Cosmo Air Light Paper - A Complete Guide
Rich, soft, clean, simple, elegant, and robust. While this may sound like tasting notes for a wine varietal, it is the first impressions of the paper that seems to have come to the rescue of those of us whose Tomoe River stockpile is beginning to dwindle. And while this paper is very different in its construct and end result, it seems to be waiting in the wings to dethrone Tomoe River to become the next King or Queen of paper land!
What is Cosmo Air Light Paper?
Cosmo Air Light (CAL for short,) is made by Nippon Paper, a large paper manufacturing company in Japan. CAL is their trademark paper. Before the journaling and fountain community added CAL to the roster of most used papers, it was mainly used for printing in the publishing industry.
Most of us learned about the glorious Tomoe River paper from our Hobonichi planners, and in a similar way we learned about the sumptuous Cosmo Air Light paper from Yamamoto papers, a paper merchant in Japan. They are known for their sampler pads which includes various fountain pen friendly papers that you can try, including CAL. Our first experience at Galen with Cosmo Air Light was at the San Francisco Pen Show in 2019, our first visit to the show. Yamamoto had a table set up and were selling samples of their paper. I was able to try quite a few varieties and loved Cosmo Air Light from the first time I wrote on it. CAL was selected the best paper of the -Find Your Fountain Pen Friendly Paper- organization at the 2019 San Francisco Pen Show. At that that time, the paper was only available in individual sheets.
When you are opening a CAL notebook, you’ll probably notice that the paper has a particular texture. The paper isn’t slick like Tomoe River. Instead, it has just enough texture that you don’t feel like your pen is ice-skating over the surface like overcoated papers. To describe this paper the right word is, smooth. Cosmo Air Light is so smooth that your nibs actually squeaked as you wrote! You’re probably used to most papers, especially Japanese papers, being silky smooth to write on. Cosmo Air Light offers up a bit of resistance, but not in the form of feedback like you get from Midori MD or Life Bank paper.
There are five different weights for CAL, from 75 gsm to 115 gsm. You can find technical details here. 75 and 83 are just two of the weights and we have both to perform very well with fountain pen inks. The various weights of CAL perform quite differently. CAL paper is thick, but light. The thickness of 83GSM is 111±3μm. This is the same weight as matte coated paper 104.7GSM. In other words, CAL paper is more than 20% lighter than matte coated paper, with the benefit of the same thickness.
Sheen, shading and smoothness
So what makes this paper so different from others? The biggest differentiator is the way the inks look on the page. Inks that don’t shade very much on Tomoe River, shade nicely on CAL. Shimmering and sheening inks were also enhanced. Colors seem a bit brighter on CAL. CAL wins with sheen, shading and smoothness. It really shows great amounts of sheen and has some of the best shading you could ask for. Colors pop on the page and look amazing. This is what I would consider a high-contrast paper. There was also no feathering or bleed through in our tests. Ghosting is average, but you should have no problem using both sides of a sheet. As would be expected with paper with high sheen and shading, dry times are also high, similar to Tomoe River.
Another feature of this paper is color accuracy; most of the purple inks remain purple, as opposed to veering into green or blue territory. It is a very smooth paper. Yet, when writing with a wider nib, the writing can feel somewhat sluggish. It is hard to explain. Wider nibs don't glide across the page, they seem to sink into it more. I did not notice this with narrower nibs. In fact, my extra fine nibs seemed to glide along happily.
Let's talk about the downsides.
- The first is the weight of the paper and the number of pages per notebook. With our typical Tomoe River notebook, we can put 400 pages of 52 gsm TR paper. Yet with the CAL, 288 pages filled the entire notebook with the same thickness as TR.
- Secondly, the paper does seem more absorbent, making line widths wider than with other papers. In fact, I'd say this paper is the most pronounced of all that I've experienced with this characteristic.
- Not especially for this paper, but for all coated papers, we suggest using a page protector when writing. To avoid the oil from your hand spoiling the coating of the blank part of the page. It can be a paper sheet, a plastic one like Sbrebrown protector or our leather blotter.
Feedback is available while writing, as its surface is not as covered as the Tomoe river, Rhodia etc. The paper isn’t slick like Tomoe River either. Instead, it has just enough texture that you don’t feel like your pen is ice-skating over the surface. But still, it provides a smooth writing experience. Your text is a bit thicker, but there's no bleeding and minimal ghosting. The colors are very vibrant. Drying time is a bit longer. I personally think it's especially suitable for applications such as a journal, watercolor, etc.
Pictures and a quick video review of the Cosmo Air Light Paper
The Everyday Book With CAL Paper
In Jan 2022 we released our popular EverydayBook series with Cosmo Air Light paper 75 gsm. It comes with guides and leather blotter in a magnetic closure box. And is compatible to fit snugly in our leather notebook covers.
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