Calligraphy Essentials

I often get asked what you need to get started with calligraphy. This is a short guide to the tools and accessories I recommend and a few extras that, while not essential, are an excellent addition to any budding calligrapher's desk.

Everything here can be purchased on my website. Gemma and I have also created some kits that contain every thing you need to get started. They are packed full of essentials and are also excellent value.

Calligraphy Pens / Nib Holders

Choosing your first pen is a very exciting moment! Here in the Studio I have 4 different calligraphy pens and they are available as straight or oblique pens. All of our oblique pens come with my universal nib holder which will take any size calligraphy nib, allows you to alter the tilt of your nib and can be set up for right or left handed use.

The Original Flourish is a perfect starter pen. It has a simple tapered form and is only available in black so that I can keep the price as low as possible, but it is still packed with similar features to the more colourful Flourish Curve. The Carrot is a wonderful pen for those who prefer a shorter tail and wider grip, I designed it to relieve strain on the fingers when writing and prevent calligraphers claw. The Bloom is my flagship pen and the culmination of 7 years of designing and making calligraphy pens, it has a wonderful weight and balance with the solid brass tail influenced by my first ever calligraphy pen.

Nibs

There are countless calligraphy nibs available and knowing where to start can be a daunting prospect. I always recommend starting off with a G nib, traditionally used for manga but perfect for modern calligraphy. The Nikko G is a great place to start but I also stock Zebra G, Tachikawa G and Leonardt G nibs. If you want something with more flex or finer lines that requires a more expert handling we have a selection of other nibs for you to try that are perfect for beginners and professionals alike. To keep things simple I have also curated a little essential nibs bundle with 5 of the Studio favourites to try.

If you would like more information about the nibs I have in the Studio then you can check out my handy Calligraphy Nib Guide:

Inks

Choosing between all the different options can be quite intimidating, but fear not! I will give you a quick overview and you will be choosing from a delightful array of colours in no time.

First things first, at its most basic level ink can be divided into two categories. Dye based and Pigment based.  As their names suggest, they're made differently and have various pros and cons:

Dye Based Ink

Pros

  • These smooth flowing inks are perfect for fountain pens but they are also a good choice for dip pens.
  • They often have a more translucent quality, meaning you can build up layers to create a deeper colour and effects.
  • They even make a great substitute for watercolour paint.

Cons

  • They are not lightfast - the little blighter that is UV rays will eventually change and lighten dye based inks if exposed to the sun.
  • They're not waterproof, this means that you can't paint or write over them without smudging.

We have created a range of fountain pen inks, which are the bees knees when it comes to quality. You can find them here.

Pigment Based Ink

Pros

  • They're often lightfast. So because they contain colour particles the sun can shine all it likes and it will have a much harder time effecting the colour.
  • They're waterproof. Some pigment based inks are permanent like our Indian Ink, which contains a modern type of shellac so it won't bleed if you want to layer other inks on top.
  • Rich and deep colours. Those clever particles lend these inks deep and vibrant colours.
  • Metallics! Our range of Finetec pallettes are second to none when it comes to sparkle.

Cons

  • Settling. In a bottle of ink with pretty big particles (normally metallics) settling can occur as gravity works its magic. The solution (without using plenty of elbow grease and shaking often) is to use a Finetec palette or a magnetic ink stirrer (Google it, it will change your life!)

As well as an array of vibrant colours we have shimmer inks, metallics, mix your own ink kits and some handy nib cleaning solution to help keep your nibs in tip top shape.

Paper and Practice pads

Now that you have a pen, nibs and inks you just need something to write on. I have a practice pad that is light enough to put printable traceable cards behind so that you can practice lettering. We also stock practice pads from the wonderful Younghae at Logos calligraphy which are packed full of guides and exercises.