Looking to improve your calligraphy skills? Focus on maximizing the potential of your pointed pen nibs! Heed the tips in today’s article, and you’ll be amazed at how much more enjoyable and stress-free your calligraphy practice can be.
1. Find the Pointed Pen Nib That’s Right for You/Your Project
It’s always good to have quite a few different pointed pen calligraphy nibs on hand to suit your ever-evolving skill level and the project you’re working on. Here are my recommendations:
- Nikko G – Good for calligraphy beginners and those who tend to write with a heavy hand. A Nikko is also great for making delicate-looking calligraphy without a ton of stroke contrast. (Read more about the Nikko G nib here.)
- Brause EF66 – The tiny Brause Extra Fine 66 nib is great for those who have mastered how to exert pressure on a nib. It is suitable for calligraphy projects that require considerable stroke contrast. (Read more about the EF66 nib here. Additional troubleshooting tips can be found here.)
- Brause Rose – The Brause Rose nib is not for beginners, but it’s great for those who want to make projects with LOTS of stroke contrast. (Read more about the Rose nib here.)
- Brause Steno (“Blue Pumpkin”) – The Blue Pumpkin won’t give you delicate strokes, so it’s nice if you want your calligraphy to look a bit bold. (Read more about the Blue Pumpkin nib here.)
- Tachikawa T-99 Maru Crowquill – While not technically a pointed pen nib, a crowquill is handy to have around for when you want to create small, elegant characters. (Read more about crowquill nibs and their applications here.)
2. Remove Oily Residue from New Pointed Pen Nibs
Nib manufacturers put oily substances on nibs to ensure that the nibs don’t rust or turn brittle in pre-sale storage. When you try to use a new nib, however, you will find that oil and ink don’t mix! The resulting ink flow issues can be quite frustrating. Luckily, it’s easy to get rid of nib oils. Among other methods, you can stick your nib in a potato, wait fifteen minutes, and take the nib out.
3. Find the Right Pen for You/Your Project
Once your nibs are clean, you need to choose the right pen for them. In general, straight pens are useful for calligraphy/lettering that doesn’t have a slant (and illustrations), and oblique pens are best for writing calligraphy with a right-leaning slant.
Here are my pen recommendations:
- Straight pen with universal insert – This pen fits almost all nibs with the exception of round-barreled nibs such as the crowquill. For insertion instructions, see this video. This pen is good for calligraphy with an upright slant (e.g. Amy Style), illustrations, and hand lettering.
- Tachikawa T40 Straight Pen – The T40 fits select nibs, and it’s especially nice for the Maru Crowquill. People love its cushy grip. Don’t try it with a Brause Rose; the nib will slip right out because of its thin shanks. All other nibs mentioned in this article will fit. The T40’s applications mirror those of the simple straight pen.
- Oblique pen – Oblique pens are good for right-handed writers who want to create calligraphy with a right-leaning slant. Be sure to purchase an oblique pen that is fitted for the nib that you want to use! For more information, see this article.
- If you’re a lefty, you’ll likely be fine using a straight pen for all applications. See this article to learn more.
4. Pay Heed to Good Writing Practices
Your pointed pen nibs will enjoy a long and useful life if you write with foundational calligraphy principles in mind. Namely, as you’re writing, you should apply balanced, even pressure to both tines of the nib. Don’t exert too much pressure on the nib, especially if the nib is flexible, because that can break it.
5. Keep Your Pointed Pen Nibs Clean
It’s important to clean off your pointed pen nibs during and between practice sessions. As you’re using the nibs, try your very best not to get ink nor water in the pen itself. Otherwise, the moisture can act as a glue and/or cause the nib to rust. Once you’re finished writing for the day, swish the nib in water and use a non-fibrous cloth to dry it off.
For detailed cleaning tips, see the article below:
READ “A GUIDE TO CLEANING CALLIGRAPHY NIBS”
6. Safely Store Your Pointed Pen Nibs
There’s no exact science to storing calligraphy nibs. The goal is just to keep them away from excessive moisture and harmful impacts. I generally store my nibs upright still inserted in the pen, just like this:
You can also keep your nibs in a nib tin (or a similar little container), which help to keep the little guys out of harm’s way. I don’t usually use a tin unless I’m traveling because I’m lazy when it comes to fishing out specific nibs!
7. Recognize the Signs of a Spent Nib
Pointed pen nibs are economically priced for a reason: they’re expendable. Each pointed pen nib has a limited lifespan that is impacted by how often you use it, which inks you use it with, and your general pressure exertion habits. No pointed pen nib lasts forever, and its performance will wane over time. For that reason, it’s always best to keep extras on hand.
Look out for signs like:
- Difficulty in achieving a consistent ink flow
- Visible damage or wear on the nib’s tip
- Lack of responsiveness when writing
LEARN HOW TO RECOGNIZE A “SPENT” NIB
If today’s tips make you feel excited to try out some new pointed pen nibs and pens, enter TPK’s latest giveaway! The winner will receive all of the nibs mentioned today plus a complete collection of pens (a $95 value). The giveaway is open to anyone, anywhere, and ends on
Today, you learned how to choose your perfect pointed pen nib, remove residue, pick a pen, and maintain your nibs. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll take your calligraphy practice to the next level. Of course, if you have questions or additional tips, I invite you to leave a comment. Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!