In the enchanting realm of calligraphy, the choice of pens can make all the difference in transforming words into captivating works of art. Join us on a journey as we delve into the world of calligraphy pens, exploring what makes them unique and how you can wield their magic to enhance your lettering prowess.

What is a calligraphy pen?

Calligraphy pens come in various forms, each with its own set of characteristics. Whether it’s the classic elegance of fountain pens, the timeless appeal of dip pens, or the modern versatility of brush pens, understanding the nuances of each type is crucial.

What are Fountain Pens?

A fountain pen with a few notes on the piece of paper

Alright, so fountain pens are like the sophisticated adults in the pen world. Picture this: they’ve got a metal nib that gracefully glides ink onto paper. Unlike your typical ballpoint, they have an internal ink reservoir that you can refill using cartridges. The cool thing about them is the smooth and expressive writing experience – you can vary line widths and shading based on your writing style. They’re appreciated for their class and durability, making them a hit among enthusiasts and collectors. If you’re someone who values a touch of elegance in your daily note-taking or journaling, fountain pens could be a game-changer for you.

This resource by The Pen Addict is hailed as one of the best for beginners diving into the world of fountain pens.

What are Dip pens?

A person hand lettering using a dip pen in calligraphy styled writing

Dip pens are a traditional type of writing instrument that consists of a nib, typically made of metal or other materials, attached to a holder. Unlike fountain pens, dip pens do not have an internal ink reservoir. Instead, users dip the nib into an inkwell or bottle of ink to load it with ink before writing. The ink adheres to the nib, allowing for writing on paper. Dip pens have been used for centuries and offer a hands-on and customizable writing experience. They are favored by artists, calligraphers, and enthusiasts for their ability to create various line styles and for the flexibility they provide in choosing different inks. While not as convenient as modern pens (brush pens), dip pens offer a unique and artistic approach to writing and drawing.

If you’re seeking more information on dip pens, this beginner guide from the pen company is the perfect resource for you.

What are Brush Pens?

Practicing strokes using a brush pen

Brush pens are fantastic writing and drawing tools equipped with a flexible brush-like tip instead of a rigid nib. These pens combine the convenience of a pen with the expressive strokes of a paintbrush. They come with either disposable or refillable ink cartridges, offering a mess-free and convenient alternative to traditional brushes and ink. Ideal for beginners and seasoned artists alike, brush pens allow for effortless control over line thickness, making them versatile for various artistic styles and calligraphy. As a personal favorite, especially for beginners, brush pens provide a user-friendly introduction to artistic expression. Whether you’re into lettering, sketching, or coloring, these pens are a must-have for unleashing your creative potential.

One of my favourite resources: Jake Rainis’ blog is the go-to guide for everything you need to know about brush pens.

How to Use a Calligraphy Pen

Embarking on a calligraphic journey requires mastering the art of using a calligraphy pen. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced hand, our guide will help you choose the right pen, set it up for first-time use, and master essential calligraphy strokes.

Choosing the Right Pen for Your Style:

How do I choose the right Fountain Pen for calligraphy? 

  • Nib Flexibility: Look for a fountain pen with a flexible nib. A nib that offers line variation based on pressure will enhance your calligraphy strokes, allowing for both thick and thin lines.
  • Ink Compatibility: Consider the type of ink the fountain pen uses. Opt for fountain pens compatible with calligraphy inks or those that can be easily adapted to handle a variety of ink types.
  • Grip and Comfort: Pay attention to the pen’s grip and overall comfort. Since calligraphy often involves extended writing sessions, choose a fountain pen that feels comfortable in your hand for prolonged use.

How do I choose the right Dip Pen for calligraphy? 

  • Nib Variety: Explore dip pens with a variety of nibs. Different nibs offer distinct line qualities, allowing you to experiment with various calligraphy styles and find the one that suits your preferences. For example, the Hunt 101 nib is excellent for thin writing – my personal favourite for hand lettering on cards and letters. 
  • The Oblique Calligraphy Pen: Consider an oblique calligraphy pen for enhanced comfort and control. The oblique holder features a slanted design that accommodates the natural hand position for certain calligraphy scripts, providing a smoother and more ergonomic writing experience. This fancy name is an essential part of Dip Pen calligraphy and becomes the holder for your nib. 
  • Nib Replacement and Customization: Check if the dip pen allows easy replacement and customization of nibs. This feature gives you the flexibility to adapt your pen to different calligraphy projects and writing styles.
  • Ink Compatibility: Similar to fountain pens, consider the compatibility of dip pens with various calligraphy inks. Choose a dip pen that accommodates different inks, providing you with creative freedom in your calligraphy endeavors.

How do I choose the right Brush Pen for calligraphy? 

Brush Tip Flexibility: Experiment with different brush pen tips to find the right level of flexibility. A brush pen with a responsive and adaptable tip allows you to create diverse strokes, essential for calligraphy styles.

My go-to favourite is the Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens. They are perfect for lettering headings, bullet journals, making cards, and more!

Ink Flow Control: Select a brush pen with good ink flow control. Consistent ink flow ensures smooth writing and prevents disruptions in your lettering. This is particularly important when working on intricate calligraphy projects.

Remember, personal preference plays a significant role in choosing the right pen for calligraphy, so don’t hesitate to try out different options until you find the perfect match for your unique style. 

Practice Tips for Beginners

Different types of strokes used in calligraphy with a brush pen

  • Basic Shapes and Strokes: Initiate your calligraphy journey by practicing fundamental shapes and strokes to develop muscle memory and control.
  • Light Upward Strokes: Begin with gentle, upward strokes to create thin lines, focusing on maintaining a consistent light touch.
  • Thicker Downward Strokes: Gradually apply more pressure on the downward strokes to achieve thicker lines, ensuring a smooth transition between thin and bold elements.
  • Consistency is Key: Pay attention to the uniformity of thickness in your downward strokes, aiming for a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing result.
  • Experiment with Pen Holds: Explore different pen holds to find the grip that feels most comfortable and allows for optimal control during your calligraphy practice.
  • Affordable Materials: You don’t need to purchase the most expensive materials and tools. Try it out with your standard printer paper and more affordable inks to see if calligraphy is right for you. Starting with budget-friendly options allows you to explore the art form without a significant financial commitment. One of my all time favourite brush pens that I used to start hand lettering is the Crayola Super Tips – try them out! 
  • Patience and Regular Practice: Consistency is crucial! Practice regularly, whether you’re on the move, at your desk, or watching TV. Just grab a notepad, pick up a brush pen, and keep honing your skills.
  • If you’re looking for a great Brush Lettering Tutorial 101, one of my favorites is Max’s guide from Lettering Daily.

Let’s dive into Brush Pens:

A piece of paper that says brush lettering.

At the beginning of my calligraphy journey, I focused on honing my skills by practicing the alphabet (A-Z) exclusively with a brush pen, and here are some valuable tips I’ve picked up along the way. Included below is a video of how I practice my A-Zs using brush pens. 

Pros of Using Brush Pens for Calligraphy as a Beginner:

  • User-Friendly: Brush pens are generally more forgiving and easier to handle for beginners due to their flexible brush tips, allowing for natural hand movements.
  • Convenience: Brush pens come pre-loaded with ink, eliminating the need for additional tools like inkwells or cartridges. This makes them convenient and easy to use, especially for those new to calligraphy.
  • Versatility: Brush pens are versatile tools that can adapt to various calligraphy styles. They allow beginners to experiment with both controlled and expressive strokes, catering to different artistic preferences.
  • Reduced Mess: Unlike traditional dip pens, brush pens are designed to minimize mess. This feature is particularly beneficial for beginners who may be concerned about ink spills and cleanup.
  • Affordability: Brush pens are often more affordable than some traditional calligraphy tools, making them a cost-effective choice for beginners exploring the art form.

Cons of Using Brush Pens for Calligraphy as a Beginner:

  • Learning Curve: While brush pens are user-friendly, mastering control over varied line widths can take some practice. Beginners may need time to adapt to the flexibility of the brush tip.
  • Limited Detail: Achieving fine details with brush pens can be challenging, especially for intricate scripts. Traditional tools like dip pens may offer more precision for detailed work.
  • Ink Flow Control: Some brush pens may have limited control over ink flow, leading to potential inconsistencies in line thickness. Beginners may need to experiment with different brands to find pens that suit their preferences.
  • Refill Challenges: Refilling or replacing the ink in some brush pens may be more limited compared to other calligraphy tools. This can be a drawback for those who prefer customizable ink options.
  • Durability: The brush tip of some pens may wear out over time, affecting the quality of strokes. This is a consideration for those who engage in extensive or long-term calligraphy projects.

What is the best way to store brush pens?

After years of working with brush pens, I have discovered a few ways that help to extend their lifespan: 

  1. Cap Securely: Always ensure that the caps are securely placed on the brush pens when not in use. This prevents the brush tips from drying out and maintains the integrity of the ink.
  2. Store Horizontally: Store your brush pens horizontally rather than vertically. This helps distribute the ink evenly to the brush tip and prevents the ink from settling at one end, which can lead to uneven flow.
  3. Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Store brush pens in a cool and dry environment, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Exposure to heat or cold can affect the quality of the ink and the performance of the brush tip.
  4. Keep Capped When Not in Use: Even during short breaks while working on a project, cap the brush pen to prevent the tip from drying out. This practice ensures that the pen is always ready for use.
  5. Clean the Tips: If you switch between different colors or types of ink, it’s advisable to clean the brush tips before replacing the caps. This prevents color contamination and maintains the quality of each brush pen.
  6. Use a Storage Case: Consider investing in a brush pen storage case or organizer. These cases often provide individual slots for each pen, keeping them organized and preventing them from rolling around, which can protect the brush tips.
  7. Rotate Pens in Use: If you have a set of brush pens, consider rotating the pens you use regularly. This prevents one pen from being consistently used, allowing the others to maintain their performance over time.

So, wrapping up this 101 on calligraphy pens: Fountain pens bring a touch of class with their smooth moves, while dip pens offer a nostalgic, hands-on journey full of ink possibilities. And then there are our friendly brush pens – versatile, easy-going, and perfect for beginners and seasoned artists alike. Remember, choosing your pen is a personal adventure, with nib flex, ink love, and storage tricks playing key roles. So, embark on this calligraphy journey with joy, patience, and persistence! 

Lots of love,