A Simple Guide to Calligraphy Tools and Their Calligraphy Scripts

Last Updated on March 7, 2024

Calligraphy tools have specific calligraphy scripts. So if you received a calligraphy pen as a gift you probably want to know what this pen can do. Fair enough. In this post, we are going to use the pen or pens you received to identify what kind of calligraphy styles that tool can do! If you don’t have any calligraphy tools yet that’s fine, you can get some of my recommended ones here, or try learning with tools you already have here. Anyways, let’s get started.

2 Ways of Identifying Your Pen

In the above photo from left to right: Broad edge, Brush Pen, Monoline, Ruling pen, Pointed Pen

1. Analyzing your Pen

There are many kinds of calligraphy pens that come in many shapes and sizes. However, looking at the tip of the pen can help you easily identify what calligraphy you can do with it.

So first, take a moment to look at the tip of the tool. What do you see? You can compare with the above image. The names listed are the calligraphy tip type and I will give you a bit of info on the type of pen you probably have:

Lettering & Handwriting Tools

Description: Handwriting (aka monoline) and hand lettering tools are the most basic form of a writing tool. These tools create a round stroke with a consistent thickness regardless of pressure or direction.

Common Household Examples: Pencils, ball point pens, and glass pens.

Ideal Calligraphy Tool: Non-flexible fountain pens

Style of Calligraphy: Show me Monoline Calligraphy!

Broad Edge Tools

Description: Broad edge tools can be dip pens or cartridge pens. These tools are typically held at a specific angle to create a rectangular stroke that varies with direction.

Common Household Examples: Chisel tip highlighters, chisel tip white board markers, carpenter pencils, and broad edge dip pens. (Or make your own here)

Ideal Calligraphy Tool: Pilot Parallel (Full Review Blogpost)

Style of Calligraphy: Show me Blackletter Calligraphy!

Pointed Pen Tools

Description: Pointed pens can be dip pens or cartridge pens. These tools are typically held at a specific angle to create a small thin stroke that varies with pen pressure. NOTE: A standard fountain pen nib may not be flexible and therefore is actually a Monoline Calligraphy tool. To find out if your pen is flex or standard try pressing the nib down on a piece of paper. If the tines (two parallel pieces of metal) spread apart relatively easily, you have a flex nib. Otherwise you have a standard fountain pen which can be used for Monoline Calligraphy.

Common Household Examples: None.

Ideal Calligraphy Tool: Dip pen ($) or Flex Fountain Pen ($$)

Style of Calligraphy: Show me Pointed Pen Calligraphy!

Brush Tools

Description: Brush tools can vary from brush markers to paintbrushes. Similar to pointed pen tools these tools create a thin stroke that varies with brush pressure.

Common Household Examples: Crayola Markers, Brush Pens.

Ideal Calligraphy Tool: Tombow Brush Pens

Style of Calligraphy: Show me Brush Calligraphy!

Ruling Pen Tools

Description: Ruling pen tools are folded blade-like tools that have an expressive, rough and splattery style. These tools create strokes with various thicknesses by adjusting the pen angle, speed and paper texture.

Common Household Examples: None. Make your own here!

Ideal Calligraphy Tool: Folded Pen

Style of Calligraphy: Show me Ruling Pen Calligraphy!

If you are still not sure what kind of tool you have with you, check out section 2 about making strokes to determine your calligraphy tool.

2. Your First Strokes

The second way to identify the calligraphy tool(s) you have and what you can do with it is to try it out! Grab your mystery tool, it’s accessories, and something to write on (some free practice sheets perhaps?) and let’s make your first strokes!

Try Out Your Strokes

Try different directions, pressures (careful not to overdo it), and see what kind of markings it makes. Compare with the chart below:

Based on the strokes you made you can skip ahead to the type of calligraphy you can make:

Types of Calligraphy Each Pen Can Make

1. Monoline Calligraphy / Hand Lettering / Handwriting

As you probably just noticed, monoline calligraphy is cursive writing. Utilizing the pen’s singular thickness, you can create a smooth, connected script and add your own “bounce” to it. You can also thicken your monoline calligraphy into Faux Calligraphy!

Monoline Resources to Get You Started:

2. Broad Edge – Blackletter Calligraphy

Above is a stylized fraktur script

Blackletter is an “umbrella” term for a series of blocky/rectangular scripts completed with broad edge calligraphy tools. If your tool has a large flat “blade” as a tip you try to keep the whole tip on the paper at all times to achieve the strokes you are looking for. There are so many scripts in this family, that I even have a post detailing all the kinds to learn: Breaking Down: Blackletter

Blackletter Resources to Get You Started:

3. Brush Calligraphy/Pointed Pen Calligraphy

Large script: Brush Calligraphy || Small script: Pointed Pen Calligraphy

Both brush pens and pointed pens share the same family of scripts. They both write flowing scripts characterized by thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes. There are many scripts to learn and try and you can view them all here: Breaking Down: Pointed Pen

Brush Resources to Get You Started:

Pointed Pen Resources to Get You Started:

4. Ruling Pen Calligraphy

Ruling Pen Calligraphy Tools

Now this script is a new messy brush-like calligraphy style using a folded piece of metal. Using different paper textures, speeds and pressures you can create your own scripts and expressions.

Ruling Pen Resources to Get You Started:

Thank you!

Thank you for reading until the end of this long post. If there is something I am missing or a tool you want identified, please leave a comment down below. I read all comments.

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