Modern Calligraphy for Beginners: Writing Instruments

Writing Instruments

ABSTRACT: There are lots of writing instruments you can use to start modern calligraphy! You can do it, stop making excuses and git ‘er done!

New series! For the next few weeks, I will cover almost everything you need to know about starting modern calligraphy. I’m far from being an expert but I got a couple of questions (literally two questions) about where and how to start and which tools are best, so I figured I’d share my thoughts.

First things first: YOU CAN DO CALLIGRAPHY. Yes, even if you have awful writing. Yes, even if you aren’t creative. Yes, even you can’t even apply liquid eyeliner because your hands are too unsteady. There are many reasons to start calligraphy:

  1. You can do it for cheap – All you need is any sort of writing tool and paper.
  2. It’s rewarding – Starting out in calligraphy can be frustrating but with practice, you will get better.
  3. It’s becoming more and more popular – Supplies are getting easier to find in store.
  4. But it’s not very widespread yet – You can still get Internet famous.
  5. You will get better at applying eyeliner.

Now that you’re convinced, let me introduce you to the first thing you’ll need when starting calligraphy – writing instruments!

Like I previously mentioned, there is a whole array of tools that can be used. They don’t have to be expensive and some can be quite easy to find.


Dip pens

Dip pens are those old fashioned looking fancy pens you see on Instagram and Facebook pages posting stolen content. They are composed of two parts – a nib (the pointy writing part) and a nib holder (the holder for the pointy writing part). While dip pens are fun, they do have a bit of a learning curve that involve more than just learning how to write pretty. However, they are great in that you can use a limitless number of paints and inks with a huge selection of nibs that vary in size, shape and flexibility.

Here are some good beginner nibs, holders, inks and kits:

I will most likely do a more in depth post about dip pens – there’s a lot to say about them!


Pens and markers are great because they can be inexpensive, are widely available and can most likely be found at home. Most pens and markers do not let you create the thick and thin strokes that are signature to calligraphy but they can help you develop muscle memory and practice shapes that can later be used with dip pens, brush pens and brushes. They are also great for faux calligraphy. Surprisingly enough, Crayola markers have tips that are flexible enough to practice modern calligraphy. You can see it in action in a video at the end of the post.

Some good pens and markers:

Basically any pen can work, though I tend to lean towards juicy gel pens. I don’t recommend Sharpies because they bleed quite a lot and don’t give you clean edges. That being said, use whatever you can find!


Brush pens are markers that have a brush tip, which can be hair (natural or synthetic) or felt. The tip allows you to get both thin and thick lines which means they are perfect for calligraphy. There are many, many companies that sell brush pens – my advice is, instead of buying 200 Tombow dual brush pens in every colour right at the beginning, try out different brands and models. Brush pens come in different inks, firmness, thickness, colour and pigmentation. As you practice, you’ll start to learn your brush preferences.

Brush pens for you!

I will definitely follow up with a more detailed post about brush pens – they are my favourite!


Brushes are great for the same reason as dip pens because you can write with any colour you can buy or mix. However, they have the same issues as dip pens: there’s the balancing of thickness of your paint or ink (not too watery but not too thick) as well as the constant need to reload your brush. When buying a brush, you’ll want to choose with a rounded tip. Brushes are great because they can be very very inexpensive and easy to find.

Another type of paintbrush that is great for calligraphy are water brushes. These are brushes that have a barrel as a body that can be filled with water or ink. It removes the need to stop mid-stroke to reload your brush. They are a bit on the pricey side but they are great!


Pencils are great for sketching and drafting. In the beginning, when you are practicing your strokes, you’re not likely to need it. But as your skill improve, you may need to draft out larger projects before jumping in with ink. I use my pencil a lot when trying to come up with new ideas.

So there you have it! An almost comprehensive list of writing instruments for beginners in modern calligraphy. I filmed a short video showing each instrument in action. Please keep in mind that I haven’t used a paint brush or dip pen in over a year, so I’m a bit rusty.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, don’t be shy to reach out to me (FB, Twitter, IG or email)!

Come back next week for a post on the best types of paper for beginner calligraphy!

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