Review by Tina Koyama
A friend who writes with both graphite pencils and fountain pens told me about Sakae Iroful paper. He said it’s made for fountain pens, but he enjoys writing on it with pencil, too. I found that intriguing. At first blush, the two types of instruments seem to have opposing needs: Pencils want at least a bit of tooth, while fountain pens love to skate across smoothness. Can one paper meet both needs? Of course, I was curious. I got a pack of loose leaf paper in the A5 size (100 sheets for $14.50).
Reading reviews of Iroful paper is amusing because reviewers struggle with describing how the surface feels compared to, say, Tomoe River or other papers known to be fountain pen favorites. “Less crinkly and a little more cushioned,” “a somewhat soft feeling and slight texture” are some descriptions I’ve seen. I admit, I’m having the same struggle. I’ll just say that it feels more “velvety” than “glassy.”
For the media tests, I threw on a variety of inks, pencils and art materials, even those that I would not typically use on this paper, just for fun. Nothing bled through, not even the chisel-tip Sharpie. I inked up my Sailor Naginata fude de Mannen with Sailor Jentle Yamadori ink to take a look at the sheen. My scanned page doesn’t show it, but the photo taken from an angle catches it better.
For the sketch tests, I was eager to try graphite first. Granted, I chose a very soft Hi-Uni Deluxe 8B pencil, and softer grades tend to do better on smooth papers than harder ones, but even so, the experience was delightful. I used a Blackwing for the media test, which gave me more of a standard writing pencil experience, and it was equally enjoyable. When I touch the paper’s texture, I can’t go so far as to call it “tooth,” yet there’s enough something there to silently grab the graphite. Drawing feels effortless. By that, I mean that the application of graphite requires no effort; drawing always requires effort. (By the way, the dog I sketched is stationery-related; he’s Ernest Theodore of the Etsy shop of the same name.)
Next I inked up my Platinum music nib with Diamine Eclipse to draw my friend’s cat, Chevrolet. I didn’t notice the “feedback” one reviewer perceived, but the music nib is one of the broadest nibs I own, so it would be unlikely to get feedback anyway. Perhaps users of very fine nibs (none of which I have) would notice some.
Finally, just for kicks, I took a sheet to my neighborhood bakery to sketch a tree through a window. The black pigment ink is a Uni Pin pen with a brush tip. The tree was made with Derwent Inktense water-soluble colored pencils. As expected (and as some of my media tests showed), the Iroful surface is not ideal for showing off water-soluble materials, but it wasn’t unpleasant to use with those pencils. It took the pigment ink beautifully. I’m sure markers would do just as well.
I concur with my friend: Versatile Iroful paper, with its indescribable, toothless texture, can be used equally pleasantly with both pencil and fountain pen (or any other pen, too).
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