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The Complete Guide to Choosing Your Best Calligraphy Pen

Updated on August 21, 2013

Choosing a calligraphy pen

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An introduction to calligraphy pens

Are you interested in the art of calligraphy? If you are, it’s great news! It did seem that interest in the art had dwindled for a long time, but things are looking up. There’s been a bit of a revival, many more people are taking a chance on this age old hobby. Though, when you are just getting started, it can be somewhat frustrating sorting things out. But that’s what I’m here for, to provide a guide so that you can find the best calligraphy pen suited for your needs. The four pen types that I will be reviewing today are calligraphy marker pens, calligraphy fountain pens, calligraphy dip pens and quills, and finally calligraphy brushes.

To start, I’d just like to quickly review the parts of a traditional calligraphy pen for those who aren’t yet familiar. There are 3 very simple components, which include:

- The calligraphy pen nib: This is the piece that regulates ink flow. They come in different sizes and therefore give different results. People will use varying types of nibs to change the look and style of their calligraphy.

- The pen handle: Can also be called the pen shaft or barrel. This part is self explanatory. The pen nib attaches and fits into the hadle.

- The calligraphy ink: Traditionally, the ink was not a part of the pen itself, but of course has always been a necessary component. Now, there are calligraphy pens which already contain the ink, such as felt tip calligraphy pens, and fountain calligraphy pens.

How to choose a calligraphy pen

There are many ways to go about choosing the best calligraphy pen for you. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Think about what is most important for you. Are you looking for an easy pen to start practicing with? Or are you perhaps looking for a calligraphy pen that is easy to travel with?

Eventually, as your skill level improves, you will probably want to try all the types on the market. Testing them all out can be fun.

The sections below are divided into the different kinds of calligraphy pens on the market. Each section describes the pen, the advantages and disadvantages to using each pen, and for what type of user the pen is best suited.

For the condensed version, scroll down to the table where I have summarized the information.

Calligraphy marker pen

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Understanding calligraphy marker pens

Calligraphy marker pens are one of the newest additions to the calligraphy pen market. They can be incredibly handy. This type of calligraphy tool travels really well, is great when you’re dealing with a time crunch, comes is an assortment of really fun colors, is relatively inexpensive, and is very easy to find. A felt tip calligraphy pen used to letter a certificate or a large sign could be more ideal than using a different type of pen.

On the other hand, a marker is not the best tool if you are looking to produce high quality work. Some of the disadvantages to using a marker pen for calligraphy are:

  • Markers are disposable: They will run out of ink. Their ink also dries out pretty quickly. So while your costs are small in the short run, they can end up being higher over time because you will eventually have to repurchase.

  • They do not facilitate proper teaching technique: Whether you are holding the marker correctly or incorrectly, you’ll still be able to write with it. As a beginner, it is important to learn and become comfortable writing the correct way. With a dip pen and even a fountain pen, you will need to hold the pen correctly to get the pen to write.

Inferior ink quality: The ink in low priced markers fade over time.

Calligraphy Fountain Pen

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Working with calligraphy fountain pens

You might find calligraphy fountain pens are also called calligraphy cartridge or refill pens. This is because they contain a refillable cartridge within the pen just like any other fountain pen you would use on a day to day basis.

When you use a fountain pen for calligraphy, the ink is controlled mechanically so you won’t have to dip your pen mid word or mid sentence; which allows the flow or your work to go along a lot smoother than otherwise. Usually, they come in a package which includes nibs (of varying sizes and type), ink cartridges, and a pen handle.

But, these pens require more work to keep them functional over the long term. They damage easily when dropped, and can leak if they are not store vertically. A fountain calligraphy pen needs to be washed between uses to ensure that the ink does not dry out and clog the pen. The nib of a calligraphy fountain pen will be more less flexible and more unresponsive than a dip pen, it is might be limiting to the calligrapher.

Overall, this type of calligraphy pen is great for beginners, and those needing extra confidence for important tasks like addressing wedding envelopes.

Calligraphy dip pen

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Calligraphy dip pens & quills

If you are a beginner looking to purchase a calligraphy dip pen for the first time, you should always opt for the calligraphy pen set. It will save you both time and money. Look for one that includes a couple of nibs with built in reservoirs, and a nice pen holder. A nice set that is relatively inexpensive is the Speedball set. You’ll also need to buy ink separately.

When you first start using a dip pen or quill, it will be more difficult and awkward compared to a fountain pen or calligraphy marker. Here are a couple of tips to make the transition process smoother:

  • Find a sloped writing surface: It’s difficult for the ink to flow out of a dip pen on a horizontal surface.

  • Have you ink open and near.

  • Don’t place or rest your pen on your ink bottle: Someway somehow you’ll end up with ink all over your clothes.

A dip pen or quill is best for calligrapher who have already mastered using a fountain pen and would like more flexibility and challenge.

Using a calligraphy brush

Calligraphy brushes: Calligraphy for the most advanced calligraphers

If you are even thinking about using a calligraphy brush, then you’d better be a pro! This is definitely the most challenging and messiest way to practice calligraphy.

Calligraphy brushes are very very thin brushes which generally measure between 6 and 20 millimeters. The best brushes are made of either sable or nylon and most calligraphers prefer to work with a ‘bright’ (it’s a type of) brush rather than a ‘flat’ one.

Using a brush can be quite a different experience than doing calligraphy with a pen. Brushes run out of ink much more quickly, is softer, and much more flexible. The user should be experienced and needs to have a lot of control. That said, a brush can produce interesting work because the bristles create irregular ‘scratches’ within the letter’s lines.

The quick guide to choosing a calligraphy pen

You are ...
Calligraphy Pen Type
Why
A beginner
Cartridge/ Fountain / Refill
This pen will allow you to practice proper technique while still allowing you enough flexibility to experiment with different styles.
Traveling
Felt tip/ Marker
These are easy to pack and inexpensive so you won't mind if you misplace them. They also won't leak like a fountain pen will and are easier to use and handle than a dip pen.
On a budget
Marker or Fountain
Dip pens and quills require you to buy more parts.
An advanced calligrapher
Brush/ Sponge
Brushes will allow you more artistic expression if you are open to imperfections.
A kid
Marker/ 2 Pencils
Taping 2 pencils together is a common training technique for children. The two lines helps to teach the writer how to move the wrist.

Where to buy calligraphy supplies

You can easily find calligraphy supplies at your local arts & crafts shops. If you are looking for more variety and a deal there are many online outlets. Amazon.com is a great resource. Just check out the variety of options available to you!

Let me know which is your favorite calligraphy and why!

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    • redfive profile image

      Levy Tate 3 years ago from California, USA

      Thanks for writing this hub -- voted up!

      What brands would you recommend to a beginner? :) Right now, I only have 2 -- both Lamy.

    • Donna Palmer profile image
      Author

      Donna Palmer 3 years ago

      @redfive Lamy is a good brand for beginners. Other good fountain pens for beginners include the pilot 78g, the pilot parallel pens, and the pelikan m200.

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