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Calligraphy Beginners

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Are you a beginner to calligraphy?
When people say, "Oh, it must be so relaxing!", I say "Well it certainly is absorbing!".

In calligraphy you have three main variables:


Any one of these can conspire to defeat your best attempts at letterforms!
If you want to give calligraphy a try, here are the tools I suggest. This is the "technical side" of calligraphy. Creating beautiful letterforms is, of course, the other side!


I always start my students off with the Staedtler Calligraph Duo before I move them on to pen and ink. You can get a feel for making the letters without struggling with pen and ink. This phase doesn't last long! (but these markers are great for practice or for lettering envelopes! They don't split and chip like some other markers.)

Next is the nib. I use Mitchell Round Hand Nibs. Why? Because I like the flexibility of the nib, it has sharp edges (which create thin lines) and its reservoir is easily removable for cleaning and adjustment. Also, left-handers can use them because the tip is cut straight across. Mitchell Nibs and their reservoir are sold separately. I prefer to purchase a reservoir for each nib and custom fit the reservoir to its nib. If the nib wears out first, the reservoir finds a new home on a new nib!

If you have a heavy hand, you may prefer the Brause Nibs. These are much less flexible, the reservoir is not so adjustable and doesn't remove easily. You may find it a wonderful starter nib.

When you purchase nibs, even to try them out, don't just buy one. Buy at least 2. Metal nibs are mass manufacturered and variations will creep in. Sometimes you just get a lousy one! And it's not something you can tell with the naked eye.

Nibs come with a coating. This needs to come off, or your ink won't be able to "hang" in the reservoir. My students are stuck with popping the nib in their mouth, but hot water and some baking soda will do it. Some wipe the nib with gum arabic. My mouth seems to work fine - I always have it with me. Just don't swallow....


My ink of choice is Higgins Eternal Black (sometimes affectionately known as Higgins Infernal). It is a carbon ink, so it will not fade. Some inks bleed into the paper, especially when you're working small, but the Higgins Eternal leaves beautifully crisp edges to the letters as well as elegant thins.

When you get a new bottle of Higgins Eternal, don't shake it, but swirl it so you don't create bubbles. Open it up and leave the lid off for a while. It sometimes needs "thickening". Some calligraphers will add about 15 drops of Gum Arabic to a bottle to help prevent smearing after the ink dries on the page.

Don't ever fly with a bottle of Higgins Eternal in your luggage. Treat yourself to a new bottle when you get to your destination! Don't even *ask* me why.... You can probably guess - you think I would have learned the first time....


Paper is something that can really mess you up. Don't use cheap copy paper! You will get bleeding of the ink. You work hard to get those thicks and thins that make broad-edged calligraphy so elegant, so don't let the paper ruin it!

I use Laser Paper for practice and work that will be for reproduction. I want maximum contrast between my thicks and thins! not to mention maximum contrast between my letters and their background. Remember, no amount of colour and fancy backgrounds will disguise bad letterforms!

More tips

  • Nib Holders - purchase nib holders that are round, not 3-sided. If you get the nib in the wrong way, you'll be struggling to get the nib correctly onto the paper.
  • Loading the Ink in your Nib: I confess. I transfer my Higgins Eternal into a bottle with a dropper in the lid.... Let me explain why I use a dropper or pipette to add my ink to the nib. When you dip your nib in the ink, some of it dries on the top of the nib through evaporation. After a while, the slit in the nib will be forced slightly open by the dried ink, causing the wet ink in the reservoir to flood onto the page. By droppering the ink in the side of the nib, between the reservoir and the nib, you avoid that particular build-up.
  • Protecting your paper from the oil on your hand: I like to use a coloured index card - cause I have a bunch and I know exactly what it's for when I see it! But a clean piece of paper will do. Even if you think your skin is dry, it will leave a trace of oil on the page where it touches. When you get to that place with your pen and ink, your nib will begin skidding and you'll feel like the ink isn't flowing and you have no control. Sigh. You forgot your Guard Sheet!

Beginning Calligraphy Kits
This kit includes only tools, not instructions, at this time..... but give me some time..... smile.


  • Laser Practice Paper
  • Staedtler Calligraph Duo Marker
  • Black Plastic Nib Holder
  • 1 Mitchell #2 Roundhand Nib
  • 1 Mitchell Reservoir
  • 1 2mm Brause Nib (This will be substituted with a Left-Handed nib if you are a Lefty. Please order the Left-handed Kit!!)
  • Liner for use with the nibs
  • Higgins Eternal Ink
  • Shortie Pipettes


Sorry! These kits are no longer available.

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