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The Best Modern Calligraphy Tools For Beginners

Updated: Jan 19, 2020

What do you buy from the vast selection of calligraphy tools on offer?

If you want to get yourself off to the best possible start in your exciting calligraphy journey, then your going to need the very best tools, the kit that will give you the confidence to practice, and enjoy the excitement of honing your new skill.

I promise that I have put together this list after trawling the internet and purchasing a vast range of inks, nibs and papers, all tried and tested, kept or discarded. I guess that I could have stuck to the kit I was given on my very first calligraphy workshop, many moons ago, but it was just too tempting to think that the kit was to blame for my slow progress! I now know, of course, that its all about practice, practice, practice but at the time it must have been the tools that were to blame! So... in a bid to improve my calligraphy I invested in upwards of 50 inks, 20 + nibs and purchased reams of paper of different types and textures.

Gradually and after spending a fair amount I naturally started to use the same bits over and over. I've also tested out a few options on my Modern Calligraphy Workshops just to make sure these tools suit all beginners and not just a few kit obsessed individuals!

So... drum roll please.... Here is the list, ink, nib, practice paper and holder:


It just has to be Higgins Eternal Ink. Its perfect for practicing those thick down strokes and thin up strokes as it is very forgiving on your nib. Unlike other inks it doesn't clog up and flows beautifully. A non-waterproof ink which dries quickly. Students often ask me how long it takes to start to feel confident when learning. Its too hard to say as everyone is different but as a general rule, once you have finished a bottle of Higgins Ink you will be well on the way! Higgins matches up perfectly with very smooth calligraphy paper and is a gorgeous deep black (yes there are different blacks, it's a thing!)

Box for Higgins Eternal Black Ink
Higgins Eternal Black Ink


It has to be the Zebra G nib, a very close relation to the Nikko G but a bit more flexible so I have found it my go to nib for pretty much everything I do. I've also found the Zebra G last a very long time as long as I clean and store them properly and can take most inks. It really isn't just for beginners, SO many of my projects and done with this reliable nib especially as it holds a fair amount of ink compared with others. Also, love the name!

Five Zebra G silver calligraphy nibs on a textured Khadi paper backgroud
Five Zebra G Calligraphy nibs

Practice paper

Rhodia pads. There is no other paper on the market that is better (that is why most calligraphy suppliers sell them). A gorgeous, smooth paper that holds ink well, allows your nib to flow easily and can also be used with grid lines... so useful. However the range of pads is vast so please make sure you get the right ones... some are far superior to others for calligraphy. I keep a selection of three, just can't seem to stick to one as each has it's own purpose. I mostly use a Rhodia Blank pad, smaller size Rhodia Ice White grid pad and a Dotpad. Granted it's not the cheapest paper but matches perfectly with Higgins Eternal Ink, has a stapled top so you can keep or discard your work. Oh and it's French so does feel a bit stylish for everyday practice paper.

Speedball penholders

Couple of options. Either the straight Speedball penholder or the oblique Speedball penholder. Both are black, simple in design, very reasonably priced and easy to use.... all boxes so far are ticked! I use an oblique holder, the one with the added bit on the side (technical term is 'flange') but really its just personal choice, I've tried both and find it easier. Most left handed calligraphers prefer the straight holder but again it really just depends, try both and see for yourself. It may be cheap but I haven't upgraded to a fancier one because I just have to be awkward and have my nib at an odd angle, which you can achieve withe a speedball. Also, I use a lot of gold ink which is hard to remove so I have holders for different inks and don't need to worry about keeping them spotless, I am a bit slap dash...

Two black Speedball calligraphy pen holders, placed next to each over on a piece of handmade white Khadi paper
Speedball Calligraphy pen holders, straight and oblique

Phew... I think that covers all of the basics. I will do another post on other materials but rest assured these will stand you in good stead.

Let me know what you think, if you agree or disagree or have come across a wonder tool that I need to know about, I'm all ears and more than happy to test them out.

Best of luck with your practice... x Nyree


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