Calligraphy in itself is quite a difficult skill to get the hang of, but doing it with a calligraphy dip pen is a lot more complicated. Calligraphy dip pens are not the norm – far from it! If you have learned to do calligraphy with different pens, pencils, or markers, you can’t always translate those skills with a dip pen. This post will show you how to use a calligraphy dip pen to the point that you would get comfortable with it. We will discuss the fundamental skills such as holding the pen correctly, writing with it and maintaining it.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Start with the Basic Materials
Dip pens are incredibly nuanced. The variety of pens, nibs, and inks play a significant part in how your writing will turn out when you attempt to use them. Using a calligraphy dip pen with the wrong materials produces discouraging results.
Straight Holder vs. Oblique Holder
Calligraphy dip pens have two kinds, the oblique and holder and the straight holder. If you are just a beginner, the straight holder is the way to go. The difference between them is how they line up with an attached nib.
A straight holder lines up straight with the attached nib, while an oblique pen features a protruding flange on the side where you install the nib. It forces the nib to write at a natural angle, which is challenging to obtain with a straight holder.
Although oblique holders produce unique contrasts with their strokes, they are very difficult to use if you are used to regular ballpoint pens. I suggest you master using the straight holder first before learning how to do it with an oblique holder.
Choosing the Nib
As a beginner, I suggest you stick with the most basic calligraphy dip pen nib you can find. In my opinion, the best nibs to learn calligraphy with are the same nibs that manga artists use. Manga artists need a lot of versatility in their tools to create expressive line variation but still have enough control to switch from fine lines to bold strokes. I suggest getting the G nib as it has the perfect flexibility to get your calligraphy to the next level.
Sumi ink is an excellent option for the primarily Japanese G nib. Sumi has Japanese roots, but it has counterparts in China, Vietnam, and other Asian cultures. However, India ink is perfect for any writing or drawing endeavors that require a lot of control. India ink is versatile and can work with many types of nibs.
Stock on Calligraphy Paper
Get a calligraphy-friendly paper that can absorb dip pen ink well. The problem with regular copy-paper is that they may not absorb the ink well and cause bleeding. Your lines won’t be clean, and you’d get ugly blotches all over your work. The paper should be at least 70 gsm or more in weight to get the best results.
You have a few options with calligraphy paper. You can get them pre-lined, with guidelines to help you write consistent strokes at an angle.
Step 2: Hold the Pen Correctly
Your grip on the calligraphy dip pen must always remain relaxed. Your forefinger should only have a slight bend to it, and your thumb and middle finger should only serve as supports. As you write with a calligraphy dip pen, the pressure shifting comes from the arms, not the fingers. The relaxed grip helps you create flowing strokes with the dip pen.
Another consideration to keep in mind is the angle of the calligraphy dip pen on the paper as you write. The pen must remain at a 45° angle as you write. The ink will not flow as smoothly out of the nib if it is too steep or vertical. And if it is too flat or horizontal, the ink will flow too fast, which will result in an ugly mess.
Holding the pen at the right angle also helps manage the pressure you apply to it.
Step 3: Dip the Pen
Every nib has a reservoir; it is the little hole you can see on the flat surface of the nib. Dip the nib in ink only to the reservoir. Don’t submerge the entire nib, as that will cause messy spillage.
Another way to load the nib with ink is using an eyedropper. You can drop a minimal amount of ink on the nib and get the same results.
Step 4: Shake Off Excess Ink
If you overload the nib with ink, you should shake off the excess ink with sharp, downward jabs over the ink bottle. You should do this if you see ink dripping off the nib as you lift it from the ink bottle.
Step 5: Practice Writing with the Dip Pen with Different Pressure Amounts
Practice writing and applying different pressure amounts to get the hang of using a calligraphy dip pen. Using it with varying pressure is the only way to see the full potential of the dip pen for yourself. Experiment and familiarize yourself with how to achieve unique stroke contrasts.
A slight pressure produces thin lines, and a heavy pressure has thick lines. The more flexible your nib is, the more contrasting the lines. You can use the dip pen either for calligraphy or drawing.
Step 6: Dip the Pen Frequently
How often you need to dip the pen into the ink depends on many factors. The thickness of the nib, what you write or draw, and how much pressure you apply all affect the dipping frequency. The faster the ink flows out of the reservoir, the more often you have to dip the nib in ink to refill.
Step 7: Clean the Nib After Every Use
After using the pen, it is necessary to clean the nib thoroughly to prevent the ink from drying in it and causing problems. If the ink dries in the nib, it will be much harder to remove and cause clogs in the ink flow. Here’s how to clean the dip pen after every use.
Dip the nib in warm water for a few minutes after each usage. Remove the nib from the water and shake it firmly to remove excess water. Then, dry the nib with a paper towel or dry cloth. Make sure no strands of fabric or paper towel fibers get stuck in the nib. If you don’t dry the nib completely, it may rust.
Lastly, store the pen without putting any pressure on the nib.
Learning how to use a calligraphy dip pen opens many possibilities in your drawing or writing projects. The basics covered here should give you enough to get you started on doing art or calligraphy with dip pens. Don’t skip any of the steps. Each of them is vital to getting the most out of the calligraphy dip pen experience.