So you want to learn pointed pen calligraphy! Awesome! Well first you need some nibs and ink. I know what you’re thinking, you’d love to be able to find good, cheap tools in your local big box store. Well, unfortunately, the harsh reality of pointed pen is that what you do find in your local store is probably crap. Most of them will look something like this:
These are cheap, immediately available and I gotta say, pretty crap. These are made to sell quickly, made of inferior materials and not meant to be good, long lasting tools for a serious calligrapher. Don’t worry, I’ve bought my fair share of them too as a beginner. But they’re not optimum, it’s like buying those weird fake crabsticks and calling it a seafood dinner. You want something good, right?
The best place to buy tools for the serious calligrapher is online, and that is PaperInkArts.com and JohnNealBooks.com. These two sellers are passionate about calligraphy, have great prices and are great supporters of the community!
Another place is Amazon, which I use quite often. They don’t have a huge calligraphy tools selection as PaperInkArts or JohnNeal, but a beginner don’t need too many things anyway. Below are some tools which are suitable for beginners. I hope it is useful for you.
Each nib has its own characteristics. Some may be flexible, Some not, some may be easy and the some others difficult to use. So it’s best to try different ones just in case some don’t work for you. It’s also advisable to buy at least 3-4pcs of each nib in case of breakage, splattering etc. Nibs are meant to be disposable, so if it’s old (you can tell when it starts to splatter too much), throw it away and use a new one. Don’t feel like you need to ‘save’ it! That’s why we get 3-4 of each.
BEGINNER TIPS & TRICKS: Always keep your nib clean and dry with water and a clean napkin. Never let ink dry on it. Is your nib acting up, splattering or causing weird problems? It could be a variety of reasons, watch this video for demos on how to fix it.
This is the biggie, and most difficult to find, but indispensable to your work once you get the hang of it. The oblique penholder holds your nib at an angle that makes it easier to write at a slant. You can use a straight holder, but an oblique holder makes things easier in the long run. I highly recommend getting one just to try. PS: If you’re left-handed, the oblique holder may be completely optional.
BEGINNER TIPS & TRICKS: I know, it feels weird to use this tool for the first time. One trick is to look at the tip of the nib when writing, not the flange itself. Let your body and arm rearrange themselves accordingly. Watch this video on oblique pen holding and positioning.
Just like nibs, different inks has different characteristics. Stay away from fancy colored inks as a beginner, as it may just confuse and deter you. Stick to simple, beginner friendly inks such as:
BEGINNER TIPS & TRICKS: If the ink bleeds, it could be three things, either you’re pressing too hard on the nib (which causes the paper to tear), the ink is too thin (don’t dilute it too much, thicken with some gum arabic) or the paper is too low quality (see below!)
Paper is a pain. The rule about paper is that you should use good quality ones, because that means it will be better made. Dollar store paper is not going to cut it, your nib will tear at the paper fibers and the ink will just bleed everywhere. No matter what paper you get, make sure it’s not in a huge thick book. It’s optimum to be able to tear the sheets off so you can write it flat on the table. A big thick book would disturb the movement of your hand.
BEGINNER TIPS & TRICKS: I find it really hard to recommend paper, because it is the most volatile of all the tools. You can change nibs and ink, but it’s hard to change paper. So when a paper is not working for me, I first try to find a ink and nib combo that works first. Usually that works. Also, a light hand solves a lot of problems!
There are so many good books about calligraphy, and each script has its own books. It’ll be impossible to cover them all, but here I am gonna point out some obvious ones for beginners. As you improve, you’ll find that your book collection will also grow!
BEGINNER TIPS & TRICKS: It’s impossible to list every good beginner’s book in here, there are just so many! So I listed the ones I started out with myself. Don’t feel constricted to just these though. You can never have too many books!
These are all optional, but nice to haves once you get your routine going.
BEGINNER TIPS & TRICKS: These are the things I absolutely need before starting to write: 1) Clean water. Always write with a fresh container of water to clean your nibs with. Dirty water will just contaminate your nib and ink and ruin your life. 2) Clean napkin. You can just throw it away when the napkin is dirty and get a fresh one. Some people use a rag, but dirty rags will contaminate your nib and ruin your life. 3) A clean desk. A clean, neat and spacious desk will allow your arm to move freely. If there is even a piece of lint or dirt in the way of my full arm movement and ruins what would have been a perfect oval, I get so mad.