I always recommend the Nikko G nib as the best beginner calligraphy nib. It’s in the supply list section of all TPK Learn Calligraphy worksheets as well as the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course. Using the Nikko G can save you a lot of frustration, which will encourage you to keep practicing your calligraphy! In this post, we’ll discuss why the Nikko G nib is good for beginners, where you can find it, and how to use it to its full potential.
What is the Nikko G Nib?
The Nikko G nib is a strong, medium-flex nib that was originally developed for Japanese comic illustrations (manga). As it turns out, the Nikko G is just as great for calligraphy as it is for drawing! There are people who use the Nikko G exclusively for calligraphy, and those who use it exclusively for illustration. Then there are those like me, who embrace it for both.
Why Is the Nikko G Nib the Best Beginner Calligraphy Nib?
The magic of the Nikko G lies in its medium flex. Basically, 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. (For an in-depth explanation of how upstrokes and downstrokes work, you can check out the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course.)
There are high-flex nibs available (e.g. the Brause Rose), and many intermediate/advanced calligraphers prefer those nibs to the Nikko G. However, high-flex nibs can prove challenging for a beginner. They’re very touchy, which means that if you apply just a bit of pressure, the tines of the nib will spring apart, ready to make a downstroke! If you haven’t perfected the art of exerting balanced, even pressure on your pen just yet, that can translate into disaster. One tine of the nib can dig into the paper, leaving the other one to splay out and spray ink, for example. Or, the high-flex nib will simply get caught on the paper, preventing you from moving forward.
Think of the Nikko G as your “training wheels”. It will allow you figure out the kinks with applying pressure to a dip pen nib to create that desirable contrast between thin upstrokes and thick upstrokes. The video below compares the delicate Brause Rose nib to the Nikko G, as well as provides a more detailed explanation of why the Nikko G is generally a better nib for beginners. (If you cannot see the video, you may watch it on YouTube by clicking here.)
Advantages of Using the Nikko G Nib
There are several reasons to love the Nikko G. First of all, it’s sturdy and long-lasting. No one can say exactly how long a nib will last, but I have had Nikko G nibs endure for several months, up to a year.
The Nikko G writes very smoothly, and it can fit in just about any straight pen holder. (Compare that to the tiny Brause EF66, which can’t fit in, say, a simple plastic Speedball holder). Another nice advantage of the Nikko G versus some other nibs is that it holds quite a bit of ink, which means you won’t have to re-dip it as often as you do with smaller nibs. Re-dipping can get tedious and discouraging, especially if you’re just starting out.
The Right Nib Does Make a Difference
I like to recommend that beginners use the Nikko G 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 101 nib (which came in a cheap calligraphy kit), pictured below. Obviously, the Hunt Imperial 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 generous flexibility can result in ink spatters and the tines getting caught on paper fibers.
You might wonder why I didn’t purchase a Nikko G nib to begin with. When I started learning modern calligraphy six years ago, there wasn’t much quality information out there for beginners. Everything was targeted to advanced learners and 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 at all. Had I known then what I know now, I would have ordered the items detailed in the Ultimate DIY Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit post, and saved myself from buying calligraphy tools that I didn’t really need.
How to use the Nikko G Nib
The Nikko G’s versatile nature makes it ideal for learning with any of the TPK Calligraphy Worksheets. Some of the right-slanted styles (e.g. Kaitlin, Janet) may be a bit easier to write using an oblique pen if you’re right-handed, 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 can be less intimidating than an oblique!
If you opt to use a straight holder, make sure your 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.
If you are just starting out with learning modern calligraphy and you want to watch the Nikko G in action, consider the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course. That should make learning a bit easier as well as familiarize you with the nib.
It is, of course, risky to use adjectives like “the best”. Not everyone will agree with me that this is the very best calligraphy nib for beginners. Indeed, you may find that you connect much better with a different nib! That’s why it’s good to try out a couple of different calligraphy nibs. That said, I have received feedback from several 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! In the US, Paper & Ink Arts is one of many stores that stocks the Nikko G for a reasonable price. If you live outside of the US, check out the Where to Purchase Calligraphy Supplies page.
If you have any questions or input, I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, I hope you found this post to be helpful, and that it encourages you to try out a new tool!