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The College of Scribes and Illuminators wholeheartedly endorses and encourages the use of “period” medieval materials: vellum/parchment, medieval pigments, quills etc... They are not as expensive as you might expect and they produce stunning results! However, the use of such materials does require proper knowledge and preparation to produce good and lasting scrolls. We will not delve into their use here. If you are interested in more information on the use of medieval scribal materials, please contact the College for more information.

The following is a list of the readily available modern materials we recommend for use. For a complete tool and materials list, please refer the Handbook for the College of Scribes and Illuminators.

It is recommended that you use a good quality, heavy weight, smooth paper that has a neutral pH. We recommend “Arches” (the brand name) 90lb hot press white watercolour paper. This can be found at any decent art store and at Michael’s. You do not have to use Arches though – any similar paper will do.

Look for:

Weight: listed in pounds, this is what refers to the thickness of the paper. The weight is important because this affects how stable the paper will be. Thin paper will cockle from the moisture in your paints or inks and can buckle from the weight of the wax seal. Nothing less than 90lb is advisable.

Smoothness: paper will have different levels of smoothness. This is called “tooth”. Rougher paper has more “tooth” and it will grab your nib and make your lines uneven and rough. You will also find paper classed as Hot or Cold press. This refers to how the paper is processed and affects how smooth the paper is. Hot press is the smoother of the two.

Neutral pH balance: neutral pH paper will age well over time and allow your artwork to look beautiful for years to come. Art supply staff will know if a paper is neutral pH but it should also be indicated on the paper.

IMPORTANT! Test all papers with your inks and paints before starting. Some papers will take paint well but will not like ink. Watch for fuzziness or bleeding lines.

Some acceptable papers: Arches hot/cold press, Bristol, Strathmore, Fabriano, Rives

The two factors to consider are:

Permanence rating.

This dictates how fade resistant the colour is. The permanence rating will be listed on any good quality tube or cake of paint. It is critical that the permanence rating of the pigment be high so that your work does not change colour or fade with time

Period appropriateness of the paint.

Type: Not all modern paints are suitable for the reproducing the effect of medieval illumination. Gouache is by far the best choice. It is opaque but not shiny. Watercolour paints can work but tend to be more translucent. Be sure not to use acrylic base Gouache. Oil- or acrylic-based paints are not at all suitable. Do not use these under any circumstances on Principality or Kingdom scrolls or charters. 

Windsor & Newton Designers Gouache and M. Graham & Co. Artists' Gouache are both excellent choices and are readily available.

Colour: Not all colours available in gouache are necessarily suitable for use. The modern artist has access to a much broader palette than the medieval artist did. Avoid the use of florescent, opalescent and excessively vibrant colours - however pretty they may be! Your best measure is to refer to period examples and follow their palette. The following colour choices are great starting points for building an appropriate palette if you are unsure of where to begin:

Black (Ivory or Lamp either is fine), Permanent White (best for white work), Zinc White (best for mixing), Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Pale Hue, Windsor Green, Mistletoe Green, Sap Green, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Yellow Ochre, Spectrum Red, Alizarin Crimson, Spectrum Violet, Gold (Imitation)


Opaque, lightfast ink is recommended. Waterproof inks are recommended, if at all possible. Many types of ink available especially coloured inks and the ink commonly found in cartridge calligraphy pens may look fabulous when first applied, but are not lightfast and will fade with time. Check your ink before beginning!

Higgins Eternal or Black Magic, Ro​tring opaque black, Calli jet black India, , black Sumi stick ink (artists' grade), Sumi professional grade ink (liquid) are all excellent choices.


The following materials are not acceptable because of their instability or acidity.
WARNING: They may look just fine when first applied but they are proven to age poorly and cause scrolls to loose their beauty. In some cases they can result in the scroll literally rotting away or deteriorating.

  • Acrylic paint

  • Ballpoint pens

  • Fountain pen inks

  • Markers, felt pens, studio pens, etc.

  • Oil-based, pre-mixed metallic paints

  • Non-permanent inks

  • Non-permanent watercolours

  • Oil paints

  • Non-neutral pH papers

  • Pastels or chalks

  • Pencil crayons

  • Winsor & Newton and Dr. Martins drawing inks

  • Other cartooning inks​

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