Learn Calligraphy: The Supplies You Need

Learn Calligraphy

As the inaugural post of this blog, I feel it's only right to start with the blog post I searched for and never found. How, exactly, to get started with calligraphy and what supplies I absolutely needed (and which weren't necessary). 

I picked up calligraphy when I got engaged in February 2014. I wanted hand written wedding invitations (nothing spoke to me on Minted, Wedding Paper Divas, or even my local paper and invitation stores). I've always had pretty handwriting and love to doodle, so calligraphy didn't seem that hard to pick up. I started with a kit from Diya Pyari's shop on Etsy, Linea Carta. It included a straight, wood nib holder, one nib, oak gall ink from McCaffrey's, a how-to scroll of calligraphy letters and I was left to my own devices. The first go at calligraphy, self-taught, was rocky and I believe that was mostly due to my supplies! Like most other creative crafts, the right tools make all of the difference in achieving success in learning.

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Paper

  • Calligraphy practice pads are awesome for beginners as they are either grid paper or come with italic grid guidelines. Bee Paper has an awesome pad with thin sheets that allow you to easily see the guideline sheet through without having to write on grid paper. 
  • For large sketchpads or notebooks, I really like Bee Paper's SuperDeluxe sketchbooks as the paper is thick, ink doesn't bleed through, and it mimics fine papers (that you'll find on wedding invites/envelopes/cards).
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Nibs

Nibs can be a tricky to work with as some fantastic nibs are not great for beginners. That being said, nibs are not very expensive (usually $0.75-$4 per nib) and you can get a nice collection of nibs for the point when your skills improve. 

  • A very friendly nib for beginners (that also happens to be a great nib for advanced calligraphers), is the Nikko G (or Comic nib)
  • Another favorite nib that I love to use, due to its great ink flow, is the Brause Steno nib. It's recognizable as it's a blue nib, often referred to as the blue pumpkin. It's more flexible than the Nikko G and can be used once you've gotten the hang of the process.
  • As you get more advanced, you will want to check out some of these popular nibs: Hunt 101, Guillot 303, Brause Rose

Nib Holders

Not all nib holders are created equal! I didn't realize that some nib holders were specialized for certain nibs, but be sure to read the fine print when purchasing a new one. 

  • I'd recommend purchasing a standard straight nib holder, wood or plastic, for the nib you'll be frequently using. For the Nikko G, the Speedball plastic nib holder works well. Check out the H62 and H65 listings at John Neal Booksellers for some standard, inexpensive options.
  • Oblique nib holders are great for practicing more formal styles like Spencerian or Copperplate calligraphy. The standard Speedball oblique is actually ill-suited for most nibs as the angled nib-holder is not adjustable. The H96 Peerless Oblique holders can be adjusted and purchased based on the nib you're using.
Best Calligraphy Ink

Ink

  • Everyone has differing opinions on ink, but my all-time favorite ink has been Higgins Calligraphy Ink (2.5 oz), due to it being inexpensive, less prone to bleeding on fibrous paper, and opaque.
  • For those looking for a traditional oak gall ink, McCafferey's Penman's Ink is your best buy. As a warning to beginners, this ink is far less opaque than many other inks and goes on almost grey, rather than black. It also is thicker and can have a few chunks, so nibs need to be frequently cleaned when using it. It does create fantastic hairlines!
  • For those looking for thinner, higher-end ink. I personally love J. Herbin! There are many fantastic colors in this line of ink and it goes on very smoothly (a hybrid of the two inks mentioned above).
  • Everybody loves gold, but some inks work far better than others. Go straight for Dr. Ph. Martin's Copperplate gold for the easiest gold ink to write with. Metallic ink settles, so you'll need to mix the bottle (a hard shake works) multiple times while writing.
  • I haven't yet found my favorite white, but Dr. Ph. Martin's bleedproof white is also touted as an awesome, opaque white ink.

Misc

  • Metal and clear plastic ruler. A metal ruler helps tear or create faux-deckle edge paper and a clear plastic ruler helps with guidelines and allows some more visibility when writing
  • Mechanical pencil. My personal favorite is this Pentel pencil (0.7mm lead).
  • Kneadable and vinyl eraser. Kneadable erasers are great for gentle, precision work and a vinyl eraser like this one is strong! It'll erase some pen/watercolor and can actually rip/crinkle your paper if you're not careful. On the upside, they are fantastic for completely removing pencil from your work.
  • Rubbing alcohol works great to clean new nibs as well as clean off nibs that have just been used. A clean nib will last far longer and make it far easier to achieve the lines you'd like to achieve
Calligraphy Coperplate

My favorite places to shop for calligraphy supplies -

Online: DickBlick, John Neal Booksellers,

In Portland, Oregon: DickBlick, Oblation Papers and Press