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Calligraphy Pens & Nibs

One of the great advantages of learning the art of calligraphy is that you need only a few simple supplies to get started. This course will introduce you to the tools and supplies needed for calligraphy, explaining what they are used for and whether or not they are essential for getting started

Calligraphy Writing Instruments

Calligraphers use a variety of tools to make marks, including calligraphy fountain pens, dipping pens, markers, quills, and brushes.

Calligraphy Pens

Calligraphy Fountain Pens

Calligraphy Fountain Pens are much like ordinary fountain pens; the main difference is that the nib (writing edge) of a calligraphy fountain pen is broader than that of an ordinary fountain pen. The broad edge of the nib is what makes the characteristic thick-and-thin pen lines of calligraphy pos­sible. Calligraphy fountain pens are usually sold with an ink reservoir—a removable tube like device that can be filled with ink and used over and over again. Disposable fountain pen cartridges can also be used in calligraphy fountain pens, but the ink tends to be less dense and thus not as suitable for cal­ligraphy artwork.

Calligraphy Fountain Pen Sets

Calligraphy fountain pen sets include interchangeable nibs of various sizes, cartridges, and an ink reservoir. Calligraphy fountain pens for left-handed writing are also available. While calligraphy fountain pens may tend to write a bit less cleanly and precisely than a traditional dipping pen, they are very useful when you are just starting out

Calligraphy Dipping Pens

Dipping pens are the traditional pens used by calligraphers, and consist of a removable writing nib inserted in a wooden, ceramic, or plastic handle called a nib holder. Many calligraphy nibs are also equipped with reservoirs, which in this context means a small metal flap that fits over or under the nib and allows the nib to hold a small amount of extra ink in reserve. Dipping pens give the sharpest, cleanest writing line, and are capable of producing extremely fine details. Because they are more delicate and flexible, they take some getting used to, however, and it takes more practice to get good results

Calligraphy Nibs

Nibs for dipping pens are available in myriad shapes and sizes. To avoid confusion when trying to choose a nib, it helps to know what kind of nib is used to create the style of lettering you want:

Calligraphy Round Hand Nibs

Round-hand nibs(also called broad nibs or chisel-tip nibs) have a writing edge that is flat rather than angled. They are used for most cal­ligraphy styles where the lettering stands upright. For the first three alphabets presented in this book (Foundational Hand, Uncial Hand, and Gothic Hand), round-hand nibs of various widths are used.

Calligraphy Slanted Nibs

Slanted nibs(also called Italic nibs or angled nibs) have a writing edge that is cut at a slant rather than straight across. These nibs are used for sloped writing such as Italic Hand, and for styles of alphabets having very angular or slanting features. In this course Italic nibs are used only in the “Italic Hand” chapter. Note: you may come across certain calligraphy fountain pens and markers that are labeled “Italic Pens”—look closely at the tip to see if the nib is in fact slanted—often a regular broad pen will be marketed as an Italic pen, because you can use it to write in Italics.

Other Types Of Nibs & Pens

Other types of nibs and pens There are many kinds of writing nibs other than those mentioned here. A majority of these will be nibs ending in a distinct point rather than a flat or slanted tip— these are called “Copperplate” or “Spencerian” nibs, and are used for handwriting in the old- fashioned Copperplate or Spencerian penmanship styles. While these nibs are not used for any of the projects in this course, you may wish to try them out once you have learned the Italic Hand, of which the Copperplate and Spencerian Hands are more recent relatives

Various companies sell nibs designed for post­ers and other forms of lettering—for example, the Speedball company’s “A” series nibs, which can be used for monoline lettering (lettering where there is no variation of thick and thin lines) and “C” series, which has larger nibs designed to hold a lot of ink for drawing letters for signs and posters.

“Automatic” or “Coit” pens are designed to hold very large amounts of ink for posters and large-format work. You may also come across very small nibs, often labeled as “crow quill,” “drawing,” “artist,” or “map” nibs. These nibs require a smaller nib holder and are designed for fine lines and cross-hatching required in mapmaking and illustra­tion. You may wish to experiment with these nibs, but they are not needed for any of the projects in this book.

Calligraphy Markers

A wide variety of calligraphy markers are available, although very few are really suitable for finished work. The others are used more for practice or novelty purposes. Most calligraphy markers use inks that are dye-based and tend to fade over time and with exposure to light, which is the main reason you wouldn’t want to use them in a piece you’d like to last for a long time.

The positive aspects of cal­ligraphy markers are that they are extremely useful for trying out ideas and sketching out rough layouts, and for practicing in circumstances where a dip­ping pen and bottled ink would be impractical. Two very good brands of calligraphy marker are the Zig Pigment-Based markers, which use ink that does not fade and are available in more than 40 colors, and Staedtler Duo mark­ers, which have a large and small marker tip at either end, good quality ink, and well-wearing tips. When at all possible, try out a calligraphy marker before you buy it, as the quality of the marker tips can vary immensely from brand to brand.

Calligraphy Quills & Reed Pens

These writing instruments made from natural materials—the quill from a turkey feather and the reed pen from a length of hardened bamboo—have enjoyed a long history in the art of calligraphy, as they are durable and easily produced. Although not required for any of the projects in this book, you may enjoy try­ing them out once you’ve begun to master the basics of using a calligraphy pen. There are also numerous publications available that teach you how to make your own quill and reed pens.

Calligraphy Brushes

Brushes play an important role in calligraphy. For brush lettering, a flat brush with medium-long bristles (preferably synthetic, which tend to be stiffer and more durable for lettering) is ideal. Flat brushes are also used to make borders and All in areas of color, while small, round-tipped brushes are used for adding details and decorations. For “Illumination” (page lio) you will And a description of the different types of brushes and the marks that they make. Just as with nibs, it’s important to know ahead of time what sort of mark you want to make so you can purchase exactly the right brush for your needs. For the projects in this book we use flat brushes (sometimes called “brights”) in Vs" and V4" (3 and 6 mm) widths, small (sizes 00, 0, 1 and 2) round brushes for detailing, and a soft long-bristle brush called a script liner. A Chinese writing brush (maobi) in the smallest size you can And is also a fun option, as you’ll see in the chapter on “Brushwork and Gilding.” Wider brushes and foam brushes (as used for painting house interi­ors) can be used for moistening paper and laying down large washes of color. You’ll also want to have a few inexpensive craft brushes for applying glue.