If you’re thinking about learning calligraphy or if you’ve already started down that road I thought it would be useful to share with you the tools I have in my calligraphy kit.
First off I would like to say when you are starting out you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on supplies. Don’t get swept away with all the fancy bits and pieces you see other people using, there are 4 things you need to get you started and they are;
Nib - I would recommend Nikko G for absolute beginners, you should focus on getting your strokes, shapes and drills nailed with this before moving on.
Pen Holder - straight or oblique, it’s your choice. I started on a straight one but now use an oblique. It's something I have figured out over the years that works better for me.
Ink - Higgins, eternal black ink
Paper - good quality practice paper - PLEASE do not attempt to use printer paper or standard notebook paper with a nib and ink.
I would also suggest having some kitchen roll to hand and a pot of water.
They are the basics and until you are confident with your letters and joining words I wouldn’t try and jump into anything else, just practice practice practice.
Once you’ve progressed past the basics and you are still enjoying it you might want to start building up your tool kit. Here are the pieces that I absolutely cannot live without when it comes to calligraphy...
One of the first jobs I did was place name cards for a friend’s aunties wedding, there were about 160 guests but I think I must have written 200 plus name cards! I underestimated how long they needed to dry and as I was working on the kitchen table the more I wrote the more crowded the space got and cards would overlap and inevitably smudge the ink of another card. I could have helped this with a little more patience but I was excited to get the job done. It wasn’t long after that I invested in a drying rack and I have used it so much since. Sometimes I could do with another but until I have a dedicated space for my calligraphy I’ll have to make do with one.
Mechanical pencil and good rubber
Normal pencils are great but for me a mechanical pencil saves all that sharpening time and pencil shavings. The one I’m using at the minute is the Derwent Precision 0.5mm. Also a good rubber to help get rid of those pencil marks on your final piece.
I use an old school shatterproof 30cm clear ruler which I have had for YEARS! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. This is perfect for marking out centre points and spacing on an A4 sheet as it’s the same length so no need to keep moving the ruler as you plot out your lines.
My light box has been one of the most useful tools in my kit. It broke recently and I had to do a few bespoke pieces without it and I realised how much more time consuming it is. People use them in different ways but for me I use it to avoid too many pencil marks on my final piece of calligraphy. I always block out pencil lines and wording of a piece in advance so I know I’m happy with it before committing to ink. I place the pencil version on the light box, put the card on top for the final piece, pop the light on and write away following the guidelines underneath. It’s worth mentioning this only works with white or very light coloured paper.
I use this hand in hand with the light box or completely on it’s own if the card I’m using is too dark for the light box. It basically replaces drawing lines in pencil across your piece of card or paper. There are lots of craft ones around but I use a DIY one I picked up from B&Q.
I use an oblique pen holder, I find it helps me get a slant on my writing more than a straight one, but I know calligraphers who would say the opposite; you have to find what works for you. This year I invested in a Tom’s studio curve oblique pen holder, it’s heavier than the Moblique ones I was using which I find really benefits my writing style. Plus they are beautiful so look great on my desk and in all my photos!
Once you build up your nib collection you’re going to want something to store them in to keep them safe and avoid them getting damaged, I have a round nib tin but you could use a tupperware box or a spice jar if you have a spare one lying around the house.
I always have a supply of practice pads, ideally a blank one and a dotted one. Depending on the job I use different ones to lay out the words or just to have a little practice of a new ink or nib. Personally I use an A4 one but A5 size is useful if you want an ‘on the go’ calligraphy kit.
I hope you find that useful, I would love to know what you think and what tools you have in your kit, comment below.
I tend to get most of my supplies from one of these fab suppliers;