I always recommend the Nikko G nib (say: “neek-oh”) 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 nib can save you a lot of frustration, which will encourage you to keep practicing your calligraphy! In this post, we’ll discuss why this special nib is good for beginners, where you can find it, and how to use it to its full potential.
The Nikko G nib is a strong, medium-flex steel nib that was originally developed to create 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 people like me, who embrace it for both utilizations.
Why Is the Nikko G 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 that nib can form thick downstrokes as its tines spread apart, and thin upstrokes as its tines spring back together. (For an explanation of how upstrokes and downstrokes work and how to make them, my “How to Create and Learn Modern Calligraphy” video on YouTube.)
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 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 nib”. 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 the best beginner calligraphy nib.
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. (Curious to learn when you should call it quits with a nib? You can visit the How to Know When a Calligraphy Nib is Done article to find out.)
The Nikko G writes very smoothly, and it can fit in just about any straight pen holder. Another 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 Makes a Difference
I 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 calligraphy kit), pictured below. The Imperial has a lot of flex, meaning the tines readily spread apart when you exert pressure on them. For beginners, however, that 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 over a decade ago, there wasn’t much information out there for beginners. Everything was targeted to advanced learners and pros, so I had a difficult time finding relevant 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 here.
How to use the Nikko G Nib
The Nikko G’s versatile nature makes it the ideal calligraphy beginner nib, which is why I rely on it heavily in Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course. If you’re a beginner, I recommend you start by inserting your Nikko G into a straight pen. Then, 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 holder without a metal insert, the photo is irrelevant; you can stick the nib in anywhere.)
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.
If the Nikko G nib isn’t available in your area, variations of it (like the Zebra G nib) will also work! If you live outside of the US, check out the Where to Purchase Calligraphy Supplies page to find a Nikko G nib near you.
Any input? I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, I hope you found this article to be helpful, and that it encourages you to try out a new tool!
In case you missed it: TPK has Valentine’s Day treats for you! ❤️ Be sure to get yours by tomorrow. For details, see Monday’s newsletter.