Teaching yourself modern calligraphy is not hard. Let me repeat that statement: Teaching yourself modern calligraphy is not hard.
Now, that’s settled. Get over your brain block of “not able to do it” and let’s do this. I’ve had lots of questions about how I taught myself calligraphy (either from those who want to pick up the hobby, make a few bucks or letter their own invitations), so I figured it was time to really share.
Today’s lesson is compiling the right toolkit for the task. The best part about this hobby is that it’s relatively cost effective (thank you baby Jesus), so getting started should be easy peasy.
1. Find a Guide
There are lots of guides out there that outline simple stroke techniques and letter forms. I learned through Design Roots workbook. It’s great and I love everything about her site and her calligraphy. I drool over her instagram posts daily (creepy, yes). She offers her own starter kit on her website as well, so that’s a good place to look if you’re ready to get started and don’t want to go off and hunt for things yourself!
2. Get a Pen & Nibs
Pen holders are really interesting. There are two styles: straight or oblique. It’s like you’re either one side or the other – mayo or mustard, blood or crip, N*Sync or Backstreet (see attached). I’m oblique. That means that the “pen holder thingy” has an extra piece that makes the nib stick out to the side. I didn’t start with a straight holder like most people say to do, so I kind of jumped in the deep in before learning how to swim. Either way, whichever way you choose to start – it’ll work out. Most kits come with a plastic black pen holder, which is fine to start with, but once your jobs becoming large these puppies will do a number on your poor hand. I invested in this holder and felt like I was re-born. Literally.
Nibs are just like pen holders. There are 230billion kinds out there and you’ve got to find your favorite one. I discovered my favorites through instagram research, actually. I followed lots of calligraphers and when I saw a style I liked, I had no shame and #straightupasked what nib they were using. I always got an answer, because people in this biz are eager to help! My favorite nibs are the Brause 56 EF & the Gillott 404. I use these on my envelopes almost exclusively. When you get a new nib, you’ll have to “prime” it: rub a little toothpaste with a soft toothbrush over the nib. This will help the ink flow better. Make sure you only prime the nib you’re ready to use (and keep primed/not primed nibs seperated)! By taking off the coating on each nib, they are subject to water and rust, so just keep that in mind. I’m terrible at taking care of my nibs. Just throwing it out there.
3. Grab Some Ink
Ink is weird. Some inks work on some papers, others don’t. Make sure to test out your ink on your medium before you start a project. My favorite ink (regular old black ink) is Sumi Ink 60. It takes a little while to dry, but I love it. Also, don’t forget about the colors that make everyone drool – gold & white.
Calligraphy is cool. You can pack it up and go – and it all can fit in a small box. I use this storage container for my pen holders, nibs & toothbrush head (to clean my nibs) so I can pick it up and go if I need to work on a project on the road.
5. Practice Mediums
Rhodia pads (grid & blank) are perfect for practicing. I love the way the paper feels (I’m so weird, I know). I also keep a stack of envelopes handy and a few pretty journals in case inspiration strikes. Which it hardly does, but I just think these are so pretty, and they fulfill my fantasy of possibly having inspiration that strikes.
Now, get your ass to work. You’ve got practicing to do! Be patient with yourself and let me know if (when) you get frustrated. I’ve been there (and am probably there now).
What are your favorite items in your toolkit?