• About the Oblique Calligraphy Pen

    In this article, you’ll find out what the oblique calligraphy pen is and how it can benefit you — especially if you’re right-handed. We’ll go over different grips you can use, what kind of pen to purchase, and how to take care of your pen once you start using it!

    About the Oblique Calligraphy Pen
    The right oblique calligraphy pen is mostly helpful for right-handed calligraphers of all skill levels. (Left-handed people may or may not benefit from an oblique pen.)

    When I first developed an interest in calligraphy, I looked at a lot of calligraphy photos online. Those photos featured a recurring theme: a strange-looking pen with a “thing” sticking out of its side. After some Googling, I found out that the “thing” is called a “flange”, and the pen is called an “oblique calligraphy pen”.

    About the Oblique Calligraphy Pen: The Video

    If you have time, I recommend watching the video below to learn about the oblique calligraphy pen and how to use it:

    About the Oblique Calligraphy Pen: The Article

    Today’s article endeavors to answer basic questions about oblique pens. What is an oblique calligraphy pen, how do you write with it, which oblique pen should you use … these are all questions that I wish someone could have answered for me in 2012! I hope that this post clears up any confusion you have about the oblique calligraphy pen, and that it will help you to discover an invaluable tool to add to your collection.

    1. What Is an Oblique Calligraphy Pen?

    In order to successfully create calligraphy, you need to fulfill two requirements. First, your nib must remain parallel to the writing slant that you wish to achieve. Second, you have to exert balanced, even pressure on both tines of the nib. Right-handed people may have a difficult time meeting these requirements with a straight pen. After all, our arm is on the right and has to go to the left to write!

    Writing Kaitlin Style Calligraphy with an Oblique Calligraphy Pen
    It’s usually easiest for right-handed people to create calligraphy with a slant (like Kaitlin Style, shown here) if we use an oblique calligraphy pen.

    Most calligraphy has a right-leaning (55 degree or so) slant, and “righties” can have a hard time achieving that slant with a straight calligraphy pen. Don’t get me wrong: it can be done. As a right-handed person, you can rotate your paper and experiment with your posture and grip to achieve that right-leaning slant. However, righties will probably find it much easier to use an oblique pen versus a straight pen.

    2. How Do You Write with an Oblique Calligraphy Pen?

    If you’re interested in writing with an oblique calligraphy pen, I show you exactly how to use it in the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course videos! However, I’ll also summarize here:

    The Traditional Grip

    Calligraphy purists will say that there’s only one grip to use with the oblique pen. This grip involves putting your index finger on the top of the pen and letting the tip of your thumb rest just above the flange.

    Holding the Oblique Calligraphy Pen the Traditional Way
    If you want to use a traditional grip, put your index finger on top of the pen. The tip of your thumb should make contact with the edge of the flange.

    Alternate Traditional Grip

    If you have long thumbnails or the traditional grip doesn’t work for you, you can rest the left side of your thumb on the flange. You then use your index finger and your thumb to “pinch” the barrel of the pen in a three-point grip, and your other three fingers stay under the pen.

    The "Long Fingernails" Grip
    I am not a purist when it comes to a lot of elements of calligraphy! For that reason, I use a grip on my oblique pens that suits me.

    The “Uniquely You” Grip

    If both of the grips described above don’t work for you, you should feel free to experiment with your own grip. Try holding the pen further up on the barrel, for example. Whatever technique gets you comfortable with writing calligraphy is perfect!

    The "Uniquely You" Grip
    Don’t be afraid to experiment with your grip until you figure out what is right for you!

    3. Which Oblique Pen Should You Use?

    You should use a brass-flanged oblique pen that’s fitted specifically for the nib that you wish to write with. Try not to use a plastic-flanged oblique pen, no matter how tempting the price! You can find out why in the 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Plastic Oblique Pen article. I exclusively stock brass-flanged obliques in the TPK Supplies Shop.

    Oblique Calligraphy Pen | The Postman's Knock
    This oblique calligraphy pen is fitted for a Nikko G nib. It can also fit nibs that are of a similar size to the Nikko G. However, it won’t fit other shapes of nibs like the tiny Brause EF66.

    You may be wondering: how do you know which nib you want to use (and therefore, which oblique pen to purchase)? Well, I’d try out a variety of nibs in a straight pen first, and designate a favorite from there. Buy an oblique pen based on whichever nib — or nibs — that you like. I, personally, use my Brause EF66 oblique pen 99% of the time. Honestly: you’ll find that you only really need one oblique pen, maybe two, maximum.

    4. Are Oblique Pens Suitable for Lefties?

    Most left-handed people actually have an advantage when it comes to calligraphy. You see, as a lefty, you’re coming from the left and moving to the right. If you can keep your hand under your calligraphy, it’s much easier for you to make a right-leaning slant than it is for a typical right-handed person.

    5 Tips for Creating Left-Handed Calligraphy (From a Lefty!) | The Postman's Knock
    If you’re left-handed, check out the article 5 Tips for Creating Left-Handed Calligraphy (From a Lefty!).

    That said, there are some lefties who find it uncomfortable to write with a straight pen. In that case, a left oblique pen may really help! Throughout the course of teaching in-person workshops, I found that 10% or so of lefty students connected best with a left oblique pen. Usually, these were lefties who write with a hook when using a regular pen, or lefties who tended to uncomfortably contort their bodies while writing to get a proper angle. You can learn more about writing with a straight pen and an oblique pen as a lefty if you watch this 5 minute video by (left-handed) calligrapher John DeCollibus.

    5. How to Keep Your Oblique Pen Clean

    The brass flange on your oblique pen will last for years … as long as you keep ink and water out of it! There’s really no reason that liquid should get up in the pen because you shouldn’t dip the pen in ink past the reservoir (the hole in the middle of the nib). The same goes with water! When you swish the pen off, water should only make contact with the nib, not the calligraphy pen.

    Dipping the oblique pen in sumi ink
    The number one secret for keeping your oblique pen in mint condition? Don’t let any moisture — ink, water, whatever — get up in the flange!

    For more information on keeping your oblique calligraphy pen in mint condition, you can check out the How to Take Care of Your Calligraphy Pen article! To reiterate, though, the main secret is to keep moisture in any form away from the pen itself.

    6. Conclusion

    As a right-handed person, I almost exclusively use an oblique calligraphy pen. There are three exceptions. First, if I’m writing a straight up and down calligraphy style (like the Amy), I don’t need the right-leaning slant advantage that the oblique pen gives me. Second, I like to use straight pens for hand-lettering. Finally, I enjoy using straight pens to create pen and ink illustrations like the illustrated lace butterfly.

    Morgan Style Free Hand-Lettering Exemplar | The Postman's Knock
    Amy Style calligraphy (“Lesley Rothschild“) has no slant to it, so it’s easiest to create with a straight calligraphy pen. The hand-lettering on this envelope is Morgan Style, which I also like to write with a straight pen!

    If you are right-handed, you’ll probably love the oblique pen! I encourage you to give it a try. It may be confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can be a game-changer. For detailed instructions over how to use it + troubleshooting information, you can check out the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course. If you’re a lefty, stick with your straight pen if you’re happy with it. If you’re not, try a left oblique! It just may be the calligraphy tool that you’ve been searching for.

    I hope that you enjoyed this article! Hopefully it serves to clear up confusion or guide you to your new favorite calligraphy tool. For further reading, I recommend Dr. Joseph Vitolo’s article Demystifying the Oblique Penholder. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock

    This article was first posted in August of 2018. It has been updated to include a video and clearer information.