Favorite Calligraphy Practice Supplies for Beginners

What are your favorite supplies? What pen did you use? What ink is that?

I get so many questions about favorite supplies - what supplies to start out with and why, so I thought I’d put together a list of my personal favorites for calligraphers looking to expand their practice. Much of the time, it’s so easy to miss out on productive practice time by not knowing what’s even available, so I’m hoping this list will introduce you guys to some staple supplies in my inventory that I have used since I was first starting out.

Just a warning, this gets long, so here it is broken into parts: paper, ink, pen & nibs, and other miscellaneous resources.

Paper Recommendations for Calligraphy Beginners (and onward)

HP Laserjet Paper - 32lb - I’m pretty convinced that HP recently changed their “formula” for this paper because I have been finding that my nibs are not writing as well on it. HOWEVER, it is still the best practice paper I’ve come across that won’t break the bank. This paper is great for practice for the Tombow Dual Tips because the smooth surface won’t tear up the brush tips, thus prolonging the life of your Tombows, because those tips are surprisingly delicate and the costs add up when you’re replacing them.

Paper Recommendations for Beginner Calligraphers   (from left to right):   Borden & Riley #37 Layout Paper ,  Rhodia Dot Paper ,  John Neal Books Copperplate Pad

Paper Recommendations for Beginner Calligraphers (from left to right): Borden & Riley #37 Layout Paper, Rhodia Dot Paper, John Neal Books Copperplate Pad

Borden & Riley #37 Layout Paper - Tracing paper is another great tool, especially for building on sketches and other artwork for production. I also use this tracing paper often in my workshops - students lay the tracing paper on top of a sample stroke to trace or on a blank set of guidelines to maximize their practice space without having to constantly reprint blank guidelines.

Rhodia Dot Paper - This is a pretty popular recommendation because the paper is just SO luxuriously smooth. However, as practice paper, if you go through as many sheets as I do in one sitting, the costs add up so I actually try not to use it too often. I’m partial to the dot paper because you can keep your practice straight but also photograph a particular good iteration of your work without any background lines / dots showing up on the camera.

John Neal Books Copperplate Pad - This is the secret sauce to my copperplate practice - I love that the grid comes with pre-made slant lines to keep my letters consistent. The grid is printed in 24lb paper, which isn’t TOTALLY ideal, because depending on how sharp your nib is (say, a Leonardt Principle or the Hunt 101), it may pull out some fibers. However, with a Nikko G, this pad works really great. I use this grid often for planning and laying out custom commissions.

Ink Recommendations for Calligraphy Beginners

Ink Recommendations for Beginner Calligraphers:   Walnut Ink  Crystals (mix with water according to instructions),  Moon Palace Sumi Ink

Ink Recommendations for Beginner Calligraphers: Walnut Ink Crystals (mix with water according to instructions), Moon Palace Sumi Ink

Moon Palace Sumi Ink - This is my favorite ink to practice with. I use this also for any spot calligraphy because it is super pigmented so my hairlines are more likely to be picked up by my scanner. It’s not acidic so it doesn’t degrade your nib, which is also a plus.

Walnut Ink - Do you ever want to take your calligraphy practice to your local coffee shop and wow everyone who walks by with your ninja calligraphy skills? Maybe you need a change of scenery to get your creative juices flowing or making your desk chair is just killing your back. I digress, but my point is that walnut ink is magical because you can get your practice on WITHOUT taking along a cup of art water to clean your nib every couple minutes. Where sumi ink dries and thickens on your nib, walnut ink is water based and can wipe right off with a good paper towel and you are on your way again. I typically buy walnut crystals, which is SUPER cheap, and just mix it with distilled water in a small jar. This way, you can adjust how pigmented you want your ink to be. However, if you prefer to go to the pre-mixed route, this walnut drawing ink works really well!

Pen & Nibs Recommendations for Calligraphy Beginners

Pen & Nib Recommendations for Beginner Calligraphers :  Century Adjusted Oblique Holder ,  Nikko G  Nib,  Blue Pumpkin  (Hiro 40) Nib

Pen & Nib Recommendations for Beginner Calligraphers: Century Adjusted Oblique Holder, Nikko G Nib, Blue Pumpkin (Hiro 40) Nib

Blue Pumpkin - Also known as the Hiro 40, it is one of the early nibs I explored and has been a staple in my life. I use it often for reproduction work - it has a blunt tip and produces heavier lines, which is great if you’re going to be scanning and digitizing your work. It’s also great for modern calligraphy because it produces more of a marker-like stroke. The blunt tip also works well with thicker inks (like Dr. PH Martin’s Bleedproof White or any of the Spectralite metallics.)

Nikko G - This is my go-to practice nib. I started my pointed pen journey with the Nikko G because it was recommended to beginners by basically EVERYONE on the internet, and quickly found that I did NOT like it and moved on to the EF 66 and other nibs. However, more recently, I’ve seen the light when it comes to this nib. It’s like the everything-bagel of the nib world - it’s got your thin hairlines, your solid downstrokes and is built nice and sturdy so you don’t have to worry so much about damaging the tines. In the last couple months, I’ve pretty much used this nib exclusively in my practice and have really enjoyed it.

Century Adjusted Oblique Holder - This is my all time favorite pen. It’s not ideal on so many levels - it’s heavier than I thought I would have liked, it’s super dirty and rusty - but I love it so much because I’ve adjusted it to my grip and it’s the most comfortable pen I have. I’ve bought more expensive, more colorful, more trendy pen holders since, but this dirty, machine made one has my love through and through. My biggest recommendation for students is to pick up a cheap pair of pliers and adjust the pen to your grip because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the pen, so much as your comfort. As long as you know how the nib should hit the paper, you’ll be able to adjust the flange accordingly. (Put as simply and concisely as possible, the angle of the nib should hit the paper in such a way that when you pull your downstrokes, equal weight is placed on each tine.)

My favorite places to get supplies:
John Neal Booksellers
Paper & Ink Arts

#theJustMarriedJacketNYC Bride #6: Nena & Adam


Describe your wedding day in 3 words.


Describe your wedding day in more detail.

My wedding day was actually spread out over two days, for double the fun  ... and the planning. PART ONE On Friday we went to City Hall in Manhattan to get legally married and to feel that at least one part of our wedding was just for ‘ourselves’. We’re not religious and not fussy, so it was a nice and sweet way to start the day.  We then had a short ceremony in front of immediate family (<20 people) at Sunday in Brooklyn (a restaurant in Williamsburg). We had my husband’s brother officiate while we exchanged part-weepy and part-funny vows. At the end of the ceremony, we swapped ‘family business jerseys’ as a cute nod to our families & their small businesses.

We then went hard in the motherf***ing paint with dinner and drinks. PART TWO On Saturday night we had a larger pizza party (~75 people) at Fornino in Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was SO FUN AND LOW KEY AND THE BEST. We hired a magician for cocktail hour, served pizza (and other delicious nosh), had an open bar, and danced all night long under the stars. In the last hour it started to rain for a little and instead of moving inside, our guests just danced in the rain (to an inspired choice by our DJ - “It’s raining men”). It was so memorable and just a butt-load of fun.

Tell us about something your wedding just HAD TO have.

One thing we wanted was really the fun and low key vibe — we hate stuffy and formal weddings (no offense!). So we made conscious choices from encouraging a casual dress code to more casual menu choices to MAGIC to no registry or formal ‘bridal shower’ etc. We just wanted an excuse to see all our friends & family in one place and celebrate our love. 

Tell us about something you could have done without or wasn’t necessary in the end.

I was STRESSING about whether or not to arrange transportation to the ‘after-party’ bar for my pizza party guests, but all the transportation quotes we received were so ridiculous ($$$). In the end, I listened to a wise friend who reminded me we’re in the middle of a city with public transportation, and that we’re adults now (theoretically) so we can all spend the extra few dollars for a short cab ride to the next bar. Two nights before the event I impulsively decided to email out Uber discounts (e.g., $10 off any ride that I pre-paid for) to my guests and everything was FIIIIIIINE! I feel like I didn’t even need to do that in the end! 

Tell us about your bridal style.

Simple, elegant, low-key... but with a healthy dose of fun and flair. I kept the style of everything simple from the invites to flowers to favors — but I also made some fun and unusual choices (or at least I thought they were): e.g., wore a jumpsuit, hired a magician, and served pizza as the main course of my wedding reception! 

What's your advice for future brides?

You do you, B. Pick your battles with your parents & in-laws, and power through anybody that says “Really? Are you sure?” about your eclectic choices. It’ll all come together in the end. Oh also, save money. Like right now. Yesterday, really.

Vendor shoutouts:

Photographer: Huy Ha - @haquochwee or https://www.haquochuy.co/ 
Florist: Mimosa Floral - @mimosafloral or http://www.mimosafloral.com/
DJ: Playsomethinggood - @playsomethinggood or http://playsomethinggood.com/
Strolling magician: Gary Ferrar - @garyferrarmagic or https://www.ahrealmagic.com/
Venue: Sunday in Brooklyn - @sundayinbrooklyn or https://www.sundayinbrooklyn.com/private-events/
Venue: Fornino Pier 6 - @forninopizza or https://www.fornino.com/locations/brooklyn-bridge
Candle wedding favors: Brooklyn Candle Studio @brooklyncandlestudio or https://brooklyncandlestudio.com/
Photobooth: MVS Studio - @mvsstudio or http://www.mvsstudio.com/
Desserts: Ample Hills Creamery @amplehills, Peter Pan Donuts @peterpandonut, and Buttermilk Bakeshop @buttermilkbakeshopny
Bridal Jumpsuit: Jill Stuart Mara Jumpsuit - available at BHLDN @bhldn
Bridal Reception Dress: Self Portrait White Azalea Dress
Groom Suit: Custom designed at Indochino - @Indochino
Wedding Rings: Stone & Strand @stoneandstrand, and Bittersweets @bittersweetsnewyork
Bridal hair & make-up: Glamsquad @glamsquad

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Meet the artist!

Come meet me next month at my bestie, Wonton In A Million's celebration of National Dumpling Day. Cynthia started her business two years ago to pay tribute to and spread awareness of the delicious Chinese dimsum (tapas) that we grew up with. Since then, she has tirelessly shared her punny dumpling goodness with the world, showering us with her wonderfully cute designs.

To celebrate National Dumpling Day, she will be hosting an all-you-can-eat dimsum brunch, followed by a scavenger hunt in Manhattan's Chinatown and an after party at Doyers street, aka the center of old Chinatown. I will have a booth at the afterparty, calligraphing names onto fun wonton cricuts. (Fun fact: I used to be a walking tour guide in Chinatown, so in addition to a hand calligraphed name, you might also get some obscure historical fact about the area!) 

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What: Won-ton of Dumplings: A National Dumpling Day Scavenger Hunt 
When: September 24, 2017, 11AM
11AM - 1PM: All You Can Eat Dimsum at Oriental Garden
1PM - 3PM: Scavenger Hunt throughout Chinatown
3PM - 6PM: Finish Line Party at Doyers Street

Early bird tickets are now on sale, click the link above for details!