Calligraphy 101

Calligraphy is the age old art form of bringing a nib to paper, and the creation of extraordinary work. Once considered sunset interest and an old person's hobby, has in recent years experienced sort of a renaissance of popularity.

There are many forms of Calligraphy, from Copperplate to Spencerian, Engravers to Ornamental scripts. Many to learn and master. For today, I'd like to share a little on how a beginner can get started with Dip Pen Calligraphy.

credits: IAMPETH

Starting Out:


Some say the nib is the most important part of a dip pen calligraphy set up. It is the mechanism which delivers ink onto the paper with varying quantities and thickness. It's the flexing of the nib that gives lines its variations and different nibs are capable of varying degrees of flex.
*credits: thecuriousartisan

A beginner might prefer to use a stiffer nib, let's say the Nikko G, which is also one of the more popular starter calligraphy nibs. Being a stiffer nib, one would not need to focus so much on controlling the force placed on the nibs. Using a stiff nib would allow one to practice calligraphy with more attention placed on the strokes and form of the letters. A flexible nib like the Leonardt Principal ef would require consistent force applied when writing to ensure a constant straight line. The more flexible the nib is, the more sensitive it is to the changes in your strength used. So pick your nibs carefully! :)

For beginners, the G nibs are often recommended. For the intermediate ones, do not hesitate to try out new nibs such as the Gillot 404/303, Brause Steno, Hiro 41, two of the more popular ones that you should also try would the Leonardt Principal EF and the Brause 66EF! Always try and experiment new nibs/paper/ink combinations to explore the different experience and find the one most suited to you writing style :)

Importance of treating nibs:


Do note that every nib comes with a layer of protective oil coating to prevent it from rusting. There are a few methods to remove this layer:

  1. Toothpaste
  2. Saliva
  3. Dishwashing Liquid
  4. Passing it through flame

If you are using method 1-3, you can just rub it on the nib or scrub it with a brush and it would be gone! :)
If you are using method 4, do be careful and heat with great caution as overheating might lead to the metal deforming.

Nib Holders

Nib holders are where you insert you nib into to be able to write. It
There are mainly 2 types of nib holders: The straight and the oblique holders. For the straight holder, there are also those with a universal/metal insert and a plastic insert. The universal insert looks like a flower with four petals facing inwards. The plastic one is just a circular hole in the holder which allows you to insert the nib.

There are several types of oblique holders, plastic flange, metal adjustable flange and universal flange. Plastic flanges can't be adjusted to fit different nib shapes and sizes.
Plastic Speedball Oblique Holder

Metal adjustable flanges are capable of fitting most nibs just that they would require some adjusting with a needle nose pliers( normal pliers might do the trick too!).
credits: Dr Vitolo

Universal oblique nib holders, on the other hand, is capable of taking most if not all nibs without requiring any adjustments.
credits: Yoke Pen Company


There are many types of inks or other mediums that people use to write with, namely: Sumi inks, Walnut inks, Calligraphy inks by various ink makers and there are also gouache paint or finetec gold.

Sumi Inks are basically carbon based inks that are great for both dip pen and Chinese calligraphy. A few of the most popular ones are Kuretake Sumi Ink, Moon Palace Sumi Ink, and the most affordable Daiso Sumi ink! Out of these few, the Moon Palace Sumi would be one of the best Sumi ink that is well liked by both seasoned and budding calligraphers. It is a well-behaved ink that is capable of producing wonderful thick swells and thin hairlines too!

credits: JetPens

Walnut Inks are basically brown inks which can be both purchased in crystals or in ink bottles. It is also quite popular among calligraphers as a good go to brown ink for both broad and point pen calligraphy alike! Using walnut ink crystals also allows you to adjust the shade of brown according to your preference. Don't like the color?Just add more crystals for a darker shade! :)

credits: Leigh Reyes

Calligraphy Inks are most of the time pigmented colored inks that can be used for dip pen calligraphy :) There are several brands of calligraphy inks available such as Calli ink by Daler Rowney and Diamine Calligraphy inks. The colors from these inks come from tiny pigments flowing inside the ink which would make these ink NOT recommended for fountain pen user! DANGER Using calligraphy inks might clog up the feed inside your fountain pen!
credits: Diamine UK

Fountain Pen inks are often not used for calligraphy unless some alterations are done to the ink. Inks for dip pen calligraphy tend to be much thicker so that it would be able to 'hold' onto the nib, fountain pen inks tend to be too watery for such use.

Gouache Paint are also a fun way of playing with colors in calligraphy! However do note that one important thing is to only use high-quality gouache only! Cheaper gouache would look faded while true high-quality gouache would have a more bright opaque look to it. Gouache requires a little mixing with water and it can be easily done in a palette!
credits: The Postman's Knock

Finetec Gold/Pearlescent Paints are similar to using gouache paint. Just add a few drops of water to the pot of Finetec Gold:D, and you are good to go! It's an easy to use and much neater way of using gold inks. It also has a brilliant shine and would turn any piece of calligraphy work into an exquisite piece! Just check out the magical thing that happens once you expose it to light and the sheen is just incredible to behold. It is normally offered with 6 pots of 5 different shades of gold and 1 sterling silver which would be more than enough to last you for quite some time :) Can't wait to get your own palette of Finetec? Get it here now! Do join the hunt before 27 April to get it at 30% off MSRP.


There are many different types of paper but not all are suitable for calligraphy. The two most common enemy of writing calligraphy would be bleed through and feathering. They both often occur due to poor quality paper or when the calligraphy ink is too wet for the paper.

Feathering refers to the emergence of tiny hairline 'fractures' spreading out from the original strokes which can be seen in the image below.
credits: Gourmet Pens

Bleed through refers the appearance or 'leaking through of the ink from the underside of the page that has been written on. In worse cases, it might result in the underside being unusable.
credits: FPN-P

Finding a good quality paper for calligraphy in Singapore is actually quite a feat, though not because it is hard to search for it, but because you will be spoilt for choice!

Paperone Photocopier Paper is one of the cheapest and most common paper you can find in Singapore. However, some of the photocopier paper out there have quite thin and poor quality papers. When getting photocopier papers, the rule of thumb is to go for the heavier ones. This is because when comparing paper of similar qualities, the one with a higher gsm would tend to have less feathering and bleed through. Normally it would be recommended to get those with at least 80gsm or heavier if you are thinking about getting this to practice on.
credits: Paperone

Muji Loose Leaf (Grid/Line) paper have quite good quality and is a good alternative to a calligraphy practice paper. It can be found in both grid and lines to suit your preference.

Daiso Campus Loose Leaf is an affordable option too! It can be found in both blank and lined(blue-5mm/red-6mm). This paper should be quite easily found in the stationary section of any Daiso. Personally, I feel that this paper seems to be kind of too thin for my taste though :/

Marmunam Loose Leaf paper is recommended by some of the calligraphers in Singapore too and can often be found in Kinokuniya bookstores. Its is quite similar to Rhodia and handles ink quite well with minimal bleed through and feathering.
credits: Jetpens

Rhodia Paper is one of the favorite paper of many calligraphers and fountain pen users alike. It's an 80gsm high-quality smooth paper . It is found in dot,lined,blanked and grid too! It's one of the most smooth paper you can ever get for that price and it would make some of your scratchier nibs feel better on paper. Its high-quality paper also means that there would be less bleed through, less feathering and MORE WRITING out of every page! A paper that everyone should try!
credits: The Pentorium

Tomoe River Loose Leaf is one of the best paper in the business. It's a high-quality smooth paper from Japan. This thin and slightly translucent piece of paper is just only 52gsm and yet doesn't have any bleed through or feathering!

*credits: Thorntons Luxury Goods

Check out the ink test below by the Pen Addict, its real mind blogging how this thin piece of paper is able to take all the ink you throw at it and still not feather or bleed through! The only downside is that it might take some while for a wet ink to dry and its underside might not be usable, not due to bleed through but due to the paper being too thin and translucent.

credits: Pen Addict

The Tomoe River Loose Leaf is an exceptional pack of papers that you would never regret getting. Its excellent quality makes it suitable for using with a fountain pen, markers, and even dip pen calligraphy. Do note that due to paper might buckle when dried if there is too much water (for watercolors) but there wouldn't be any bleed through! Can't wait to get your very own Tomoe River Paper now? Join the interest check for it HERE or get it right now at our marketplace!

Dipping the Nib:

Do remember to always dip past the breather hole for the nib to be fully loaded with maximum ink capacity!

credits: [Wikipedia](

Another method would be using a brush to load the nib with ink by dabbing the brush onto the breather hole/underside of the nib.
In some cases, if you do have an eye dropper lying around, it can also do the trick. Just a few drops of ink on the nib and you would be good to go! :)

Mixing Inks:

There are a few things you can do when a particular ink, whether gouache or walnut or any other inks, is too watery:

  1. Leave the ink to dry by itself
  2. Heat the ink slightly to evaporate excess water faster
  3. adding gum arabic to thicken the mixture

Note: Adding gum arabic would increase the viscosity of the mixture. It would make the mixture more translucent and disrupt how it behaves overall. Add the Gum arabic bit by bit as adding too much might disrupt the ability to create fine hairlines. Adding Gum arabic also increasing the drying time of the mixture so do beware!


For General & In-depth Knowledge:

  1. Flourish Forum
  3. Calligraphers Singapore Facebook Group
  4. Anintran
  5. Bianca Mascorro
  6. The Postman's Knock
  7. The Curious Artisan

For Calligraphy Supplies:

  1. Grouphunt Writing - Group Orders for Calligraphy/Writing Products.
  2. Art Friend - Stationary store at Bras Basah/Plaza Singapura.
  3. Straits Art - Stationary store at Bras Basah, opposite NLB
  4. Overjoyed - Art, Craft & Stationary store near Rocher MRT.



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