Today, I want to dedicate a full post to what I consider to be the best beginner calligraphy nib: the Nikko G. It’s high time this nib gets the stardom it deserves! Why? Because using the Nikko G may mean the difference between getting too frustrated with calligraphy to continue practicing, and keepin’ on keepin’ on. I am so adamant about beginners using this calligraphy nib because I did not use it as a beginner, and I wish I could have. What I had access to, instead, was the Hunt Imperial No. 101 nib (which came in a cheap calligraphy kit), pictured below.
Obviously, the Hunt Imperial No. 101 continues to be manufactured for a reason; it’s not a bad nib, by any means. The Imperial has a lot of flex, meaning the tines readily spread apart when you exert pressure on them. For beginners, however, this delicate and hyper-responsive flex can translate into tines getting caught on paper fibers and spattering ink. The video below compares the delicate Hunt Imperial No. 101 nib to the Nikko G, as well as provides a more detailed explanation of why I wish I would have had access to the Nikko G from the get-go. (If you cannot see the video, you may watch it on Vimeo by clicking here.)
You might wonder why I didn’t purchase a Nikko G to start out with. When I started learning modern calligraphy four years ago, there wasn’t much quality information out there for beginners. Everything was targeted to advanced learners/seasoned pros, so I had a hard time finding relevant, non-intimidating advice. In fact, I really had no idea that there was any significant difference between calligraphy nibs. Had I known then what I know now, I would have ordered the items detailed in the Ultimate Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit post, and saved myself from buying calligraphy tools (namely: pre-assembled kits) that I didn’t really need.
I’ll be honest with you: the Nikko G is not my number one favorite nib. (The Brause EF66 is!) But: I do think it’s important that you start with the Nikko G if you are a beginner because it will help you to learn all the basics of calligraphy. It’s a strong nib, which means that it’s going to serve you well as you figure out the kinks in applying pressure to the nib.
One really nice advantage of the Nikko G versus some other nibs is it holds quite a bit of ink, which means you won’t have to re-dip quite so often (as opposed to using a smaller nib like the Brause EF66). Re-dipping can get tedious and discouraging, especially if you’re just starting out.
Even though the Nikko G is strong, it’s flexible. That’s pretty cool because, in my experience, strong nibs just don’t have much flexibility … which isn’t the case here. The more flexible a nib is, the more easily it’s able to make thick downstrokes as its tines spread apart, and thin upstrokes as its tines spring back together. You can see this concept in action if you watch the short video below:
The Nikko G’s versatile nature makes it ideal for learning any of the Learn Calligraphy for a Latte styles. Some of the right-slanted styles (e.g. Kaitlin, Janet) may be a bit easier to write using an oblique pen (I’m talking to both right-handed and left-handed people when I say this), but all of them can absolutely be written using a Nikko G nib in a straight holder. If you’re a beginner, I recommend you start with a straight holder, for sure. It’s much less intimidating than an oblique!
If you opt to use a straight holder, make sure your Nikko G nib and pen assembly looks like the photo below. You can see that the nib sits right below the split in the metal lip of the universal insert*. (If you’re using a plastic holder without any metal, the photo is irrelevant; you can stick the nib in anywhere).
*A “universal insert” refers to the bottom of a calligraphy pen that has a metal lip with a split (it sort of looks like the letter “C”), and metal “petals” inside the lip. If you have a pen with a universal insert, that means it can accommodate any calligraphy nib. For more information, including insertion instructions, visit The Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy.
If you are just starting out in learning modern calligraphy and want to watch the Nikko G in action, you might consider the Amy Style video course. That should make learning a bit easier as well as familiarize you with the nib more.
Another thing I really love about the Nikko G is its ability to transition from a calligraphy nib to a drawing nib. Really, if you have one, try drawing something with it — after all, it was originally intended for creating drawings/comics. I used a Nikko G nib for the drawings below, and I really enjoyed using it.
Here are some other advantages of using the Nikko G nib:
- It’s sturdy and long-lasting. No one can say for sure how long a nib will last (it depends on your usage/handling). However, I have had Nikko G nibs last for several months, up to a year. That’s not a bad $1.55 investment!
- It writes incredibly smooth, especially when paired with non-fibrous papers (such as Rhodia paper).
- The Nikko G nibs fits in just about any straight pen holder. (Compare this to, say, the Brause EF66, which won’t fit in a plastic Speedball holder).
It is, of course, risky to use adjectives like “the best”. I’m sure that not everyone will agree with me that this is the very best calligraphy nib for beginners. However, I have received feedback from learners indicating that the Nikko G revolutionized their calligraphy and confidence. A lot of these learners experienced the same problem I did: their previous nib wouldn’t cooperate, so the natural assumption was, “I’m just not good at this.” If you’re at that point, try the Nikko G. Be sure to prime it with a potato first, as explained in the How to Prepare New Calligraphy Nibs for Use post, and you’ll be ready to start writing!
If the Nikko G nib isn’t available in your area, variations of it (like the Zebra G) will also work! If you live in the EU, Scribbler’s is a great place to purchase this nib; in the Phillipines, you’ll find it at Create Crafts; and in Australia, you can order from Wills Quills. In the US, Paper & Ink Arts is one of many stores that stocks the Nikko G.
If you have any questions or input, I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, I hope you found this post helpful!