Starting a new creative hobby is always exciting, and if you’re anything like me you probably like to dive into a new creative adventure headfirst and just purchase all the new supplies you can get your hands on. To save you some money and storage space I typed up a list of the best modern calligraphy supplies to start with. These are the materials that over the years I discovered to be the best both quality- and price wise, and that I use for my modern calligraphy workshops and client orders.
The Nikko G is definitely the number one modern calligraphy nib for beginners. It’s the nib I first ever started practising calligraphy with and also the nib I give to my workshop students. It’s a Japanese nib thats flexible but sturdy, allowing you to achieve a beautiful contrast between thin and thick lines while being sturdy enough for the nib to be relatively easy to control.
I haven’t found an offline store that sells Nikko G nibs, but my favorite creative webshop Splendith.nl always has them in stock.
The nib holder is the actual pen that you put your nib into so that you can write with it. You don’t need a fancy nib holder to be able to produce beautiful calligraphy pieces, just a wooden or plastic one will do! Then later on you can always switch to a more advanced or even custom made nib holder.
There are two main models of nib holders, straight or oblique ones. The oblique nib holder has a little flange to the side that makes sure the nib is in the right angle (always pointing to the top right corner of your paper) when you’re holding it with your right hand. This is a relatively cheap oblique holder that’s perfect to start with and can hold the Nikko G nib.
A straight nib holder doesn’t have the flange part, so if you’re right handed you will need to twist your hand a bit more in order to hold the nib at the right angle. If you’re left handed (like me!) a straight nib holder will probably suit you better because writing with your left hand from underneath your work (so not bending your arm over so that you’re writing from the top, like some lefties tend to do) will automatically give you the right angle to point your nib to the top right corner of the paper. This is a good basic wooden nib holder that’s perfect to start with.
Not all paper is suited for calligraphy. Some types of paper will cause the tines of your nib to catch on the paper, or the ink to ‘bleed’. It’s best to use a smooth type of paper that doesn’t soak up the ink too much and makes your nib glide over the paper. Rhodia pads are great practise pads that have dots or lines to guide your calligraphy. Or use high quality laser print paper to practise on, this HP paper is relatively inexpensive and perfect to print my modern calligraphy worksheets on.
Sumi ink is a Japanese black ink that’s very suitable for beginning calligraphers. It’s a very deep black and when it dries it looks slightly shiny. The consistency of the ink is just thick enough to make your writing nice and dark, while the ink is thin enough to smoothly flow from your nib. If sumi ink gets thicker over time you can easily make it thinner by adding some water. If you’re looking for another colour than black, then gouache is the answer! I love mixing my own inks with some gouache, water and a little bit of gom arabic as a binder to make the ink flow even better. Simply add water until your mixture has the thickness of normal ink, add a few drops of gom arabic and mix well. This way you can mix any colour ink!
I order a lot of supplies online, but sometimes you just can’t wait to get your hands on a new ink colour or some fresh paper. Besides, spending a few hours in one of these gorgeous arts and crafts stores is never a punishment anyway! There are a few stores in Amsterdam that I usually run to for supplies. Vlieger papier is a real paper paradise and has a nice collection of creative supplies like pens, gouache and brushes upstairs. Van der Linde on the Rozengracht is an artists’ heaven with lots of pens, paint, paper and anything creative you can think of! They also have quite a large selection of nibs (no Nikko G though) and small glass jars for mixing inks. Van Beek also has a lot of gouache and papers.
I hope this will help you start your calligraphy journey of on the right foot. If you need any more help just contact me or leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Or join the workshop waiting list and you’ll be notified of new workshop dates as soon as they’re planned so that I can help you in person one day!