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Arts, Crafts and Designs | Calligraphy | Money | Tutorial / How to:

The Cheapskate’s Guide to Starting Pointed Pen Calligraphy

May 12, 2017
cheapskates guide to pointed pen calligraphy

The title pretty much says it all, yeah? 😉 Though I have hoarder tendencies (especially when it comes to art supplies), I also have this compulsion to canvass each and every piece I wanna buy to see if there’s a cheaper alternative, or if it’s sold cheaper somewhere else. This way, I have been able to procure much of my stuff at less cost than if I’d gotten them, say, from the mall. Mostly though, I do my shopping online so it’s much easier to research and compare prices. That, and there’s basically none to be found here in the province. #promdifeels

Anyway. Pointed pen calligraphy or dip pen calligraphy is something I only started doing pretty recently. I am obviously no expert here; I only speak for my limited experience and basic knowledge as a fellow newbie. Without further ado, here are the basic things you need to start:

1. Nib holder

Top to Bottom:
SEVENDAYSOFWORK oblique holder, artsy lifestyle ph straight plastic holder, Tachikawa T-40

There are two types of nib holders, the straight and the oblique. The latter is specially designed for the proper slant or angle for formal calligraphy. In as much as I have read during my online research, you can start with either of two, whichever you’re more comfortable using. This is so far the cheapest straight holder I’ve seen online at a mere Php 38. It’s very similar to the black one from artsy lifestyle ph that I got from my Inks & Colors kit.

Once I felt more comfortable using nibs, I got myself the Tachikawa T-40, an “upgraded” straight holder with a cushioned grip for comfort. It’s cheapest at Artillery Philippines at only Php 260, but I got mine for Php 350 from another seller via the Shopee app (I had to take the mode of payment and shipping fee, among others, into consideration; there’s an explanation at the bottom of the post).

2. Nib

Left to Right:
Nikko G, Tachikawa G, Zebra G, Sergent-Major Superieure No. 2500, Penna Lancia EF N 920, Brause Steno 361, Brause Rose

Based on blogs I’ve read, most notably at The Postman’s Knock, G nibs are the nibs for beginners. They produce nice thin and thick strokes, are kinda stiff and durable enough even for heavy-handed use (which, coincidentally, a lot of newbies do at first). I currently have three (3) of them from Nikko, Tachikawa and Zebra. Though they’re all pretty much alike, they do have distinct differences when they write. The Zebra G makes the thinnest hairline upstrokes of the three. All of them are also available at Artillery Philippines for Php 60 each per piece.

3. Ink

calligraphy inks

I was lucky enough to have a coupla jars of sumi ink for free, since they’re one of the best inks for pointed pens. Sumi ink is a nice, rich black which dries to a semi-gloss finish. It is neither too thick nor too runny, just about right for pointed nibs. If there’s a Daiso near you, you can get a 180 mL bottle for just Php 88. But if like me and there’s none in the immediate vicinity, you can go buy some online. In fact, I just bought a coupla bottles of those same Daiso sumi ink for Php 100 per bottle from here (you may also get it from here). That’s still quite a bargain, really, since I’ve seen some selling 30 mL jars of the stuff for about the same price.

Another option is the walnut ink, with its lovely sepia tones. It’s very runny compared to the sumi ink, almost watery. I got my 30 mL jar for Php 110 from Shopee, but the seller has since ran out of stocks. The cheapest I’ve found online is from The Craft Central at Php 200 for 100 mL.

And if all else fails, you can always make DIY calligraphy ink like I did. Or use watercolors; just brush the colors on the underside of the nib (make sure it’s a flowing consistency though). I have learned though, that using DIY ink quickly corrodes the nib–just look at how corroded the middle-most nib above is.

4. Paper

paperBlue Feather notebook and PaperOne 100 gsm paper, roughly cut in halves

As I learned (somewhat painfully) from experience, not all types of papers may be used for this type of calligraphy. Pointed nibs warrant a smooth paper surface to prevent snagging and, at worst, tearing. Because we’re talking cheap here, I’d recommend using a simple Blue Feather notebook, which could be found at most bookstores and office supplies section at department stores. They have several sizes available, but I got the regular A5-sized one for Php 41.75 as a compromise between amount of writing space and portability.

Another recommendation is PaperOne Digital 100 gsm copy paper, which is also sold pretty much everywhere. They come in four (4) sizes that I’ve seen so far: Qto/letter (8.5″ × 11″), F4/folio (8.5″ × 13″), A4 (8.27″ × 11.69″) and A3 (11.69″ x 16.53″). As far as I know, you can only buy those by reams of 500 papers, ranging from Php 338++ to Php 700++ depending on the size. I got a ream of letter size, which should last me the rest of the year, maybe even until the next year.

Oh, and that square piece of memo pad I used for the labels all throughout the post. That’s from the IFEX block memo pad I got from SM Stationery. It cost just Php 149 for a small tower of white and some black sheets. It’s not as smooth as the other two above and the nibs sometimes snag, but in a pinch you can make it work too.

5. Patience

patience

This costs nothing but is integral to the process of learning. Not all those who try pointed pen calligraphy for the first time are able to produce proper hairlines or swells. Hell, when I first started I was happy as a clam that I was able to draw a line at all. No matter that the ink blobbed. No matter that its thickness was inconsistent. It was progress, however small or mundane it may seem to some. I had to be patient with my own learning pace. But I went from there, practicing whenever I could. And I think I’m making progress. My words are already legible, are they not? 😉 Like what is usually uttered in the Calligrafriends PH group, “Aim for progress, not perfection.” So I think, as long as I keep practicing, I’m good (in my own way).

curlicue1

Notes:

Remember what I said earlier about canvassing? I totally wasn’t kidding. I even made lists of the sellers and the total amount (including shipping) to compare. Here’s a scan of the lists I made on my bullet journal:

nibs canvass

In the end I had to make some tweaks to the items I was planning to buy. The clincher for me was the free shipping (for orders at least Php 500) from those two sellers at the bottom. I’m pretty chuffed that I got the nibs I wanted, plus a Zig Cocoiro letter pen thrown in to reach the minimum for free shipping. 😉

Hope you learned something from my humble post. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions, or just want to say hi. 🙂

coffee siggy

  1. Ah, nibs. I actually started with dip pen before trying out brush. It’s a struggle since I’m a leftie. Using spring notebooks actually hurts cause the spring affects the way of writing. Your purchases are actually expensive than I thought. Tachikawa G / Zebra G / Nikko G all feels the same for me since they’re G nibs. My fave is actually the Blue Pumpkin nib or also known as the Brause Steno 361. Isn’t the nib on its left is a Hiro 41 nib?

    1. I’m a leftie as well. 😉 with regards to using a spring notebook, I start at the end so that the spring doesn’t get in my left hand’s way when writing. Do you know where I can find these stuff cheaper? I have a Brause Blue Pumpkin here as well, and yeah I like it better than the G nibs too. The one on its left looks like a Hiro 41 (I thought so too at first) but a closer look at the barrel reveals it’s a different nib after all. 😂

  2. You know what, I really find this calligraphy very interesting…I first saw this kind of writing method when I was with my friends while we’re learning how to write Baybayin… someone from that session demonstrated how this calligraphy works and I find it so impressive. My penmanship ever since I was in highschool is so bad (my teacher used to call it “hen’manship haha)…I wonder if this one can work for me to improve my writing but I guess it takes a lot of practice and discipline to master such craft! Thanks for this guide

  3. Speaking of nibs, I used to prefer the Sheaffer pens when I was in the teens. Have you heard about this brand? Chances are you haven’t. I preferred this pen because the nib was smooth and the writing experience was happy. Productivity increased dramatically. Nibs can motivate or demotivate your writing. Isn’t it?

  4. Haha, I have hoarder tendencies as well! For lots of things :). It’s good to know which things you need for pointed pen calligraphy. I have no experience (yet) with this. So I’m glad to read all about the essentials. I would love to ty it. Because I always love looking at calligraphy. It’s really beautiful.

  5. Those nibs are really nice! I’ve always adored those who write calligraphy beautifully. I just think it’s a wonderful way to de-stress. I have never tried to see if I even have a talent in calligraphy, but hey, who knows, maybe one day, I can also get to try it out. 😀

  6. I happily read all these about pointed pen.I remember the time we used fountain pen in schools.We had to refill daily and teachers advised us to use such to write properly. 🙂 Learning about pointed pen calligraphy is interesting and it seems you need to have some different tools/nibs.Anyway the results are awesome with beautiful writings!

  7. Great list! When I was starting out in calligraphy, a lot of these were my materials. It was also harder to find supplies back then, so I’m really glad that materials are more accessible now! <3

  8. Calligraphy is something I would very much like to master, and it’s not that I haven’t tried. Actually, I have acquired (I think) all of the things you mentioned above. However, I lack patience. 🙂 I think I just shouldn’t give it up, that’s all. Now you gave me some hope again. Thank you!

  9. I like how you made this guide concise, but direct to all the necessary points needed for this certain craft. It is indeed well thought and I like how the process being structured properly. I would like to learn this kind of craft if I get the chance. Thank you so much for sharing with us your very unique talent and may there will be more people who will get interested about calligraphy.

  10. Knowing how to do calligraphy is such an amazing thing! I wish I could do it! It’s so pretty and useful. I remember writing the names at the back of our wedding invitation myself because we wanted to make it more personalized, and at that time, I said to myself, “I wish I was talented enough in calligraphy!” Your writings are so beautiful and flawless!

  11. Which makes me remind myself that I bought some paper and calligraphy pen and ink for my calligraphy practice. Unfortunately, I wasnt able to touch anything since I bought them. I am real busy with housework but still that doesn’t give me the reason not to practice. Thanks for the reminder. And now u learned that I could even use that kind of notebook. I thought special paper is needed for the ink to write smoothly. I guess I need to buy a notebook like yours. Easier for me as well to check on my improvement. But first, I need to practice.

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