Calligraphy is an ancient and beautiful art form that anyone can start to learn and enjoy. If you are just starting to learn calligraphy or you are a seasoned pro we hope these reviews will help you choose your perfect pen.
You don’t need a ridiculously fancy calligraphy pen to make great artwork – all you need is a bit of imagination and patience. Having said that, taking the time to master a quality piece of equipment will give that added flair to your writing and help you strive for perfection. This guide will help you choose the best calligraphy pens whether you are a student on a budget or a serious artist.
Calligraphy is an art form that involves using a brush or a pen to create letters and written words in an artistic way. Dip pens and nib pens are commonly used but you can also use quills, brushes, Qalams, a marker or a fountain pen. although any color ink can be black is often used by a calligrapher as it produces a smoother result.
How to Do Calligraphy
Which pen to use?
- Lamy Joy
- Pilot Parallel
- Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin Pen
- Pilot Futayaku Double Sided
- Kuretake No 50 Fountain Hair Brush Pen
Choosing a suitable pen depends on your experience, writing style, the type of calligraphy you do, the paper you will use and personal preference. Start with a kit with a range of nibs and/or brushes and see what one suits you. Once you have a few hours under your belt you can then move on to the more advanced tools to start creating some really stunning calligraphy.
Which Pens for Which Style?
Generally, they can be divided into two categories – nib pens and brush pens. Within each are varying nib/brush styles depending on your style and preference from fine to bold nibs to edged and pointed nibs.
Best Nib Pens
Nib pens are ideally suited to Western script and come in two types. Italic nibs are more rigid and require you to use the side of the nib to get broader lines. Here are our picks for the best calligraphy nib pens:
Lamy Joy Pen
While not compromising on ink flow, seasoned users will find this pen ‘drier’ than other more free flowing pens. On the other hand, this is an advantage if you like your work to dry quickly, particularly good if you are writing birthday cards.
- Quick dry
- Grooves for thumb and forefinger
- Long pen body
- Easy spring clip for taking on the move.
The shape of the pen and comfortable grip make it an easy choice if you spend hours practicing. Ergonomic design can be really important when you get absorbed into the passion of writing and are at it for hours. This one feels like a dream. This is the No.1 choice for sure.
Pilot Parallel Pen
This version of the pilot calligraphy pen is an exception to the above rule. Its unique system of two parallel plates where ink can flow between means you get precise sharp lines with a decent flow even on the corners. The 2-plate style gives you greater flexibility than other italic nibs and enables more gradation effects. This is an ideal pen set for beginners to calligraphy.
- Unique 2-plate nib
- 5-6mm variations
- Ideal for lettering
The bonus of this one is you can switch cartridges inside the and start mixing your colors. A great effect for the front of cards, invitations etc. It’s more responsive than the Lamy so if you have a flair for creativity, this is a great one to try and it’s a little cheaper for those on a budget.
Top Flex Nib Pens
Flex nibs have two lines that spread enabling you to do a broader range of line widths with less of the effort. While they take more practice, the effect is worth it. These are our top pics for flex nib pens:
Top picks for Speedball pens are the 101 and 512. The speedball 101 has a great degree of flexibility but can be hard for beginners to control as it requires very little pressure to create broader lines. Good if you like modern calligraphy. The 512, on the other hand, gives better control and consistency while still giving you a decent range of line widths.
- Flexible nib
- Comfortable for long periods
- Stunning effect with practice
For a beginner, or even if you are new to flex nibs, the 512 would be a better choice. If you get the speedball calligraphy pen set it gives you both nibs, meaning you can work your way through nibs of increasing flow.
Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin Pen
Similar to the 512 above, the nib also holds more ink than others meaning you have to dip less often – unless you are crazy with your broad lines! If you think the name is weird, it’s because of its shape and blue tint. The nib is more durable than some of its Brause cousins and lasts well.
- Easy to control
- Large ink capacity
- High degree of flex
Great flex for you to play around with, without being over-responsive. The control you have with this pen makes it an ideal choice if you are new to flex nibs, doing something very precise or writing for long periods (also helped by its durability). A worthy addition to any calligrapher’s toolbox.
Best Brush Pens
Brush pens are generally considered to be ideal for Chinese calligraphy characters, although you can use them for Western calligraphy as well. They range from felt to synthetic hair to natural and will depend on your experience. Here’s what we recommend:
This one is a good segue into bristle brushes. While it takes a little practice to master, it is more responsive than the other advanced types to give you decent flexibility in your strokes. If you are feeling creative, you can mix the brush with a bit of water and create lighter shades, backgrounds or artistic effects.
- Nylon bristles
- Effective with time
At the same time it has all the convenience of a pen, so you can carry it around easily for holiday creations. An ideal choice for the traveler – always keep a notebook and one of these handy for your spontaneous inspirations. Go for the multicolored set so you have the opportunity for variation. This is the top choice of the brush calligraphy pens.
Kuretake No 50 Fountain Hair Brush Pen
Once you have mastered the basic brush pens, the Kuretake one to challenge yourself with. Its responsiveness creates varying thicknesses with only the lightest of pressure spelling chaos for the untamed. It takes practice but will astound your friends and family once mastered.
- Real brush
- Very responsive
- High ink flow
A real sable hair tip gives you an elegant shine, which you can replace when needed. It’s acrylic coated brass shaft makes you feel like you’re writing with lacquer. I would pick this pen for an ideal choice as a gift, especially if your recipient was yet to try a real brush. For best effects, keep the Kuretake pen infrequent use and dry with a tissue after each session.
Pilot Futayaku Double Sided Pen
The Futayaku calligraphy pen is an easy to use and comfortable grip felt brush pen that is a perfect introduction for beginners. At the same time, it is responsive to varying strokes and comes with two brush widths to let you play around with thickness. The finer nib gives you a great taper for those finishing touches.
- Easy to control
- Ideal introduction
The easy flow of this pen means it will take longer to dry, so consider writing on thick card (I do this anyway for my Asian calligraphy as I am used to real brushes and ink). Make you store it somewhere it won’t ruin an inside pocket as well!
How Do They Work?
It’s a simple system, you apply pressure to the pen which pushes the nib against the paper and the tines of the nib are separated allowing the ink to flow down onto the paper evenly.
What is Calligraphy?
Some calligraphers and top lettering experts have described the art of calligraphy as “the closest you can get to hearing music with your eyes”. This might sound like a poetic exaggeration to those who are not familiar with this ancient art form and its meaning, but it will make perfect sense to those who have dedicated years of practice to the skill. Calligraphy is more than just an artistic form of writing – the technique follows a harmonious philosophy that pays great attention to the placement, flow, rhythm and integrity of each letter, thus injecting the words with meaning as profound as its appearance.
As is true for all art forms, calligraphy is meant to evoke a reaction within the reader, one that will make them find a new understanding and perspective behind the word(s) by ways of emphasizing certain characteristics of each letter with specific brushstrokes, proportions and designs, thus creating a well-rounded visual reading experience with every word. When calligraphers speak of finding the right harmony between letters and words, they are referring to the flow of letters in each word forming a soothing and appealing visual effect, as well as the matching of different terms: i.e. the goal is to pair words together that match not only in sentiment but appearance.
The integrity of a word is represented by its proportions, with bolder strokes and finer details allowing it to jump off the page, stone or canvas. Repetitions form a feeling of patterns and rhythms within each word, prompting the reader to truly study and absorb the meaning beyond the written word and its stunning execution.
Another key factor that must be respected and practiced within the art of calligraphy, is that of ancestry. In using traditional materials such as an ink stone and a brush and preserving the letter-shapes heritage, the calligrapher pays homage to the birth of calligraphy as an art form.
Integrity, harmony, rhythm and ancestry are the four core elements to calligraphy, and it is only through the use of all four that one can speak of calligraphy.
The Best Way to Learn
You’ve probably found yourself fantasizing about how satisfying it would be to employ calligraphy for beautiful handwritten messages of joy on birthdays and Christmas cards!
Well, it’s never too late to start!
The best way to learn calligraphy is by starting out with practice worksheets and get some ink on them. The Postman’s Knock offers different worksheets at an affordable price, with enough patience and practice, you might even manage to send out your first handmade cards sporting your personal message in stunning calligraphy. Once purchased, you will be able to print your worksheets as many times as you like – you’ll never run out of practice material!
There are also some great online tips for learning calligraphy.
While you’re still learning, opt to practice with a brush pen as this will be easier to work with in the beginning. If you keep writing your name over and over again, practicing will soon become boring and tedious so be sure to keep it fun for yourself. Choose your favorite quotes, song lyrics or poems and dedicate an entire notebook to them – this way you won’t be left with sheet upon sheet of paper spelling the same word fifty times, but will actually have something nice to look at that will be worth keeping. Once you feel confident using the brush pen, you can move on to working with an ink pen. Don’t worry if things get messy to begin with, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. While you’re still figuring out what type of pressure to exert and at what angle to hold your nib, the Nikko G Nib will quickly become your favorite tool as it is really easy to work with.
Opinions surrounding the best paper for practicing calligraphy on will differ from person to person, but if you want to keep your hobby relatively cheap yet effective for the time being, Laserjet printing paper is the way to go. It offers a smooth surface to work with and you won’t have to worry about your nib catching or the ink bleeding. Sumi or India ink is great to work with as they offer the perfect balance between thick and watery, allowing you to flow smoothly over the page. Both inks dry in a nice matte and will look great on any Christmas card or ordinary paper.
But of course, the secret to learning calligraphy is not in the tools you use, but in the amount of time you dedicate to practicing. This is an art form that takes years to perfect, so use every holiday, birthday or any other special occasion as an excuse to get out your pens and paper and practice, practice, practice.
Track your progress by taking pictures of every project and look back on them throughout the months to determine which areas you still need to excel in, and which areas you are close to perfecting. This will allow you to take a focused approach to better your technique and developing your very own style. Follow blogs and Instagram accounts that offer tutorials, tips and inspirations for projects and you’ll learn as you’ll go along. There are plenty of free resources out there – use them! You won’t regret it, and you might find yourself becoming a part of an artistic community that shares the same passion for calligraphy and other art forms as you do!
To help you choose a pen set to buy you can read the ratings and reviews on Amazon.