Today, I wanted to dedicate a full post to what I consider to be the best beginner calligraphy nib: the Nikko G. I know that I’ve touched on this calligraphy nib in previous posts, but it’s time this nib got 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 kit from Michael’s, a US art/craft supply chain), 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 an impressive amount of flex, meaning the tines readily spread apart if you exert a small amount of pressure on them. For beginners, this delicate and hyper-responsive flex can translate into tines getting caught on paper fibers and spattering ink; tines spreading too far apart and not allowing the ink to flow down, and the nib’s delicate tip digging into the paper on upstrokes. 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 just didn’t seem to be 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 pretty strong nib, which means that it’s not going to give you a lot of grief as you work out the kinks in figuring out how to apply pressure to the nib, as well as take pressure off the nib. The same cannot be said for more flexible nibs.
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. If you’re curious to watch pressure being applied to this nib (as well as observe the angle to hold it at in a straight holder), you may be interested in 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! It is worth noting that some professional calligraphers do not use an oblique holder at all (regardless of the style they are writing in), so you’re in good company when you use the straight holder.
If you do opt to use a straight holder, make sure the Nikko G looks like the photo below when it is inserted in the holder. You can see that the nib has been inserted 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 and sumi ink for the drawings below, and I found that I prefer drawing with the dip pen + Nikko G nib to drawing with regular pens. It just felt easier to control! That’s probably because it’s not immediately responsive like a normal pen (e.g. a Micron) is; if I was hesitating about putting pressure on the pen, the pen didn’t write — which is good because that meant less mistakes!
You may wonder why I have opted to write this post, especially when I have indicated several times on the TPK blog that the Nikko G is a great beginner nib. Well, as someone new to the DSLR camera world, I was trying to put together a starter kit for myself last month. To be honest, all the differing opinions and very technical information online made my head spin. I really just wanted someone to tell me, “OK, this is exactly what you need to buy, and here are a couple of reasons why …” I don’t want anyone to feel as confused as I did with the DSLR accessories when putting together a modern calligraphy kit! All you need to get started is a Nikko G nib, a straight pen, some ink, paper, and a worksheet, and you are good to go. Really.
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), but 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 (as opposed 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, but 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 dish soap and an old toothbrush first, as explained in the Lowdown on Calligraphy Nibs post, and you’ll be ready to start writing!
If you can’t find the Nikko G nib, variations of it (the Zebra G, Tachikawa G) will also serve you well! 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 reside in a country that I have left out [of course, there are many!], I apologize! If you know where to order a Nikko G nib in your country, a link in the comments would be greatly appreciated.)
If you have any questions or input, I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, I hope you found this post helpful — and even if it was old news to you, I hope you’ll keep it earmarked for a friend or family member who has taken on learning pointed pen calligraphy! On that note, if you’re interested in building up your stock of nibs, enter this weekend’s TPK Facebook giveaway for a chance to win a few more Nikko Gs plus other nibs. 🙂
Thanks very much for reading, and have a great weekend!