Getting Started in Pointed Pen Calligraphy!

I've heard many people say they can't do calligraphy because of their "bad handwriting". So, for National Handwriting Day, I made this video to show you that if I can, you can

Handwriting means "to write with a pen or pencil", but calligraphy means "beautiful writing". As you can see from the video, just because your handwriting looks a certain way doesn't mean you can't learn how to write beautiful letters. I do most of my pointed pen work in Copperplate calligraphy and with this script, it is very structured with rules and many pen lifts. It takes a different muscle memory to be able to write in calligraphy vs handwriting, but with time and diligent practice, it will get easier & definitely more enjoyable!

But before you go out and buy random "calligraphy" supplies at Barnes and Noble/Amazon like I did and never used, I wanted to share some of my favorite & basic tools to help you start your journey right.

*Disclaimer: Some of the following are affiliate links where a small portion of your purchase will go towards supporting my small business. Regardless, please know that these are my honest reviews and supplies I use regularly. Thank you for your support!


When practicing, you want to start with smooth paper that takes ink well and allows your nib to glide across the paper without snagging or pulling. Too much texture on your paper may cause some frustration when you are just beginning! Here is a list of paper I like to use for practicing. HP Premium Choice Laser/Hammermill Color Copy Digital are bulk papers you can get from places like Staples, Amazon, OfficeMax. I like to print out guidesheets directly on them. Rhodia pads are really really smooth. I also love the John Neal Copperplate/Engrossers Pad and use it mainly for sketching designs in pencil. Sometimes I will ink directly on them (like the picture above) and when you scan it, you can change the levels on Photoshop to get rid of the blue grid lines! Lastly, I created the Copperplate Practice Pads with traceable lowercase/uppercase letters for beginners to practice on. 

HP Premium Choice Laser Paper
Hammermill Color Copy Digital
Rhodia Graph Pad
John Neal Copperplate/Engrossers Pad
Logos Copperplate Practice Pad


Most of my black ink is done with the Moon Palace Sumi Ink. It writes smoothly and if the ink starts getting thick, I just add a couple drops of distilled water and mix it up. The Penman Ink is a dream to write with for its hairlines, but because it is an iron gall ink, it may eat up some of your nibs. Bleed Proof White is my go-to white ink. Has a bit of sheen to it and I love the contrast when writing with this ink on colored paper. Finetec and Pearlex are my metallic inks that I love writing with. Finetec comes in small pans of mica and you just need to add drops of distilled water and mix it up to make ink. Pearlex is a powder that you add water and gum arabic to make the ink. I'll share some formulas in another post :) Lastly, you can also try some vermillion orange ink or use gouche/watercolor to write with as well!

Moon Palace Sumi Ink
McCaffery's Penman Ink
Dr. Ph Martin's Bleed Proof White
Finetec / Pearlex


Every hand is different, so the nib that you love may be different from another person. I would recommend trying different nibs and see what works for you. However, here are some of my personal favorite nibs from strong/sturdy nibs to more flex/sensitive nibs. 

Gillott 404
Nikko G
Zebra G
Brause 361
Hunt 22
Leonardt Principal
Gillott 303


You don't need an expensive holder to start. I would start with John Neal's dual workshop pen because you can use it for either a straight or an oblique pen holder for only $6.99! I personally love collecting pen holders crafted by penman/penwoman around the world (I currently own Michael Sull, Heather Held, Hoang pens), but those can range from $50-$200.

I think I've covered all the basics. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments! Happy writing!

Younghae Chung5 Comments