There’s a vast majority of different nib types which are used for different calligraphic purposes and writing stiles. In this post, I’ll show you the different nibs and explain what they’re used for.


1. Pointed nibs

Pointed nibs are used for script, for example the classic English Copperplate (Anglaise), for the American Spencerian, but also for modern calligraphy styles like the ones I introduce to you on this blog.
Pointed nibs have a very fine, pointed tip and they’re very elastic. Sometimes letters behind the name indicate how fine the nib is: EF = very fine, F = fine, M = medium, B = broad. Depending on the model both characteristics can change.
The stroke width can be varied by changing the pressure during writing, you should remember to only apply pressure on the downstrokes, otherwise the nib can get stuck in the paper. This also makes calligraphic writing look so characteristic.
Really elastic nibs can produce broader strokes, but they’re also more sensitive to wrong treatment.

2. Chiseled nibs

Chiseled nibs are the writing instruments for classic calligraphy stiles that are historically relevant (and still used today – humanistic cursive, gothic calligraphy, fracture, uncial, carolingian minuscule). There are chiseled nibs with slanted and straight tip, but the tip is always broad.
When writing with those nibs, you don’t change the angle of your writing hand, the nib still produces different stroke weights. If you pull it down, you’ll get a broad stroke, if you pull it sideways, you’ll get a thin stroke. Usually these nibs have an ink reservoir on top so you don’t have to dip them in as often as pointed nibs. Chiseled nibs are available in different sizes, but they don’t flex at all, so the broadest stroke is actually the width of the nib.

3. Poster nib

Poster nibs work similarly to chiseled nibs, but they’re much bigger and broader. They’re made to work in bigger formats. Poster nibs have a smooth tip and can be pushed upwards while writing. They come with an integrated ink reservoir, because they use up a lot of ink while writing.

4. Round or Monoline nibs

Round nibs come with an angled plate at the tip, which results in a steady, monoline stroke. These nibs feel very smooth and flowing when writing.
Round nibs produce a very uniform writing style that has little dynamics, but they’re great for practice. If you twist the nib while writing you can vary the stroke width.

5. Drawing nibs

Drawing nibs are very fine, pointy nibs that can produce very fine lines and hatchings. They’re really best suited for drawing, when writing calligraphy with them they tend to catch on the paper very easily.

6. Ballpoint nibs

Ballpoint nibs have a little round ball at the tip that makes writing very smooth and easy, they’re very nice to handle. In fact, this is the type of nib with which children learn to write in school (in Germany at least – most elementary school still teach writing with fountain pens). Ballpoint nibs are fairly robust, they produce a thick, steady line, but there are also slightly flexible ballpoint nibs.

7. Left-handed nibs

Left-handed nibs look similar to chiseled nibs, but the slant goes into the other direction. They can be used for left-handed writing, or by right-handers when they hold their hand at a different angle (very upright, index finger pointing up, arm resting on the surface with the broad side).

Special and unusual nibs

Elbow nibs:

Pointed nibs for Copperplate or Spencerian or modern styles, if you don’t have an oblique holder lying around and want to write in a slanted manner more easily.

double line nibs:

Double line nibs create two lines, they’re divided in the middle. The lines can vary in size depending on the nib. You can crate beautiful initials with these kind of nibs.

Square Ballpoint nibs

Like round ballpoint pens these nibs have a small plate at the tip, in this case a square one. These nibs produce a line with defined corners.

Music nibs and Music ruling nibs

Music nibs have usually three tines and they’re very elastic and the ink flows very well. They were originally made to write musical notes down.
Music ruling nibs are used to draw the musical stave, they have five little tips. You can also experiment with them for drawing ornaments, but those little nibs don’t hold a lot of ink.

Drawing pen

Drawing pens are really more a resource and aid for graphic uses than an independent writing tool. They’re used for drawing straight lines or circles. They’re constructed from two tines (so quite similar to a nib), the distance of these tines can be regulated by an adjusting screw. Ink is applied between these tines.
Drawing pens are very robust and were a classic tool for graphic designers, draftsmen and cartographers for decades. If you need a straight line in your calligraphy somewhere, a drawing pen might come in handy.

Bamboo Pen

Bamboo pens are made out of pointed bamboo sticks, they produce a very lively, flowing line. You can write very fast with them, but you’ll have to dip them in often. Writing with bamboo feels very smooth.

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If you have any questions or comments on this topic, please feel free to contribute! Just leave a comment below.