I’ve been writing calligraphy since 2016. I’ve gone through my fair share of good and bad products, and I’ve ruined more than my fair share of quality calligraphy pens and materials through misuse.
I used that experience to build this list for beginners. This buying guide accompanies the New Hobby Box tutorial on writing calligraphy. But if you’ve ended up here from our paper making tutorial or the book binding tutorial, this is the perfect spot to start before embarking on the calligraphy tutorial where you can write calligraphy on paper you’ve made or in a book you created from scratch. You’ll get all the right equipment before trying a single stroke on paper.
If you’re trying to learn how to write calligraphy, you’ll face countless writing styles; so naturally, there are countless calligraphy tools to choose from.
This list is focused on just the basics. I wanted to let you decide if calligraphy is your cup of tea before investing $50 in a calligraphy pen, or $500 on brush pens. And yes, those numbers are very real.
If you want to purchase a calligraphy set instead of single items, I’ve dropped a few links to kits that I’ve collected or think would be a good fit for beginners in the next section.
SUPPLIES NEEDED FOR WRITING CALLIGRAPHY
- Vellum Paper – This is your translucent tracing paper. I recommend vellum because nibs (tips of calligraphy pens) are sharp and can tear through thinner material.
- Grid Paper – It’s really easy to go off-course with your writing, so any sort of grid paper will help. The one I linked is nice because it helps with any diagonal strokes.
- Oblique Calligraphy Pen & Nibs– If you don’t have a calligraphy pen, you probably don’t have nibs, and if you don’t have nibs, you probably don’t have a pen. So I’m linking to a calligraphy pen and nib combo with a calligraphy pen that can be oblique or straight and comes with 8 nibs – all for less than $10 – solid value.
- Calligraphy Ink – You’ll go blue in the face finding the right ink. Just go basic here with the Winsor & Newton black ink.
- Lettering Templates – Unless you get the Wildflower Studio Calligraphy Kit used in this tutorial, you probably won’t find the exact calligraphy templates we follow. It’s not a big deal though. I linked to a pdf template that has a ton of styles to try. You can also head to Pinterest a simple search for “calligraphy templates” will give you a ton of other options too. Since these are only for reference and tracing, it’s not critical that you have the exact template as mine.
I used this kit for my initial “how to write calligraphy” article – I first purchased the Wildflower Studio Calligraphy Kit in 2015. The detail to design and packaging are great, and the informational booklet is beautifully done.
However, I do believe that there are better kits out there at the same price – and I link to them below this.
The Wildflower Studio Calligraphy Kit tools (like nib and oblique pen) feel cheap and overpriced. Without the informational booklet, I would consider this kit a bad value. It’s the biggest reason that we didn’t sell their kits on New Hobby Box (we didn’t carry 3 kits out of the 30+ that we used.)
2015 is a long time ago though, so the kit may have better quality components at this point. But based on their imagery on Amazon, they look to be about the same.
If you’re a beginner that would value information over the tool, then this might not be a bad choice.
ALTERNATIVE CALLIGRAPHY KITS
Speedball is a well-known name in pens and art supplies, and I love this kit for beginners because it can grow with your interest in calligraphy.
It includes two penholders (oblique and straight) that feel nice in hand, as well as a brush pen. I don’t use brush pens, but it is an extremely popular writing instrument in calligraphy and hand lettering.
The set also has two nibs that are pretty common sizes and even includes a jar of ink and pen cleaner (that’s a nice touch, trust me.)
The real value of this set though is the instruction booklet. This one is dense and extremely well-made. Tons of detailed instructions and styles for you to pick from.
And finally, it also includes practice paper (a vellum alternative) by Bienfang – which back in art school, was the premier paper manufacturer.
I’ve already sung the praises of Speedball. This is a more expensive kit than the first one mentioned, but it has a few things worth the price.
Right off the bat you’ll notice that it comes in a wooden box – making it an art piece in itself.
It uses the same instruction manual as the first kit, but this calligraphy kit is more focused on the quality and variety of calligraphy pens and nibs. It includes four penholders, oblique, crow quill, straight/standard, and black and gold textured straight.
It has a wide range of nibs, eight total, that offer a wide variety of styling – thin and broad-edged. This is helpful if you start to try new styles with stricter parameters in lettering.
It also has three pigmented acrylic inks, coming in black, blue, and red. Plus the pen cleaning solution.
I would recommend this kit for those who love writing, and just don’t have a calligraphy kit yet. This set lacks the practice paper, so it’s not a one-stop-shop, but if writing is already your thing, you most likely have vellum or an alternative lying around.
Looking for a more classic set? This AIVN Calligraphy Set is a solid choice.
It’s important to note that this is not an oblique penholder – it is straight/standard, but beautiful nonetheless. The penholder is rosewood and includes a faux bronze pen holder – some real Charles Dickens vibes.
The pen is noted for its glide and control – part of that is due to the material, and the other is that it’s straight profiled.
The set includes 12 nibs, so you’ll be able to accomplish just about any style you can imagine. And also has two bottles of ink – a black and a brown option.
This is a killer gift but also a great kit for yourself if you want to do calligraphy, but don’t need all the other materials – instruction booklets, vellum, cleaning solutions, etc.
Alright. That’s a look at all the items you’ll need for calligraphy, where to purchase them, and a shortcut to calligraphy kits for beginners.
If you’re interested in putting this kit to practice, but don’t know where to start, definitely check out the tutorial – How to Write Calligraphy: The Lost Art of Handwritten Letters.