I sneak brush pen calligraphy into every (dip pen) modern calligraphy workshop that I teach. I do that for a couple of reasons: first of all, brush pens respond beautifully to pressure. If you exert pressure on a downstroke, the brush pen makes a gorgeously thick stroke. Let up on pressure, and the brush pen makes a delicate thin stroke. Learning this principle with a brush pen leads to success with a dip pen, which is also responsive to pressure!
The second reason I provide workshop participants with a brush pen is because I’m hoping that they will fall in love with brush pens like I have. I proudly count myself as a fan of both dip pen calligraphy and brush pen calligraphy; and I know that if you try writing with a brush pen, you will love it, too. That’s why I’ve spent the last couple of months developing a new worksheet set — TPK’s first ever premium brush pen learning resource — to help you establish and hone your brush pen skills!
What is a Brush Pen?
A brush pen is essentially a marker with a very flexible, tapered tip. That tapered tip allows you to write calligraphy that features sumptuously thick downstrokes and delicate upstrokes.
There are perhaps thousands of different types of brush pens available, and you can start learning brush pen calligraphy with whatever you have access to. That said, if possible, I would recommend starting with the Sakura Pigma MB (available on Paper & Ink Arts and Amazon). It has a firm but flexible medium tip that is tolerant as you learn how to regulate your pressure exertion. (As a side note, my personal favorite brush pens are Tombows, but their super flexible tips can be difficult to work with if you’re just starting out!)
Learning Brush Pen Calligraphy
I love posting brush pen videos on social media because of the fluid, fun writing process. For example, this “Happy Thanksgiving” video, posted on Facebook and Instagram last week, shows how quickly and beautifully brush pens can write.
Videos like those make brush pen calligraphy look deceptively easy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from teaching workshops, it’s that the initial rendezvous with brush pen calligraphy can be frustrating! The first hurdle is the specialized grip that brush pens require. Once you’ve mastered that grip, you still need to figure out how to exert and let up on pressure, and you have to train yourself to regularly pick up your pen as you write.
With that in mind, the Kaitlin Style brush pen calligraphy worksheet set was created. If you already own a TPK dip pen worksheet set, you’ll find that the format is similar. You start by reading about supplies and techniques, then the worksheet guides you through practicing. First, you practice strokes, then letters/numbers, and, finally, words. Every step of the way, the worksheet reminds you what direction to move your pen, how much pressure to exert, and when to pick up the pen.
This set stands out from other TPK worksheets in that it includes introduction videos. In the first video, you’ll learn about different brush pen types so you can decide which is best for you. The second video explains how to grip the brush pen (for both right- and left-handed people). The third video teaches you how to pick up your pen as you write, and the fourth video offers a detailed introduction to the worksheet set and how to use it.
This worksheet set also includes Intensive Alphabet Practice and Intensive Word Practice sections. These sections exist to ensure that you have access to additional guided practice as needed! Like all TPK worksheets, this worksheet set is printable so you can access it anytime, from anywhere. I recommend printing it on 32# laserjet paper, but you could use regular printer paper — the regular paper will just wear down your pen tip a bit faster.
Differences Between the Kaitlin Style Dip Pen Worksheet and the Kaitlin Style Brush Pen Worksheet
The Kaitlin Style dip pen calligraphy worksheet remains the most popular on the TPK website. It’s a whimsical and artistic way to write, and I wanted to make it accessible to brush pen learners! That’s why I created this new worksheet set. Next year, I would like to develop brush pen versions of the other TPK dip pen styles as well.
If you already own the Kaitlin Style dip pen calligraphy worksheet set, this worksheet set will still be helpful to you. That’s because most of this worksheet’s focus is on learning how to use a brush pen in general! Here are key differences between brush pen calligraphy and dip pen calligraphy:
- Grip – When you write with a brush pen, your grip is different than the grip you use with a dip pen. You essentially hold the pen off to the side.
- You pick up the pen more – As a brush pen beginner, it’s easiest to achieve stroke contrast by picking up your pen several times while writing. This worksheet set walks you through when to pick up the pen, which is the main goal of the Stroke Reference Sheet. For example, in dip pen calligraphy, you pick up your pen twice when making an A”. In brush pen calligraphy, you pick up the pen four times!
- Letterforms are less delicate – In dip pen calligraphy, letters can be more detailed and feature more components. Brush pen calligraphy cannot be as detailed because the lettering is thicker and larger. You’ll notice that, as a result, certain Kaitlin Style letters look different in brush pen calligraphy versus dip pen calligraphy! This is also the reason that the Kaitlin Style dip pen “1, 2, 3 Rule” does not appear in brush pen calligraphy. If you use three closely-spaced imaginary lines to help your strokes dip, stroke dips are imperceptible. It’s better to just alternate strokes in every other letter, as this worksheet set will teach you how to do.
Effectively, while the two versions of the Kaitlin Style worksheets focus on teaching the same general calligraphy style, the worksheet sets are not the same. One will teach you dip pen calligraphy, and the other will teach you brush pen calligraphy!
Uses for Brush Pen Calligraphy
Brush pens come in a variety of tip sizes, so you can use them for many different projects. Some great implementations include mail art, like the piece below created with a 027 Tombow brush pen and a dip pen and walnut ink.
I also love making signs with brush pens! I used a hand-drawn banner and Kaitlin Style brush pen calligraphy to make the “welcome” sign pictured below. Last week, we incorporated the banner into our Thanksgiving table decorations!
Finally, if you have small children, using brush pens can be a fun way to bond with them. Dip pen practice with a toddler is an ink spill waiting to happen, but s/he can “practice” using brush pens with you! My niece felt special getting her own worksheet page as her mom tested out the beta version of the worksheet.
And if the toddler’s attention isn’t captured by the lettering? The nice thing about brush pens is their versatility. Your little one can simply turn over the page and use the brush pen to draw!
No matter what your motivation for learning brush pen calligraphy, it’s a skill that you’ll appreciate having. You can find details and purchase information about the new worksheet set by clicking here. There’s also a free basic brush pen worksheet available here. In the meantime, stay tuned for Friday’s blog post, which will feature a brush pen version of the Not Your Average Calligraphy Drills sheet!
Thanks very much for reading; I feel so lucky to have you as a guest on the TPK website!