Fountain pen blotting paper: What is an Ink Blotter and The History of Ink Blotting

What is an Ink Blotter and The History of Ink Blotting

What is an Ink Blotter and The History of Ink Blotting

by Katy Klassman

January 25, 2021

1 Comment

I’ve often thought that I was born in the wrong century. Countless hours spent watching Merchant Ivory movies, every version of Little Women over and over and just about every episode of Masterpiece Theatre have reaffirmed this. With my love of fashion, some would say that my past centuries’ sensibilities have to do with the clothing, but those of you who have read my previous articles are probably clued into the thing that most draws me to palaces, country estates and manors: the desk set. Sadly for me, long gone are the days when having a proper desk set was a symbol of wealth, professionalism or fashion, but one of the tools of the desk set has survived fads and trends to remain: the ink blotter.

What is a ink blotter?

The term ink blotter refers either to a handheld rocking device or simple blotting paper, both used to absorb excess ink when writing with fountain pens. Blotting paper is a textured, thick paper specifically made to quickly absorb excess ink. Before blotters were invented, the preferred method was sprinkling salt over fresh written text to speed the drying process.

History Of The Ink Blotters 

The history of the ink blotter is as long as writing with ink itself. If we go back to 400,000 B.C., pigment was already being made in Africa and mixing tools suggest that sand and clay, combined with the sun were being used to dry and fix the ink. In the 26th century B.C. ink made from hide glue, carbon or bone pigment, ground into a paste and then dried in ceramic bowls, was being sprinkled with pounce to avoid smudging on papyrus. In fact, pounce, made from the bones of cuttlefish has a long history of use for preparing paper prior to writing and also setting paper afterwards. This fine powder was still in use during medieval times when monks were copying manuscripts and even in the 18th century as a more economical alternative to sprinkling salt on drying ink, a new, more expensive practice of the bourgeoisie. 

Rocker Blotters 

In the early 1800’s hand blotters arrived. These blotters were often made of wood, stone, metal, porcelain or glass and had a small handle, curved base and felt bottom that could be rocked over the text to remove excess ink. By the mid 1800’s paper often replaced the felt. This paper was soft, had a cardstock-like weight and was generally made with fibers of cotton, flax seed and rice, all absorbent entities to aid in soaking up ink and providing a quick drying time. 

Companies used to advertise on ink blotters, in several sizes.

Image Credit Etsy

Blotter paper after use

As ink blotters became readily available to the masses, this paper was deemed the perfect platform for advertising and messaging. The paper on the bottom of the rockers became a second business card with information about vendors, manufacturers and mom and pop spots.  As a novelty, the cards provided space for calendars, scripts for practicing one’s handwriting and illustrations of popular pin-up girls. When the cards were not attached to the blotter, they could also be used to wipe the nibs clean.

Copper ink blotting roller.
Image Credit Etsy
Another roller ink blotter used for advertisement

With the arrival of the fountain pen’s nemesis, the ballpoint pen, the love for the modern ink blotter’s shelf life expired in the 1950’s. Designed as a fast-drying, cleaner, more reliable and portable alternative to fountain and dip pens, it quickly became the world’s most used writing instrument, and with it snuffed out the need for ink blotters. By the late 19th century, the ballpoint pen had become the “cheap pen that changed writing forever,” and it sadly required no accoutrements. Whereas rockers had been used for advertising, it was quickly discovered that the body of a ballpoint pen could be used in the same way and professionals reverted back to the standard business card or the new trend of promotional pens to market themselves and their services.  

A tooled leather desk accessories set, from 60’s (image credit: 1stdibs)

For those of you who are Mad Men fans or actually lived in the sixties, you are well aware that the desk set made a comeback during this time, although central to the set was usually a fancy ballpoint pen, so does it really count? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Modern Ink Blotters 

.J. Herbin still producing wooden ink blotter rockers.

Image Credits: Jetpens

Which brings us to now and some happy news for the ink blotter. As fountain pens have made a resurgence and interest in them has increased, the ink blotter is finding its way back onto people’s desks. For companies, like J. Herbin who has been making them since its inception in 1670, the attention to pen and ink has kept them flush with blotter users for centuries. For modern makers, the renewed awareness of the ink blotter offers an opportunity to expand the category. Or, if you are Galen Leather, you can innovate, combining the best characteristics of the traditional leather desk set with the portability of sheets of blotter paper.  

Galen – Nude Leather Ink Blotter

I need not take up your time expounding and waxing poetic about my love for Galen’s Everyday Books. There are several blogs prior to this one where I have done just that. I have never, however, told you about one of my favorite features of these notebooks and that is the split leather that in included in each Everyday Book set. Each set of notebooks comes with this piece of multi-use leather which is cut to the size of the books. While its main purpose is to be used as an ink blotter, it can also be used as a writing pad for comfortable writing (fantastic for a coffee shop, library or anywhere on the go). It prevents shadowing on sub-pages and it is also very useful for protecting the clean, unwritten parts of the page by placing the leather under your hand. I can’t articulate how handy this simple piece of leather is. It is a value-add for the product and you’ll only realize how much you’ve missed having it when you try one yourself. 

Ink Blotting and Sheen

Just a quick interlude before I bid you farewell to make mention about inks with sheen. This modern invention is encountering ink blotters for the very first time. Blotting too quickly will lift up what makes the ink special and will reduce the sheen. For those of you that love sheen you might steer clear and for those of you looking to have the sheen be less noticeable, the blotter is your new best friend.

As ink blotters make their way back onto our desks and become a more important tool for writing again, it is quite exciting to think that they have not encountered a more opportune time to reimagine themselves than right now. I would love to know if you are using one, if you have found one that you covet, if you have a collection of vintage ink blotter cards or know of a new manufacturer or version that excites you. Please use the comments to let us and the community know!


Katy Klassman


Katy worked in a stationery shop for nearly a decade, so She’s educated on many products and stationery client questions. She is also stationery – planner – fountain pen fanatic.

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Ink Blotter Paper


 This is the A5-size blotter cut to fit the A5 Seven Seas notebooks series. This is what you need if your Writer, Standard or Crossfield has outlived its included blotter!



What kind of paper is admired for its rough surface, excessive feathering and massive bleed-through? Why, blotter paper, of course!


Blotter paper will save you a lot of time when waiting for inks to dry on very smooth and slick papers. Actually, it doesn’t make the ink “dry” faster – it just soaks up the excess. It’s especially useful when you are writing in a pad and want to flip the sheet over to use the other side, or when writing in a journal and want to turn immediately to the next page. Simply close the book on top of this sheet, leave it there momentarily (perhaps one second), and the page will be as good as dry. It’s handy to use as a book mark too.


One of the pics shows the word “blotter” written several times on a sheet of Tomoe River paper. As you can see, the bottom of the blotter sheet absorbed more ink than the top. This is because I wrote the words in succession and the bottom didn’t have much time to dry before I pressed the blotter onto the sheet.


Another pic shows three dots of ink on the right and left sides of a strip of blotter paper. The left dots were dripped right onto the paper and were absorbed VERY quickly. The right dots were dripped on the OPPOSITE side of the paper. So, as you can see, the blotter paper just drinks up ink until it is fully absorbed. This is an extreme situation that you are unlikely to encounter with regular ol’ writing, but it does demonstrate how efficient this paper is.


One sheet can be used over and over and on both sides, so the 10 sheets included in each pack will last you a long, long time.


Note that we used to sell this same blotter paper in sizes A4, B5 and A5. Since no one really blots an entire page at a time, and rather just works small sections or just the last-to-dry bottom of the page, we decided to offer one size only and reduce the cost per sheet. So, each sheet measures 148 x 210mm or about 5.8 x 8.3 in, which is the same dimensions as our Seven Seas A5 journals. At less than 5 bucks a pack, this is the best blotter paper value on the internet – nearly half the cost of other brands because we buy in a huge quantity.


Made in Japan.


How to Use Fountain Pen Blotting Paper?

This is for those who are still passionate about fountain pens and inks in this ballpoint and of course digital time. If you’re one of them, then it proves that you have an artistic mind with a sense of design. Because, in this fast-moving time, when everyone is trying to limit their job within the requirements, still you are managing enough time to express your feelings using a conventional tool of writing. Hat’s off to you!!!

Writing with a fountain pen undoubtedly creates beautiful alphabets on the paper, no matter in which language those are, but along with that, on some occasions, it may be the cause of overflowing that can make the writing a total mess. If you want to save your writing from being damaged all you need to own a blotting paper.

What is Fountain Pen Blotting Paper

A blotting paper is a kind of paper that is generally found in sheets with a high absorbing ability only to soak the excess ink from the paper in no time. It is not a new invention but has been used for many years. Even it is claimed that it was regularly used in the 15th century. Apart from the sheet, blotting paper is also found in rolls in the base of a bottle of Lamy ink.

The Purpose of Using Fountain Pen Blotting Paper

A fountain pen is an excellent tool to express your handwriting as an art. But that should be in good condition. If your pen has an issue in its nib section, then it is obvious that it will start overflowing with ink and ink may spread on the paper. Moreover, there is some kind of ink that takes a little more time to dry. In both cases, a blotting paper is always there for your rescue. It absorbs the excess ink and allows it to dry in a short time.

How to Use Fountain Pen Blotting Paper

After having an idea about the utility of a blotting paper, now it is time to know how to use a blotting paper if you face a problem overflowing or wet ink on the paper. Generally, there are two ways of using blotting paper. Let’s see them-

The Conventional Way

Firstly, you have to press a plain sheet of blotting paper on the other paper on which you already have written something with a fountain pen and the ink is wet enough and should be allowed to dry. When the blotting paper comes in touch with the second one, it soaks up the ink in no time. It doesn’t need to be rubbed or rinsed to make the ink dry. It means you don’t have to waste your time to make the thing possible.

The Advanced Way

It is quite fine using a blotting paper sheet to absorb ink, but there are some other ways to use it. Among the many, using a rocker blotter is the most popular one. A rocker blotter is a kind of wooden or metallic tool with a curved design where a blotting paper is attached at the semi-round part of it. To absorb the wet ink from the paper instead of laying the blotting sheet directly on the paper, you just have to rock the blotting paper on the writing only to get a quick result.

The Differences Between These Two

Although both ways work quite well to soak the wet ink, it is the rocket blotter that comes out the winner. It allows evenly pressed everywhere on the writing, while, a blotting sheet works only where you press with your fingers. Besides, as a rocket blotter has a handle, it works rather quickly than the other.

Some Tips To Be Followed

Using a blotting paper to dry up the excess ink from the paper looks a simple thing, but here also you have to take care of a few things so that you can get the desired result. Here they are-

Choose The Right Blotting Paper

To do the absorbing properly and conveniently, you have to choose the blotting paper wisely. There is a kind of blotting paper that looks harder like a business card and there is a conventional one. But in my opinion, the old one soaks better than the harder one and gives you the best performance to earn your satisfaction.

Avoid Using Used Blotting Paper

In most cases applying a used blotting paper may cause being transferred of a different color to your ink and that can ruin your writing. So, used blotting paper should be avoided.

Maintaining The Sheen

Most of the ink tends to the sheen. If you love to maintain the sheen of the ink, you should allow it to absorb slowly on the paper on its own. Using a blotting paper may soak the ink quickly but it takes off the sheen of the ink.


To make a good thing possible, you need to know every aspect of it properly. Using a fountain pen to get classy writing is not everything. You also have to know when and how to use a blotting paper to give the final touch on words that you’ve written on the paper to put your heart out for someone special.

Why does blotting paper absorb ink?

If you have used a dip pen or a fountain pen, blotting papers are undoubtedly handy. It is an extremely absorbent paper used to suck up excess liquid material, such as oil or ink, from an object’s or writing surface. Through that, you will no longer have to wait until the ink dries on the page, especially when you need to turn it or pick up the paper you just wrote with your hands. But, how does blotting paper actually work?

A blotting paper is pretty porous. It has tiny spaces or holes, which serve as capillary tubes. Capillary action, or the natural tendency of liquid to ease surface tension, results in the absorption of the ink. When a capillary tube is plunged in any liquid, the fluid enters into these tubes up to a level higher than outside of it.

Often, blotting papers are made of cellulose, usually from wood, straw, or cotton linter, allowing the presence of the microscopic holes. As it comes in contact with an aqueous solution, the liquid is drawn into these cavities. Once filled in, it moves to the next capillary spreading the ink into the sheet.

You can also observe capillary action when you place a narrow into a glass of water. Try to check the water’s level in straw and the glass. You can notice that the level of the water inside the straw has risen up higher than that of the glass’. That scenario is also brought by capillary action, seemingly defying gravity. It is the unique property of water to move through the surface of another material, despite the presence of different forces.

Capillary action occurs in many instances in our daily living. It is responsible for why a paper towel can suck up spilled milk or juice or why you are able to dry yourself quickly after a bath. That is capillary action as the liquid form climbs up to the paper towel, dragging all the water molecules.

Trees and plants also use capillary action to survive. They place down roots deep in the ground, which are capable of transporting water from the soil into the plant. Dissolved nutrients are present in the water on the soil. The roots then absorb the water and start rising up to the plant’s tissue.

Capillary action works by bringing water to the roots. However, it is only the initial action as it can only drag water to a certain extent. To transport water up all the leaves and branches, the plant’s mechanism, using the adhesive and cohesive forces, works to bring water up to the outlying leaf.

But today, blotting paper is more commonly used in cosmetics to absorb excess oil from the face. It is made from ingredients, such as cotton, rice, and flax seeds. They are widely marketed and sold by different cosmetic brands across the globe. Often they are also dyed to make them more visually-enticing for consumer appeal. Others are dusted with minerals and salicylic acid to prevent further formation of acne and other blemishes on the skin. These blotting sheets used the same magic of capillary action to soak up excess sebum, making it less shiny and more matte.

More Readings:

Blotting paper (Wikipedia)

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90,000 Employees of the Irkutsk Museum told about the history of the pen and pen

There is an almost forgotten smell of ink in the museum. But here they remember exactly what they wrote before the advent of the fountain pen. The quill pen is one of the earliest writing devices. It appeared in Europe in the 8th century. For right-handers, they took the feather from the left wing and vice versa – for left-handers. Then the material was soaked, boiled down, quenched in hot sand, and only then sharpened.
The simplest ink, which was used to write in ancient Egypt, was made from soot and oil.Later, cuttlefish ink, purple for making ink, appeared. The bark of various trees and special growths from oak leaves were also used.

At the end of the 19th century, synthetic aniline ink appeared, which completely replaced all others. They were the most comfortable, cheapest and most durable. The ink was poured into special ink tanks. They were different: glass, crystal, made of some kind of stones, like this version.There were also school inkwells – no spills.

Calligraphy is the art of beautiful and clear writing. And only with a pen, carefully drawing out each letter, you can train your impeccable handwriting.

Before writing, you need to sit down correctly. We need to move up to the table so that it is comfortable and so that we can put our hands on the table.

Back straight, legs not crossed, stand at right angles.Such work makes the right cerebral lobe feel the structure of symmetry, rhythm and tempo, develops attentiveness, observation and imagination.
The indispensable companions of a fountain pen are ink, blotting paper and paperweight. Having dipped a pen, you could write only one or two words, so it was necessary to accurately calculate the amount of ink, and, of course, try!
After the nib came the Waterman capillary fountain pen. Lewis Edson Waterman, who worked as a regular insurance agent in New York, lost an important contract, as at the time of signing the pen leaked and the documents were filled with ink.He set about developing his own pen with a reliable new ink delivery mechanism. And with the advent of the typewriter, the pen era ended forever. How long have you been writing letters by hand? Today, in the age of gadgets, this is perceived as some kind of archaism. Day of handwriting is approaching. It is also called Day of handwriting. This is a reason to think that pens and pencils have long replaced computers and smartphones. We began to write letters even less often. Let’s remember the path from pen to pen.

90,000 12 things from the Soviet school that no longer exist – Rambler / news

At school we studied not only sciences, but also relationships: strong friendship, the first dizzying love, quarrels and reconciliation.And all this in between or right in the classroom. How many years have passed since your graduation? Five, ten, twenty or more? You have changed anyway. And looking back the more pleasant, the more years are behind. But during this time the school has also changed. Let’s remember how our Soviet school differed from the modern Unified State Exam! And what objects our children have long ceased to use. Carbon paper

Our school years fell on the pre-computer period. We were deprived of a printer and a copier. But we were not discouraged and successfully, although we made copies for a long time using carbon paper. This process required precision and a firm hand,

but it was a “living” copying, in which they put their heart and soul into it.

If you do not have not only a computer, but also a beautiful handwriting, then a stencil will come to the rescue. It came to the rescue with its versatility and ease of use for creating beautiful title pages. We had not yet heard about the difficulties of choice and variety. And we encountered them only when familiar with Word: floating text, curved to the right or left, underlined.But it was all pointless if you didn’t have a printer. Therefore, the stencil helped us out for a very long time. Collet pencil

It is also called mechanical, because the graphite rod is in a special frame and is pulled out with one push. The invention of this pencil made it possible to significantly reduce deforestation, because most of an ordinary pencil goes into the trash can during use and sharpening. Inkwell and fountain pen

Back in the 1960s, schoolchildren wrote their first letters with ink.To do this, they had special fountain pens and ink jars. All this was always carried with them to school. Ink was spilled regularly and the students had to change their bags.

These are the inconveniences on the way to knowledge.

Blotting paper (blotting paper)

It was necessary during the period of using ink pens. The blotter paper differed in density and structure from notebook sheets, so it absorbed ink well. The blotter, as a rule, was inserted at the beginning of the notebook.And after writing with a pen, the text got wet to avoid smudging on sheets and clothes.

Blotting bags were also found by schoolchildren of the early 90s, who wrote with ordinary ballpoint pens.

These sheets of paper were sometimes inserted into the beginning of notebooks, which often caused bewilderment among students. Abacus and counting sticks

With their help, young schoolchildren learned to count, add and subtract. Abacus has already sunk into oblivion, and counting sticks are now used, as a rule, only in preschool institutions and, in very rare cases, in the first grade.Notebook folder with ties

Previously, schoolchildren neatly folded their notebooks into a special folder. It was practical and ergonomic. The notebooks did not wrinkle and took up less space in the portfolio. Probably, it is worth returning this thing to the everyday life of modern schoolchildren. Songbooks with pictures

Previously, schoolchildren (and especially girls) used songbooks for music lessons. But the peak of their popularity came in the late 80s – early 90s. They were made colorful and bright: they were painted with pens and felt-tip pens, cut-out illustrations from magazines and postcards were pasted.

There is a beautiful songbook – ready for a music lesson!

White collars and sleeve ruffles for school uniforms

Soviet school uniforms are remembered by everyone, even if they never had a chance to wear them. Brown dresses with black and white party aprons for girls and blue for boys.

White collars and armbands were worn every day and they always had to be white.

The collars emphasized the solemnity of the moment and the neatness of the student, and the oversleeves protected the uniform from ink stains and wiping.Badges of Octobrists, Pioneers and Komsomol members

They were an obligatory attribute of any Octobrist, pioneer or Komsomol member. The icon meant belonging to a certain group of schoolchildren, depending on age and class. And everyone wanted to be in the detachment, and not in splendid isolation. That is why all schoolchildren were proud of their badges, and many adults still keep them. Pioneer ties

Only the pioneers had such a fashionable attribute as the scarlet tie. It is a scarf that was tied with a special double knot around the neck.The tie was cherished and cherished, because it symbolized the unbreakable bond of communists, Komsomol members and pioneers. Collection of scrap metal and waste paper

But this is not a household item, but a tradition. But without her it is impossible to imagine Soviet school childhood. Children from the first grade several times a year participated in this all-Union event and helped to raise production in the USSR.

Everyone contributed and felt that they were doing something important for their country.

Great patriotism began with small deeds.In many schools, especially in the provinces, scrap metal continued to be collected in the early 90s. All these partially forgotten things, most likely, have no future. But they will forever remain in our memory and will remind of a grandiose period in the history of our country. Photo: Yulia Anokhina, MIA Rossiya Segodnya,,, Let’s be friends on social networks! Subscribe to us on Facebook, VKontakte and Odnoklassniki!

Pros of fountain pen

It is an established stereotype that fountain pens are impractical and expensive. But is it? Doesn’t the popular writing accessory have a single plus?

We have compiled a selection of the benefits of a fountain pen. Read, rate, analyze.

Correct grip

Ballpoint pens are more practical. Their ink does not flow under pressure. They do not stain clothes, paper or things in a backpack, bag, or business briefcase.

But they do not have one characteristic of a fountain pen – a nib, which receives ink only when it is tilted correctly.

This feature helps both children and adults learn to hold the pen correctly – at a certain angle so that the hand does not get tired while writing, and the lines are straight and clear.

It is easy and pleasant to write

Fountain pen glides over paper. You don’t need to make an effort to draw the line. Nothing distracts attention. This allows you to focus on the beauty of the letters written in a notebook or journal.

Prevention of tunnel syndrome

If you constantly work at the computer and completely refuse to write manually, you can get tunnel syndrome, in which the wrist is constantly “aching”.

To avoid the development of pathology, get into the habit of making notes with a fountain pen in a notebook or on a separate sheet. While writing, the wrist flexes thanks to smooth movements.

Fountain Pens Save Money

A bottle of ink from well-known brands will last 5-7 months even for those who write several sheets of paper every day.

If we compare the ink consumption in ballpoint pens (ballpoint, gel, rollerballs) and in fountain pens, then the second option turns out to be more economical.While you are consuming one bottle, your colleague writes out 6-7 ballpoint pens.

Fountain Pen – Style Basis

It looks more presentable than a ballpoint one. Set up a fountain pen stand on your desk and you add a pair of glasses to your impeccable reputation and style.

Why is there such a thing about a fountain pen?

For a long time only wealthy people bought it. Today, the price of an accessory is affordable for many. But the flair of aristocracy and status turns on automatically as soon as we see a pen with a thin graceful nib.

She writes wherever and whenever

Despite the affordable price of ballpoint pens, they are quite “capricious”. Some samples are written only on smooth paper, where there are no marks from water or damp palms.

But with the pen, you can draw clear lines on paper of any size, wood and even cardboard.

And one more bonus: the ink in fountain pens does not freeze at low temperatures.

Summaries look neat

Fountain pen is the perfect gift for the perfectionist.With it, every note will look perfect. The secret is in the even flow of ink, regardless of the writing style – with strong or weak pressure.

Variety and aesthetics

The myth that fountain pens can only be refilled with black or blue ink has existed for a long time. But in our time, manufacturers have expanded the color range. They offer ink in red, yellow, green, cyan, and other shades.

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