines.

  23. "Biffybeans said... You shouldn't be limited to one bottle of ink in your Moleskine. Mole's have a great form factor, but the paper is simply not fountain pen ink friendly. Try a Rhodia Webnotebook or any of Clairefontaine's products. Plenty of journal reviews on my blog if you would like to check it out."

    What Biffybeans said. You may want to try out Field Notes brand notebooks instead of Cahiers. Field Notes work GREAT with fountain pens.

  24. The problem with Moleskines is that, whilst Modo & Moda are an Italian company, they outsource all their paper production to various factories and suppliers in China. They do not make their own paper. Occasionally, you can get a Moleskine from a 'good' batch; one where the paper sourced, came from a factory that made stock of a higher quality. You won't know where the paper from your Moleskine has come from, ergo you cannot know before purchasing, opening and trying, whether or not it will be of a high enough quality to hold up to fountain pen ink.

    I think someone has already mentioned the Rhodia Webnotebook as a suitable alternative to a Moleskine. That or a Quo Vadis. You'll want one of the newer ones made using the better 90gsm, Clairefontaine paper stock.

    Clairefontaine make THE most beautiful paper to write on. It takes fountain pen ink superbly (from the 'wetter' Private Reserve, to the lighter, wonderfully varied Herbin)with no bleedthrough and very little ghosting.

    There is a guy (Brian Goulet) who makes You Tube videos from his company Goulet Pens, testing out various combinations of Moleskine and Clairefontaine products, with various inks and pens of different sizes.

    The man is fantastic to watch and each of his short broadcasts are informative, engaging and full of exactly what you want to know about these products, before you buy any. He takes all the disappointment out of suddenly finding yourself with a ropey old Moley that just won't take your favourite pen and ink!

    He also did a gsm calculation on it and the paper thickness only came out at just over 72gsm I think. Which would go some way to explaining why it has such a bad reputation for bleedthrough.

    I for one have become a total convert to Clairefontaine. I have a scutch of Rhodia gridded notebooks for everyday use, a couple of Webbies (Webnotebook)and a few side wirebound seyes ruled notebooks which are great for helping keep your writing much more uniform!

    All of them take all my inks and I use Noodlers, Private Reserve, Diamine, Herbin and Caran d'ache.

    I highly recommend these products to ANYONE who has a passion for writing, a penchant for paper and a tendency to use fountain pens and ink!


  25. Moleskines are beautiful, and I have several of them. The paper is just not good, though. I don't really use them that much, and I'd never use one as a regular journal.

  26. Thank you for the kind words, Bex! To be fair, I don't sell Moleskine and I do sell Clairefontaine, and I fully disclose that on my blog and in my videos. I've talked at length with many Moleskine fans and although the form factor is fantastic, the paper quality is simply not there these days. From what I understand talking to M-fans of many years, the paper quality used to be much better, but in the last 3-4 years it has dropped significantly. This is mainly due to an emphasis within the company to rapidly expand worldwide, and to meet that demand the company began outsourcing its paper manufacture to many different mills in countries like China and Turkey. There is less of an emphasis on consistency, which has been the biggest problem for most people. Some folks would buy a Moleskine and it worked well with fountains, others would get bad ones and hate them. Others would get one that starts out good, then turns bad half-way through the journal!!

    I own several Moleskines and have been really unimpressed. It feathers and bleeds worse than the cheapest copy paper I can find. It performs worse than Post-it notes and cheapy index cards, it's really bad. I actually ended up using it as the 'extreme' paper test for my inks for feathering and bleedthrough. BUT, the paper does fine with pencils and ballpoints. It's really the fountain pens that put paper to the test, and Moleskines in general will severely limit your options as far as what inks you can use.

    I hear ALL the time that all someone can use in their Moleskine is Noodler's Black in a fine-nib pen. And that breaks my heart because there are hundreds of inks out there (at least 500+), and finding expressive inks that speak to you is half (if not more!) of the fun of using a fountain pen.

    Bottom line, if you get yourself some decent paper, you'll find it'll open up a whole new world of fountain pen usage that you never knew was there before. If you do love your Moleskines though, some of the best inks I've found to perform in them is Noodler's Black, Noodler's Heart of Darkness, Noodler's X-Feather, Private Reserve Sepia, and Pelikan Edelsteins (most of the colors).

  27. All this paper quality talk is interesting. I'm a Paperblanks person myself, and they just put something on their website about the care they put into the quality of their paper:

  28. Thanks for the link :-) I like paperblank journals myself. I have used various before, and I am sure I will use them again. They are certainly excellent quality.

  29. It is a problem: I use Moleskine Sketch, Japanese or watercolour. I think on the whole I prefer the watercolour which is not too bad with ink. Currently using a Faber Castell Ambition, Rotring Art pen, Lamy Nexx, and the latest addition: a Noodler's Creaper !

    I think I prefer the watercolour paper on the whole, not just for their ability to take the ink but also because the white shows the true colour much better.

    I think I'd really like a watercolour book in the vertical sketch book format . . . but then if they made that I'd probably want something different again.

  30. I prefer mechanical pencils on my moleskin pages. I've tried my parallel pen on sketch paper but not moleskin. I assume from the article that it'd be a disaster. I definitely need to try it on the type of paper I like to use for binding my journals. I've used copics, pitts, pencil and alcohol inks. All with varying degrees of success/failure. So, I'm off to test my parallel pen. Thanks for the heads-up!

  31. Yup: same problem
    Mont Blanc,
    Faber Castell Ambition

    all the same problem

    The watercolour is the best

    But why isn't it available in portrait format....
    ah well, nothing is perfect

  32. Just realised that I've put an almost identical post to one I did a while ago.... a senior moment... oops

  33. Rowland,

    No problem :-)) It happens to me all the time - funny how same ideas and thoughts keep circling around in our heads, and often come out in identical sentences months later.

  34. You have just named the reasons why I don't use Moleskines. I love the history behind them but I have always found the paper unusable for what I want. It is nice to see that it is not just me!