When you think of calligraphy, do you envision thick brushes painting Japanese characters on scrolls, or do you imagine intricately written wedding invitations? Both are correct. Calligraphy is an artistic form of writing. It encompasses many different fonts as well as modern style letters that depart from many of the traditional rules.
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With so much variation in calligraphy styles, there are also many tools to create them all. Some pens cater to one style or another, and some require more practice or training to use correctly. For these reasons, there are three different factors to consider when you are buying a new calligraphy pen.
Consider your writing style and font preference when purchasing calligraphy pens, as not all pens work for all scripts. Some popular scripts such as Blackletter or Italic feature a wide variation in line width within the letters, oscillating between thick and very thin lines. For these types of fonts, a pen with a wide nib will work better. Broader nibs allow you to write thicker lines than a pointed nib. Other scripts like Copperplate are more uniform in width throughout each letter and can easily be mastered using a more pointed nib.
Nibs also come in a variety of shapes. You can buy a simple round tip nib, which lays down ink in the same width regardless of the direction the nib is facing. Round nibs come in a variety of sizes. Small lettering looks cleaner and neater with a fine-tipped nib. Flex nibs are rounded nibs with flexibility that allows the artist to vary the line thickness manually. The two tines that make up the nib move apart slightly when pressed into the paper, resulting in thicker lines. Shaped nibs, on the other hand, allow for consistent variation in line width based on the shape of the tip. The most common shaped nib is the Italic nib. This nib produces thin lines horizontally and thicker lines vertically.
If you are just beginning to learn calligraphy, it is best to choose one script to master at first. Buying a pen that is designed for your chosen font will make the learning process much more enjoyable. While many types of pens can be used for calligraphy, some require more control and skill to produce the desired result. For example, traditional dip pens can be messy and unwieldy for those not used to using them. They require frequent dipping in an ink bottle as you write. Experienced calligraphers may enjoy the wider variety of inks with more dimension and texture compatible with these pens. However, to start, you may want to consider a pen that has the ink contained inside until you are more comfortable with your writing.
Cartridge fountain pens are a user-friendly option. While your choices in cartridges may limit the ink choices, the ink is much easier to load. Some companies make interchangeable cartridges that can be removed from one brand pen and placed in another. Other cartridges are proprietary and only work with a single pen brand. As you build your calligraphy pen collection, you may want to consider investing in those that can accept the same cartridges to save money on ink. You should note, however, that the nibs on cartridge pens are usually fixed in place. You likely will not be able to change out the nib for a different style later.
A brush pen like this Platinum pen is another good option for beginners and experts alike. The tip of a brush pen can be made of natural or synthetic hair or felt. It may be very firm like a marker or more pliable like a paintbrush. Most people are familiar with the feel of writing with a firm felt tip marker. A firm brush pen can have a very similar feel and style, making it a good choice for a beginner. The firm tip allows the user more control as they learn to form calligraphy letters. However, a softer tip brush allows for the formation of more dramatic letters. Pressure and brush orientation can be used to change from fine to very thick lines. Most brush pens come pre-filled with ink, but others can be filled with the ink of your choice. These pens are a very versatile choice at a reasonable price point.
Calligraphy pens come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are capped, while others have a retractable tip. Regardless of the type of pen that you elect to use, it is best to find one the fits well in your hand. Avoid pens that are too large or too heavy to be comfortable. A well-balanced pen should be easy to use without having to work too hard. The pen should allow you to focus on the art you create with each stroke of your hand.