Modern Calligraphy and Copperplate: Pointed Pen Basics

Would you love to learn modern calligraphy with a pointed pen and/or more traditional pointed pen styles like copperplate?  This post will get you started with tips on supplies, books, and more. 


modern calligraphy basics


Pointed pen calligraphy lends itself to so many projects - letters, notes, wall art, envelope art, tags, invitations, card making, and more. It makes beautiful grocery lists too! (Seriously, that's a great way to practice...) These days, modern calligraphy has made the process so much fun.

What is Pointed Pen Calligraphy?


With pointed pen calligraphy, a pointed nib is used (unlike nibs used for broad edge styles like italic.)  The pointed nib allows for curvy script lettering.

Modern calligraphy, which is a pointed pen calligraphy, has opened up a whole new world, in that it allows for more freedom, less structure, and fewer rules than traditional pointed pen calligraphy, like copperplate.  Copperplate is still one of my favorite pointed pen styles too, though!  


*This post contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a small commission if you purchase through them, at no extra cost to you. Thank you!



how to do modern calligraphy
modern style





pointed pen calligraphy
traditional style

How Does a Pointed Nib Work?


Basically, when you apply pressure on a pointed nib, the two tines of the nib spread apart, allowing more ink to flow.  When the pressure is released, the tines snap together, and less ink flows. So, the amount of pressure you apply will determine how thin or thick the strokes will be. Light pressure on the upstrokes, more pressure on the downstrokes. (If you have ever done brush lettering with brush markers, you will have had some experience with that concept.)  



Supplies:  


The supplies are the same for modern pointed pen calligraphy as for more formal styles like copperplate.  

All you need to begin is a dip pen (also called a pen holder or nib holder), some nibs (pointed style), ink, and paper.  (The nibs are purchased separately from the pen.) See my resources, below.

Not an expensive hobby!  I try to purchase some of my calligraphy supplies at a local art supply store, but the choices can be limited locally.  So, I find many of my supplies at Amazon, Pen and Ink Arts, and John Neal Bookseller.


  • Dip Pens:  You will see both straight and "oblique" pen holders. (The pen that holds the nib.) 


The straight wooden holders with cork barrels are very comfortable. Not all holders hold all nibs, but this one holds most nibs. Straight holders are a bit easier to use, especially for beginners and left handers.  If you want to write the tradtional styles with a heavy slant like Copperplate, though, it will be more difficult to get a heavy slant with a straight holder.  





I started with an oblique holder, which can be slightly more intimidating. I love the slant I can get with it, though, and I prefer it to the straight holder.  Personal preference plays a part here. If you are starting out with a traditional pointed pen style, like Copperplate, you will need an oblique holder, but if you will only be doing the less formal modern calligraphy, a straight holder will be fine.








  • Nibs:  The Nikko G nib is widely recommended for beginners, and it will also fit many standard pen holders.  The Zebra G  nib is another one that is recommended for beginners. (Full disclosure, here - I honestly don't remember which nib I started with, as it's been several years! But, the 2 nibs above are typically the most commonly recommended ones for beginners.)  As you progress, you may want to try a more flexible nib. I really like the Leondardt Extra Fine Principal nib, because of its flexibility.  But, at first, the firmer nibs are a bit easier to use.

Note!  The nibs will have a protective oil coating on them when new. The coating needs to be removed for the ink to perform well in the nib. To remove the coating, I use some toothpaste (paste, NOT gel) and gently rub the paste on the nib with a soft toothbrush, then rinse and dry gently.  I have heard that wiping on some nail polish remover or setting the nib in a little window cleaner will also work, but I haven't tried those yet!   You can even stick the nib in a potato for about 15 minutes, but I haven't tried that yet, either! (Be careful when you stick the nib into the potato, as I've heard that the more delicate, flexible nibs could be damaged if you are too rough.)




  • Paper:  A lot of papers are too rough for calligraphy, and the nib will catch. For practice,  I use HP Premium 32. This paper is heavier and much more smooth than regular printer paper. The Rhodia pads are also great for practice.  They have a very smooth, satiny finish, and most inks won't bleed on it.  Strathmore Bristol Smooth paper is nice for artwork. It's very smooth and white. Some heavy drawing papers work well, too.


  • Light Box:  A light box isn't necessary for learning or practicing calligraphy, but if you are serious about calligraphy, you might find it very helpful. I wrote a post about lightboxes here.



Books


I have both of the books below and love them both.  They each give good info about supplies and how to get started. 

Personally, I really like having both books, because of the difference in styles.  I learned the traditional pointed pen method first, and then I learned to modify and loosen up to a more modern calligraphy style. It's nice to know both.

But, if you want to start out only with a more free-form, modern look, then you may want to start with the first book. 


  • If you want to start with a non-traditional, free-from modern approach and skip the traditional method,  Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe is a good book for you.  This book shows many different variations of each letter and is a great book for those who are interested in starting with modern script calligraphy, without learning the more formal approach first.






  • If you would like to learn the more formal copperplate style first, Copperplate Calligraphy from A to Z by Sarah Richardson is a good choice. I really love this book for learning the foundational strokes of copperplate, a traditional pointed pen calligraphy style. I learned this traditional method first, and I then took what I learned in this book and loosened up the style to a more modern, freeform look, using ideas from the first book.






I hope you'll try pointed pen calligraphy. It's a beautiful way to add fun and elegance to your art projects and correspondence.


Please don't worry if you don't have good handwriting. Calligraphy is done one stroke at a time.

(Please share, and thanks!)






 And, remember, it's always nice to have a snuggly buddy nearby as you practice!

23 comments

  1. Aw..such a cute last photo.
    I am intimidated by calligraphy but I like what you said about trying and not giving up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tamara--Sunny is a cute model. Yes, calligraphy can feel daunting at first, but with practice it clicks.

      Delete
  2. Beautiul name examples.
    Keeping warm by cappuccinos, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Dawn. A cappuccino sounds good about now. We are having a brutal winter here, and I've been spoiled from the last few mild ones.

      Delete
  3. I did lots of calligraphy as a teen but haven´t that much since actually, kind of forgot about it. I may have to try again. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, please do, Tinajo! It's fun.

      Delete
  4. Calligraphy is so beautiful! I tried it a bit as a teenager, but never really got back into it.

    Thanks so much for stopping by to visit my blog from the SITS girls today!!

    ~Holly
    http://desertmomma.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so relaxing Holly. You might want to try it again.

      Delete
  5. This looks really great! I took Calligraphy as my art credit in college and I really enjoyed it - especially the relaxing, controlled breathing that went a long with it. I especially loved painting watercolors on my dip pen and letting the colors gradually change!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! The watercolor technique sounds wonderful--I haven't done that yet.

      Delete
  6. Not sure if my comment went thru. Your yorkie is precious! #SITSgirls

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Holly! She is such a sweetheart.

      Delete
  7. Admire your calligraphy skills. Thanks for sharing some of the how tos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Sarah! I'm hoping to post more about it in the future.

      Delete
  8. Pam, Thank you for all the tips and tricks of calligraphy. We are hosting Meraki Link Party weekly from Monday thru till Thursday at https://doodlebuddies.net/2020/09/14/meraki-link-party-5/
    We'd love for you to share your posts with us.
    Naush

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Naush, I will do that!!

      Delete
    2. Thank you Pam, for linking with us. Such fabulous calligraphy. Love it.
      Naush

      Delete
  9. I enjoyed calligraphy as a teen, and still have a deep appreciation for it. Thanks so much for sharing with Creative Compulsions! Also - your snuggle buddy is adorable!

    Michelle
    https://mybijoulifeonline.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle! She makes every activity better.

      Delete
  10. Such a beautiful art form, I have always thought about doing it. For now I will settle for featuring your post in the next Blogger's Pit Stop.
    Kathleen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Kathleen! You made my day!

      Delete
  11. Great advice. I've dabbled with some brush pen calligraphy but the 'proper' pen has scared me a little. You make it sound do-able!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Oh, no need to be scared by the pen! It's a little scary looking, but not really difficult to use, so definitely give it a try!

      Delete

If this post has helped you, please share it! I also appreciate comments---They make my day! All comments are moderated by me, so they may not appear immediately.

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this site.

Thank you!

Back to Top