Starting Calligraphy – pen or nib?

“I want to learn calligraphy, but I do not know what equipment I need “We are asked this many times.  As with any new activity at first it all seems quite bewildering, with so many choices.  “Do I need this, do I need that”.  However, the basics are straight forward.  First of all, which pen? Well, there are basically 2 choices, either a fountain pen or a dip pen. And of course there are benefits and disadvantages to both.

A Fountain Pen is the easiest to use. It either uses ink cartridges or a converter to fill the pen using a bottle of ink. They are typically used for learning the basics of calligraphy and for writing in greetings cards etc.Disadvatges of the Fountain Pens are; they are not so flexible – you can only use a limited range of coloured inks, they are harder to clean and can be expensive.

A Dip Pen or nib has many advantages; wide range of nibs to choose from, wide range of uses, much cheaper and easy to clean.  A much wider range of inks can be used with a dip pen. In fact you can use some paints as an ink with dip pens.  By mixing Gouache paint to an ink consistency you can write in any colour.  The only real disadvantage of dip pens or nibs are they are harder to use at first and sometimes it can be awkward getting the ink to flow.

1 thought on “Starting Calligraphy – pen or nib?”

  1. The disadvantages you mention as far as fountain pens are minor. Thanks to companies like Noodler’s & J Herbin, there’s a rainbow of ink colors available for fountain pens. You’re not going to find metallic colors just yet, but there are those that have been working on that.Prices are all over the place. Certainly, they’re more expensive than dip nibs and holders, but you can’t whip out those and a bottle of ink in a doctor’s office waiting room to practice your italic. :)Pointed pen techniques can be more difficult with a fountain pen than with a nib and oblique holder, but it can be done.Difficulty of cleaning a fountain pen is subjective. I don’t find it to be that much more of a hassle than rinsing india ink off a dip nib before it dries. In fact, fountain pens can be left for extended periods of time with ink in them without damage. Used vintage pens often have ink dried in them from the last owner or user and it’s easy enough to wash out since there’s no shellac in the ink.I felt the need to comment on this post, old as it is, because even though it says there are advantages and disadvantages to both, it is definitely slanted toward dip nibs.

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