How to Prepare for Drill Exercises

Learning copperplate requires careful study and practice.  Drill exercises are a great way to put your studies into practice.

In my previous blog, I told you what drills were and gave you 3 reasons why you should do them.   In this post, I’ll help you prepare for the drill exercises that we’ll be doing together over the next few posts.

Let’s get ready!

To prepare for drills, here’s what you’ll need:

1. Focus Time

To get the most out of your practice sessions, you need to be 100% focused on the task at hand.  To do this, you’ll need to dedicate a set amount of time to practice.

Think about how much time you’d like to set aside for practice and how often you want to do it.  Maybe 15-20 minutes Monday to Friday or 30 minutes 3-4 times a week?  Whatever you decide,  stick with it.  Mark your calendar.


This was my schedule over the summer.  Nowadays, I practice for 20-30 minutes every other day or so — or when I can.

Designate a workspace in your home where you can practice comfortably, free from distractions.  If you can, try to schedule your practice time around the same time for each session.

Even if you only have 10-15 minutes to practice, make every minute count!

Read more about how to optimize your practice time.

2. the right MATERIALS

Practicing with the right materials is really important.

Can you imagine training for 10k marathon wearing combat boots, a business suit, and a beach hat?  Sure, it’s doable; but it probably would yield the same results as training in proper gear.

Most of the frustration I had when I was just starting to learn calligraphy was because I was using the wrong materials — I’ll save that story for another day!

Here are some things that I recommend for drill exercises:

Beginner-Friendly NiBs

My favorites are the Brause 361 (“Blue Pumpkin”) and the Zebra G nib.  They’re smooth on upstrokes and make squaring tops and bottoms of stems easy.  Once you get the hang of your strokes, you can try using sharper and more flexible nibs.

Read more about my favorite nibs.



I highly recommend using an oblique penholder.  If you’re a lefty, a straight penholder would probably work best for you.

Sharisse De Leon, a fellow pointed pen and brush calligrapher, has some great tips for lefties on her blog.

Black Ink

Black ink is ideal for drill exercises because it’s easy to see.  My favorite black ink is the Kuretake Sumi Ink from

Lined Paper

Two kinds of lined paper (top) and 2 kinds of guide sheets that I use (bottom).

I highly recommend practicing your drills on white lined paper so you have definitive lines for reference.  I suggest practicing drills with 7-10mm x-heights, at least in the beginning.  If you use the Rhodia bloc paper like I do, double the blocks to create an x-height of 10mm.

Guide Sheet

If your paper doesn’t already have the 52-55° slant lines, you’ll definitely need a guide sheet with the appropriate slant to slip under your practice paper.  This will help you to practice your strokes at the correct angle.  You can find printable guide sheets at and


You’ll absolutely need an exemplar for reference.  How else will you know how to draw something if you don’t know what it looks like?

There are many resources available online.  I love the exemplars from Dr. Joe Vitolo’s website  Find a style that you like, print it out, study it, and use it as a reference.


Alright.  So you’re all set.  You’ve set aside some quiet time and you’ve got all of your supplies.  Now what?

Start with the basics.  Study your exemplar and practice one stroke at a time.

And I mean really study them.  Take notes.


Here’s what my printed exemplar looks like.

Study the exemplar.  What do the individual strokes look like?  How do they curve and when does it curve?  When does the shade begin to taper off?  When does it straighten out? etc.

When you practice, draw each stroke slowly and carefully.  Try your best to draw them as close to your example as you can.

After a couple of lines.  Stop and examine your work.  Critique it.  Make note of how you can improve.  Continue on to the next line of drills, implementing the critiques you made on the previous lines.


Critique your own work. Make note of the things that went well and things you need improvement.

Take it slow.  Start with the basic strokes.

Study the basic strokes one at a time — which is what we’ll be doing over the next few weeks.  Afterwards, we’ll work our way to joining the individual strokes to form letterforms.


Be sure to hang on to some of your practice sheets so you can keep track of your progress.  Put a date on them.  Aim for progress with each practice.


A comparison of one of my very first drill exercises from February 2015 and a more recent one from this month.

If you’re up an an extra challenge, write the pangram “Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow”  (or any pangram you like) and date it.  Once a month or so, rewrite the same pangram and compare it to the previous ones that you’ve written.  Admire your progress and check for areas that need improvement.  Again, take notes


In my next post, we’ll start our first set of drill exercises.  Be sure to have all of these things ready so you can have successful drill session.

Remember: drills are integral to your success with copperplate calligraphy.  Let’s make the most of our practice time.  Set a focus time for deliberate practice and be prepared with the “right” tools.  And don’t forget to track your progress.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly and easily you progress when you make time to practice these drills properly.


Happy Writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe below to receive notifications on more copperplate calligraphy tips and tutorials.

Are you on Instagram?  Be sure to say hi!  @anintran




Three Ways to Prevent Ink Blobs

Ink blobs can make Copperplate practice a frustrating and messy experience.  I find that the best way to deal with them is to prevent them.


An ink blob is a small pool or bead of ink that collects within or on top of  shaded strokes.


Red arrows indicate ink blobs. It’s hard to see the globule on the right ‘a’, but trust me, it’s a tiny blob of ink.


To prevent these globules form occurring, let’s identify what causes them.

From my experience, ink blobs happen when:

  1. The nib has not been properly prepared.
  2. There isn’t enough ink on the nib.
  3. There’s too much ink on the nib.



Preventing ink blobs is easy.  If you keep these things in mind, you’ll minimize your ink blob experience.


Unprepared nibs tend to cause ink to form globules.


See the ink collecting on the tines of the nib?  When the ink unevenly adheres to the nib like this, they sometimes transfer on to the paper in globs.

Preparing your nib before you use it is very important.  During manufacturing, nibs are coated with a clear protective varnish that keeps them from rusting while in storage.  Removing this coating will help the ink adhere to the nib evenly.

Protective coating may be removed with dish washing detergent or toothpaste

Removing the varnish using toothpaste.

To learn how to prepare your nibs, click here.


Dip your pen in your ink well just past the vent hole.


Dip your nib in your ink well past the vent hole.

If your nib doesn’t have enough ink, the ink may pool at the very top of your stroke due to the cohesion properties of liquid.


Left: Nib not dipped deep enough. Right: Nib dipped past the vent hole.


Overloaded nibs will look like this. The ink will swell on the top and underside of the nib.

If your nib is overloaded with ink, the excess ink may drip, gush out of the nib upon contact with the paper or when you open your tines, causing a mess and possibly ruining your project.


Remove excess ink from your nib.

To get rid of excess ink, carefully run the side of your nib (shoulder to tip) along the inner rim of your ink well once or twice.  The excess ink from your nib will run down the side of the jar.

This is especially helpful when using thin inks like Higgins Eternal black ink, Yasutomo sumi ink, and Daiso sumi ink.


Easy fixes, right?

Ink blobs don’t need to be a part of your practice sheets or final projects.  These 3 simple tips should help keep your Copperplate experience to a minimum.

Happy Writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,



P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe below to receive notifications on more copperplate calligraphy tips and tutorials.

Check out my Instagram for regular tips and tutorials as well.

How to Practice Squaring Full-Pressure Stem Strokes

Squaring tops and bottoms of full-pressure strokes in Copperplate is easy once you understand how tines work and put in some practice — which is what this blog is about.


What are squared stems?


Red brackets indicate squared tops and bottoms of stem strokes the word “pin” written in copperplate script.

Squared tops and/or bottoms of stems appear in letters such as ‘p’, ‘i’, ‘n’, and other letterforms with similar strokes.  These squared-off stems are parallel to the horizontal baseline.


A drill is an exercise where you carefully and accurately draw the same stroke or sequence of strokes repeatedly.  The purpose of drill exercises is to memorize the strokes and to develop muscle memory.  In time, you’ll be able to draw practiced strokes without much effort.


A sheet of full-pressure strokes drills.

Be sure to practice drills precisely. Be mindful of the proper height, length, width, and overall shapeDrills help you achieve consistent strokes.

Recommended materials for practice

Aside from your favorite nib, penholder, and ink, I recommend using lined paper and a guide sheet (if your paper doesn’t already have guidelines).

Lined paper will help you practice the proper proportion of this stroke. Lined paper will also help you to check if your squared ends are parallel to the horizontal lines of your paper.  I like to use the Rhodia Bloc (gridded) pad from

A guide sheet under your paper will help you practice at the correct angle (52-55*). You can print out guidesheets from IAMPETH.COM.


The full-pressure stroke is a long, shaded stroke with an evenly shaded stem.   In the alphabet, only the letter ‘p’ contains this stroke (see “pin” photo above). This stroke is typically between 2.5 to 3.5 x-heights in length, depending on the exemplar you’re following or your personal preference.


Note: for this exercise, I drew this stroke in 2 x-heights in length to show that the squared edges are parallel to the horizontal baseline.


  1. Place pen on paper along a horizontal line. Stop.
  2. Apply pressure to your nib to open the tines to the desired width. Stop.
  3. While maintaining the pressure, pull your pen down.
  4. When you reach the desired length, stop.
  5. Slowly release the pressure.  Be mindful of your tines.  The left tine should remain stationary while the right tine closes to the left.

Try also practicing shorter and longer lengths.

Be mindful of the position and angle of your nib. It should be parallel to the main slant of your script (follow guide sheet).



A. Pointy or rounded tops (or bottoms) are a result of creating the stroke before the tines are fully open.

Try this: Be sure to open the tines before you pull your pen downward to make the stroke.

B. Tapered strokes result from uneven pressure applied while making the downstroke.

Try this: Maintain the pressure on the down stroke.

C. Clipped paper fibers at the tip of your nib may result from the following:

a.  You’re applying too much pressure to your nib (you’re really digging your nib in there).

b.  Your paper is too “soft” and the sharp tines easily snag the paper.

Try this:

  • Apply less pressure
  • Use a more flexible nib
  • Try good quality paper designed for calligraphy

Squaring the tops and bottoms becomes easy when you understand how tines work and with practice. Remember to practice your drills carefully and accurately.

I hope you found this helpful.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,



P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe below to receive notifications on more copperplate calligraphy tips and tutorials.

Check out my Instagram for regular tips and tutorials as well.


How Tines Work to Square off Tops and Bottoms of Shaded Strokes

One of the most common questions I’m asked is:

How do you square off the tops and bottoms on your shaded strokes?

My answer is: 1) you must first understand how the tines of your pointed pen work; and then 2) practice, practice, practice!

In this post, I’ll be sharing how tines work.  My next blog will be about how to practice squaring off those stems.

What are tines?

In my previous blog, I talked about basic nib anatomy.


Comparison of a relaxed Zebra G nib and a flexed one.

Tines are the two prongs of the nib that are designed to flex (split open) when pressure is applied to the tip.  When the tines are relaxed, the slit is closed and the prongs are side-by-side.  The flexibility of the tines and the amount of pressure you apply to the tip of your nib determines the thickness of your shades.


How do Tines work?

You can manipulate the tines of your nib by adjusting the amount of pressure you apply to your pen.  The more pressure you apply, the wider the slit opens.  I used to think that the two tines always flexed together; that is, when one tine flexes, the other flexes too — but this isn’t the case.  The tines flex independent of each other. 

When squaring the top or bottom of stems, only one tine is flexed at a time; the other remains at rest.

HOW to manipulate the tines

Let’s take a closer look.  When you apply pressure to your nib, notice which tine flexes and which stays relaxed.  Which tine “moves” and in which direction?  When you release the pressure, which tine moves and in which direction?

To square off the tops of shades strokes, apply pressure to only the right side of your pen.  This will flex (bend upward) only the right tine, which will make the  relaxed left tine move downward.  The pressure on the right tine will keep the right tip in place.  As you pull you pen down ward to make the stem stroke, maintain a consistent pressure.

To square off the bottom of the stem, carefully release the pressure from the pen.  Doing this will relax the right tine, which will close the slit to the left and square the bottom.

Next week, I’ll go more into detail about squaring the tops and bottom of stem strokes and share some fun drill exercises with you.


Give it a try.  See if you can manipulate the movement of tines on your nib.

When you apply pressure, see if you can:

  1. move the tines side-to-side
  2. move both tines simultaneously
  3. move only the left tine (put more pressure on the right side of the pen)
  4. move only the right tine (put more pressure on the left side of the pen)
  5. flex only the right tine (up).  What happens to the left tine?  Which direction does it move?

Try it one more time.  This time, align your pen with the main slant angle (52-55 degrees from the baseline).


When writing Copperplate, your pen should be aligned with the main slant.

Let me know how this works out for you!

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


P.S.  Did find this post helpful?  Please subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a post.

Find me on Instagram @anintran.


Understanding Hairlines and Shades in Copperplate Calligraphy

One characteristic of Copperplate script is the intricate relationship between hairlines and shades. To construct proper Copperplate letterforms, we must understand how hairline and shaded strokes are made.

Note: I use the terms “pen” and “nib” interchangeably; they mean the same thing.


Unlike broad pens and fountain pens, the pointed dip pens used for Copperplate script are designed to flex.  Because of the sharp point and flexible tines of pointed pens, we are able to achieve hairline strokes and thick, shaded strokes by controlling the amount of pressure we apply to the nib.



Relaxed (closed) tines create hairline strokes.

Hairlines, the thinnest strokes, are achieved when the tines of the nib are relaxed (no pressure applied). The nib simply glides on the surface of the paper. Hairlines can be drawn in any direction (up, down, sideways, loops, etc.)  Note, however, that all upstrokes are hairlines.



Flexed (opened) tines created shades on downstrokes.

Shades, sometimes called “swells”, can be achieved when the tines of the nib are flexed.  Applying pressure to the nib flexes (opens) the tines, allowing more ink to be released on to the paper.  Because pressure is required to flex the tines, shaded strokes can only be made on down strokes.  The sharpness of the pen will cause the nib to snag or puncture the paper if too much pressure is applied on up strokes.



Depending on the pressure applied, a single nib can produce a varying thickness in shade. (nib: Tachikawa G)

Dependening on how much pressure you apply on the downstroke, shades can vary in thickness.   Dr. Joe Vitolo refers to this as “heft”.  The more pressure you place on the nib, the wider the tines open, creating thicker the shades.  Consistency is key.


The hairline-to-shade and shade-to-hairline transitions of strokes are smooth, not abrupt.  To achieve smooth transitions, the pressure on the nib must be gradually applied or released on the down stroke.


Inconsistencies are noted by red arrows

A) Smooth transitions and equal heft on the shades

B) Smooth transitions, inconsistent shading

C) Smooth transitions, inconsistent shading

D) Abrupt transitions, inconsistent shading (note the pointy curves).


Try these basic strokes.  Draw them slowly and precisely.  Pay careful attention to:

1) The transitions of from hairline-to-shade and shade to hairline.
Does the shade gradually thicken and/or taper off?

2) The consistency of the heft of your shades.
Are your shades equal in thickness?


Basic strokes drill exercise to practice the transition of hairlines to shade, and shades to hairlines. Note that the shades are made only on downward strokes.

The harmonious relationship between hairlines and shades make Copperplate elegant and beautiful.  When practicing these strokes, be sure to focus on the consistency of your shades and the smoothness of the transitions.

Learning a new skill requires a lot of practice and patience.  It’s ok if you don’t get it exactly right the first time or the second time.  Keep practicing.  Keep going.

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


P.S.  Did find this post helpful?  Please subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a post.

You can also find me on Instagram @anintran.

My Favorite Nibs

I’m often asked about the tools I use and which ones I would recommend to someone who is just starting to practice Copperplate.  In a previous post, I wrote about what every beginner needs to get started.  Today, I’m going to share with you a list of my favorite nibs.

Now, I haven’t tried too many nibs.  But what I’ve listed below are the ones I love and use regularly.  Each one is unique in size, color, shape, flexibility, and sharpness.  As rule of thumb when determining the characteristics of a nib: the sharper the tip, the finer the hairlines; and the more flexible the tines, the thicker the shades.


My Favorite nibs


Left to right: Spencerian no. 1, Hunt 101, Zebra G, Nikko G, Tachikawa G, and Brause Steno 361

I’ve been a big fan of the medium flex G nibs for quite some time, but I’m warming up to the more flexible ones like the Hunt 101.  One of the requirements I have for choosing a nib involves how smooth it glides on the upstrokes because I seem to have rather heavy hands.  Hence, as of July 29, 2015, the nibs featured in this post are a little bit on the dull side, with the exception of the Hunt 101.

Top to bottom: Nikko G, Tachikawa G, Zebra G, Brause Steno 361, Hunt 101, Spencerian no. 1.

Top to bottom: Nikko G, Tachikawa G, Zebra G, Brause Steno 361, Hunt 101, Spencerian no. 1.

1.  Nikko G, Tachikawa G, and Zebra G

By default, the G nibs are my go-to pens.  The Nikko G, Tachikawa G, and Zebra G are medium flex and are stiffer than most of the nibs that I’ve tried.  However, I’ve found that with regular use, they become more flexible.  What I love about these nibs is their longevity and the smooth upstrokes.

The Zebra G is the sharpest and most flexible of the three.  I can see it becoming the go-to G nib.

2.  Brause Steno 361

The Brause Steno 361, aka “Blue Pumpkin”, is a beginner-friendly nib.  It’s more flexible than the G nibs, but it isn’t quite as sharp — which makes those upstrokes really smooth.  For this reason, it’s a great nib for those who are picking up a pointed pen for the first time.  Don’t count on this for fine hairlines though.

3.  Hunt 101

Unlike the G nibs and the Brause Steno 361, the Hunt 101 is sharp and has a softer flex, which can achieve fine hairlines and thick shades.  Because of its sharp tip, it is likely to snag on the paper fibers on upstrokes.

4.  Spencerian No. 1

The Spencerian No. 1 is an awesome vintage nib.  If I were Goldilocks, then this nib would probably belong to Baby Bear – it’s “just right”.  It’s incredibly smooth on the upstrokes and has the right level of flexibility — which, for me, would be between the G nibs and a Hunt 101.  Oh, how I love this nib!


Which nibs should you choose?

The nibs you choose will be the ones that achieve your style of copperplate script.  You may choose the ones that can draw the finest hairlines and thickest shades.  Or you may have an affinity for the medium-flex G nibs, or the sharper and more flexible Hunt nibs because you’ve had good experiences with them.  Maybe you have a deep love for the vintage nibs and prefer those over any other.  Only you know what nib you like and enjoy using.

The only way to find out which nibs are “right” for you is to test some out.  My review of these nibs may be completely different from yours.  So test out a few and get a feel for what characteristics you like in a nib.  You’ll naturally gravitate toward the ones that suit your skill level and your copperplate style.

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


P.S. If you’ve found this post helpful, subscribe to my blogs below so you don’t miss a post.

How to Prepare a New Nib for Copperplate Calligraphy

Why isn’t the ink flowing?

Why does the ink come out in blobs?

Why isn’t the ink staying on the nib?  I can only write a few strokes before I need to dip again.

Those are a few of the frequently asked questions I’ve been receiving lately on Instagram.

As calligraphers, we may run into some problems with our tools.  When this happens, it’s best to examine what may be causing the problem one at a timeWhen I’m having trouble with the ink and ink flow, I examine my nib before anything else.

If it’s a new nib and you’re having trouble with ink flow, ink staying on the nib, or blobs of ink coming out, preparing your nib may be the solution to your problem.

In my last post An Introduction to Copperplate Calligraphy Nibs, I talked about what kinds of nibs we use to write Copperplate script (pointed nibs).  In this post I’ll be showing you how to prepare you new nibs before you use it.  It’s important to understand how your tools work so that you can use them to their full potential and minimize frustration during our practice.  Knowing how to care for your nibs will also help prolong its life.

What Does Preparing a Nib Mean?

During manufacturing, nibs may be sealed with a clear protective varnish or oil that prevents it from rusting in storage. Preparing a nib means to remove this protective, water-repelling layer so that ink may adhere to the nib – which is important when using dip pens.  The nibs we use act as a reservoir for our ink, which allows us to write several strokes at a time.  For instance, with a prepared Tachikawa G nib, I can write “anintran” in one dip — that is, I write without losing my rhythm, which is important when I’m practicing the consistency of my strokes.


How the Ink Adheres to Brand New Nibs Before Coating is Removed

Ink may not adhere to the nib evenly if the protective coating has not been removed.


There are several ways to prepare new nibs. One is to pass the pointed tip of the nib up to the vent hole through a flame.  A few other ways require the use of ammonia or other chemicals.  The way I prefer is Lindsey Bugbee of the Postman’s Knock and Dr. Joe Vitolo’s method: using dish detergent or toothpaste, respectively.


  • Dish Detergent or Toothpaste
  • Q-tip
  • Clean Cloth/Paper Towel
  • Water

    *Despite what’s shown in my photographs, I personally prefer to use dish detergent (original blue Dawn soap) over toothpaste.


Note: Before handling any of your tools, make sure your hands and fingers are washed and clean of any debris and oils.

Step 1 – Apply some dish detergent or toothpaste onto your Q-tip.  You don’t need too much.

Toothpaste Qtip

Step 2 – Scrub the pointed half of nib, from vent hole to tip.  Be sure to scrub both the topside and the underside.

Clean Nib

Scrub both sides several times.  Scrub, scrub, scrub. 

Step 3 – Rinse the soap or toothpaste off the nib thoroughly with clean water.

Rinse Nib

Step 4 – Dry your nib with a clean cloth or paper towel. Once dry, avoid touching the pointed half of your nib with your fingers.  Use a clean, dry cloth to insert your nib into your holder.

Dry Nib

After preparing your nib, the ink should evenly coat your pen — no spheres or uneven pools of ink.

Clean nib

Once the protective coating has been removed, ink does not have any trouble adhering to either side of the nib.

Now, there have been times when I’ve cleaned my nib in this way and the ink still won’t stick evenly to my nib.  In this case, I repeat the scrubbing one more time.  A few of my friends have suggested applying saliva on the nib — which I have yet to try.

You may be wondering if you absolutely need to do this before you can start using your nib.  The answer is no, you don’t.  If you aren’t experiencing any problems with your nib whatsoever, then you may not need to do this at all.  As for the protective coating, it will eventually wear off with use due to the acidity of your ink and the constant cleaning of your nib.  However, if you are experiencing some issues with ink flow and such, give this a try.

Once I’ve prepared the nib, I don’t usually have ink flow or blob problems.  If I do, I then the next thing I examine is the ink I’m using.  But that’s a topic for another blog post.

Happy writing, guys!

Your Copperplate Companion,

What is a Nib?

In my previous post, I mentioned that nibs are one of the basic tools you need.  There are two main types of nibs: 1) broad, square-cut nibs; and 2) pointed nibs.  For Copperplate script, we use pointed nibs that vary in shape, size, and flexibility.

Pointed Nibs


A nib is the removable, sharp-pointed steel part of a dip pen.  Nibs, sometimes also referred to as pens, vary in shape, size, color, and flexibility.

Nib Anatomy

Anatomy of a Hunt 22 Nib

Tip – The sharpest part of the nib is the tip.  This is the point that comes in contact with the paper.

Slit – The slit divides the two tines in half from the vent hole to the tip.  The slit allows for ink to flow down to the paper via capillary action.

Tines – Tines are the two prongs that split open (flex) when pressure is applied to the tip of the nib.  When relaxed, the points of the tines make up the tip of the nib.  The flexibility of the tines and the amount of pressure you apply to the tip of your nib will determine the thickness of your shades.

Shoulder – The shape and characteristic of the shoulders affect the flexibility of the tines.  You may have noticed the slits on some of the the shoulders of your nibs.  Sometimes it’s a thin, barely-visible slit and other times it’s an obvious cut; these add to the flexibility factor of the nibs.  The width of the shoulders may also be something to not (or not).  Wide shoulders may be indicative of a stiff nibs (e.g. Tachikawa Manuscript nib).  Some of the more flexible nibs may be quite narrow (e.g. Brause EF66).

Vent Hole – The vent hole is a small hole that terminates the slit, which help prolong the life of the nib by acting as a sort of shock-absorber to the tension created when tines are flexed.  Without it, nibs would have a higher probability of splitting in half lengthwise.  Here’s more good news about the vent hole: it also acts as a reservoir for ink.

Body – The stiff body is inserted securely into the penholder.  This is the main support of the nib — supporting the tines as they flex and relax.

Nib ID – These imprinted words and numbers on the body of the nib help you to identify which nib is which.  In time, you’ll come to recognize and identify the nibs by their shape, color, and size; however, if you’re new to the world of nibs or if you own nibs that look identical (e.g. Nikko G and Tachikawa G, Hunt 22 and Hunt 99, etc.), this bit of information comes in handy.

Base – I’ve got nothin’ on the base except for it’s the end of the nib that’s inserted into the penholder ;).


Different Kinds of Nibs

You may be wondering why there are so many different kinds of nibs.  Not all nibs are created equal.  Different nibs accomplish different tasks.  For instance, more flexible nibs can create thicker shades and the sharper ones can achieve finer hairlines.  What nib you use solely depends on your script style and what you’re trying to achieve.

If you’re new to Copperplate or don’t know much about nibs, try out a few different kinds. A couple of nibs that I recommend to my students are the Nikko G and the Brause Steno 361 – which are medium in sharpness and flexibility.  They also seem to glide across the paper on the upstrokes.  I also like the Hunt 22 and the Hunt 101 – which are sharper, more flexible, and create thinner hairlines.  If you’re looking for super sharp and super flexible, the Brause EF66* is your nib.  Perhaps the Gillot 303 is the sharpest and most flexible of them all.

*The Brause EF66 does not fit into the plastic Speedball penholders because its size.

In time, you’ll develop your own Copperplate style.  You’ll have your own preference in slant angle, thickness of the shades, letterform ratios, etc.  You’ll naturally start to gravitate toward specific nibs that can accomplish your script style.

Thanks for reading.  Happy writing!


Your Copperplate Companion,

3 Things You Need to Get Started in Copperplate Calligraphy

Getting started can be the hardest part of any new endeavor – particularly if you don’t know what you need.  You’ll be happy to know that you don’t need a whole lot to begin learning Copperplate calligraphy.

What you absolutely need are: 1) basic supplies; 2) at least one reliable resource; and 3) some calligraphy buddies.

  1. Basic Supplies
    Basic Supplies

Alright, technically, you need more than just 3 things, but who’s counting?

There are 5 basic materials that you need to begin your Copperplate journey: paper, ink, nibs, a penholder, and a printed guide sheet.  The cost of materials can add up quickly if you don’t know what to buy. You don’t need a lot of tools to get started. If you’re new and you just want to try it out, you don’t need to buy a 200-dollar oblique holder, every color of ink, or a case of 1000 nibs. You simply need the right tools that are beginner-friendly and are of good quality.  The key is to purchase materials that are that work well together.  At the early stages of your practice, there is nothing more frustrating than feathering letters, snagging nibs, or scratchy paper.

Here’s a list of beginner-friendly supplies that I would have recommended to myself when I was first starting:

Paper: Rhodia paper (blank, bloc, or dot)

Ink: Kuretake Sumi Ink 60

Nibs: Brause 361 Steno and/or Nikko G.  I also recommend the Tachikawa G and the Zebra G.
(Related topics: about nibs and how to prepare them for before use)

Penholder: Speedball oblique penholder
(or a straight holder, if you’re left-handed)

Guide sheet: Printed Guide Sheet (which you can find in Bianca Mascorro’s blog)

You can find all of the of the listed supplies at  Note that when purchasing nibs, it’s a good idea to purchase at least 2, unless you’re just sampling them.  Nibs wear and tear as you use them, so it’s good to have a spare nib available.

  1. Reliable Resources
    Copperplate Resources

A great resource is essential to have when learning and practicing Copperplate (or any script, really).  A reliable resource should at least cover basic materials and how to use them, key concepts and basic strokes, and include an exemplar of the lowercase and uppercase alphabet, and numbers.

You’ll need at least one Copperplate resource. It’s important to note that there are many different styles of Copperplate; however, the basics and the fundamental concepts are essentially the same regardless of which style you choose.  If you have an iPad, I highly recommend downloading Dr. Joe Vitolo’s free interactive eBook. Dr. Vitolo’s website has a excellent variety of printable exemplars and lessons.

Eleanor Winters’ book Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy: A Step-by-Step Manual is also a good place to start if you prefer the English Roundhand style.

Workshops are also excellent ways to introduce yourself to new hobbies.

  1.  Calligraphy Friends

There’s nothing like having calligraphy buddies and a supportive community to help you along your calligraphy journey. They’ll not only inspire you with their work, but they’ll encourage you and motivate you to keep up with your practice, give you feedback on your work, as well as give you advice on the latest penholders and inks, or the best nibs.

Where can you find such friends?

Well, you may look up a calligraphy group around your area that meets regularly, or join a Facebook or Yahoo! group.  I’m going tell you right now: the BEST calligraphy community is on Instagram. What an amazing group of kind, talented, and determined people!

Instagram Friends

In every corner of the world, there is a calligrapher. Everyday, there are dozens of people who are picking up a pointed pen for the first time.  You are not alone.  Having the right tools, comprehensive resources, and some calligraphy buddies will make the beginning of your practice easier and more fun.

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,