Workspace Wednesday: getting started with dip pens

As you may know, I started using a dip pen for calligraphy a while ago. I collected a lot of informations, being a newbie myself, and I thought I'd compile a little introduction guide, if anyone else is interested in giving this a go. So here goes!

Basic beginner kit: 

  • a pen holder  
  • at least one nib
  • a bottle of ink 
  • paper 
  • a cup of water

What to choose?

Ink: according to the majority, the best ink to use is India Ink. It is the thickest and darkest ink you can find, so it has great yield on paper. On the other hand, it can be quite expensive, so for a beginner, any ink will do - as I can assure you, you're going to waste quite a bit practicing.

Paper: a good one to practice with, is smooth bristol paper, to avoid pen catching that may occur using other types of textured paper. Any sketchbook paper will also work, but if they're too lightweight, the ink might be absorbed too quickly and bleed through. 

Let's get started!


Once you've gathered all the materials, you're ready to go. 

The first thing to get hold of, is how to dip your pen; dip it just enough so that the ink comes up to the breathing hole on the nib. As you remove it the from the ink bottle, slide the tip on the edge of it to get rid of the excess ink.

Then just write like you would with a normal pen. That's pretty obvious, but the convex side of the nib must always face up. When the ink runs out, dip the pen again as you did before, and continue writing - after some practice you'll be able to anticipate when the pen needs to be re-dipped. 
There's no universal rule on how to hold the pen, it depends on what kind of lettering you want to create. However, you can try applying the pen to the paper with different pressures to experiment with the line weight. 


  • When you are done writing, always remember to dip the nib into your cup of water and wipe it off with a piece of cloth to dry them completely (nibs are made of steel and they may get rusty if you leave them wet).
  • Some nibs are given a waxy coating to protect them from rust. However, before you use them, you need to remove this coating so that the ink will stick to the nib when you dip it. If that's the case of your nibs, you can remove it by holding the nib over the flame of a lighter for a couple seconds.

I hope this will be helpful, or that will make at least some of you interested in giving dip pens a go β˜Ί & please do let me know if you have any tips of your own!

Ζ’. β™₯