The most frequently asked question any calligrapher gets to their DMs is a frantic “what pen is this???”. There are so many tools and brush pens out there, so here’s a round-up of the supplies that I always have stocked in my home studio.
Disclaimer: This supply list includes Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases, to support creating further resources like this one. Thanks a million! That being said, I will never suggest supplies that I do not personally use and fully recommend.
Best Calligraphy Brush Pens
THE SMALL-TIPPED BRUSH PEN
I always recommend starting with a small-tipped brush pen when learning on your own, or at one of my virtual calligraphy workshops. Small-tipped pens are perfect for more traditional calligraphy, place cards, envelope addressing, and more.
The Tombow Fudenosuke (hard tip) brush pen is one of my favourite brush pen out there. It’s the first brush pen I ever used, and it’s great for beginners. Because the tip is a little more inflexible than the soft tip or other brush pens, it’s a lot easier to control for someone who is new to calligraphy, and it also can create really beautiful thin strokes that are similar to the dip pen calligraphy style.
Another great option for a small-tipped pen with arguably a much more pleasing and smoother glide, is the Pentel Sign Pen. Less rigid, and with a “juicy”‘ finish, this is one of my go-to pens at the moment.
TOMBOW DUAL BRUSH PEN
The Tombow Dual Brush Pen is the next step if you want to create larger, more colourful pieces. Just like the Fudenosuke, they’re water-based, which means you can even use them for watercolour projects (like watercolour place cards – tutorial to come!)
Calligraphy Dip Pens
Here’s the truth: I practiced brush pen calligraphy for a solid year before I moved on to dip pens. No word of a lie. It wasn’t for lack of trying — but every time I picked up a nib and holder, it was a messy disaster. I had no idea what I was doing, and didn’t realize that while the basic mechanics are the same, there are some characteristics of the steel nib that make it hard to rush into your practice. That being said, there are some really amazing effects you can achieve with a dip pen that just aren’t the same with brush pens. For example, opaque white ink on dark paper, or gold/iridescent inks.
It can also be more expensive than the brush pen option, because rather than just one simple brush pen, it requires purchasing three tools:
- A steel nib (which is dipped into the ink)
- A nib holder (what you hold when dipping and writing)
- Your ink!
BEST BEGINNER CALLIGRAPHY NIB: THE NIKKO G NIB
There are so many different kinds of nibs out there, but the trusty Nikko G is the best one to start with. It has medium flexibility and is very forgiving for beginner calligraphers.
BEST PEN HOLDER: THE MOBLIQUE 2-IN-1
With this holder, you get the benefit of an oblique and a straight pen holder in one, AND you can even store a couple of nibs inside it. So handy!
Best Paper to Use for Calligraphy
HP PREMIUM 32LB COPY PAPER
As a fellow pen and paper addict enthusiast, it is so easy to obsess over finding the highest quality materials – but please don’t break the bank. This heavier, smoother printer paper is delightfully smooth, won’t fray your brush pens quickly and is a more affordable alternative to another one of my favourites, the Rhodia pad (which, don’t get me wrong, makes for a pretty delicious writing experience 😅).
The HP Premium32 Printer paper is also FSC certified – much better for our trees! So go ahead and print out those calligraphy guidelines to your heart’s content.
Using vellum or tracing paper is a great way to build muscle memory by tracing over exemplars, like the ones you’ll get in my workshops! I use tracing paper all the time so that I can see my guidelines underneath, without having to draw them and erase them afterwards.