If you want to give someone the gift of learning calligraphy — even if that someone is you — then you’ll appreciate this post! In it, you’ll learn which supplies comprise a basic, high-quality calligraphy starter kit. If you want to go beyond the basics, the post also contains suggestions for additional fun purchases that…
Modern calligraphy is a fun and useful hobby; there are few people out there who won’t appreciate a beautifully addressed envelope or a neatly written note! Many people would like to learn how to create swoon-worthy lettering, but the vast number of calligraphy supplies available may make the pastime intimidating for a calligraphy beginner. So, if you’re a beginner or if you know a beginner, this post is for you! In it, you’ll learn about supplies you can buy to make for a smooth and enjoyable introduction to this wonderful art.
Base Supplies (to Make a Starter Kit)
There are six base calligraphy supplies that I recommend, which are pictured here:
I’ll expound on all six supplies below, but for simplicity’s sake, I have made a list with hyperlinks:
Any pen, such as a ballpoint or gel pen (this hasn’t been hyperlinked because I am certain you have one at home!)
I really mean that you can use any pen — or pencil, for that matter. It’s easiest for a calligraphy beginner to start his or her learning with a familiar instrument! That’s why all of the Learn Calligraphy worksheets (like the Amy Style sheet pictured below) begin with a “faux calligraphy” section. Practicing “faux calligraphy“, or calligraphy created with a regular pen, helps to build up muscle memory that will come in handy when you’re ready to start using a dip pen!
The faux calligraphy technique can be created with any pen, but I, personally, prefer to use gel pens such as the Pentel Energel and the Pilot G2. Both pens fill in downstrokes very nicely!
2. Straight Holder
It really doesn’t matter what straight holder you purchase as long as you are comfortable using it! Generally, straight holders are cheap and long-lasting.
For comprehensive information that will help you decide which straight holder to purchase, you can take a look at the A Guide to Straight Calligraphy Pens blog post. If you’d like a solid recommendation without having to weigh pros and cons, though, I’d recommend the Manuscript straight pen … it’s what I provide to learners when I teach workshops, and I often use it myself!
3. Nikko G Nib
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you are probably tired of me getting up on my soapbox about how great the Nikko G nib is for beginners!
The truth of the matter is this: the Nikko G is a nib that stands up admirably to growing pains. It will faithfully serve any calligraphy beginner as he or she works through figuring out how much pressure to exert and what angle to hold the nib at! To learn more about why I think the Nikko G is the best beginner calligraphy nib, you can read this blog post. If you’re sitting here going, “Yeah, OK, I’ll take your word for it,” then you can purchase one here.
4. 32# Laserjet Paper
For a long time, I recommended Rhodia pads to practice writing calligraphy on because they are super-smooth. I still love Rhodia, but upon acting on a friend’s recommendation and trying 32# laserjet paper, I love it even more than Rhodia. I use HP laserjet paper, but I would imagine that any other brand of 32# laserjet paper would work perfectly as well!
Mainly, I love laserjet paper because it’s a lot cheaper per page than Rhodia is and it’s just as smooth and effective. As an added bonus, it’s the very best thing you can print any of the Learn Calligraphy worksheets on! You can practice to your heart’s content without worrying about wasting expensive paper.
Like Rhodia, 32# laserjet paper is wonderful for a calligraphy beginner because it’s nice and smooth: the fibers in the paper are dense, so your nib will slide right over them without catching! Another perk of the dense fibers is your ink won’t bleed. You can see in the calligraphy doodles photo above that all the letters are crisp and clear!
5. Sumi or India Ink
Both sumi and India ink are fantastic for beginners. The inks feature a smooth viscosity that is neither too watery nor too thick. That just-right viscosity is key for a calligraphy beginner!
I generally write with Yasutomo sumi ink (this ink was used to create the Kaitlin Style calligraphy above); I love it because it dries nice and matte, and flows smoothly out of the nib. For India ink, I just use good ol’ Speedball! It gets the job done beautifully and is widely available at art supply stores. You really will be fine using either ink, but if you’d like more information on both inks before you make a decision, you can read Black Inks Comparison Part I and Black Inks Comparison Part II.
6. TPK Calligraphy Worksheet of Your Choice
I get a lot of questions about which printable TPK calligraphy worksheet I would recommend to a calligraphy beginner, and, really, the answer is any one of them. If you’re enthusiastic about the style , then you’ll learn it better! That said, if the learner were truly indifferent, I would recommend the Amy Style worksheet and its accompanying video course. (Don’t forget: worksheets can be printed off on any paper, but I like them best printed on 32# laserjet paper; they’re easier to write on that way!)
I like the Amy for beginners because it can easily be created with a straight pen (versus an oblique pen, which you’ll read about here in a few paragraphs). It’s great for learners because it’s a style that doesn’t have any slant; oftentimes, scripts with slants can cause frustration. And, really, Amy Style calligraphy is lovely! Check out how it shines in the envelope below:
If you’re not quite convinced, you are welcome to begin with any of the other styles — the Kaitlin is my personal favorite. To read a comparison of all the worksheet styles, you can check out these two blog posts:
The supplies outlined above represent a cost-effective, entirely useful list of everything you’ll need to get started. That said, like any activity, calligraphy has a lot of optional bells and whistles that can spice up your routine and make your lettering more fun! Here are some next-level supplies that will appeal to any calligraphy enthusiast:
I have written a lot about oblique pens throughout the TPK blog because I love using them! They provide a writing angle that is perfect for creating right-leaning styles. This goes for left-handed folks, too — but remember to purchase a left oblique pen if you are a leftie!
While I find these pens to be incredibly useful, I recommend them as a “next level” supply because they can be a little bit tricky to learn how to use at first. To learn more about why oblique pens exist and how to use them, you can check out this blog post.
2. Pretty Envelopes
Having nice, high-quality envelopes to work with can make calligraphy creation even more enjoyable! After all, one of the best implementations for calligraphy and lettering is mail art.
There are just about a zillion different kinds of inks out there, and all inks are lovable for different reasons. For example, the Janet Style envelope below was created with Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White ink. This ink is wonderfully opaque on dark paper!
You can also use metallic inks like Lumiere to spice things up! Lumiere looks one way when it’s not exposed to direct sunlight …
… But give it some light to play with, and it glows!
Anyway, you get the point: there are a lot of inks to experiment with! You can read more about some of my favorites in this collection of blog posts.
4. Calligraphy Books
Pinterest is a fantastic source of inspiration, but sometimes nothing compares to having a physical book to flip through! There are so many wonderful calligraphy books out there; my current two favorites are Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe and Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy by Eleanor Winters. For a super-amazing mix of lettering and illustration inspiration, I am totally in love with Flow Magazine (pictured below).
Flow is pricey, but more than worth the cost for all of its fantastic content. Plus, there are no advertisements to distract you, which is really refreshing!
I know we talk a lot about calligraphy supplies here on the TPK blog, and you have probably seen some of this information before. Still, I hope you found it informative! I’d like to end this post by providing you with a list of online shops where you can purchase supplies no matter what corner of the world you are in. If you have any additional feedback on retailers, please feel free to contribute! This is by no means a comprehensive list. 🙂