Ten Tools for Getting Started with Calligraphy
I started writing in calligraphy about two years ago. I literally went out and bought any old black ink and a nib and holder, and just started writing. Two years later I have based a good part of my business on writing calligraphy, as one of the very first things I wrote was a scripture card. But I will admit, had I done just a little bit of research or even taken a class, I would have saved myself a lot of headaches those first few tries. People often ask me what they need to get started and besides just the desire to write pen to paper, here are a few things I would recommend as you get started on your fun journey writing calligraphy.
There are many styles of calligraphy, but these tools are perfect for getting started in the ever popular Modern Calligraphy style that is so trendy right now.
Here are a few things you’ll need:
1. Sumi ink or Higgins Eternal Ink
2. Speedball straight holder
3. Nikko G nibs
4. Glass with water
5. Some dinner napkins (paper towels will work, but sometimes the fibers get caught on the nib)
6. Good paper that can withstand a nib and ink; I use Rhodia graph pads and paper in my calligraphy classes, but if you don’t have that you can use Bristol paper (it’s expensive and best for finished projects) or a high quality marker paper. You’ll want paper that’s super smooth as you begin learning. Please note: if you’re using any old graph paper in lieu of Rhodia paper it will bleed. Rhodia paper is coated with vellum and super smooth so it won’t bleed. Another good and inexpensive option is HP Premium copy paper sold at Staples. It’s super smooth and good for practice when you’ll be making tons of mistakes.
7. A ruler or even better yet, a T Square
8. A good white eraser
9. A drawing pencil, I like to use a 2H or 3H
10. A good calligraphy book if you’re not taking a class. Otherwise, just focus on getting to know your tools and then practice writing with them in your usual cursive handwriting using the pressure technique I describe below- until you can get yourself some good quality instruction.
I would recommend practicing at least 3 times a week when you’re first learning. It’s really important to build up that muscle memory when writing letters in calligraphy. And it’s totally different than writing in cursive- cursive is considered a “running hand.” Which basically means that you don’t lift your pen much in order to write the letters. In calligraphy, most often you will need to lift your pen in order to write the strokes that create the letters. So it really is more like creating art than writing.
Also, calligraphy is different because there are thick and thin strokes. All of your down strokes are thick, so you should apply a lot of pressure when writing a down stroke. And all of your up strokes are hair line thin. So with your up strokes you should be pulling off of the paper, your nib should barely touch the paper.
And don’t forget, before you get started you’ll need to prep you nib. All nibs come with manufacturers oils on them to preserve them so you’ll need to remove these oils in order to fill your nib with ink so that it doesn’t bead up when you dip it. There are a few different ways you can do this. A couple of the most popular are to either stick your nibs in a potato to dissolve the oils, or wash with warm water and a toothbrush. My favorite way is to just burn the nib with a lighter for just a couple seconds! It’s the fastest and easiest way for me. Just be careful you don’t burn yourself if you decide to try this method for removing the oils from your nib. I stick the nib in the holder and hold it away from my body, then pass it through the lighter for about 2-3 seconds. After this just rinse the nib and you should be all set to start writing!