Pointed Calligraphy Nibs for Beginners

August 5, 2017

When you're starting a new practice, the tools you choose can be immeasurably important, if not imperative to your success. With pointed pen calligraphy, one of the most important tools to choose is your pointed nib. Trying to decipher the world of nibs can be a daunting task for a beginner, so let's break this down into the things you'll want to consider:

 

Flex.

When talking about point pen calligraphy, the basic anatomy of the pointed nib allows for a relative amount of flexibility. This unique feature regulates how far the tines spread apart, dictating the relative width of your thicker downstrokes, or shades. The farther they spread, the thicker the line.  As you can imagine, a more flexible nib has the ability to produce more line variation than a less flexible, stiff nib.  As a beginner, you will want to stick with nibs that are generally considered to have a neutral flexibility. Stiff nibs likely won't allow you to produce the contrast in thicks + thins that you are looking for. Too much flexibility can be difficult to control until you have better control of your pressure, so it's best to start somewhere in the middle (medium flex) + then explore alternative flexibilities as you become more practiced.

 

Tip Size.

You will start to notice that not all pointed nibs will have the same tip size, depending on their construction. Pointed nibs will range from extra fine (EF) to broad tips. When choosing your first nibs, you will likely want to see nice contrast in your thinks + thins, so finding a neutral flex nib with a fine point should serve you well. Essentially, the finer the tip, the finer your hairlines will be. Just like the relative amount of flex will dictate how full your shades can be.

 

Mount Size.

Without getting into too many specifics here, it should be noted that not every nib fits every pen holder. There are two main sizes to keep in mind when choosing the appropriate nib: you have the standard "comic" size nib + the smaller mapping or crow quill nibs, which require specialized holders. Mapping nibs + crow quills will feature a small circular base, while regular nibs have a curved base that will fit in most standard nib holders. Essentially, you are going to want to stick with a more general purpose holder to get you started - this will allow you the most options in choosing your nibs now  + down the line.

 

 

 

 

 

POINTED NIBS FOR BEGINNERS

 

G Nibs |  A Comparison.

 

Most modern calligraphers will tell you that the go-to nib for beginners is the G nib. I'm going to tell you the same thing - there's a reason every Más+Millie Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit comes with a Tachikawa G nib! One of the first things you may notice, however, when you go to purchase more extra nibs is that there are actually more than one specific G to choose from. So is there a difference + does it matter? Well, ultimately yes, there is a difference + I think it can be truly helpful to understand up front just what you are purchasing, as each nib will have its own inherent traits + characteristics that may influence which one you choose. Ultimately, you almost have a Goldilocks situation - some may prefer their porridge hot, some prefer it cold, others may want something somewhere in between. You just need to pick your porridge:

 

 

Tachikawa G
Ahhh... this is my "just right" nib for beginners. A Más+Millie favorite (provided in our Starter's Kits) + my go-to G to buy in bulk. The Tachikawa will have the most flex (still considered medium overall) of all your Gs listed here, which I find can be helpful in the beginning stages of learning pointed pen calligraphy. Also considered a great drawing nib, you can see why in it's excellent shade control. It has a comfortable flow to it + holds ink well, requiring less dipping as you become accustomed to controlling your nib pressure. 

THE POINT | most flex; incredible fluidity + control transitioning between thicks + thins

 

Nikko G

Easily considered the most popular of the Japanese G nibs, the Nikko is found in many beginner's kits + for good reason. It's a decent nib for what it promises + it offers super fine hairlines + the thickest shades of all the G nibs - something many beginners enjoy in a new nib. This also lends it more appropriate to larger scale lettering. There is, however, a notable amount of scratchiness when compared to the Tachikawa + its sharper tip tends to pick up more fibers in my experience. 

THE POINT | medium flex; highest contrast of thicks + thins

 

Zebra G

My least favorite. I find this G to be scratchy + less fluid than it's other counterparts. The Zebra is your least flexible nib with a bulkier hand-feel. The scratchiness tends to lead to more fiber collection in the tip resulting in a loss of control + fluidity. Perhaps it has it's place in other aspects of dip pen work, but this is most certainly not my suggestion for Copperplate calligraphy. 

THE POINT | medium flex but stiffest of the g nibs; least favorite but provides finer hairlines than nikko g

 

Zebra G Titanium 

 

Hands down, my absolute favorite. This golden beauty is your Cadillac of G nibs + a major upgrade from your standard Zebra G, its chrome-plated cousin that I never took well to. The No. 153 is treated, as the name suggests, with a titanium coating which substantially improves it's durability + its resistance to wear + abrasion. There is also a substantial improvement in the overall fluidity to this nib that allows it to outshine the others. While it's sticker price is often twice what you typically spend on other nibs, it will be your workhorse + keep it's inherent control + sharpness far longer than you're likely used to. This is very certainly my professional go-to nib when I am looking for medium flex, excellent control + contrast in my shades + hairlines with very little scratchiness. Worth the investment. 

THE POINT | medium flex; 2x the cost but 4x the endurance; exceptionally smooth + effortless glide

 

 

 

 

OTHER BEGINNER GO-TO nibS.

 

 

Gillot 1068A

Babe the Blue Nib.

 

While many fledgling letters will immediately gravitate toward the G, you are by no means limited to that nib style. Our Más+Millie Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit also includes a Gillot 1068A, a stiffer nib than the G, but not so stiff that moderate pressure can't produce a decent shade. In my experience, beginners tend to have greater success when they branch out into a stiffer nib before attempting to work with more flexible ones. I always suggest using the Gillott 1068A with our Basic Drills Worksheet Bundle  to get a good feel for how it moves on the paper. It can feel a little scratchy when compared to the Tachikawa G, but this can also be solved through proper hand alignment - something you should be working on as a beginner in any case. 

THE POINT | low flex; good practice nib for beginners

 

Hunt Imperial 101 + Hunt School 56  

Reliable + durable. These are wonderful practice nibs + lend themselves well to larger scale lettering. I would not use either of these on rougher work surfaces as they tend to snag a bit, especially the Imperial 101. You will find that your hairlines will be noticeably stronger when compared to the G nibs you likely started with. But this is simply an aesthetic choice. You will be able to get a fair amount of swell to your shades, but you will have to apply firmer, more deliberate pressure to do so. I find that these nibs can be a nice stepping stone for beginners to start controlling their pressure with more intention. Certainly a practice worth spending time on in the freshman season of your practice as this will allow you to really open your hand to the vast world of other fabulous nibs in the world! 

THE POINT | both low flex; good practice nibs for beginners looking to gain more control over their hand pressure.

 

 

 

 

THE CONTROL | all más+millie nib tests are performed on borden & riley layout translucent visual bond using becka's favorite blackwell oblique holder + black moon palace sumi ink.

 

DISCLAIMER | USE OF ANY CONTENT WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION PROHIBITED.

 

 

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