Having the best calligraphy nibs for your writing style are an essential part of modern calligraphy (aka pointed pen calligraphy). I believe that there is a nib for everyone out there and this guide should help you learn the basics of calligraphy nibs and give you the best starting point for you to jump into this art.
First things first, the anatomy of a nib. For the rest of this post, I will reference a few of these parts so below is a breakdown of a calligraphy nib.
Shank – The back end of the nib that slots into the associated holder. Also, it contains the specific name of the nib and company. If you look closely you can make out “Zebra” on the image above.
Vent hole – The hole that allows the nib to “breathe” by allowing the proper proportion of ink to meet the page as you glide across. It also gives the nib some structural integrity by making it more flexible and therefore less brittle.
Slit – The incredibly small gap in between the two tines that grow when more pressure is applied.
Shoulder – The edge where the tine meets the shank and changes angles. It is important to dip a calligraphy nib to at least the shoulder but it may vary on the nib.
Tines – The separate halves of the nip that meet at the tip. The separation is exactly proportional to the thickness of your stroke.
THE BEST BEGINNER NIB IS: The Nikko G Nib
In my opinion, the Nikko G Nib is the best calligraphy nib for beginners for three main reasons: its flexibility, its ink retention, and its strength. When I started modern calligraphy, I ordered a premade kit with some nibs and tried to give it a go, which met me with some pretty discouraging results. I and many others thought “Oh, I guess this isn’t for me” which is completely wrong. We just had the wrong calligraphy nib. What was needed was a beginner nib, with lower flexibility and a gentler learning curve than a wall!
1. Flexibility of a Nib
When I first started learning pointed pen calligraphy I saw a number of nibs and didn’t see too many differences between them. Once I started purchasing and using them for myself, the biggest difference I started to notice was the flexibility. In the image above you can see the flexibility of each nib get higher as you go right. This means that the sensitivity is higher and therefore the difficulty, which means you just need more practice and generally a lighter touch. The Leonardt EF is not a bad nib, it is just if you are not careful you can drop all your ink into one blob (quite frustrating). They require a lot more practice but give you a much higher line variation for different styles of calligraphy.
2. Ink Retention
What I love about the Nikko G is that it holds a lot of ink, so you have to dip less than you would normally on a smaller nib such as the Leonardt EF. One less thing to think about when someone is learning for the first time.
A nib like this can last many months and with the proper care, a year and maybe more. They break eventually but if you buy a pack you get 10, so you really don’t have to worry about nibs for a LONG time (unless you want more variations).
Speaking about nib care, there are a few things you need to know when getting started and keeping them in good condition. First things first, when you take your nib out of the package it can’t be written with right away. Each one is covered in a chemical coating that helps the metal not rust over many years. This coating will affect how the ink writes on the page and will not write properly. There are a few ways online to clean the nibs of the manufacturers coating:
1. Boiling water or a lit match – It works but I do not recommend it as it can change the temper of the nib causing it to lower its life expectancy.
2. Gum Arabic – A quick dip into this solution and wipe it down with a soft cloth then wipe clean.
3. My personal favourite (Mostly because it’s easy and I already have it) is a glass of water, a drop or two of dish detergent and just brush it with a toothbrush. Totally works!
It is also important to keep your nib clean from any residual ink. Before you put away your pen and nib rinse and quickly brush the ink off of your nib then dry it off. This will ensure the longevity of your calligraphy nibs.
Over to you…
Did I miss a nib you use? Is there a close contender for beginner friendly nibs that I should add? Let me know in the comments below.
I wish someone told me the things in this post when I was first learning. So here I am telling you if you are just getting started, and you pick some of these up you will not be disappointed.
Thanks for reading!