Updated: Jul 30, 2021
When I first became interested in calligraphy, I found it was overwhelming how many options there were when it came to one simple topic- PENS! There are brush pens and paint pens and straight dip pens and oblique pens. Not only that but there are components to each one! WHAT!
Today, I want to talk about these different options, the benefits and drawbacks of each one, and what my preferences are as a calligrapher and stationer myself. I know I wish I had a resource guide and breakdown of this when I was first starting, so I am hoping this helps one of you!
1. BRUSH PENS
I began my calligraphy journey by experimenting with brush pens. These are the pens that you can purchase easily online, and they look like markers with kind of a "flakey" tip. When you use brush pens as your main form of art, it is often referred to as "hand lettering."
Brush pens are best to start with in my opinion. As a beginner, they are nice to use in order to get the hang of the thin up-strokes and the thicker down-strokes that make up calligraphy as an art form.
See my photo to the right, where I was practicing with a brush pen for these place cards. I find that brush pens are best when doing any form of graphic, bold art. Especially for a frame! I recommend the brand "TomBow" and starting out with their skinnier version for practicing the alphabet or even try writing your favorite song lyrics! Here is a LINK to them so you can order.
2. PAINT PENS
With paint pens, these can be used for faux calligraphy on surfaces where marker is just not good enough. Faux calligraphy is when you have to artificially thicken your down strokes because the pen does not do it for you. An example is this sign I made below. For acrylic, I could not use a dip pen without scratching it, and I needed it to be permanent, so I opted for a white paint pen. The best brand to use is Sharpie- trust me, don't try anything else. There are a variety of colors to choose from. For the type of paint pen you will want, it will depend on the type of project that you are trying to accomplish! For something more permanent, opt for oil-based. For something that you can wash off (i.e. a sign, or window), opt for water based.
3. THE STRAIGHT DIP PEN
As I learned and improved, I became interested in moving over to the real deal: ink. I started perusing the internet for what tools I needed and saw all of these intimidating photos of strange looking pens, with a variety of components to them. It seemed a little overwhelming at first. The first one I decided to try was the straight dip pen. Here is what the set up looks like in this photo to the right, for reference.
To use the dip pen, you need the following tools: the dip pen itself, a phalange (often comes with the pen base, but not always), an ink well with ink inside of it, and a nib. There are a variety of nib types to choose from but we will go over that in more detail another time in a future blog post.
3. THE OBLIQUE PEN
While I love the straight dip pen for challenging myself and honing in on my precision, the most comfortable and easy-going ink pen is the oblique pen in my opinion. This is what I use every. single. day. While it is still a dip pen and you need the same tools as the straight dip pen, the angle of the phalange is offset so that you can see what you are writing very easily in real time. Below, I include a photo of the oblique pen along with a couple of alphabet versions that I wrote with the pen!
For left-handed calligraphers, the straight dip pen is a great place to start. But, if you find that it is uncomfortable, they do sell left-handed oblique pens. It might be worth a try if you want to expand your options as a lefty!
Long story short, with different projects, you will want to utilize the pen type that will work best for that project! There are benefits and drawbacks to each one. For me, my favorite kind of calligraphy to do is ANYTHING with an oblique pen. I really enjoy the meditation that ink-calligraphy provides me. I also love digitizing it for invitation design- my specialty. Check out my website to learn more.
I hope you found this article helpful! Comment below if you have any questions! Not sure what pen to use for your next project? Run it by me below!