Pointed Pen Calligraphy- Tips and Resources for Beginners

Pointed pen calligraphy lends itself to gorgeous formal wedding invitations, envelope art, card making, and more. It makes beautiful grocery lists too!  (Seriously, that's a great way to practice...)

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So, first of all, try not to be intimidated by calligraphy.   A friend of mine took a class once but felt that she wasn't able to learn it. She gave up too soon!  It does take patience, but if you try it, please don't give up.  One day it will click, and then, with practice, you'll  be able to produce some hand lettering that will surprise you. 

Pointed Pen Calligraphy--Modern Calligraphy

It's fun to address your everyday envelopes in calligraphy and brighten someone's day.

Note: I've since applied these traditional pointed pen skills to modern versions of pointed pen calligraphy and to brush lettering with markers, but I am glad to have had this traditional calligraphy foundation.  I've been more confident in making variations and playing with the letterforms because of it.  

Supplies:  (Affiliate links for many of the supplies I use are below the post.)

These supplies work well for formal calligraphy as well as for more modern versions. The supplies are the same!  

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.)

Not an expensive hobby!  I try to purchase as many of my calligraphy supplies at a local art supply store, but the choices can be limited locally.

Dip Pens:  You will see both straight and "oblique" pen holders. (The pen that holds the nib.)  An oblique holder makes it easier to get a slant, but straight holders are easier to find and easier to use, especially for beginners. Plus, newer styles of modern calligraphy don't require the heavy slant.

I learned the traditional Copperplate style first, though, so I started with an oblique holder, which can be slightly more intimidating. It was worth it to me to learn with an oblique holder, because I love the slant I can get with it.

The straight wooden holders with cork barrels are very comfortable. Some nibs won't fit a standard holder, but most of them that are recommended for beginners will.

Nibs:  Many people recommend the Nikko G nib for beginners. It's a good one to start with and will hold a good amount of ink. It will also fit many standard pen holders.  As you progress, you may want to try a more flexible nib.

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 rubbing alcohol will also work, but I haven't tried it.

I often get nibs through Paper and Ink Arts and John Neal Books, as they are harder to find locally. But I get my Hunt 101 nibs at my local art supply store. (Shout out to ArtMart!) The Hunt 101 is a more flexible and finicky nib, so it's not the best for beginners.

Ink:  An old favorite of mine is Higgins Eternal black ink.  Works well for pointed pen lettering, and seems to be a favorite in copperplate classes. There are a lot of inks that work in dip pens, and it's fun to explore. I've also used several of the Windsor and Newton Calligraphy Inks with good results.  And, for some stunning results on dark envelopes, try Dr. Ph Martin's Pen White.

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 dot grid pads are great for practice. (A bit more expensive though!)  They have a very smooth, satiny finish, and the ink doesn't bleed. The dotted lines are helpful for consistency.

Books: I love this book for learning classic copperplate pointed pen calligraphy:

It's been a great resource for me,  because each letter is demonstrated stroke by stroke. Copperplate is a more traditional pointed pen style, and you can make variations if you choose to do a more modern style of calligraphy.

If you want to skip the more formal copperplate instruction, for modern pointed pen calligraphy variations, I love

                                       Modern Calligraphy by Molly Thorpe 

It's been my favorite resource for fresh, modern lettering.

I don't regret learning the more traditional style first, though!

I hope you'll try pointed pen calligraphy. It's a beautiful way to add fun and elegance to your art projects and correspondence (yes, sometimes I do still correspond by real mail--remember this post?)

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

yorkie on blanket

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Linking to:

Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy


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

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

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

    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.

  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. :-)

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

  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!!


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

  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!

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

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

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

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

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


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