Nib-ble on this…finding the right nib for you!

Let me first say, there are numerous pointed pen nibs out there on the free market; and although you may hear about a specific nib that a certain calligrapher just loves to use, not all are readily available – especially some of the rare vintage nibs. We are going to tell you about some of the more common nibs that are easy to obtain.

A lot of our new customers come into our shop after surfing the Internet and viewing every mesmerizing YouTube video possible, wondering what nib they should use for this newfound hobby called calligraphy.  That’s when we gently guide them to our art bar and sit them down to the tactile experience of testing nibs. Although we believe the use of nibs is a matter of personal preference; there are certain nibs that are easier for beginners to manipulate. Dexterity, pressure, and arm movement all play a part in getting a feel for the nib that is perfect for you.  As you develop your skills, your nib preference will change.  In our experience, these are the nibs that offer the least amount of frustration for beginners who are learning calligraphic hands with the pointed pen.   

  • Any of the “G” nibs are great for beginners! Why…because they are graciously forgiving until you really get a feel for how to manage pressure when creating line swells.  We believe lettering practice should be stress-free, fun and not frustrating.
  • Nikko G – Strong work horse, smooth lines, great thicks and thins, prefect for beginners, has a break in period.
  • Zebra G-Titanium – Right out of the box this nib sings & dances across the page; it offers smooth hairlines and nice thick lines.
  • Zebra G – This is a little shaper than the Nikko G & offers a little more bounce, and clean crisp lines.

As you progress in your calligraphy journey and have a better grasp of how to manipulate your favorite G nib, your hand may be ready to experience another exciting level of nib exploration.  Moving from the “G” to what we consider a comfortable progression to some of the other popular nibs you see and hear about on social media.

  • Gillott 404 – this nib has a band across the top that makes it a little stiff however when you put ink to paper you will find it smooth, easy to glide on paper with a nice flex. This is definitely a reliable go to nib with great swells.
  • Brause Steno 361 aka “Blue Pumpkin” – Very sturdy with a nice bounce.  This nib gives you control with room to play, this offers medium swells and nice smooth lines; and can hold a lot of ink in the reservoir.  This is a modern calligraphy favorite.
  • Hunt 56 – This sturdy nib has a collar similar to the Gillott 404 and requires consistent pressure to produce beautiful swells. This nib can be used on most paper surfaces.

As you move through numerous drills and lines exercises with various nibs, you will learn that some are more challenging than others. The following nibs are temperamental and require a lot more dexterity and patience while learning to use them.   

  • Brause EF66 – Big things come in small packages! Now this nib is a superstar once you master the touch and feel of using it.  This tiny little nib requires a lot more dipping but produces gorgeous swells and impressive thins lines. Be gentle with this nib, its very flexible and can be easily damaged; however once you master the feel of this nib; it will become a toolbox favorite.
  • Brause Rose No.76 – Smooth and very flexible. This is for seasoned letterers; this nib takes patience. Once mastered, it will produce elegant thick and modestly thin lines.
  • Hunt 101 – The point on this nib is sharp; looks similar to the Leonardt Principal and requires patience to start it.  It takes practice to use this nib; and once mastered you can produce beautiful flourishes and rich swells in your script.
  • Gillott 303 – This nib is very sharp and thin; and will catch on the up strokes if not careful. This nib will make you work to produce letters, but once mastered produces great thicks and thins.

We chose these ten nibs as a result of our collective experiences using the nibs and from the feedback we received from our students. There are numerous sources and online sites that will give you a list of nibs for beginners. Just remember…all nib recommendations are not created equal! Once you start using different nibs, you will quickly draw your own conclusions about which nib is best for you.  The most important thing to remember is -- practice, practice, practice and have fun experimenting with different nibs!