Beginner's Resource List
Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing. It is a drawing technique done with specific tools. Today, there are many newer tools that make writing beautiful letterforms easier than before. The Fabulous Las Vegas Scribes have compiled the following list to help beginning calligraphers assemble supplies that will be necessary to start writing.
John Neal Bookseller has a section on Beginner’s Supplies. They list suggested books for all types of instruction, nibs, penholders, paper and ink. If you are not sure which would be useful to purchase, e-mail or consult with a Fabulous Las Vegas Scribe for help. Paper & Ink Arts has a section on Calligraphy Kits which may be helpful. Also, check the Resources List for other calligraphy and bookmaking suppliers.
Beautiful letterforms are written with nibs placed into holders and dipped into ink or gouache (opaque watercolor, thinned to be similar in consistency to ink). There are variations, for example, some pens have nibs in place and ink cartridges to replace the bottle of ink. Some calligraphers dip a brush into the ink or gouache and then brush the loaded brush over the nib.
Pens: There are two types of nibs used in calligraphy, pointed nibs and broad-edged nibs. Each produces letters with thick and thin lines but use different techniques.
Pointed nibs produce thicker lines when pressure is applied, thus splitting the tip of the nib to release more ink. Copperplate and Spencerian styles of writing utilize pointed nibs inserted into an oblique penholder. The FabLVScribes recommend purchasing the nibs recommended by the book or the instructor you are studying for pointed pen work. Make sure you also purchase an oblique penholder that fits your nibs.
Broad-edged nibs are used for Uncial, Gothic, Italic (and its modifications), Foundational, Carolingian, Neuland, and other similar styles of writing. Thick and thin lines are made by keeping a consistent pen angle and pulling the pen to form the letters. Broad-edged nibs are inserted into a straight penholder. The FabLVScribes recommend purchasing Brause broad-edged nibs in a variety of sizes. Make sure you purchase a straight penholder that fits the Brause nibs.
Pen Holders: Pen holders can be plastic or wood. Some have metal tops that grip the nibs. Some have grooves to insert the nibs. Nib manufacturers generally make holders that fit their nibs. Don’t soak your pen holders in water or they will rust or otherwise deteriorate.
Ink: Ink comes in many colors and forms. Some ink comes in sticks (Sumi) which is ground against a stone and then water is added to achieve the desired consistency. Ink also comes in liquid form in bottles and is available in many colors. The FabLVScribes recommend Higgins Eternal ink in a bottle. If you prefer to brush your ink onto the nib, purchase an inexpensive brush about a size 8 pointed brush.
Gouache: Gouache is an opaque watercolor that can be thinned to the consistency of ink. It comes in a tube. Squeeze some gouache into a palette dish, add distilled water with a dropper and stir to mix with a brush. Gouache enables a calligrapher to execute their letters in colors. The FabLVScibes recommends Winsor and Newton gouache.
Pilot Parallel Pens: Pilot parallel pens are a recent addition to the calligrapher’s arsenal of tools. The pens come in 4 sizes and are filled with cartridges of ink. The ink flows freely through the nibs and doesn’t require the writer to stop and fill the nib. Extra cartridges are available in specific colors, black or a box of different colors. The FabLVScribes highly recommends all four sizes of parallel pens. They are available at Desert Art Supplies (4 sizes), John Neal Bookseller and Paper and Ink Arts. Also available is a book by Brenda Broadbent that gives some tips on using parallel pens. All three vendors offer the colored ink cartridges and black. The online vendors offer boxes of specific colors of ink.
Paper: You will need practice paper. You will also need paper for final projects. The paper you are looking for will depend on the style of writing you are doing and the nib required by the style. Watercolor paper with a smooth finish is best for calligraphy as well as any calligraphy practice pads sold by any of the vendors.
Online vendors for calligraphy and bookmaking supplies:
John Neal: http://www.johnnealbooks.com
Paper and Ink Arts: http://www.paperinkarts.com
Calligrafile.com has many resources with links to all of them. The website is organized by category.
Online art supplies:
Arizona Art Supply: http://arizonaartsupply.com
Daniel Smith: http://www.danielsmith.com
Desert Art Supplies: http://www.desertartsupplies.com
Dick Blick: http://www.dickblick.com
Online Gilding Supplies: http://www.jtresser.com/ONLINE-GILDING-SUPPLIES.html
S3 Stores: http://www.artistsupplysource.com
Aaron Brothers – has basic art supplies. Carries ½ sheets of Arches Text Wove paper that is a good paper for calligraphic writing as well as making artist’s books and watercolor techniques.
Desert Art Supplies – a local artist’s shop with two locations in Las Vegas. Desert Art Supplies carries Parallel Pens and ink, an assortment of Speedball nibs as well as other nibs and a large selection of papers including blank and grid Rhodia pads and Borden & Riley bleed proof paper as well as other art supplies. They also have an online link (see above).
Dick Blick – a local branch of a national art supply vendor. They have one location in Las Vegas as well as an online link (see above). Dick Blick carries: Papers: Arches Cover, hand-made papers, envelopes, watercolor paper (hot press is smooth and the best for calligraphy), decorative papers, Strathmore envelopes and blank cards and Calligraphy practice pads / Rulers: T-squares and clear rulers / Ink: Dr. Martin, Winsor Newton gouache, Higgins Eternal, Sumi inks, and tubes of watercolors / Nibs: Speedball / Miscellaneous: Pigma Micron pens, Sharpies, brushes, palettes, kneaded or white erasers and a proportional scale.
Hobby Lobby – there are two locations in the Las Vegas area. They have a small collection of calligraphic tools, a wider selection of fine art supplies, and an enormous selection of craft/hobby supplies. Hobby Lobby carries: Paper: Calligraphy Bee Practice Pad, Big Art Calligraphy Practice with guides, Palette paper, tracing paper, some Canson and Strathmore papers / Nibs: Speedball / Pens: Pigma Micron pens, gelly roll pens / Inks: Watercolors, pearlescent watercolors, Dr. Martin’s Bombay, Yasutomo Sumi ink, Derwent Inktense watercolors, white mask (frisket), gouache, watercolor pencils / Erasers: Kneaded erasers, battery operated Pentel erasers / Miscellaneous: pencil sharpeners, pencils (variety of hardness), palettes, spray bottles, exacto knives, spray webbing, centering rulers, glues, and bone folders
JoAnne’s – craft and fabric stores with several locations in Las Vegas.
Michael’s – craft store with several locations in Las Vegas.