Recommended Calligraphy Supplies for Beginners

Photo by Cat Carty Buswell

Today I'd love to share with all of the budding calligraphers out there some of my favorite tools! Every calligrapher is different and will have their own preferences, but if you are just starting out here are some of the products I'd recommend giving a whirl.

Some things to remember:

  • Not every tool will be perfect for every project. Some papers will be too thick or textured for certain nibs, some inks will need thickening or thinning depending on the surface you are writing on, etc. Everything requires a little trial and error to get right!
  • These are just one woman's suggestions and I haven't tried every single product out there!

Ok, here we go!

INKS

  • Moon Palace Sumi Ink - this ink is black, shiny and smooth and works on most anything!
  • Dr. Martin's Bleed Proof White - this ink comes very thick, so you'll need to add a little distilled water to get it to the right consistency. I love how opaque it is.
  • Finetec Palettes - I love to use these for small gold projects or to add to other gold ink to give it a little more dimension and shine.
  • Daniel Smith Walnut Ink - This is one of my favorite practice inks. 
  • Holbein Gouache - This is my brand of choice for any color of gouache to make my own ink.

NIBS

  • Nikko G - This is a stiff nib that gives a really nice hairline. On larger projects your hand can get tired a little faster as you have to work a little harder on your downstrokes than you would on a more flexible nib, but for the most part I love it and use it all the time!
  • Hunt 101 - This nib is much more flexible but still gives very nice hairlines. This is my most frequently used nib!
  • Gillott 404
  • Brause EF 66 - This nib is super tiny - you'll have to adjust the flange on your oblique holder to a much tighter size to fit it in!

OTHER

  • Artograph Lightpad - I use this on envelopes and other projects using light paper that I can see through. This way I can use a template and follow the lines without having to draw on the paper!
  • Slider Writer - For projects on dark paper I often use the slider writer to create straight lines without having to draw on the paper.
  • Staedtler Mars White Plastic Eraser - A simple thing, but having an eraser that doesn't leave weird streaks on your projects (hence ruining them and making you sad), is a must.
  • Blackwing Pencils - These pencils are super soft and luxurious. Their erasers kind of stink, but it's still worth it. They aren't great for sketching out on the actual paper you plan to write on as they can be difficult to erase, but they are wonderful for sketching otherwise.
  • Gum Arabic - A must have for ink thickening and binding. I use a couple drops every time I make my own ink from gouache to get the right consistency!

RESOURCES

  • IAMPETH - The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting. The offer a TON of resources for calligraphers as well as an annual conference.
  • Michigan Association of Calligraphers - For my local Michigan friends, you need to check this out! Classes and social events with other calligraphers are listed as well as other fun resources. It's easy and cheap to become a member!
  • Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy by Eleanor Winters - If you are interested in learning Copperplate Calligraphy I highly recommend this book. It is extremely thorough!

PLACES TO SHOP

I'm all about shopping your local art supply store if you have one - so first do a quick Google to see if you have any specialty stores in town that may carry what you need! Here in Ann Arbor we have a great shop called Hollander's that carries a ton of amazing paper and a small section of calligraphy supplies. There are also great art store chains like Dick Blick and Utrecht that should carry most of this stuff. For those of you needing to order online (which let's be honest, I do most of the time!) here are some great choices:

Is there anything you are wondering about that I haven't listed here? Please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail and I'd be happy to help!