If you’re new to calligraphy, or even if you’ve been practicing for years – the most important thing to know is that your calligraphy nib can make or break your piece. So, how do you choose the right calligraphy nib?
I’ve put this first because to me, it is the most important! When shopping for nibs, take a look at how flexible they are. A rigid/not flexible nib will help you keep your upstrokes thin, but will require more pressure to create a thick downstroke. Rigid nibs are typically very good for beginners for this reason, since most beginners use too much pressure. However, some calligraphers have trouble putting the pressure needed to create thick downstrokes, so their calligraphy looks monoline and a little boring. A very flexible nib will make it easier to create thick downstrokes, but also more difficult to make thin upstrokes. So, a flexible nib is ideal for a calligrapher who has trouble creating those luscious thick downstrokes.
Shape of Nib
If you’re having to re-dip your nib in ink a lot, your calligraphy will slow down. For this reason, some calligraphers love nibs with more of a bowl shape in the body of the nib, as there is more surface area for the ink to cling to, which means more ink on your nib, which means re-dipping less often!
The width of the tines at the end of your nib determine how thin the thinnest line you can create with that nib will be. If you don’t put any pressure on the nib at all, the width of the tine will be the thinnest line possible. So, if you want to create hairline thing upstrokes, look for a nib with thin tines!
Size of Nib
This goes hand in hand with the last property, as the size of the nib will determine the size of artwork you can create. You may have noticed if you tried to use a nib for small scale work and large scale work, that it doesn’t look the same. That’s because the proportions of the thin lines and thick lines don’t stay the same if you create a 1″ tall letter or a 6″ tall letter. A smaller nib will be better for smaller artwork, while a larger nib will work better for larger pieces.
When all else fails, experiment! When I was first beginning, I ordered one of several different types of nibs, and tried them all out. You’ll find you like nibs that you may not expect, and over time, your preferences may change! My go-to nib from 5 years ago I don’t use for anything today!
So that’s it, my best tips for choosing the right calligraphy nib! Your calligraphy nib can make or break your project, so don’t be afraid to test out a few to find the one that’s Goldilock’s style – justttt right.
P.S. If this sounds like a headache you wish I would just tell you what I use so you don’t have to experiment – you’re in luck. Click here to purchase my at-home Introduction to Modern Calligraphy kit. It includes my two favorite nibs, a nib holder, the best calligraphy ink, and worksheets that teach you how to use and take care of your nibs.