The Best Tool for Blackletter Calligraphy (Pilot Parallel Review)

Throughout the history of writing tools there have been 3 main tools that were used for Blackletter Calligraphy: the bamboo reed pen (4th century BC), the broad edge nib dip pen (5th century AD), and the fountain pen (19th century AD). These inventions were the most effective tools for the task of calligraphy at the time they were invented. However, with each iteration the tool progressed to be more efficient and more precise.

Blackletter Calligraphy: Also known as “Gothic,” this script is composed by thick black strokes and hairlines indicative of a broad edged pen.

custom Blackletter
Capital R S and T of a custom Blackletter alphabet

The most recent development in blackletter calligraphy was the invention of the broad edged calligraphy pen which features the ink reservoir of a fountain pen. This reservoir was added to remove the need to dip after every few strokes on the page. With this advancement, calligraphy has been more accessible than ever before. Pilot is the first to mass produce such a pen that is unlike any other you’ve tried. Join me as I demonstrate and review the Pilot Parallel in the video below (~15mins). Or if you’d rather have a quick read, scroll past the video for some quick answers.

Pilot Parallel Review (Video)

6mm Pilot ParallelAmazon
Set of 4 Pilot Parallels (1.8mm, 2.4mm, 3.8mm, 6mm)Amazon

For those who want a quicker non-visual review I’ll break it down real quick into three main questions you probably have:

1. How does it work?

Pen nib of pilot parallel

The Pilot Parallel main feature is two parallel metal (if I had to guess it’s Aluminum) plates that are less than a millimeter (1/25th of an inch) apart similar to a fountain pen tip. This tiny gap allows surface tension to hold the calligraphy ink in between the metal plates until the tip is placed on a surface that will draw out ink.

2. What does it come with?

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Each Pilot Parallel on it’s own comes with the following:
1. Pilot Parallel Pen
2. Anti-roll screw-on cap
3. Pen cleaning pipette
4. Two cartridges (1 red and 1 black)
5. Nib cleaning plastic sheet

3. How do I use it?

Simply unscrew the back of the pen, place a cartridge into it and secure it little force. Screw the back back on the pen and give it a couple gentle shakes and start writing. Make sure to use good paper (to make sure your letters don’t look all fuzzy or “bleed”), hold it at 45 degrees and start getting comfortable with how it writes.

Once you try your own ideas and you are up for trying some alphabets, I suggest checking out my page on learning Gothic calligraphy. You can also download a copy of my Gothic practice sheets free:

4. What makes it so good?

pilot parallel
  • Crisper lines than your equivalently priced metal dip nibs (see above)
  • Cartridge fed ink to remove the need to dip
  • Ability to easily colour blends and fades not easily accomplished with traditional dip pens (see below)
  • Refillable with the appropriate inks
  • Long lasting – I have had one for 5 years (as of 2019) and used it heavily with no problems.
Colour Blend Pilot Parallel

5. Where do I get one?!

Below are the links for the pens but you may also want to consider a few other optional things on my tools I use page, such as appropriate paper, inks and perhaps extra cartridges.

6mm Pilot ParallelAmazon
Set of 4 Pilot Parallels (1.8mm, 2.4mm, 3.8mm, 6mm)Amazon

Summary

Every blackletter calligrapher from beginner to professional needs a Pilot Parallel. The versatility, precision and ease of use this pen provides cannot be understated for the price. For ~$10 I started my favourite hobbies and maybe you can too.

Did I miss something about the Pilot Parallel that you want to know? Leave a comment, I will be sure to answer.

2 thoughts to “The Best Tool for Blackletter Calligraphy (Pilot Parallel Review)”

  1. I love the parellel pen. Just wanted to say I fill the barrel with Sumi ink as I don’t get on with cartridges

    1. Cool, I fill mine instead of cartridges too! I use ecoline liquid watercolour. I’ve only bought Sumi once and it smells very strong. Like headache strong. Does yours? If not, what brand do you use.

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