Calligraphy month: supplies to buy

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Welcome to the Cosy Craft Club's calligraphy month! We really want to encourage you to have a go at calligraphy yourself, and we'll be sharing the key things you need to know to get started. You can find all our calligraphy posts in one place here.

So, you've decided you'd like to have a try at calligraphy - but first you need something to write with! The good news with calligraphy is that all you need to get started is a calligraphy pen (nib and holder), ink and paper. But as with many crafts, there is an endless list of options…

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Nibs

Calligraphy nibs come in two types: broad nib and pointed nib. We're going to be focussing on pointed nibs since that's what we use in our kits. A pointed pen nib has flexible 'tines' that separate when you put pressure on, allowing you to create thick strokes when you press down, and thin strokes when you lightly touch the nib to the paper. This excellent guide from The Postman's Knock (which is itself an excellent website for learning calligraphy) tells you all about pointed pen nibs.

I won't go into all the brands of calligraphy nibs there are out there, but most of the online tutorials I've seen (including The Postman's Knock) and several of the calligraphers I spoke to said that the Nikko G nib is the best nib for beginners so that's the one I'll recommend here! (Read why here)

Once you've got the hang of writing with the Nikko G nib, then you can have fun trying lots of different types of nibs (they are quite inexpensive) and see which ones you like!

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Pen holders

These are the pen-like handles that the nib goes into. Again, there are two main types: straight and oblique. Straight pen holders are better for beginners because they are more natural to hold, whereas oblique pen holders hold the nib off to one side of the handle, which can take a bit of getting used to. But they do make it easier to get the angle required for sloped calligraphy such as copperplate calligraphy.

There is no need to spend a lot of money on a pen holder, they mostly do the same job. The Postman's Knock recommends you get one with a metal nib holder rather than plastic, as they hold the nibs better.

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Ink

There are many, many types of ink. As Athena reminded us in her interview, make sure you use calligraphy ink and not fountain pen ink! Some of the recommended inks for beginners include Higgins Eternal ink, Sumi ink and India ink.

Again, once you've practiced a bit with black ink, you can begin to explore the ranges of ink and other materials you can write with, such as walnut, metallic, gouache and even watercolour paint. Several of the calligraphers I spoke to suggest that a good way to find great inks (and other supplies) is to look at calligrapher's websites. They will suggest the inks they like, and often will sell them too.

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Paper

The paper that you write on is more important than you may think - certainly more important than I thought! If the paper is not smooth enough, it will catch on your pen nib and make it difficult to write beautiful calligraphy. Also, ink bleeds (spreads) on some types of paper. You can get pads of paper designed for calligraphy (such as Rhodia paper, recommended by Sally Jane Calligraphy), but also good quality (smooth) printer paper should do the trick. I would suggest that you try what you have to start with, and if it's not working well then explore other options.

Suppliers

So, where do you go for all these lovely calligraphy supplies? As I said earlier many calligraphers sell their favourites, such as Oh Wonder Calligraphy, À L'Aise and Judy Broad Calligraphy. Alternatively, here are a few websites that sell a range of calligraphy supplies:

Or, just buy a kit…

If, after all this information, you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and none the wiser, why not purchase one of our calligraphy kits from Meticulous Ink? It has everything you’ll need to have a try at calligraphy so you can decide whether it’s something you’d like to continue with!

I hope this has been useful for helping you to decide what to buy if you want to try calligraphy. If you've got any questions please leave a comment below or email me at hello@cosycraft.club.

Rachel x