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The Ultimate Supplies Guide for Calligraphy Beginners

Starting a new creative practice can be intimidating... especially when you're unfamiliar with the needed materials!


Calligraphy is defined as the art of writing using a pressure-sensitive writing utensil.

This guide will list the materials I recommend for learning pointed pen calligraphy in a modern style.


The four categories we'll cover in this guide are pen holders, nibs, ink, and paper.

I've narrowed down my recommendations to only a few supplies per category so you do not feel overwhelmed by the options!



ultimate calligraphy supplies guide for beginners


PEN HOLDERS

These are the base of your pen and they come in two styles: straight and oblique. I recommend the straight holder to start because it’s more similar to the pens you’re used to using, however, the oblique holder makes it easy to write at a consistent angle.



icons for straight pen holder and oblique pen holder calligraphy supplies for beginners


Pen holders range in price from $2 to upwards of $200! You do NOT need the fanciest pen holder to get started. When I was learning the Speedball pen holder was my go-to. Now, I am addicted to my Ink Me This holder and rarely touch my other's.


Speedball Straight Holder: This was my very first pen holder and is a great start for beginners.

Speedball Oblique Holder: Again, a great introduction to the material without breaking the bank.

2-in-1 Holder: This is a great tool for travel and if you want to be able to switch between a straight an oblique holder easily without carrying multiple pen holders. This is also very lightweight, so not the best for those with a heavy hand!



NIBS

What is a nib? Nibs are the pointy attachment at the top of the pen.


Nibs are the part of the pen that holds the ink and responds to pressure. When writing in modern calligraphy you use light pressure as you go up the page, and then add pressure to create heavy lines when you go down the page. As you apply pressure the tines (see diagram below) split apart and allow more ink to flow, resulting in thicker lines.



calligraphy nib anatomy, parts of the nib, pointed pen nib, how to use a pen and nib calligraphy for beginners
DIAGRAM OF NIB ANATOMY


There are hundreds of different nibs so it can be difficult to decide where to start! I recommend these 3 nibs to start because they are not as “flexible” as others. Flexibility refers to the ease at which the top of the nib (the tines) come apart with pressure. The more flexible a nib is, the more advanced.


Nikko G: my personal favorite, easy to create thin hairlines and easy to control the flow of thicker lines

Blue Pumpkin (Hiro 40): a favorite in the community, though I don’t vibe with it

Hunt 512: the first nib I liked and probably the least flexible of the nibs listed. Don’t expect a huge variety in your upstrokes and downstrokes in terms of width as the nibs don't spread apart as much as other nibs



INK

One reason I love creating with a dip pen is the amount of variety in materials that you can use! Of course, ink is a great go-to but you can also use watercolors and gouache paint.


Below you'll find a short list of inks that I love to use in modern calligraphy for practice and final pieces. Although I’m recommending a few of my favorite inks here, please note that the nib you choose and the paper you write on drastically affect how the ink flows and what it looks like on the page.


Yasutomo Black Sumi Ink: I've been using this ink for years and I swear it trumps all the other black inks I've tried (so far!) I buy the 12oz bottle and fill up smaller containers Dinky Dips) to make it easy to dip my pen into

Dinky Dips: smaller containers that you can fill your ink with for easy dipping!

Ferris Wheel Press: During the IAMPETH conference last year we got a bottle of ink by FWP in our goodie bag and I immediately fell in love with their products. I didn't know that ink could flow so smoothly until I started using this and now I want to collect every color. Please note this link leads to a page with all their products on Paper & Ink; use the calligraphy ink and NOT the fountain pen ink for your dip pen!

Moon Palace Vermillion Sumi Ink: Another great sumi ink in a bright orange color. I like using this for illustrations and to write notes on some of my work. It's also nice to switch up the ink color in your practice; seeing page after page of black ink gets boring!



calligraphy for beginners supplies, calligraphic illustration, goldfish calligraphy
This illustration was done using a Nikko G nib and Moon Palace Vermillion Sumi Ink.


















PAPER

When getting started I recommend tracing guides. You can use tracing paper, but I like using marker paper more because the ink doesn’t bleed as much. If you have a hard time seeing your guides under the paper you can use a lightbox. Another option is to print guides or guidelines onto printer paper. Always use 32lb or higher when writing with ink to prevent bleeding.


For daily practice, I use 65lb cardstock or Rhodia dotted grid paper. For finished works, I choose a fine art paper that makes sense for the piece. I like cold-pressed 140lb watercolor paper. The more texture, the harder it will be to use a pointed nib so be careful about picking up fibers as you write!


Tracing Paper: I always provide tracing paper during my beginner classes to trace guides.

Marker Paper: I think marker paper is much better for ink (doesn't bleed as much), but some students find it hard to see through this paper when they're just getting started. You can either transition to marker paper after you've gotten comfortable with the guides you're using or you can use a lightbox to see your guides underneath easier.

Printer Paper: Use this to draw directly onto guides or print guidelines to practice your work without the use of an exemplar.

Rhodia Practice Paper: Rhodia offers blank, dotted, and gridded paper pads that are all of great quality.

Watercolor Pad: This is high-quality watercolor paper you can use for practice or final pieces. Getting watercolor paper in pads is a more affordable option.

Fine Art Paper: For large-scale pieces, I use 140lb cold-pressed watercolor paper by Arches.



FAVORITE STORE LINKS



CONCLUSION

Don't let overwhelm stop you from getting started! If you've been wanting to learn calligraphy it is time to make this the year you follow through!


Calligraphy is a wonderful practice that allows you to get creative, be meditative, and connect your mind, body, and spirit.


I hope this guide has made it easier for you to get started. If you have any questions please feel free to send me a message here on my website or send me a DM on Instagram @letteringbyariellebasha



** Please note this blog post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission if you choose to purchase products using the links on this page. Thank you for supporting small businesses!



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