One of the hardest things for beginners is figuring out which calligraphy tools they need. I get loads of questions about which calligraphy supplies I use myself, and which I would recommend. Over the years I’ve tried many modern calligraphy tools from different companies, and while what works well can be a very personal thing specific to each calligrapher, there are some that I would always recommend. Today I’m sharing my list of essentials.
Before I get into this list, just a reminder that I have a set of beautiful, ready-made Beginners Calligraphy Kits now available in the shop. If you’re interested in learning calligraphy but don’t have the time to attend an in-person workshop, you’ll love these!
Pen Holder & Nib
The most fundamental modern calligraphy tools are your nib and holder. A pen nib is the metal tip that holds the ink, and it fits inside the holder. When you’re starting out with learning calligraphy, it’s best to try out a selection of different nibs to find one that you like. Everyone writes differently, and since each nib has a different amount of flexibility, what feels good for one person may not suit another. A good place to start is with the Nikko G nib, which is extremely versatile, which is why I decided to include them in my Beginners Calligraphy Kits. You can buy nib selection kits online and I’d highly recommend getting one of these to try a few so you can choose the one that works best for how you write and also the material you intend to write on.
Each pen holder is also a different shape and style, so try a few out to see what works for you. You can choose between straight and oblique holders, and they come in plastic, metal or wood. Plastic holders are affordable and durable, so they’re great for beginners. You’ll find a Speedball straight holder in my BRONZE kit, Speedball straight and oblique holders in my SILVER kit, and both of these plus a Manuscript straight holder in my GOLD kit.
When you are just starting out, the most important thing is to use a good quality ink that flows well and doesn’t clog up your nib, like Higgins black ink. You can either make ink yourself using gauche and distilled water, or buy it ready-made. I personally prefer ready-made simply for ease, and because there are so many colours available! I buy pretty much all of my inks from Oh Wonder Calligraphy as there are so many different colours to choose from (and I like to shop small!)
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start playing with different colours and textures of ink (my GOLD kit includes both white and black ink plus a gold acrylic ink which works well on the agate slices).
Paper is of course very important to a calligrapher, and as a beginner you’ll need to do lots (ond lots!) of practice! Get yourself a good quality practice pad. My go-to is the Rhoda pads, which are available in a variety of options including plain, lined, or dotted papers making it easier for writing lines of drills. They also scan really well if you plan to digitise your calligraphy.
Envelope Drying Racks
While not a necessity for beginners, envelope drying racks are one of my favourite modern calligraphy tools. They’re great for lining up cards if you’re writing lots of them, and allow time for drying between each one without taking up lots of space on the table! If you’re learning calligraphy to write your own wedding place cards, for example, then an envelope drying rack could be a useful investment.
Envelope Guide or Laser Level
If you’re hand lettering envelopes with multiple lines of text, an envelope guide or laser level is a brilliant tool for making sure your writing stays in a straight (ish!) line. My favourite is a laser level and you can get these for around £5 on eBay so well worth a purchase!