What I Learned About Calligraphy Pens Watching Master Calligraphers
I’ve learned quite a number of tricks to using calligraphy pens like a professional.
I belong to the generation when beautiful handwriting mattered. Everything was important! The way you held your pen, the position of your wrist while writing, the strokes you made.
It was as if I could hear my teacher saying, “I’m going to make a notebooks exhibition. The most beautiful handwriting will be displayed on my big desk!” We were so excited, trying to write neatly.
Unfortunately, my notebook didn’t stand out among others. The pupil with the best was a boy — his letters were marvelous! — and my eight-year-old friend explained that he had been using a ‘special’ pen for practicing.
In the following years, I learned that it was actually a fountain pen; and now I’ve discovered the world of dip pens, brush pens, ink, ink cartridges, and nibs by observing calligraphy masters.
Here’s what I learned about calligraphy pens from them.
Tips and Trick to Using Calligraphy Pens
Nowadays, I’m still fascinated by the beauty of lettering; I follow some calligraphy masters on Instagram and often try to copy them.
The good news is that, more or less, most of them didn’t attend a special course to learn. They practiced a lot on their own.
So, I have paid close attention to what they use and what they do.
Calligraphers and Their Pens
World-famous calligraphy master — and my favorite — Sab Lester, said:
“So much of calligraphy is about movement and rhythm, and a short video can capture the beauty and the magic of calligraphy in a very internet-friendly format.”
An important part of developing his skill was choosing the right calligraphy pen. His choices are that of oblique pens, ruling pens, pointed brush pen, and fountain pens. He’s also famous for holding two or three ballpoint pens taped together.
My second favorite is Linda Yoshida. According to her, calligraphy is a long term process of honing your skills. She was a self-taught artist, but at the end of the day, she took a course of calligraphy and learned to use brush pens, dip pens, nibs, and ink. Plus, she also admits to loving Parker fountain pens.
Her favorite project is wedding invitations.
John Stevens believes that people crave to see human pieces of artwork in a world filled with technology.
He finds that everyone who tries to do calligraphy must confront some technical issues and learning curves. Those practiced don’t make a mess — there’s no ink all over their desks like there was mine.
Watching the masters, everything looks so easy. Still, you need to know some basic rules and how to practice them.
Calligraphy for Beginners
“Be interested in learning what is good. Be curious, study, don’t just mindlessly copy.” - John Stevens
Having a good grip on your pen; being calm, and concentrated.
Here are the basic movements:
Hold your pen so that the nib is in a horizontal position to the paper. Then, make a vertical stroke downward, maintaining equal pressure on the paper.
You should focus on using your arm rather than your wrist — this allows your arm to stay steady, and will give you better writing flow.
The ideal nib angle when making upward strokes is 45°. You can practice this by drawing a line in a diagonal motion.
Hold your pen so the nib is at 45° to the paper. Without lifting it, make vertical upstrokes that are thin, and then follow them by making downward strokes that are thicker.
Lift the pen every third stroke, and do this until you’ve honed the skill of making perfect curves.
What Pens Do You Use for Calligraphy?
The majority of masters agree about the best pens for calligraphy.
There are four basic options for beginners: brush pens, fountain pens, pens with felt nibs, and dip pens.
These pens aren’t convenient for everyday use if all you want to do is beautifully write your signature on paper.
Believe it or not, it is possible to do calligraphy with a ballpoint, gel, or fountain pen, granted you choose the right one.
As is a general principle in using calligraphy pens, the pressure you use to write on the paper is crucial with ballpoint pens — harder pressure will create thicker lines while lighter pressure will create thinner ones.
Good gel pens can also be quite a good tool for calligraphy. It’s important to choose one that best fits in your hand, and then you can make movements like a professional.
But, when it comes to a modern option for calligraphy, a fountain pen is the best buy.
You don’t have to worry about the pressure you make on the paper so much in order to make broader or finer lines — you can choose the size of the pen’s nibs and draw the lines as you like.
Which Pen Is the Best for Calligraphy?
Suitable for both absolute beginners as well as calligraphy masters and taking into account the convenience of using other pens, the winner is Her Majesty, the fountain pen!
Fountain pens have a metal nib at the top and write at a 45° angle on paper using even pressure on both sides of the tines in order to get a perfect stroke.
Need to make a broad line? Use a broad nib. Need to make a fine line? Use a fine nib.
And once you’re finished, let it dry for 3-5 minutes.
With their cartridge ink or converter refills, fountain pens are the new version of dip pens — you don’t need to think about the messy process of dipping a pen into black ink to be able to form extraordinary letters.
Make sure that, when choosing one with ink cartridges, you pay attention to the type of cartridge you’re using. For example, Parker pens require only Parker ink cartridges.
Get the Right Tools
Calligraphy is a process that takes time, so the very first criteria in choosing a pen is your personal comfort in writing. Your pens have to be light and have a barrel suitable to your hand.
I still use the Cross Calais Fountain Pen that I got from my parents when I graduated from university. It has an excellent nib and great ink flow, so I can write some extra fine lines. It’s very easy to use.
And you know what?
With perfect calligraphy pens and my skills nowadays, I’m sure that my teacher would be proud of me. Who knows, maybe one day my handwriting finds its place on some throne.
You may be wondering where to begin looking for genuine, high-quality, elegant pens.
If you can’t choose one pen as a gift, then try a pen set.