You’ll need all of the following materials to assemble a basic kit:
The first thing you’ll need is a writing instrument. In calligraphy, you assemble this yourself – you’ll need a pen holder and a nib to make a pen that writes.
My recommendation for a pen holder is to get a basic wooden pen holder, those are inexpensive, environment-friendly, easy to get and they last quite a while. You can always get a more fancy model later.
As for nibs, I always recommend the Nikko G nib to calligraphy newbies. This is a no-fuss, sturdy pointed nib that’s very friendly to beginners, it lasts quite a while and it’s not too sensitive but still very flexible – when you’re starting out, it’s important to get a feeling for the principle of the pointed nib, and for this, the Nikko G is perfect. You don’t have to be afraid of breaking the nib by applying too much pressure, this is practically impossible with the Nikko G – this is also what sets it apart from some other nibs that fall into the intermediate & professional category. And you can achieve really beautiful results with this nib. If you can’t get the Nikko G, go for the Zebra G, which has similar qualities.
You should get two nibs in case one of them doesn’t work out of the factory – this sometimes happens.
Please remember you’ll need to clean the nib before you first use it, otherwise the nib won’t write very well. You’ll need either rubbing alcohol or dish soap and a soft cloth and carefully rub the nib. You can then insert it into the holder (not in the middle, but between the metal ring and the four inner prongs).
When it comes to inks, the easiest and best solution for a beginner is India Ink or Sumi ink. It’s inexpensive, you can get it practically everywhere, it’s nice and black when writing. I’ve written a long blog post about inks, but you can stick to India or Sumi Ink for a good while before you start experimenting.
You’ll also need a small jar with water to dip the nib into from time to time while you’re writing and a soft cloth to rub it clean. This will help to keep the nib unclogged and in a good condition to write.
Next you’ll need paper. I’m a fan of smooth layout paper, and especially the Rhodia Dot Pad, which has little dots printed on it, so you have automatical guides. You can still put a guide sheet underneath to remember the angle if needed (handy for slanted styles).
If you prefer all-white paper, just get a layout pad like the Hahnemühle Layout Paper. Paper from Rhodia also comes unlined.
You can also use some printer papers, especially if they’re for laser printers, and print your own guides or dots on it. You’ll have to try this out first, though, because most printer papers cause the ink to bleed into it. If in doubt, try to try this out before you buy large quantities. For more information about papers, refer to this post.
And then you’re good to go. For more resources and how to get started with practicing calligraphy strokes and alphabets, feel free to refer to my beginner’s guide, or check out one of my workbooks that will teach you one calligraphic style.
Where to get the supplies
You can get all the tools you need from online stores, such als John Neal Bookseller (for US-based readers). They have kindly put together a list of supplies. Other online sources I recommend can be found in my blog post on where to get supplies.
So, all in all, what you’ll need is:
* a wooden pen holder
* one or two Nikko G nibs
* India or Sumi Ink
* smooth layout paper
* a worksheet or resource like my calligraphy for beginner’s guide
* rubbing alcohol or dish soap
* a soft cloth
* a water jar
I hope you’ll have fun exploring calligraphy with this starter kit. If you want to delve deeper at some point, you can always check out different nibs, or new colors or how to get acquainted with the oblique holder.