Oblique or straight pen holder, tape or pointed nib, fountain pen or calligraphy ink, Copperplate or Italic? We know that every beginning artist will have many questions and doubts. Here, we would like to give you some advice on how to start your calligraphy adventure and how to choose the right accessories. Nibs, holders, paper and ink are a must. And what next? Everything is in your hands!
What typeface style you choose will determine what tools you should select. It is difficult to specify a particular typeface that is best to start with. You should decide yourself on the style you like or learn about the interrelationships of typefaces and their origins. For example, the Copperplate style (English Roundhand) forms the basis for the very popular Modern Calligraphy trend. On the other hand, to create specific works in the Modern Gothic style, you should get familiar with the Fracture and Texture typefaces.
We have selected some nibs and brands that are recommended by experienced calligraphers and worth trying out. We can distinguish two main types of nibs: pointed and oblique.
Pointed nibs are used mainly for English Roundhand (Copperplate) and Modern Calligraphy styles. The beautifully crafted Japanese Nikko G pointed nib would be ideal for beginner artists. It was first created for manga illustrators, but over time calligraphers have come to appreciate it too. The Nikko G nib does not snag on the paper, provides excellent ink flow and is quite flexible. We should also mention the Leonardt 111 EF and Leonardt 300 nibs, and for the advanced artists, the Joseph Gillott 303 nib, which unfortunately is very hard to find on the market.
Oblique nibs are perfect for calligraphy styles, such as Italic, Uncial, Carolingian Minuscule or Gothic. Their tips are wide and angled at 45 degrees. Oblique nibs to try are Manuscript D. Leonardt & Co. available in sizes from 0.5 to 4 mm.
According to many calligraphers, nibs manufactured before war are the best because better quality steel was used for their production. So, if you manage to find them somewhere, you are really lucky!
According to many calligraphers, nibs manufactured before war are the best. (…) So, if you manage to find them somewhere, you are really lucky!
There are straight and oblique pen holders. The straight ones can be used for Italic, Uncial and Carolingian Minuscule styles. The oblique pen holders help achieve the correct angle when writing in for example English Roundhand (Copperplate) style. If you want to write in different styles, 2-in-1 nibs are a great solution. The flange is removable, so you can easily convert an oblique pen holder into a straight one.
There is a wide array of pen holders to choose from. They are made of different materials and come in a variety of sizes and colours. It all depends on your preferences. Wooden pen holders, for example, will get stained more quickly, but they are pleasant to the touch and have a natural appearance. Pen holders can be very minimalistic, like those crafted by Deml Holzerzeugnisse, or distinctive, like the Australian Moblique.
AbleSnail from Poland is a real gem for calligraphy geeks. These beautiful pen holders are hand-crafted by the brand’s founder from premium materials, such as brass, rosewood or resin. Each product is a unique work of art!
AbleSnail from Poland is a real gem for calligraphy geeks. These beautiful pen holders are hand-crafted by the brand’s founder (…). Each product is a unique work of art!
Fountain Pen Ink and Calligraphy Ink
What is the difference between fountain pen ink and calligraphy ink? The fountain pen ink is a dye dissolved in water, which provides better flow and prevents the nib feed channel from clogging. It is thinner, less saturated, and slightly more prone to fading. These inks are designed for fountain pens but are also used by dip pen enthusiasts. Premium inks in glass bottles can be found in the Kaweco offer.
The calligraphy ink does not dissolve in water, forms a slurry, and requires frequent stirring. Calligraphy inks are much thicker than fountain pen inks and offer more saturated colours. They can only be used for writing with dip pens. The inks crafted by the American brand Ziller's are astonishing, and available in insanely great colours!
Premium quality calligraphy inks are also crafted in Poland. The small KWZ Ink studio is run by Konrad, a chemist and calligraphy enthusiast. The inks come in rare colours and give an elegant metallic finish. Once you try the KWZ Ink products, it will always be your number one choice!
The best nib, ink, and pen holder will be pointless if you don’t use the right paper. The entire writing experience is based on the paper. If you are a calligraphy beginner, you can use "printer" paper that is available in reams, such as Double A Premium or Navigator Universal. If you are willing to spend some extra money for better quality paper, we recommend the excellent Midori MD Paper notebooks, or the Polish brand Archie's.
The best nib, ink, and pen holder will be pointless if you don’t use the right paper. The entire writing experience is based on the paper.
How to Begin?
In the beginning, you should get support. You can take a calligraphy course or start learning on your own.
Ewa Landowska and Barbara Bodziony, the authors of Piękna Litera [Beautiful Letters], run calligraphy workshops throughout Poland and Landowska&Bodziony Atelier in Krakow, where you can polish the technique of beautiful writing in an amazing and unique atmosphere.
Let’s Do It!
Our advice will help you choose the right tools and accessories. When having the suitable paper, nibs, pen holders and inks, nothing can stop you from practising. Learing the art of beautiful writing requires patience and takes time, but it also gives a lot of satisfaction and keeps stress at bay. Good luck!
Author: Ilona Machulska, Images: Magdalena Konik-Machulska
Translation: Rafał Stachura