I first picked up a dip pen in 2005. At that time, it seemed to be best suited to making squiggles because it was tough to write letters with! Fast forward a few years, though, and I saw other people using these mysterious instruments to create modern calligraphy. Flowy alphabets with a beautiful contrast abounded, and I wanted to know how to do that myself!
The dip pen can be tough to get the hang of at first! However, if you remember some key principles, you’ll be able to use it to create modern calligraphy in a matter of minutes. In this short tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a simple calligraphed piece using your dip pen and ink.
1. Get a Straight Dip Pen, Ink, and a Nikko G Nib
You can find a straight dip pen at virtually any art supply store. Just a cheapie Speedball black plastic pen will work for this tutorial! As far as ink goes, if you can snag some sumi, that’s a great choice, but India ink works just as well.
If you’re not familiar with using a dip pen, I recommend that you use the Nikko G nib (or any other manga nib, like a Zebra G or Tachikawa G) for this tutorial. These are all semi-flexible nibs, meaning that they won’t respond dramatically to any pressure you put on the pen. That’s a good thing for beginners, who, when faced with a flexible nib, will often apply pressure to the wrong part of the nib, which causes discouraging ink flow issues.
Helpful resources for this step: For a list of international calligraphy supply merchants, you can click here. To learn how to assemble a dip pen, you can click here.
2. Draft Your Calligraphy on a Piece of Paper
First, pull out a calligraphy-friendly piece of paper. You can find a list of some of the best calligraphy papers in this article — because not all papers are created equally! Once you’ve got your piece of paper, cut it to 5” x 7” (127 mm x 178 mm), which is a nice, framable size. Use a pencil to draw three pairs of equally-spaced horizontal guidelines and one vertical, centered guideline.
For this next step, remember that you’re creating your own modern calligraphy — there are no rules here! Pull out your pencil, then write on your horizontal guidelines using either a larger version of your own cursive style, or you can mimic a different writing style (I am using Kaitlin Style calligraphy below). Write “Paris is Always” on the first line, “a Good Idea” on the second line, and “- Audrey Hepburn” on the third line.
Helpful resources for this step: How to Make Your Own Calligraphy Styles, What *Is* Modern Calligraphy, A Creative Calligraphy Challenge, How to Make Calligraphy Quote Art
3. Go Over Your Draft with Your Dip Pen
If you have never used a dip pen, know that there’s just a bit of a learning curve. You can find details in The Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy, but here’s what to remember in a nutshell:
- Dip the pen in ink to just above the middle hole in the nib (the “vent”), and give the pen a firm shake to encourage excess ink off.
- Maintain a 45 degree-ish angle between the paper and the pen
- Always exert even pressure to both tines of the nib; do not apply more pressure to one side or the other.
I filmed myself going over this calligraphy so you can see exactly how I do it. If you’re having trouble viewing the video below, you can watch it on YouTube!
Once you’re finished, let the calligraphy dry. This should only take 2-5 minutes if you used sumi or India ink.
Helpful resources for this step: The Lowdown on Calligraphy Nibs (to learn nib anatomy), The Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy, The Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course
4. Erase Your Pencil Guidelines
Firmly hold down your calligraphy with one hand while you use gently erase the pencil guidelines on your piece. Be especially careful around the edges of the paper — if you rub too vigorously, the edges have a tendency to crinkle and fold!
Feel free to display your calligraphy on a bulletin board, frame it, or send it off as a piece of mail art. However you choose to use it, be proud that you took the time and had the patience to use a dip pen to create this modern calligraphy. It’s not an easy — or common — writing instrument to use, so know that what you just did is interesting, artistic, and special!
I hope that this post was helpful to you as an introduction to using a dip pen for creating modern calligraphy! Once you’ve created one piece with a dip pen, you can always create more. Next time, maybe try making some mail art! The more you write, the more you’ll be impressed with your own skills, so don’t hesitate to practice and experiment.
Thanks very much for reading TPK and have a great week!