Calligraphy is an ancient and beautiful art form.
When doing calligraphy the type of pen you use is of vital importance and can be the difference between something stunningly eye-catching and an inky mess!
With this in mind, we have reviewed the best calligraphy pens on the market to help you make a choice. Whether you are just starting to learn your craft or you are a seasoned pro we hope this article will help you find your perfect pen.
You don’t need ridiculously fancy calligraphy pens to be a great calligraphic artist – 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.
You can use brushes or pens to create calligraphic lettering. Dip and nib calligraphy 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
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Which pens to use?
A great nib pen for the more experienced calligrapher with an excellent ergonomic design for comfortable long use.
The 2 plate style provides extreme flexibility and makes it a dream to use for beginners.
An excellent flex nib pen set with several nibs that can be used easily by a beginner.
|Brause Steno 361|
A well made pen with good control and great for precision.
Great starter set for those new to brush pens. Very responsive.
|Kuretake No 50 |
One for those that have mastered the brush pen already. High precision.
|Pilot Futayaku |
Very comfortable and easy to use. Good choice for beginners.
Choosing a suitable calligraphy pen depends on the following factors:
- Your experience
- Your writing style
- What you want to achieve
- The paper you will use
- Your own personal preference
Start with a kit with a range of tips and/or brushes and see which one suits you. Once you have a few hours under your belt you can then move on to the more advanced pens 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 tips to edged and pointed tips.
Best Nib Pens
Nib pens are ideally suited to Western script and come in two types. Italic calligraphy nibs are more rigid and require you to use the side of the nib to get broader lines. Here are our picks for the top calligraphy nib pens:
Lamy Joy Pen
While not compromising on ink flow, seasoned users will find the Lamy Joy ‘drier’ than other more free-flowing calligraphy 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 [For Beginners]
|Weight:||(4.8 / 5)|
|Nib:||(4.5 / 5)|
|Feel:||(4.5 / 5)|
|Writing:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Average:||(4.7 / 5)|
This version of the Pilot Parallel calligraphy pen is an exception to the above rule. Its unique system of two parallel flat metal 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 one of the most amazing calligraphy pen sets for beginners.
- Unique 2-plate nib
- 5-6mm variations
- Ideal for lettering
The bonus of this one is you can switch the cartridges inside 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 calligraphy 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 and hand lettering. 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
- Great for copperplate
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 test them both out.
Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin Pen Set
|Weight:||(4.3 / 5)|
|Nib:||(4.5 / 5)|
|Feel:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Writing:||(4.5 / 5)|
|Average:||(4.6 / 5)|
Similar to the 512 above, the Brause 361 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 calligraphy 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 Fountain Pen:
Kuretake No 50 Fountain Hair Brush Pen
Once you have mastered the basic brush calligraphy pens, the Kuretake No 50 is the 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 maximum effects, keep the Kuretake calligraphy pen in frequent use and dry with a tissue after each session.
Best Brush Pens
Brush pens are generally considered to be ideal for Chinese characters and brush lettering, 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:
Akashiya Pen Set
The Akashiya 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.
Pilot Futayaku Double Sided Pen
The Pilot 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 calligraphy 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! A great brush pen.
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen – An excellent beginner pen. The Tombow Fudenosuke brush pen is great choice at the cheaper end of the scale and is worth checking out if you are on a tight budget. It has both hard tip and soft tip options. The problem with it is it is not refillable unfortunately.
Sakura 38062 – This is a great pen set on the beginner end of the scale. The Sakura provide some bold colors with fade resistant, chemical proof and waterproof ink.
How Do They Work?
It’s a simple system, you apply pressure to the calligraphy pen which pushes the nib against the paper and the tines are separated allowing the ink to flow down onto the paper evenly creating fine lines of ink.
What is Calligraphy?
Some calligraphers and 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 (though it did used to involve a feather!) 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.
It 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 this craft 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 become one of the best,
Types of pens: brush markers, dip pen, italic nibs, flex nibs, dual brush, oblique pen, traditional dip, fountain pens, water-based, brush pen, medium nib pen.
Types of lettering: sans serif, serif, cursive, script, vintage, gothic, Japanese.
The Way to Learn
You’ve probably found yourself fantasizing about how satisfying it would be to draw beautiful hand lettering calligraphy messages of joy on birthdays and Christmas cards!
Well, it’s never too late to start making some wonderful calligraphy!
There is a slight learning curve, it’s not as easy as just picking up a ballpoint or pencil, you will have to spend a little time mastering your craft.
As an artist you learn by getting some paint sets and practising painting. It’s the same with caligraphy – the way to learn is by starting out with some high-quality pens and practice worksheets and get some ink on them.
The Postman’s Knock offers different sizes of hand lettering drawing worksheets and other useful products at an affordable price, with enough patience and practice, you might even manage to write 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! Also, make sure to get some ink cartridges that fit your calligraphy pens, black ink is the usual choice but some also like red.
There are also some great books and online tips for learning calligraphy.
While you’re still learning your style, opt to practice drawing and hand lettering with a brush calligraphy pen as this will be easier to work with at 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.
Pro Tip: Use a nib cleaner to keep your calligraphy pen in tip-top condition.
Opinions surrounding the best paper for practicing 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 best 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!
Get started today!
Thanks for reading our guide to the best calligraphy pens, to help you choose a set to buy you can view the ratings and reviews on Amazon and draw your own conclusions.