I'm currently learning a logogram language (characters instead of Latin letters). Everyday, my practice includes writing on paper. I use printed grid paper, designed to help for writing characters:

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I go through 5+ A4 pages every week.

Are there any alternatives to using so much paper to practice / learning?

  • 6
    What would happen if you slipped a sheet of your logogram paper grid into a plastic sheet protector and use a fine-point dry-erase marker on it? Wipe it off with a soft old sock?
    – Stan
    Jul 13, 2019 at 23:54
  • 5
    If you goal is good handwriting on paper, then keep practicing on paper. Whiteboards, tablets, and tracing in sand all have different tactile feedbacks and none will help your on-paper handwriting.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 15, 2019 at 9:16
  • 4
    Five pages a week isn't any kind of a problem that needs solving.
    – user207421
    Jul 15, 2019 at 10:31
  • 2
    I'm not confused at all. Writing on any surface other than paper will have a different tactile feedback than paper. It is the response to the tactile feedback that needs to be practiced. It matters not whether one were to draw snails or cats' whiskers.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 15, 2019 at 14:41
  • 1
    @dotancohen Oh, you said, "If your goal is good handwriting on paper…" I usually respond to what a person says. : ^ ). The task is more like printing. We weren't discussing writing so I thought your comment was uninformed or mis-guided. No offence meant.
    – Stan
    Jul 15, 2019 at 14:50

8 Answers 8


I use a sheet of Magic Water Painting Paper by Kuretake. It costs about $5 Canadian for an 8½" x 11". It can be ordered online. I have been using the same sheet taped to a piece of plexi-glass for support for over two years. There's nothing to wear out.

Magic Water Painting Paper

It works with nothing but water as "ink." It uses the same principle as a "Buddah Board" painting system.

The paper is treated with a textured waterproof multilayer material that turns black when touched by water. As soon as it dries by evaporation the marks are gone.

You can buy blank felt-tip markers with different kinds of tips from brushes to fine points. I fill a new empty felt-tip marker with normal tap water and use it to write on the paper to practice calligraphy, Arabic, and Hebrew lettering. I can also use a lettering brush (with water) or even my wet (dipped in water) finger.

Before that, I would use tracing paper over a grid to help me with alignment and spacing. It was okay and saved using a lot of paper; but, the Magic Water Painting Paper uses NOTHING BUT WATER.

You might want a few pieces of this stuff with different size grids drawn on them with a pencil to practice different sized writing.

This is great stuff that I discovered by accident in an art store liquidation sale when I got the last sheet the store had in stock. I took almost a year to find out the name of this fantastic stuff which is more common in Great Britain than North America.

  • This looks interesting. I'll look into this as a long-term solution. Thank you! Jul 14, 2019 at 1:38
  • Wow, I never knew there was such stuff. I've seen watercolor "paint by number" with different color patches, but never all one color like this. Must get some. I wonder if I can preprint on it with actual ink?
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 15, 2019 at 13:19

Make an infinitely re-useable sheet of logogram paper.

Here's how:

  1. Take a single sheet of printed grid paper to a local "Repro-Copy/Insta-Copy" print shop and get a same-size copy made on acetate transparency material.
  2. Done.

Instructions for use:

  1. Lay the acetate grid on a sheet of white paper.
  2. Draw directly on the acetate with a dry-erase marker.
  3. Wipe the sheet clean with a soft cloth when you need a new "page."
  • Dry-erase markers usually make much thicker lines than a pen, so you have to write larger letters to remain legible. That reduces its effectiveness as practice, because you're not practicing the same movements you'll use when writing on paper.
    – Hobbes
    Jul 18, 2019 at 14:10
  • @Hobbes Hi. You contradicted yourself. You're only practicing the same movements. Do you know what a logogram is? Did you know that a brush is usually used to form logograms? Did you know that using a (non-calligraphic) pen or pencil on paper is already a concession to convenience over form?
    – Stan
    Jul 18, 2019 at 14:32
  • Drawing a circle 5 cm in diameter is a very different exercise to drawing a circle 5 mm in diameter. It engages different muscles. Drawing 5 cm circles is not useful to build muscle memory for 5mm circles. Similarly, logograms written with pen can be much smaller than those written with a brush or a thick marker.
    – Hobbes
    Jul 18, 2019 at 14:35

For an artist, 5 pages a week is not much.

Can you use lighter weight tracing paper with a copy of the printed grid under the semi-transparent sheet you're using?

You can use very thin tracing paper which will cut your volume of waste.

  • 3
    In my experience, if you can still find it at all, tracing paper costs more per sheet than paper that you'd run through a laser or ink jet printer.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 14, 2019 at 0:20
  • @ZeissIkon There are rolls of the stuff that is very reasonable. Most serious artists use tracing paper in rolls due to lower cost and greater flexibility in use. I neglected to point this out. I use it in this form.
    – Stan
    Jul 15, 2019 at 14:37

If you can get your hands on a digital version of the grid paper, you can use any drawing app on a smartphone or tablet. When you edit the grid paper image, you can use your finger to draw the characters, but some smartphones and tablet support styluses as well, giving you a 'pencil' feeling.

iOS has a built in option for this called 'Markup', since iOS 10. Here is Apple's article on how to activate Markup for several apps that support it (Photos is the most logical option if you save the grid paper as an image.)

  • 1
    You could use a simple mylar or acetate overlay for the grid and make your glyphs through the conductive overlay.
    – Stan
    Jul 15, 2019 at 14:27

I'd suggest obtaining a small dry erase whiteboard. I've seen these offered in office supply stores as small as A4. Use a permanent marker and ruler to mark your guidelines on the board, and allow time for the marker lines to cure, then do your writing practice with dry erase markers. Write, erase, repeat.

Now, that said, I'm not certain dry erase markers are much more environmentally friendly than recyclable paper -- but the volume and mass of waste should be significantly reduced and if recycling isn't available, this would surely be an improvement over landfill disposal of all that paper. Once the up-front cost of the board and markers is sunk, it will also save money over the term of a few months.

Some brands of dry erase marker may take off the "permanent" marker dyes -- which generally stay on the surface, and are permanent only by virtue of needing a more aggressive solvent than is usually used for cleaning. From comments, pencil lines on the dry erase surface may stand up to gentle dry erasing better. Another option is to do tests to find a marking method that chemically bonds to the dry erase coating.

Still another potential solution is to have a couple sheets of your practice paper laminated. In this case, the markings that need to be permanent are under the plastic layer, and you'd use either dry erase or wet erase markers for your practice (wet erase will certainly work, dry erase would require testing, but should come off the laminating sheet).

  • +1 Obviously the O.P. should look for fine-tipped dry erase markers, instead of the more common large-tipped dry erase markers. Either way, there may be an issue with the permanent lines that the O.P. adds to the board first; if you draw over permanent marker with a dry erase marker, both of them can be easily erased. (That's a lifehack I learned a while back.) Jul 13, 2019 at 20:07
  • Better than pencil but more of a hassle. India ink can be used in a technical pen for drawing guidelines on a whiteboard. It's a shellac-containing highly pigmented ink which not only remains lightfast and permanent, but is also totally waterproof when dry. Visit an art supply store to consult on best way to apply the stuff in the way you want. Good luck.
    – Stan
    Jul 16, 2019 at 21:18

An alternative is to use a tablet PC.

If you're using an android, try lecture notes. It is a quite good app for note taking and drawing and has a flexible system for creating own paper. If there does not exist a paper with your pattern yet, have a look in the XDA forums. There are some people that are quite skilled and may help you to create the paper template you need.

When you want some really good alternative, you can have a look at the remarkable paper tablet. It is a special e-paper tablet for note taking and drawing and works much better than touch screens. The disadvantages are, that you can use it only for drawing (it is no tablet with apps) and that it is quite expensive. But when you may have use for it later on as well, it may be worth the money.

If you're okay with paper, but the special paper is too expensive, there are many sites offering printable paper templates. While your pattern is not as common as millimeter paper, you may still have luck somewhere. Make sure to disable any "fit to page" options when printing to avoid rescaling the pattern.

  • You could use a simple mylar or acetate overlay for the grid and make your glyphs through the conductive overlay on the screen. Benefit is that you don't have to mess with software on two levels.
    – Stan
    Jul 15, 2019 at 14:33

My kids’ elementary school solved a similar problem with the help of a laminating machine. There are sets of worksheets for each lesson that every child needs to complete - mostly repetitive practice exercises, nothing that should be kept. So instead of printing/copying two dozen of each (which would quickly add up to hundreds and hundreds sheets of wasted paper) they printed a limited set of maybe twenty and laminated them. Kids use water-soluble pens to fill them out in class or as homework and after the teacher has checked it, they will wipe them clean with a damp rag and put them back to where they belong.

This will obviously work for your problem as well. You could also print the grids in different sizes or versions, depending on your needs.

Contrary to the other answers I suggest that you don’t use a dry-erase marker, exactly because they can be wiped off. If you are practicing your skills, you don’t want to worry about smudging. Use a non-permanent foil pen instead.

  • +1 for printing the grids in different sizes or versions…
    – Stan
    Jul 15, 2019 at 17:18

Before paper got cheap people used slates. Every schoolkid had a slate and a slate pencil (stylus) or chalk for writing on it. After use it was washed clean with water. You can still get them in a good toy shop. These things last forever. Children using slate styli would sharpen them on the school wall. School slates had a wooden frame to protect them.

Alternatively use one of those slate plates which seem to be fashionable at the moment, if you can find a nice smooth one.

The grid the OP wants can be painted on.

  • What's a metal pencil? How does a metal pencil (stylus) work on slate (a sheet of stone)? Wouldn't the metal scratch the surface of the slate which is relatively soft? Did you mean chalk or soapstone for writing?
    – Stan
    Jul 16, 2019 at 21:07
  • I finally checked it and the slate styli seem to be made of slate too. I seem to remember using a metal one as a kid so maybe that's a thing. Anyway, you just wash it off afterwards. Some people use chalk, but then you use a lot and have to buy new.
    – RedSonja
    Jul 19, 2019 at 8:18

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