I've compiled a list of my favorite tools for learning calligraphy as a beginner and it does not include a pre-fab kit. Calligraphy is a surprisingly affordable hobby to learn and while fun, doesn't require a class to get started. I am a self taught calligrapher and I'll keep my first pieces to myself because they're a little bit embarrassing, but if I've learned anything, it's that practice makes progress. When I started out, I purchased a kit and it came with a speedball nib and penholder, a leaky container of smelly, runny black ink, and a one time use booklet someone had clearly printed at their house. I realized that while the packaging may have been pretty, I was totally duped. I decided to do some research and ended up with a great base of products that helped me learn the trade of calligraphy. I've since upgraded some of my tools because TREAT YO'SELF is my life motto, but this list is just fine for starting out.
Calligraphy requires patience and focus which is actually one of the reasons I got started. When I feel anxious, I like to practice mindfulness. To me, mindfulness comes naturally while practicing the curves of my favorite letters. Calligraphy demands focus and there's a calm feeling that comes with that. I hope you find this list helpful and please send me photos of your practice and progress even though I'm selfishly hoarding my own.
1. The Right Nib
If you're just starting out, the right nib is the Nikko G and you can find it (along with most things you'll need for this hobby) at Paper & Ink Arts. The Nikko G is on the stiffer side and will yield nice thin upstrokes with thicker but balanced downstrokes. With the right paper, this nib will go the distance...but pick up a few because they're affordable and you want to be able to switch it out when necessary. Nothing is more annoying than trying to write with a bent nib.
2. A Trendy Gridded Rhodia Pad
Just kidding, kind of. You could really get any paper from the local craft store. When I'm going to digitize calligraphy, I use a white watercolor paper from Michael's. For your art, you want a smooth surface starting out and you want it heavy enough that the ink doesn't bleed or feather. Rough paper will catch your nib and cause it to bend which will give you a hell of a time trying to transfer ink to paper. Gridded or lined paper is great for practice because it helps keep everything straight or even.
3. A Straight or Oblique Penholder
Many people begin practicing calligraphy with a straight pen. This cork tipped penholder will hold your Nikko G nib. I've never been great with a straight pen and I prefer this oblique penholder for starting out.
4. Sumi Ink
5. An Old Kitchen Towel and Cup of Water
This is for cleaning your nib when while you're working. If your nib gets clogged up and the ink isn't flowing well anymore, dip it in water and wipe it clean. Keep your ink water far away from your coffee or learn the hard way.
6. A Netflix Membership
Settle in with your favorite show playing the background. Since I've started practicing calligraphy, I've watched a few series from start to finish including Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, LOST...I'm going to stop listing shows now because I feel judged. The point is, you want some kind of background noise that makes you happy. For me, sometimes that's music (currently the Big Little Lies soundtrack), and sometimes it's TV.
7. A Calligraphy Worksheet
I recommend The Postman's Knock in Kaitlin Style. You can print the sheets right at home for just $5 which is exactly what I did when I began learning. The more you practice, your style will start to evolve and become your own.
This list is just to get started. Don't give up right away. Things aren't going to be pretty at first but you will start to enjoy creating new things and eventually, your friends will ask you to make them pretty things and then a year from now when you visit their house, you'll ask if they'll take that down so you can make a new one. Look through Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. Pick your favorite quote and pen it, pen it again a month later and I swear you'll be proud.
Keep up with me on Instagram @shotgunningforlove and tag me so that I can see your progress!