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Beginner Series Part 2 - How to Use your Calligraphy Kit

Modern calligraphy is easy to learn and all you need is a pen holder, nib, paper and ink. Once you have got your basic calligraphy tools, you need to know how to use them.

♥ Pen holder ♥ Calligraphy ink ♥ Nibs ♥ Paper

If you're unsure which ones to buy, visit blog Beginner Series Part 1

Find a flat clean surface and a comfy chair in a bright spot - calligraphy is easier if you’re relaxed and can see what you’re doing!

Assembling your Pen

Slide the nib into the holder, the curved side of the nib fits snuggly outside of the metal ‘petals’.

If it won’t go in, move around the edge of the holder pushing the nib down, until you find the place where it slides in. You may have to push quite firmly, so use something to protect your fingers. It can hurt!

Your pointed nib is made up of two split pieces of metal which fit perfectly together. These are called the ‘tines’. The tines lead to a small hole called a ‘vent’, where the ink sits.

If you twist the nib the ink can’t release and it will feel scratchy. The vent needs to be facing up, and the tines need to hit the paper equally.

Paper Position For your pen to be able to work properly you need to have your page turned 40˚ from your body. The position of your paper is critical. Turn it 40 degrees anti-clockwise (clock-wise for left handers) Pointed nibs are symmetrical, which means you can still use them if you are left-handed.

Position your arm perpendicular to the bottom edge of your paper.

When you are making your downward, thick lines, your pen holder, nib and fore arm should all be aligned. Hold the pen gently, trying not to grip it too tightly.

Sit up straight and relax your shoulders, then rest the palm of your hand gently on the table so that your arm can move easily back and forth.

Paper to Practice on.

When you are practicing or working up ideas, try Rhodia pads which have a smooth paper that handles most inks. The paper is slightly see-through which allows you to trace designs and perfect them. For the video that accompanies this series, I used Daler Rowney FW acrylic ink onto a card that we buy for making templates to go into our calligraphy kits. We tested lots of different inks with lots of papers and the truth is one paper or card probably won’t work with every ink out there.

Paper for Special Work.

However a good bet is a smooth watercolor paper, a bristol board or my favorite is Fabriano 'Hot Pressed', which means it's the one with a smooth surface - as it takes most inks well and is lovely to work onto. All these things are in our Amazon shop so that you can see everything I recommend in one place.


The first time you use a new nib, it needs burnishing for it to work. You only need to do it the first time you use that nib. If you aren't sure, pop over to this blog in the beginner series or the YouTube video that shows you how.

Dip your pen into the ink as far as the vent, then dab off any excess by gently touching the nib on the side of your ink pot. Don’t dip it in so deep that the pen holder is submerged, as getting liquid, ink or water in the pen holder will cause the metal ‘petals’ to rust.

When you dip into the ink, it will coat the nib. If you don’t remove the glaze, the ink won’t cling to the nib in this way and you won’t be able to write with it.

Now you know how you use these 4 things you need to do calligraphy. So join me for the next beginner’s series tutorial, where we will take this knowledge and form the letters of the alphabet.

We post all kinds of helpful calligraphy videos so visit our YouTube channel and watch the video that goes with this blog.

Happy Lettering!


1 Comment

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