Choosing the right nib for your Calligraphy

Calligraphy is a delicate art which requires careful precision and fine tools. Often, calligraphers find that doing the same strokes and letterform using broad-edged markers in bond paper show a distinct difference in quality as opposed to writing using a dip pen with a broad nib on quality paper. This is why many calligraphers embark on the quest to find the perfect materials for their specific writing projects.

One such material that is often the subject of much contemplation by calligraphers is the nibs that their dip pens would use. It is a known fact that the best calligraphic works are done using pens with attached nibs that are dipped on ink and then applied on paper, and the striking variation of these nibs, which occur in a wide array of sizes, make for differing styles and strokes depending on how they are applied on paper.

Nibs can occur in a variety of brands and widths, and are easily purchasable online or through toll free shopping networks, making selection the only major hurdle at this point. Here are some guidelines for choosing the perfect nib for your project:

  • Width – deciding on a nib width is highly important, and this varies widely with the writing project that you are undertaking. A good rule of thumb is that finer projects would require smaller nib widths, usually ranging on the 1.0mm to 2.0mm scale, while bigger and more elaborate projects would usually need 4.0mm to 6.0mm widths. The width of the nib determines the thickest possible stroke that your letter form can have. Large nibs used for smaller writing tend to be more cramped and bunched up while small nibs used for larger writing tend to be more flowing and loose to the point that the strokes can no longer be differentiated between thick and thin.
  • Pointed vs Broad – apart from the standard fare of nibs, which usually occur broad, there are also special types of nibs that are pointed in nature, used for a more artistic letter form in Calligraphy – Copperplate. Very few letter forms make use of pointed nibs so it is important to define first whether your project will involve Copperplate calligraphy or say, Italic or Gothic, as this will determine what type of nib you will be requiring for said project.
  • Ink retention – certain nibs have a special addition called a reservoir on the nib itself, which helps retain more ink. For beginners this is an indispensable tool as this helps make for longer periods of time doing practices without having to reload the pen with ink. Experienced calligraphers also find utility in reservoirs as it allows them to load up other writing media on the pen, such as gouache, acrylic, or watercolor paint.
  • Brand – while not necessarily an important consideration, the brand of nib that you obtain also dictates the level of quality that your projects will have. Most calligraphers go for the Brause or Mitchell nibs as these have been time-tested, enduring as far as the Renaissance period of Calligraphy. Deciding on a brand is important, as it is very ideal to obtain the entire family of nibs from a particular brand as opposed to getting them from various brands, which can possibly make a difference in your projects.