Having a little more fun with ink

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There will be days you’ll feel like you’re tired of the usual ink you use for practice and yearn for a little bit more color variation. When I started out, I had 3 staple inks on hand: black sumi ink, vermillion sumi ink and walnut ink.

If calligraphy ink came in all colors, I would probably buy them, but that wouldn’t be practical and e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e. And unfortunately, calligraphy ink does not come in hundreds of colors unless you know how to mix them.

As I browsed through other people’s feed in Instagram, I realized that to create those wonderful colors, you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to “calligraphy ink”.

In all honesty, anything liquid and with color you could use to write. Among the usual mediums people use for ink include fountain pen ink, watercolor, acrylics and gouache. If you wanna spice up your letters and introduce a bit more color, you could try any of these:

 

FOUNTAIN PEN INK

Most fountain pen ink that I’ve tried with my nib (Noodler’s, Diamine, Pilot Iroshizuku) have been viscous enough for my nib. All you need to do is dip the nib in the ink and write like you do with your usual calligraphy ink. I would suggest transferring a portion of ink into a small container so you don’t risk spoiling an entire bottle of ink.

If, by any chance, you feel the consistency is too watery for your liking, try adding a couple of drops/portions of gum arabic. Make sure you only add gum arabic to a small quantity of ink in a separate container. It doesn’t matter if it’s the liquid or powder form of gum arabic. It is important, however, that you only put small portions at a time to the ink. Mix them thoroughly and test the ink. Rinse your nib in between ink tests. If you added a little too much, you could add few drops of water to help correct the consistency.

WATERCOLOR/GOUACHE/ACRYLICS

You could use tubes, pans or half-pans. All you need to do is mix the right amount of pigment with water and use a paint brush to apply the paint onto your nib. For those who’ve been wanting to try out the Fintec palette, this is also for you. However, if you have liquid watercolor like Dr. Ph. Martin’s, then no need to go through this entire process. Just dip your nib in the paint and start writing! Just follow the tips from the previous section.

You’ll need: your choice of paint, paint palette, 2 cups for water, paintbrush (preferably a size 2, 4 or 6), paper, eyedropper/pipette.

Watch the video below to find out how you could use these as ink.

You could try similar forms of paint with this method, like acrylics or gouache.. Or you could get creative and use other mediums. I’ve heard some people have even tried using coffee!

MIX YOUR OWN INK

I personally haven’t tried, but I do have the materials needed with me. I’ll post a video when I do. 🙂

If you’re interested in trying to mix your own, you’ll need: water (preferably distilled as this will prevent molds from easily forming in your mix), pearl pigments, gum arabic (liquid or powder form).

To create your own ink, mix 4 parts of pigment and 1 part gum arabic. Then, slowly add distilled water and stir. Ideally, the proportion of your water should be around the same as your pigment. However, you could decide to play around with your ink consistency depending on the effect you would like to achieve. A thinner consistency will tend to lie flat when it dries while a thicker consistency will give you a raised effect when the ink dries. Remember to only add a few drops of water each time you adjust your ink consistency and stir well afterwards.

So in more specific terms, you could try these proportions and slowly adjust as needed:

  • 1 teaspoon pearl pigments
  • 1/4 teaspoon gum arabic
  • 1 teaspoon distilled water

If you’re living in the Philippines, you could obtain pearl pigments and gum arabic from The Craft Cental. I believe Deovir also carries pearl pigments. Other websites you may want to try ordering from: Amazon, Paper and Ink Arts John Neal Bookseller, Dick Blick

 

I hope these additional tips would help you enjoy writing more.:)

Happy writing!

 

Nibs 101 (Part 2)

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As promised, I am now doing Part 2 of the post that is just dedicated to nibs. This post is going to focus more on caring for your nibs and hopefully help out with some of the issues you have encountered in the past. Just in case I missed out on anything or if you have other questions not included here, feel free to comment or message me.

CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE

  • Have a cup of art water nearby when you write. You need to rinse your nib every once in a while to get rid of any ink that builds up when writing for long periods of time. Don’t forget to dry your nib again before you continue writing.
  • Wash your nib with water when done for the day. Then, dry it with a paper towel or dry cloth
  • Remove the nib from your holder if you’re done writing. Please do not leave your nib in your holder for long periods of time. As you write, ink and water builds up in the holder. If you leave the nib in, you soak it in leftover ink and water. This will make your nib rust easily. In a few days, especially when you use vintage nibs, you’ll start noticing rust if you leave building up. I have heard people say that they had to use pliers to get their rusted nibs out of the holder. If the nib rusts pretty bad, chances are they would break and you’ll have a harder time getting the body out of the holder. I personally made it a habit to clean my nibs at the end of the day, and I hope you would to. Although nibs were made to be replaceable, we could at least make their lifespan a bit longer.
  • Use some pen cleaner/Windex for a more thorough cleaning. You’ll notice that ink will still come off as you rub the nib with a paper towel even after you’ve washed it with water. Certain kinds of ink could not be cleaned off effectively by regular soap and water. Pay close attention to the vent and ridges of the nib when you to this as ink tends to build up in these areas. If left uncleaned for too long, you would also risk the nib rusting.
  • Allow to air dry. After cleaning and drying, there will still be a little moisture left. If you have time, it would be best to air dry for a bit before you store the nib in its container.
  • Store in a container. Whether it’s in a small tin container or those with several compartments, proper storage will ensure that your nibs won’t get easily damaged.

TROUBLESHOOTING NIB ISSUES

I’ve already prepped my nib, but my ink is not flowing properly. Either it skips or does not flow at all.

Repeat the steps for nib preparation. If that still doesn’t work and the ink looks like it’s stuck to the nib, it could mean that your ink is too thick. Try diluting the ink with some distilled water to make a thinner consistency. Only add a few drops of water at a time and test it afterwards. Rinse your nib after each round of testing. Repeat this until you get the consistency you need.

The ink doesn’t stick to the nib and just keeps creating blobs on the paper when I write.

Check the amount of pressure you use when you write. Lessen the pressure and see what happens. If it’s not your hand pressure, it may be an ink problem. If you’ve repeated the nib preparation procedure a few times, chances are the ink you are using is too watery. Try putting some ink in a small container and a few drops of gum arabic (powder or liquid). Mix and test it out again. Continue to add small amounts of gum arabic until you reach the consistency you need. Make sure you rinse your nib between tests. Remember to only add gum arabic to small amounts of ink at a time to make sure you don’t ruin your entire supply.

My nib is scratchy when I write.

When your nib gets scratchy, it could be caused by a few things. It could either the you are putting too much pressure on the nib when you write, the nib is worn out, a piece of the tine is broken or your tines are misaligned. Adjust your hand pressure first. If that doesn’t work, check is using a loupe (the same ones jewelers use) and see if there is any damage to the nib. If the nib is damaged, I would suggest to discard the nib. If you think it’s regular wear and you’re not ready to chuck the nib in the bin, you could try lightly sanding the tines with 1000-1200 grit sandpaper. The emery board for nails will do to, just make sure it’s not too coarse. Lightly run the nib on top of the sandpaper a few times and try writing with it again. Please note, however, that sanding down the nib will make its tines less pointy. This means your hairlines will not be as thin anymore.

My nib gets caught on the paper when I write.

Check your hand pressure and try lessening it when you write. It could also be from the paper you are using. If the paper you are using isn’t smooth, chances are you nib will get caught on the paper. Writing with less pressure will help fix this. If it’s still an issue, check if your nib is damaged and replace if needed.

The color of my nib isn’t even/has changed.

Different nibs are made of different materials and are sometimes coated with different products. As you prep, use and clean them, some of the coating is stripped away. Some ink also leave stains on the nib. As long as it hasn’t rusted out, this is perfectly okay. Nothing to worry about.

When do I know my nib needs to be replaced?

Aside from damaged nibs, you’ll need to replace them when they’re worn. Old nibs tend to become blunt over time. You’ll notice that your hairlines are no longer as thin/sharp as before. When this happens, it’s probably time to change your nib if you’re aiming for those really thin hairlines.

Aaaaannnnnddddd…that’s it! For now.

Happy writing!

Nibs 101 (Part 1)

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If you’ve decided to learn pointed pen calligraphy, you know how important the nib is when you write. At the same time, you will also realize it’s not as simple as inserting the nib into your holder and writing. You will encounter a few issues and challenges along the way. I’m hoping this post will help sort these out for you.

WHAT IS A NIB? WHAT IS IT MADE OF?

Simply put, it’s that metal thing you dip in ink when you write. It could be a part of a calligraphy pen, or it could be a separate piece that you insert into a holder.

Nibs come in different colors, shapes, sizes, levels of flexibility, material composition. There are broad edge/flat nibs used for gothic, slanted ones used for italics, and rounded nibs. For pointed pen calligraphy (like Copperplate/Engrosser’s Script or Spencerian), we use a nib with a pointed tip.

Most nibs are made of metal, usually stainless steel. However, there are some nibs that are coated with other materials either for aesthetic purposes (like that of the blue pumpkin nibs) or to prolong the life of a nib (like the Zebra G titanium nib).

The size and shape of the nib sometimes give us a clue on how flexible they are. Read on to the next section to find out how.

ANATOMY OF A NIB

The tip is the sharpest part of the nib which comes in contact with the paper. It produces the fine hairlines when you write. The size of the tip will determine how fine your hairlines will be.

The slit splits the tines and allows them to flex when you write.

The tines are the two prongs that split to give you those lovely swells/thick lines as the ink travels down to the tip when you write. The amount of pressure you use when writing will also determine how thick your lines become.

The shoulder is the widest part of the nib and gives the nib a level of rigidity. It sometimes also determines the level of flexibility. For example, nibs with wider shoulders will usually have a lower level of flexibility, as in the case of the G nibs.

The vent/breather hole is where the split ends. It lets air to pass through the nib which allows and regulates your ink flow to the tip. It also helps manage the tension between the tines when they flex.

The shank/body is what is inserted in your nib holder. It supports the tines as they flex when you write.  The body also holds the engraved markings which determine which nib you are using.

The tail/base/heel is the portion you initially insert in your holder.

The back portion of the nib will serve as your ink reservoir.

WHICH NIB SHOULD I USE?

The nib you use will depend on the style of writing you want and the level of thicks and thins you want to create. The higher level of flexibility, the wider the range of thicks and thins the nib will produce. For beginners, I suggest starting with less flexible nibs like the G nibs (Nikko G, Tachikawa G, Zebra G). The blue pumpkin nibs (Brause 361 Steno and Hiro 40), Hunt 22 and Hunt Imperial 101 nibs are also beginner friendly. Once you have a better feel of controlling the pressure when you write, you could work your way up to the more flexible nibs like the Leonardt Principal EF and Gillot 303. Everyone has a different set of nibs they gravitate to. Feel free to try out nibs and see which  would work best for you.

These nibs are currently in my rotation pool ranked in order of flexibility, 1 being the lowest and 5 as the highest.

 

From left to right: Sergent Major Superieure Blanzy no. 2500, Nikko G, Blue pumpkin  (Hiro 40), Penna Lus no. 1938 EF, Departamentale Cementee Blanzy no. 2552, Plume Tremplin Gilbert & Blanzy-Poure no. 160, Brause 66EF, Hunt Imperial 101, Hunt 22, Leonardt Principal EF

PREPARING YOU NIBS

Before you even begin writing, with your brand new nib, make sure they are properly prepped. When the nibs came out of the factory, they are coated to make sure they don’t rust easily. When you prep your nib, you’re essentially removing the factory coating. If you skip this step, you will realize that the ink will not stay on your nib. The ink will either not flow or just blob on the paper.

I have seen and tried several ways to prepare your nibs. Here are some of them:

  1. Pen cleaner/Windex – This is what I usually use when I prep my nib. Put a few drops of pen cleaner/Windex on tissue/paper towel. Rub both sides of the nib gently for about 15 seconds each side. Rinse with water. Gently pat the nib dry with a clean cloth/paper towel.
  2. Dish detergent – Use a mild dish detergent for this. Drop some detergent on the tip of a cotton bud/Q-tip and use this to gently scrub the both sides of the nib. Rinse thoroughly with water. Gently pat the nib dry with a clean cloth/paper towel.
  3. Toothpaste – You may use an old toothbrush or one end of the cotton bud/Q-tip for this. Put a small amount of toothpaste (slightly less than pea size) onto your toothbrush or Q-tip and gently scrub both sides o f the nib. Rinse with water. Gently pat the nib dry with a clean cloth/paper towel.
  4. Saliva – Yes, saliva. Gross at it sounds, it is quite effective. Our saliva contains enzymes/acid that is capable of removing the protective coating on the nib. If you are daring enough to try this route, spit onto a paper towel and use this to rub both sides of the nib. Rinse with water. Gently pat the nib dry with a clean cloth/paper towel.
  5. Light it up – Some people use a lighter or a match to heat the nib and remove the coating. I personally do not suggest doing this since there are safer ways of prepping your nib. Also, there is a tendency to heat the nib too much that will just damage your nibs before you even get a chance to use them. But if you must, hold the body of the nib with pliers or a towel. Never handle the nib with bare hands since you could burn yourself. Expose both sides of the nib to the flame for a few seconds. Make sure you don’t touch the nib immediately after heating. Allow it to cool for a while. Rinse off any residue and gently pat the nib dry with a clean cloth/paper towel.

A few notes to remember:

  • Before preparing your nibs, make sure your hands are clean and free from debris, dirt or oils.
  • Always handle your nibs gently especially when rubbing or scrubbing them. You wouldn’t want to break off or misalign the tines.
  • Avoid touching the tines after cleaning. Our hands produce oils naturally. Once we touch a newly prepped nib, it will just add another layer of oil and ink won’t stick to it as it should.
  • If after doing a round of prepping and the ink is still not sticking/flowing the way it should, repeat the preparation process until it does.

For reference, the first two frames are what you should be aiming for.

WRITING WITH YOUR NIB

Dip the nib in ink. Make sure that you go past the vent hole when you do. Also make sure you don’t scrape the tip onto the bottle as this will damage your nibs in the long run. Tap your holder once or twice on the ink bottle to get rid of excess ink. I also suggest lightly grazing the underside of the nib against the opening of your ink bottle to make sure there is no excess ink and to make sure your ink doesn’t come out as a blob when you start writing.

Now, you’re ready to write! Check out my previous post for tips on writing with a calligraphy pen and preventing ink smears when writing.

 

That’s it for Part 1 of Nibs 101. Stay tuned for Part 2! More on nib care and troubleshooting ink flow problems in the next post.

Happy writing!

 

Look, Ma! No more ink smears!

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So now, you know how to hold the pen. Next thing is you need to do is learn to write with it…without smearing ink all over the paper.

Since we write from left to write, lefties are at a huge disadvantage. As we move our hands across the paper when we write, the tendency is to move our hand over the text we just wrote. If it’s a ballpoint pen, then usually it’s alright with some minimal smearing. But when using calligraphy pens, fountain pens and similar ink that needs more drying time, we can’t just write the way we do.

Smearing ink is a huge problem for lefties and could be quite a frustrating experience. If not corrected, the tendency is to just give up on calligraphy altogether. I know I felt that way in the beginning. The first time I wrote without smearing, I wanted to open a bottle of champagne to celebrate!

So how do we stop our lefty selves from converting our lovely script to plain blobs and lines on paper?

The first thing you need to do is figure out your writing style. You need to ask yourself if you are you an overwriter, underwriter or side-writer?

Overwriters, or hookers, usually curl their hands as they write. They position their hands over the ascender line. The ascender line is the height of your majuscules (capital letters) and miniscules (small letters) that have ascenders (e.g. l, k, d, t, etc.). They also position their paper similar to right-handed people and rotate their paper counter-clockwise.

Underwriters, on the other hand, hold the pen at a more neutral position. They position their hand below the baseline when they write. They position the paper in the opposite direction and angle it clockwise.

Side-writers position their hand somewhere in between the ascender line and the baseline. There is also a tendency to push the pen as they write. The paper is positioned almost vertically, angled slightly either clockwise or counter-clockwise.

To better illustrate the differences in hand positions, check out this page.

For natural underwriters and side-writers (like myself), the best way to keep your ink from smearing is to utilize underhand writing. You may need to experiment a little with how you angle your paper to find that sweet spot when you write.

Check out the video below and hopefully it will better illustrate what I’m talking about.

 

For overwriters, you may try switching to becoming an underwriter. It may take quite a bit of adjustment, but it could definitely be done. On the other hand, you may also want to explore another method I’ve seen online. (Disclaimer: I have not fully tried it since it is not suited to my current writing style.) Try writing from above the ascender line and position your nib and it’s tines facing you. Essentially, you will be writing upside down and reversing the strokes as you write. The paper angle will also depend on what feels comfortable to you. I tried it and it was really H-A-R-D! But hey, this may work for you. No harm in trying, right? Do let me know how it works out for you.

Some additional references you may also wanna check out:

  • Left-handed Calligraphy by Vance Studley
  • Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe

 

Happy writing!

How lefties hold a calligraphy pen

One of the primary challenges when learning calligraphy, whether you are left or right-handed is how to properly hold a calligraphy pen. The way you grip the pen spells a whole lot of difference when doing the strokes to produce those thick and thin lines you aim for.

The way you hold the calligraphy holder is not necessarily the same way you hold a pen. For left-handed individuals like myself, the tendency is to grip a pen tightly, curling our hand as we write. This may work sometimes when doing brush calligraphy, but this is not applicable if you use a pointed pen. Also, if you do not properly grip the pen holder, there is the risk of experiencing wrist pain or tiring out sooner as you write more/longer.

What I will be tackling today is just limited to a straight holder. Most left-handed calligraphers I have seen online use a straight holder, myself included. The primary reason for this is that lefties already have a natural slant when we write. It all depends on how we angle the paper. There are, however, options for lefties to use an oblique holder, but I’ll discuss those another day. If you’re an aspiring left-handed calligrapher, I would suggest you start with the straight holder first.

So, now you may be asking, “How should I be holding my calligraphy pen?”

  1. Rest the holder on your middle finger, right at the foot/base of your nib holder.
  2. Lightly grip the holder with your thumb and forefinger, like you’re holding a potato chip. Gripping the holder too tightly will limit your movement when you write. It will cause your hand to hurt eventually.
  3. Rest your ring and pinkie fingers on the paper. They will serve as your base and will help stabilize the pen as you write. Let them lightly graze the paper when you write.
  4. Place tip of your nib on the paper. Ensure that the inner portion of the nib is facing the paper and the tines are flat and parallel to the paper. You also have the option to slightly cant/slant the nib towards you.
  5. Ensure that your calligraphy pen is angled at approximately 45 degrees from the paper. It is important that you angle your pen correctly as this affects how your nib flexes and ink flow. If you angle it too high, the nib gets scratchy and will not flex as much. The ink will not flow properly as well and you risk ink spatters when you write.  If you angle it too low, chances are you will be creating ink blobs when you start flexing your nib.

To better illustrate what I’m talking about, check out this short video.

I hope this helped you in a way. Please feel free to leave a comment or message me if you have more questions.

Happy writing!

Starting Pointed Pen Calligraphy

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If you have decided to start with pointed pen calligraphy, you only need a few things to get you started. I suggest you save purchasing all the colors of inks and expensive holders for later. You’d want to stick with the basics when you practice and do your drills.

Here’s a list of initial things you may need:

Basic Pointed Pen Calligraphy Tools

  • Pencil – I suggest to use lead pencils marked either #1, #2 or HB. These will be dark and firm enough for what you need to do. Make sure to not fully sharpen the tip. Leave the end blunt. If you sharpened it too much, break off the tip for drills.
  • Straight holder – The basic Speedball straight holder will do. They last pretty long too. As a matter of fact, the one I’m currently using has been with me since the mid-90s.
  • Oblique holder – Optional for lefties, but a must try for right-handed people. A Speedball oblique holder will be alright, but please note that G nibs are too long to be used with this. You will need an oblique holder with a flange built for the G nib. Another alternative is to use the Hunt nibs and nibs of similar size with your Speedball oblique holder.
  • Nibs – When starting out, I suggest using a G nib (Nikko G, Tachikawa G, Hiro G, Zebra G) as these nibs are stiff and will help you learn a bit of control when you practice pressure and release strokes. They are also especially good for heavy-handed people. Other nibs you may want to explore that will be more flexible and commonly used are the blue pumpkin nibs (Brause Steno 361 or Hiro 40), Hunt Imperial 101, Leonardt Principal, Hunt 22.
  • Ink – When starting out, I prefer using sumi ink. Sumi ink has a a really nice consistency and it’s pretty easy to clean. One other ink you may want to try is walnut ink. You could later progress to other calligraphy inks available,  fountain pen ink or even mix your own!
  • Empty glass/jar – I suggest to have at least 2 when you practice. One to transfer and store ink if you bought a big bottle. The other will be used to rinse your nib while you are writing as ink tends to build up as you write. Every once in a while, you need to rinse your nib to make sure it writes nicely.
  • Eraser – Buy a good dust free eraser. You’ll need this when you draft or draw guide lines on your paper.
  • Ruler – Not always needed, but good to have, especially good to have when you want to draw guide lines.
  • Paper – Of course, we can’t write without paper! There are several options when you’re starting out. Sometimes old notebooks do alright. Even regular bond paper is okay. Ensure that the paper is ink friendly. By ink friendly, I mean the paper is thick enough to hold ink and smooth enough to not snag your nib when you write. If the ink blots to the next page, you may want to use something else. If you’re located in the Philippines, I use PaperOne bond paper at 100 gsm, which is available at the local bookstore. I’m also partial to the Ivory and Ebony Padlets from @calligrapads as well as the Swirls and Strokes Dotted Practice pad from @swirlsandstrokesph on Instagram. There is also Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper, which is slightly more expensive, but just lovely to write with. The paper from Muji is also quite ink friendly. 
  • Pen cleaner – You may also want a pen cleaner for your nibs. Always make sure to clean your nibs after you use them. They will rust easily if you leave them too long in your holder. There are available pen cleaners you could purchase and use, if you like. Others use regular water to rinse their nibs. Personally, I use Windex to clean. It gives my nibs and holder a good thorough cleaning. (If you can’t find it in your usual grocery/supermarket, your best bet would be True Value or Ace Hardware.) Gently pat your nibs dry with a paper towel and leave them to air dry before storing. Always remember to handle the nibs with care so you don’t misalign the tines!

So far, that’s it! I hope I pretty much covered the basics. Feel free to post a comment or send me a message if you have questions that were not covered in this post.

Happy writing!

Brush Pen vs. Pointed Pen. Which one should I learn first? 

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What got me back to calligraphy was the graceful combination of thick and thin lines that create letters and flourishes when you write. So when I decided to take my first couple of workshops, I didn’t bother thinking that I need to just start with one. I wanted to learn both right away since I knew they would produce similar results. 

The first workshop I attended was a basic pointed pen calligraphy class. I thought my letters looked horrible compared to what I imagined they should be. But hey, I gotta cut my beginner self a little slack, right? My major accomplishment that day was that I didn’t smear any ink. For a lefty, that was quite an acomplishment. So…Yay for me!

I kept practicing after class, but for some reason, I wasn’t as into it as I thought I would be. My letters didn’t look quite right. I was struggling with underhand writing. My Leonardt Principal nib was blobbing all over my paper. I decided my G nib was my only friend. I ended up not picking up my pen as often as I should. 

Two weeks after my basic pointed pen class, I attended my first brush calligraphy class where we used a water brush and watercolor to write. It was a little bit more challenging for me, to be honest. I had to hold my pen differently and was smearing paint all over my worksheets. I had to unlearn what I did during pointed pen class. Again, watercolor wasn’t working that well for me. 

I came across a couple of online shops selling calligraphy supplies and decided to try out different kinds of brush pens. This was when things started getting more interesting. 

I found new hope with brush pens as they dried faster than watercolor. It helped me a lot with the smearing problem. I found firm tipped pens (e.g. Pentel Fude Touch, Kuretake Fudebiyori, Tombow dual brush pens, Zig Brushables) that gave me a good amount of flex without making me lose control. I learned how to control my strokes better and managed to create more decent letters each day. 

When I felt comfortable with my firm tip brush pens, I started trying out softer/paint brush-like tips to write (e.g. Zig Clean & Color, Zig Wink of Stella/Luna). I even went back to using the water brush. The progression helped me get a better feel of my letter forms, hand movement, and proper pressure and release. 

I eventually got back to using my pointed pen a few months later and it was easier the next time around. The muscle memory of creating letters with the brush pen has translated into better pointed pen output. 

So…do you start with pointed pen or brush pen? For any beginner who wishes to learn script for the first time, I usually suggest brush pens first and work their way up to using a pointed pen. I personally found this route easier and I hope that it would help out aspiring calligraphers (both left and right-handed). Once you get the hang of each pen, it will be much easier to switch between them.

I recognize that each one has their own preferences and learning style. I am not restricting you to this suggestion, but I hope you would consider trying it. It worked for me and I hope it will also be helpful to you. Whatever learning option you choose, the key always is practice. Practice regularly. 

Happy writing! 

Starting your calligraphy journey

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You see lots of posts online with intricate flourishing, varying colors and writing that appear so graceful on paper, as if the letters dance. Then, you say to yourself, “I want to be able to do that too!”

Well, my friend, welcome to calligraphy! 

With so much information and styles available online, where do you start? 

  1. Surf the internet, browse through Instagram and Facebook pages and see which style and medium you gravitate to. What you will commonly see online are copperplate/engrosser’s script, spencerian script and modern/freehand calligraphy, using either a pointed or brush pen. There are a few who do gothic and italic/chancery styles. There are also those who use folded pens and ruling pens to create letters. 
  2. Read up on the style you like. And watch some tutorials on YouTube. There are a lot of free resources online. Find exemplars you could use as reference for practice. Google and the internet are your friends. A couple of sites you may want to check out are IAMPETH and The Flourish Forum
  3. Self-study or take a class (or 2) to get you started. If you’re lucky to have a friend who does calligraphy, ask for a quick tutorial if you don’t want to attend a big class right away. There are also those who offer private tutorials, if that suits you better. It really depends on what your learning style and budget are. Some classes could get a little pricey. 
  4. If you buy materials, stick to the basics. It could become an expensive hobby. For example, if you’re just learning pointed pen, stick to a basic pen (like a Speedball holder), a bottle of sumi/india ink, a G nib and ink-friendly paper. If you’re going with a brush pen, stick to a few colors you like first instead of buying massive sets that have almost every color in it. If you want to use watercolor, stick to student grade ones that are available at your local craft/bookstore. You could always expand your collection later on once you get the hang of writing calligraphy. Also, you will be in a better position to gauge what tools/materials you would need and/or like. 
  5. Join online communities or get together with other calligraphers. This is the perfect way to get tips and try out other materials and styles. The calligraphy community worldwide, in my opinion, is quite welcoming. You’ll definitely gain several friends along the way. 
  6. Practice, practice practice! Set aside some time on a regular basis to practice. It’s always frustrating in the beginning and your letters aren’t going to come out the way you want them to in the beginning. If you give it enough time, you’ll see they get easier and nicer. 
  7. Check out online challenges also to help you practice and get those creative juices flowing. Try checking the @handletteredABCs and @jennyhighsmith accounts on Instagram and feel free to join in whenever you can.  
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask. Post a question online or ask a calligrapher friend if you want to ask what tool, pen or ink they are using. People will usually get back to you when they can. 
  9. Track your progress. I suggest keeping your old practice sheets. It’s always nice to come back to it after a few months and see how much you’ve improved.  
  10. Have fun! Don’t let writing letters stress you out. 😉

Happy writing! 

P.S. This was my practice sheet when I took my first pointed pen calligraphy class almost 9 months ago. Leaves much to be desired! Hehehe! So, trust me, you are not hopeless! We all have to start somewhere. Just keep at it. 😊

  

Yes, lefties can!

Now that my hangover from the holidays has finally worn off, I thought it was time I actually started writing in my blog. 

I have been continuously learning calligraphy for the past 9 months. I’ve transitioned from modern calligraphy to learning copperplate, from using brush pens to pointed pens. During these months, I’ve come across fellow lefties, equally eager to learn, but felt it was almost impossible to learn. But it’s not impossible. Because I learned how to write. So did other lefties. 

I’m not saying it’s easy to learn. I had several awkward starts, but I just charge them to experience. Learning calligraphy is a big challenge in itself. And personally, I believe it’s a bigger challenge for lefties. 

What makes calligraphy extra challenging for lefties is the constant battle with ink smears. With a ballpoint pen, lefties write usually on the same level as the text. With calligraphy, the ink stays wet while you write and you can’t write like you do with a ballpoint pen. If you did, you will end up with blotches of ink on your hand and the paper. 

Lefties need to change the way they write, the way they hold the pen, the way they angle the paper. They need to learn how to adapt to instructions which are usually meant for right-handed people. There is not one perfect way to do things. They eventually have to figure out what works best for them and their writing style. Everyday is a learning experience. 

As with everything else, it takes a lot of patience and practice to get to where you wanna be. Always start with and go back to the basics. Then move on from there. 

Happy writing!