The Best Calligraphy Pens – Buyers Guide
This guide looks at the best calligraphy pens on the market, for the beginner and the more experienced.
You don’t need a fancy calligraphy pen to make great artwork – all you need is a bit of imagination and patience. Having said that, taking time to master a quality piece of equipment will give that added flair to your writing without being a seasoned professional.
How to Do Calligraphy
Choosing the Best Pen
Choosing the best calligraphy pen depends on your experience, writing style, the type of calligraphy you do and personal preference. Start with a kit with a range of nibs and/or brushes and see what suits you best. Once you have a few hours under your belt you can then move on to the more advanced tools for some really stunning calligraphy.
Which Calligraphy Pens Are Best for Which Style?
Generally, calligraphy pens can be divided into two categories – nib pens and brush pens. Within each are varying nib/brush styles depending on your style and preference.
Best Nib Pens For Calligraphy
Nib pens are ideally sorted to Western script and come in two types. Italic nibs are more rigid and require you to use the side of the nib to get broader lines. Here are our favourites:
While not compromising on ink flow, seasoned users will find this pen ‘drier’ than other more free flowing pens. On the other hand, this is an advantage if you like your work to dry quickly, particularly good if you are writing birthday cards.
- Quick dry
- Grooves for thumb and forefinger
- Long pen body
- Easy spring clip for taking on the move.
The shape of the pen and comfortable grip make it an easy choice if you spend long hours practicing. Ergonomic design can be really important when you get absorbed into the passion of writing and are at it for hours. This one won’t wear a mark into your hand after seasoned use. Ideal for the high-volume writer.
This version of the pilot calligraphy pen is an exception to the above rule. Its unique system of two parallel plates where ink can flow between means you get precise sharp lines with a decent flow even on the corners. The 2-plate style gives you greater flexibility than other italic nibs, and enables more gradation effects.
- Unique 2-plate nib
- 5-6mm variations
- Ideal for lettering
The bonus of this one is you can switch cartridges inside the and start mixing your colors. A great effect for the front of cards, invitations etc. More responsive than the Lamy so if you have a flair for creativity, this is a great one to try.
Best Flex Nib Pens for Calligraphy
Flex nibs have two tines that spread enabling you to do a broader range of line widths with less of the effort. While they take more practice, the effect is worth it. These are our best:
Top picks for Speedball are the 101 and 512. The speedball 101 has a great degree of flexibility but can be hard for beginners to control as it requires very little pressure to create broader lines. Good if you like modern calligraphy. The 512 on the other hand gives better control and consistency while still giving you a decent range of line widths.
- Flexible nib
- Comfortable for long periods
- Stunning effect with practice
For a beginner, or even if you are new to flex nibs, the 512 would be a better choice. If you get the speedball calligraphy pen set it gives you both nibs, meaning you can work your way through nibs of increasing flow.
Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin
Similar to the 512 above, the nib also holds more ink than others meaning you have to dip less often – unless you are crazy with your broad lines! If you think the name is weird, it’s because of it’s shape and blue tint. The nib is more durable than some of its Brause cousins and lasts well.
- Easy to control
- Large ink capacity
- High degree of flex
Great flex for you to play around with, without being over-responsive. The control with this pen makes it an ideal choice if you are new to flex nibs, doing something very precise or writing for long periods (also helped by its durability). A worthy addition to any calligrapher’s toolbox.
Best Brush Pens for Calligraphy
Brush pens are what you would use for Chinese characters, although you can use them for Western calligraphy as well. They range from felt to synthetic hair to natural, and will depend on your experience. Here’s what we recommend:
Pilot Futayaku Double Sided
The Futayaku is an easy to use, comfortable grip felt brush that is a perfect introduction for beginners. At the same time, it is responsive to varying strokes and comes with two brush widths to let you play around with thickness. The finer nib give you a great taper for those finishing touches.
- Easy to control
- Ideal introduction
The easy flow of this pen means it will take longer to dry, so consider writing on thick card (I do this anyway for my Asian calligraphy as I am used to real brushes and ink). Make you store it somewhere it won’t ruin an inside pocket as well!
This one is a good seque into bristle brushes. While it take a little practice to master, it is more responsive than the other advanced types to give you decent flexibility in your strokes. If you are feeling creative, you can mix the brush with a bit of water and create lighter shades, backgrounds or artistic effects.
- Nylon bristles
- Effective with time
At the same time it has all the convenience of a pen, so you can carry it around easily for holiday creations. An ideal choice for the traveller – always keep a notebook and one of these handy for your spontaneous inspirations. Go for the multicolored set so you have opportunity for variation.
Kuretake No 50 Fountain Hair Brush Pen
Once you have mastered the basic brush pens, this is one to challenge yourself with. Its responsiveness creates varying thicknesses with only the lightest of pressure spelling chaos for the untamed. It takes practice, but will astound your friends and family once mastered.
- Real brush
- Very responsive
- High ink flow
A real sable hair tip gives you an elegant shine, which you can replace when needed. It’s acrylic coated brass shaft makes you feel like you’re writing with lacquer. I would pick this pen for an ideal choice as a gift, especially if your recipient was yet to try a real brush. For best effects, keep this pen in frequent use and dry with a tissue after each session.
In Summary, the best calligraphy pens are:
- Lamy Joy
- Pilot Parallel
- Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin
- Pilot Futayaku Double Sided
- Kuretake No 50 Fountain Hair Brush Pen