The biggest question everyone has when they are just starting their calligraphy journey is what supplies and materials they need to buy and why. This is not really surprising – after all, this is what I had the most problems with when I first started calligraphy and lettering also.
As it’s not always easy to find your way around and to know which material to start with, here are some of my tips!
- A square/rule to draw all the necessary markings
- A classic pencil
- A drawing pen – I started with an Edding 1880 but the Microns are very good too
- An eraser – this one from Muji I find very effective and gentle on paper at the same time.
- A Rhodia block with small squares: a great tool for calligraphy with a good quality paper and small squares of 0.5cm that allows for easy calibration of the writing.
- Please note: the A3 version of this type of pad is very practical and allows you to make loooooooooong training lines!
Brush Pens or Felt-Tip Pens
The best allies of lettering or brush lettering (to understand the difference between these two practices, check this article), the brush pens or felt-tip pens will allow you to create superb full and uncluttered letters thanks to their flexible tip!
Let’s start with the black felt-tip pens, slightly brushed, which react well to pressure for a nice calligraphic effect.
- The Zebra Fude brush pen super fine
- The Kuretake pocket brush pen fine
- The Tombow Fudenosuke soft – Without hesitation my favorite with a soft feather just right!
- Contains both the soft and hard tip Fudenosuke Brush Pens
- Features a flexible brush tip for different lettering and drawing techniques
- Create extra fine, fine or medium strokes by a change in brush pressure
- Great for calligraphy and art drawings
- Soft tip and hard tip water based, pigmented black ink
The Nib Holders
A basic tool for any good calligrapher, there are some very nice ones in painted wood but the mid-range models are very good if you’re just getting started.
- Brause Calligraphy Nib Holder Natural– wooden model perfect for beginners.
- Oblique nib holder – wooden model (preferable to the entry-level plastic models) used for English (or Copperplate) writing which requires a fairly steep writing angle (45°). You can read more about this in my article.
Personal tip: I advise you to first start to tame the nib writing with a straight nib holder. The oblique nib holder is to be reserved for certain types of writing and is quite confusing at first! So get your hands on a classic nib holder
When you say nib holder, you obviously think about the nib itself too! There are dozens of different brands and shapes… It can be very difficult to make a choice, the best is to test several of them, especially as they usually don’t cost very much.
The main distinction is between pointed and beveled nibs which are to be chosen according to the desired writing. The English with full and half nibs for the pointed ones, older writings (such as Chancellor, Onciale or Gothic) for the square ones.
For the pointed nibs, each shape of nibs will allow having more or less marked solids and thin strips. To begin I advise you the Nikko G or Zebra G which is quite rigid. Then my favorites are the Brause 66 EF and the Brause Rose which are much softer.
In general, don’t hesitate to buy several of them to get an idea of the type of nib you prefer, it’s quite a personal choice!
Ink and Watercolor Painting
To write with a pen or a brush, several mediums can be used:
- Indian ink – A classic with a rather thick and viscous ink that adheres well to the nib. After having tested several, my preference goes to Sumi Ink Kuretake a Japanese ink. But Sennelier ink is also quite suitable. It’s the perfect medium to start with, especially for the English style.
- Colored ink – Another classic (a little more complicated to use for English style because it can be too fluid), it is an excellent medium for writing with square nibs.
- Watercolor ink – A great medium for the brush, a little more difficult to use with a pen (because it is very fluid), its advantage is its high pigmentation which allows obtaining strong and vibrant colors. The main brands are Colorex and Ecoline.
- Watercolor Painting (aquarelle) – We don’t necessarily think about it but watercolor painting can be used in calligraphy by applying it with a brush on the nib. This allows you to have pretty nuanced colors and to obtain very fine upward strokes! Watercolor can be found in buckets or tubs.
- Gouache paint – Like watercolor, gouache can be an excellent medium by testing for the right consistency. I advise you to use fine gouache instead, which is of superior quality.
These are the main supplies you need to have in your possession to start calligraphy or lettering. I hope that this article will help you to see a little more clearly and to choose the right material! Good luck on your journey.