You do not have to be a serious calligrapher or professional to take your writing from mundane to spectacular: all you need are the right tools and some practice. However, with so many pens, nibs, and inks out there, it can be overwhelming to parse through the different varieties. Never fear: we have blackened our hands and desks with ink to bring you some of our favorite calligraphy pens and inks.
- Things to Consider
- The Best Calligraphy Fountain Pens
- The Best Calligraphy Nibs
- The Best Calligraphy Markers
- The Best Calligraphy Inks
- How to Use a Dip Pen
- Tips for Using Flex Nibs
- More Resources
- Shop This Post
There are three types of pens to choose from: a traditional dip pen, a disposable pen, or a cartridge-filled pen. Which you choose boils down to personal preference.
With dip pens, the possibilities are endless. It is better to use calligraphy inks because they are more viscous than fountain pen inks and will cling to the nib better. This prevents the ink from sliding off the nib and creating unsightly blobs. Some calligraphy inks come in different colors or even with glitter mixed in, which can add texture and dimension to your calligraphy. Fountain pen inks can be used with dip pens, though calligraphers may find it helpful to thicken the ink.
Fountain pens with italic nibs are a practical way to introduce some extra style to your writing. If you are already familiar with fountain pens, these pens will be easy to get started with and allow you to focus on learning a new calligraphy style.
The Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen is one of the most unique calligraphy pens on the market. What sets it apart from similar pens is the nib, which consists of two parallel plates that lay flat against each other. Ink flows between the plates and is dispensed along the entire edge of the nib, including the corners. The Parallel can also create gradation effects when used with another Parallel. That, combined with its varied range of nib sizes and superbly juicy flow, makes it a great pen for lettering and other applications.
The Kaweco Calligraphy Sport Fountain Pen is another juicy pick. The ink flows freely, just like in the Parallel, but tends to pool at the ends of letters. Its range of nib sizes is not as dramatic as the Parallel’s, but a variety of effects is still possible. Like other Kaweco Sports, this pen is compact and portable. It is available as a single pen with nibs from 1.1 mm to 2.3 mm in size, or in sets that include two to four nibs.
This calligraphy pen has a slightly drier flow compared to the previous two recommendations, but it still provides nice ink flow and smoothness. It is a good option for those who do not want to wait a long time for the ink to dry. The pen has a triangular section that guides your fingers into an ergonomic grip. The long pen body evokes the aesthetics of a traditional pen holder and is well-balanced for a comfortable writing experience.
If you have ever seen a fountain pen with a nib that flexes like that of a dip pen, chances are you were looking at a vintage fountain pen. Today, vintage gold nibs are highly sought after because of their impressive line variation. Modern flex nib fountain pens are better categorized as soft nibs. They have a delightful springiness when gentle pressure is applied, but they are not meant to be stressed in the same way as vintage flex nibs or dip pen nibs. Pressing too hard on a fountain pen’s soft nib may “spring” it, or cause the tines to become permanently separated. Use a light touch and apply gentle pressure when flexing a soft nib.
The Pilot Elabo—also known as the Falcon—has a uniquely-shaped nib made from 14 karat gold with a nice amount of softness. You will not get all the swooping flourishes or line variations possible with dip pens when using the Elabo, but for everyday writing, it provides the right amount of grace and understated flair.
The Noodler's Triple Tail Flex Fountain Pen was made for calligraphers who enjoy tinkering and are not afraid to get inky fingers. The pen can be adjusted to change ink flow. It will be wetter when the nib and feed are pushed deeper into the grip section, and drier if the nib and feed are less deeply seated in the grip section. The Triple Tail comes with a special three-tined nib that offers excellent line variation.
For the crispest lettering, italic dip pen nibs are the best choice. They come in a wide variety of tip sizes, including ultra broad ones that cannot be offered in fountain pens and markers.
The Speedball Calligraphy Pen Set comes with everything you need to get started on your calligraphy journey, including four italic nibs with an interesting look. They have three tines instead of the usual two and a slightly angled blunt edge. They also come with brass reservoirs that improve flow consistency and keep you from having to dip the nibs as often. These nibs must be paired with a holder, which is included in the set.
The Tachikawa Type C Nibs are suitable for more experienced calligraphers who are already familiar with italic letterforms. The nibs create bold downstrokes and extra fine horizontal strokes, but their sharp corners can dig into the writing surface when not held at the proper angle. It will take a little practice to learn how to use them correctly, but calligraphers who stick with them will appreciate the incredibly crisp lettering these nibs create. The Type C nibs are available individually, so those who only need a few nib sizes can choose exactly which ones to add to their collection.
Metal dip pen nibs are the best way to create the strokes that are key to Copperplate, Spencerian, and other pointed pen calligraphy. There are numerous nibs to choose from: they can be extremely flexible, stiff as a nail, or somewhere inbetween. Be sure to pick the right one for your project: calligraphy that needs to have thick downstrokes will benefit from a flexible nib, while subtle line variation is best suited for stiffer nibs. Dip pen nibs are made from stainless steel and will eventually wear out. Replace them when hairlines become too thick for your preference.
The Speedball No. 512 is perfect for beginners or those who want more control over the nib. It balances flexibility with consistency and is easier to use for long periods of time. We recommend using the No. 512 for more subtle forms of calligraphy, such as Copperplate. The No. 512 can also be found in the Speedball Calligraphy Pen Set.
Do not underestimate the tiny Brause 66. Even more flexible than the Speedball No. 101, this nib responds beautifully to even the slightest change of pressure. It creates ultra-fine hairlines and bold downstrokes for dramatic calligraphy. We do not recommend this nib to those who write with a heavy hand, but those with a more delicate touch will find it a joy to work with. It can only hold a small amount of ink because of its small size, so it will have to be re-dipped regularly.
We love the unique look of the Brause 361 Nib. Like its Arrow nib cousin, the Blue Pumpkin has a lot of flex. It is slightly stiffer and not quite as responsive, though it is much easier to control. Although the Brause 361 does not have as much line variation as the Arrow, it is still capable of a wide range of effects, especially after it has been broken in. The nib also holds a good amount of ink due to its larger size.
The beloved G Nib is technically a nib for drawing comics and manga, but it is a surprisingly good option for calligraphy, too. It does not offer nearly as much flex as the above nibs, but it will become more flexible over time. A professional version made of durable titanium is also available. Because G nibs are quite stiff, they are very easy to control and are highly recommended to beginner calligraphers who are just starting to learn how to apply writing pressure. Many other comic and manga nib manufacturers produce their own version of the G nib; see all of them here.
Italic markers are more beginner-friendly and cleaner than italic nibs. They do not need to be dipped into messy ink bottles, nor do they require cleaning. Finally, they do not need to be refilled: when the marker runs empty, you can simply throw it away.
The Sakura Pigma Calligrapher Pen combines the crisp lines of a metal calligraphy nib with the convenience of a marker. The tip is made of durable nylon and stays firm longer than a felt tip. The pen uses the same archival-quality ink as Sakura’s Pigma pens, so it is waterproof and fade-resistant on most papers.
If you’ve ever wanted an italic marker with metallic ink, try the Kuretake ZIG Calligraphy Metallic Double-Sided Marker Pen. This double-sided marker has a 3.5 mm tip on one end and a 2.0 mm tip on the other. It comes in six shimmering colors that work well on both light and dark papers. Plus, you can blend colors by touching the nibs of two different markers together.
Though brush pens are not able to create the same hairline upstrokes as metal nibs, they are much easier to start learning with and far more convenient. A brush pen has an ink reservoir inside and fewer moving parts. They are especially handy for calligraphers on the go.
The Pentel Fude Touch Brush Sign Pen is beloved by amateur and professional calligraphers alike. Their small tips are easy to control yet create a surprising amount of line variation. As an added bonus, these brush pens come in twenty four vibrant and pastel colors that are suitable for any calligraphy project. However, the ink is not water-resistant.
If you plan to pair your calligraphy with watercolors, reach for the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen. Its black ink is completely waterproof, which makes it especially suitable for use with water-based coloring tools. The Fudenosuke comes in two tip types. The soft one is more responsive to writing pressure, while the hard one is easier to control. Both produce line variation that is suitable for modern calligraphy.
Note that the colorful Fudenosukes have water-resistant ink, while the Neon ones are not waterproof or water-resistant.
These inks should only be used with dip pens. Filling a fountain pen with India or calligraphy ink will clog the nib and feed, damaging it permanently.
Speedball Super Black India Ink is an affordable and high-performing black ink that is great for beginners. Speedball’s India ink contains 100% carbon black pigment and shellac. The ink’s composition lends it an intense black color with a subtle shine. The ink is lightfast and will not discolor when exposed to light. Speedball India Ink is also waterproof and dries quickly. It can be used with watercolors without worrying about the ink running. The ink is fairly viscous yet flows easily, so it coats nibs well and allows you to write for longer periods of time.
There are a few things to keep in mind when using Speedball India Ink. Cleaning up will require a specially formulated pen cleaner or a household cleaner such as hand soap, but Speedball India Ink is easier to clean than other India inks. Additionally, the ink bottle’s opening—while wide and spacious for easy dipping—tends to get crusted with ink, which can make it difficult to remove the lid. Be sure to wipe the rim with a paper towel after each use. Of all the inks we tested, this is also the only ink that showed bleedthrough, albeit faintly, through 80 gsm Rhodia paper. We recommend using thicker paper with this ink if you plan on using both sides of a sheet.
Kuretake Sumi Ink offers even flow and an intense black color. Historically, calligraphers in East Asian cultures had to grind inksticks by hand with a stone, then mix the resulting powder with water to create ink. Kuretake Sumi Ink contains the same ingredients as traditional sumi ink but is conveniently mixed and bottled. The ink is consistent and does not feather. It dries to a neutral black color with a slight sheen and subtle raised texture. Though not entirely waterproof, the ink is water-resistant. For a less saturated shade, dilute the ink with a few drops of water. Cartoonists and avid illustrators who use alcohol-based markers or want even smoother flow should consider using Kuretake ZIG Cartoonist Sumi Ink 60.
Kuretake Sumi Ink is stubborn to clean. To effectively clean your nibs, soak them in a cleaning solution for half an hour and flush with water. Repeat if necessary.
Jacquard Lumiere paints shimmer beautifully while also offering bold colors. They are also waterproof and fast-drying. These paints are beautiful and easy to use. They only take a little preparation to use as inks: simply dilute them with water until they reach the right consistency. The paint can be difficult to remove once dry, so be sure to wipe your nib every now and then during longer writing sessions.
Dr. Ph. Martin's Pen-White Ink is lauded in the calligraphy community as one of the most trusted white inks. Bold and opaque, it can be used to highlight illustrations, correct mistakes, or create contrast lettering on dark papers. Because it is so thick, this ink needs to be diluted with water to the proper consistency. Pen-White Ink is not waterproof, so we recommend applying it to watercolor projects after they are completely dry.
First, clean the oil from a new dip pen nib. Manufacturers coat the nib with a protectant oil to prevent the nib from rusting. However the oil will cause ink to run off of the nib, so it is important to clean the nib for it to write with an even flow. There are several ways to clean a nib: use a gentle brush with a small amount of toothpaste to carefully rub the oil off with a good rinse. Rubbing alcohol also works, but be sure not to soak it for too long. Another method is to use a lighter to burn the oil off, but be careful when using fire. Make sure the nib is completely cool before handling it.
After installing the nib into the holder, dip it into the ink. If your nib has a built-in reservoir, you can use an eyedropper to fill it for a more uniform flow.
When you have finished writing, be sure to clean the nib and dry it off completely to prevent rusting. Most non-waterproof inks will clean off well with mild soap and water. For peskier waterproof, acrylic, or India inks, you may need a special cleaner.
The best writing angle for a flex nib is 45 degrees. If your nib holder has a directional grip (such as one that guides your fingers in a specific position), be sure to install the nib properly. Some nib holders have two grooves: nibs will usually go into the outer groove. Small nibs, like the Brause 66 Extra Fine Arrow Nib, will go into the smaller groove.
A common problem when writing with flex nibs is called “railroading.” This is when the ink follows the two tines rather than flowing smoothly between them, creating an effect that looks like a railroad track. This happens when there is not enough ink on the nib, so be sure to dip often.
Have you ever touched the nib to paper and expected a beautiful hairline, only for an unsightly blob of ink to form? There are usually two reasons why this happens: the first is that the nib has not been completely cleaned of manufacturing oils. Be sure to prepare new nibs before using them. The second reason is that there is too much ink on the nib, and it cannot flow gradually while writing. Thankfully, there is an easy fix: after dipping the nib in ink, tap or drag the underside of the nib against the edge of the bottle or mixing palette to get rid of excess ink.
Getting used to flex nibs takes a lot of practice and patience. Flex nibs are responsive and express every change in pressure, making it difficult to maintain consistency. Practice up and downstrokes until you are familiar with how the nib responds.
- The Best Pointed Pen Calligraphy Supplies for Beginners
- Beginner’s Guide to Nibs and Nib Holders
- Calligraphy Tips: Solving Common Problems
- How To Mix Calligraphy Inks
- The Best Beginner Brush Pens for Lettering
- The Best Brush Pens for Lettering and Calligraphy
- The Best Watercolor Calligraphy Supplies for Beginners
Whether you use the calligraphy pens and inks recommended in this guide or try your hand at brush calligraphy, the art of lettering is a fun way to express your creativity. Even if your first few tries may not be Instagram-worthy, with some practice, we are certain you will find a calligraphy style to call your own.
|Calligraphy Nib Recommendations|
|Name||Nib Type||Line Width||Flex Level||Add to Cart|
|Brause 66 Extra Fine Arrow Nib||Flex||Extra Fine||High||Add to Cart|
|Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin Nib||Flex||Fine||Moderate||Add to Cart|
|Speedball C Series Nibs||Italic||1.8 mm (C4), 2.0 mm (C3), 3.0 mm (C2), 3.5 mm (C1)||Low||Add to Cart|
|Speedball No. 512 Bowl Pointed Nib||Flex||Fine||Moderate||Add to Cart|
|Tachikawa Type C Nibs||Italic||1 mm, 2 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm, 5 mm, 6 mm||Low||Add Items to Cart|
|Zebra Comic G Model Nib||Flex||Fine||Moderate||Add to Cart|
|Calligraphy Fountain Pen Recommendations|
|Name||Nib Type||Line Width||Flex Level||Add to Cart|
|Kaweco Calligraphy Sport Fountain Pens||Italic||1.1 mm, 1.5 mm, 1.9 mm, 2.4 mm||None||Add Items to Cart|
|LAMY Joy Calligraphy Pens||Italic||1.1 mm, 1.5 mm, 1.9 mm||None||Add Items to Cart|
|Noodler’s Triple Tail Flex Fountain Pens||Flex||Medium||Medium||Add to Cart|
|Pilot Elabo Fountain Pens||Flex||Soft Extra Fine, Soft Fine, Soft Medium, Soft Broad||Medium||Add Items to Cart|
|Pilot Parallel Pens||Italic||1.5 mm, 2.4 mm, 3.0 mm, 3.8 mm, 4.5 mm, 6.0 mm||None||Add Items to Cart|
|Calligraphy Marker Recommendations|
|Name||Nib Type||Line Width||Flex Level||Add to Cart|
|Kuretake ZIG Calligraphy Metallic Double-Sided Marker Pens||Italic||2 mm / 3.5 mm||None||Add Items to Cart|
|Pentel Fude Touch Brush Sign Pens||Flex||Fine||Medium||Add Items to Cart|
|Sakura Pigma Calligrapher Pens||Italic||1.0 mm. 2.0 mm, 3.0 mm||None||Add Items to Cart|
|Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens||Flex||Fine||Medium (Hard), High (Soft)||Add Items to Cart|
|Calligraphy Ink Recommendations|
|Name||Colors||Finish||Viscosity||Dilution Necessary||Bleedthrough on 80 gsm||Add to Cart|
|Dr. Ph. Martin's Pen-White Ink||White||Matte||Thick||Yes||No||Add to Cart|
|Jacquard Lumiere Acrylic Paints||Bright Gold, Metallic Bronze, Metallic Copper, Rose Gold, Metallic Silver, Pearlescent White||Shimmery||Thick||Yes||No||Add Items to Cart|
|Kuretake Sumi Ink||Black||Glossy||Medium||No||No||Add to Cart|
|Speedball Super Black India Ink||Black||Semi-glossy||Medium||No||Yes||Add to Cart|