Basics – Anatomy of a Nib
There are many different nib types, and hundreds of different pointed nibs – those are the nibs you use to write modern calligraphy. I’ve given an overview on different nib types here
If you take a look at a pointed nib, you’ll see how it’s built and how it works when writing. There are two tines that end in a pointed tip, the tines have a slit in the middle and there’s a little hole at the end. When pressure is applied, the tines spread apart und the tip splits in two halves. Ink flows from the little hole (which acts as an ink reservoir) to the tip and, depending on the amount of pressure, more or less ink will end up on the page, producing a broad or thin stroke.
Different pointed nibs have different characteristics, there are rigid and very flexible nibs, scratchy and smooth ones, small and big nibs. In general you can use almost any kind of nib for calligraphy, but not every nib is suited for modern styles.
In the following I’ll introduce some of my most used nibs.
Nikko G/Zebra G
I recommend this Japanese nib to most beginners, as it’s easy to handle and great for learning calligraphy. The Nikko G is a sturdy nib you can’t break that easily. It writes smoothly and is relatively stiff, therefore you can’t write very broad strokes with it.
The Nikko G and the Zebra G are similar, but the Zebra G feels a bit more flexible and a bit more scratchy to me. Both nibs can hold a lot of ink.
This small nib is one of my absolute favorites. It’s very flexible, and you can draw very thin but also very broad strokes with it. It’s great for Calligraphy with Watercolors and also for pieces with many flourishes.
Due to its size you’ll have to reink often. I like to use this nib with thin ink. The Brause EF66 makes a lot of noise while writing – that’s perfectly normal for this nib.
Also very flexible and very soft, though sometimes you can have problems starting this nib. If this occurs you’ll have to hold it a bit more upright until the ink starts flowing.
The Brause Rose can produce really broad strokes. I like to use this nib with thick ink or acrylic paint, because it reacty very sensitively. A big nib which uses a lot of ink while writing.
Brause Steno/Leonardt 33
Both of these nibs have similar characteristics, I typically use them for monoline calligraphy although they are flexible and capable of thick strokes. You can write quickly and very smoothly with both, and I sometimes like that for certain styles.
Brause Cito fein/Leonardt Drawing Nib 6H
These nibs are not exactly for calligraphic writing, but more for drawing – but for that they’re wonderful. The Brause Cito fein with a gold coating is a non-flexible ballpoint nib with a very smooth stroke, the Leonardt drawing nib (which is available in different grades, like pencils) is suited for very thin hairlines, and it’s completely non-flexible.
Hunt 101 Imperial
This nib is great for really thin hairlines and fat downstrokes, even more so than the Brause EF66. It’s highly flexible, but has a very pointed nib and so it’s prone to catch on your paper and leave splatters. You should handle it very carefully. You can produce wonderful results with thin inks and the Hunt 101, for example with selfmade walnut ink.
These nibs are only a selection of the nibs I use, plus everyone handles their nibs differently. My fondness for certain nibs won’t necessarily match your favorite nib selection. As always: try it out for yourself.