Play along posts are where you can join me and follow along as I learn a new art or craft. You will find useful links, tips and resources to help you learn alongside me. This is my first post on learning the pointed pen, more specifically, the Copperplate script.
A many years ago, I first stumbled into the land of calligraphy in a local craft shop. I found it fascinating enough to have bought some nibs, a straight nib holder, and a little bottle of calligraphy ink. I also bought myself one of those calligraphy felt pens that had a flat tip (like a flat head screwdriver). I tried them out and couldn’t for the life of me work out why the script I ended up with looked blockish and didn’t have the elegance I wanted to achieve. I soon gave it up and the nibs and all went to the back of my craft drawer. Such an unfortunate introduction to the pointed pen.
What I didn’t know back then was that I had bought all the wrong things, except for the ink and the nib holder, to create elegant script. I had bought gothic nibs thinking that was how you created the varying widths be holding the pen at an angle. The internet wasn’t easily accessible and to be honest, I didn’t bother to ask or check out the library for books on calligraphy.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that had that misconception. To save you the trouble and costly mistake, I’ve put together some basic information I have learnt this past few months below about the pointed pen:
Things you need to write with the pointed pen:
- Nib holders – There are straight nib holders and oblique nib holders. I haven’t got an oblique holder yet for the simple reason that oblique holders are more expensive. Not essential at my stage as I’m only a wee beginner or as my son would say a “noob”.
- Nibs – Get the pointy ones! Not the flat ones. The pointy ones have flexible tines (those two prongs at the tip of the nib) that open and close depending on the pressure you put on them. It is this feature that makes the varying widths (called shades) in the letters. These nibs go into your nib holder. Push the nibs gently but firmly into place. The base of the nib goes between grippers and the outer ring. Because the nibs are metal and can be sharp, holding the nib with a tissue or soft cloth to push it into the holder would make it more comfortable for you. I am using the Blue Pumpkin nib at the moment because it was gifted to me but I am thinking of getting the Nikko G which the more experienced calligraphers say is better for beginners because it is less flexible.
- Ink – I used my old bottle of calligraphy ink to start off with and have now switched to using a bottle of Art Spectrum pigment ink (black). This ink is water resistant and lightfast. I bought it for my brush calligraphy and is what I have on hand. However, I am heading out to buy some sumi ink today because it is relatively inexpensive and I don’t require the ink to be lightfast at this stage as I am only practising and doing drills. Sumi ink is more fluid than the Art Spectrum pigment ink. It might prove to be easier to work with.
- Paper – I had printed out the Pointed Pen Calligraphy tutorials available to members of the Flourish Forum and was using the paper it was printed on but my ink kept bleeding. So I’ve stopped using it and have started using my Rhodia dot pad with a printed guide from IAMPETH instead. The ink sits happier on the Rhodia paper.
- Patience – You will need a lot of this because Pointed Pen is DIFFICULT. See image below of my first ever pointed pen drill. It’s not pretty, is it? Remember, progress not perfection. You’ll recognise the brush lettered ‘A’ if you have been following me on social media. I’ve been doing the #handletteredABCs_2016 challenge. We are more than halfway through now. To view my other brush letters for this challenge, they are all tagged with #adelynmakesabcs so search them on your social media channels.
(I will edit and add more tips to this list as I continue learning the pointed pen and Copperplate)
Tips you might fine useful:
- If your nibs are new, you need to prepare the nibs by washing it with a little bit of toothpaste or dishwashing detergent. Use a cotton bud or q-tip to do the scrubbing. This step is essential because it removes the oily coating on the nib due to the manufacturing process and allows the ink to adhere evenly to the nib. Don’t do what I did, ignoring this step thinking it is unnecessary. This caused a lot of uneven ink flow, many ink blobs and frustrated me so. Check out Nina Tran, Your Copperplate Companion’s, page here on preventing ink blobs. I did everything she said and no more ink blobs for me!
- If you are having difficulty in squaring your tops and bottoms, you may wish to consider changing your ink. I did and my full-pressure downstrokes looked far better and I was able to square the bottoms off. I switched from using my Art Spectrum pigment ink to a bottle of Japenese sumi ink. The smell of it reminds me of my primary school years and practicing chinese calligraphy.
- Try watercolor as replacement for ink. I found that I am able to get really lovely defined strokes with watercolour. Load your nib with the watercolor using a brush. This will save you mixing up a whole jar of watercolor to dip your nib in.
- To get a more consistent slant when you are practising your drills, make sure the slant lines in the guide you are using is closer rather than further apart. I am using Bianca Mascorro’s guidesheets available on her blog for free. Scroll down to her January 6, 2016 post titled “Guidesheets galore”.
Presently, I am following the lessons found in the members-only section of the Flourish Forum. Why not consider joining the forum? Membership is free and the lessons (include worksheets and vidoes) are invaluable. Join me and start learning the pointed pen and Copperplate script. I’m only at Lesson 1 and won’t be moving on until I get my tops and bottoms squared. This is lingo for getting an even full-pressure downstroke that begins and ends beautifully paralleled to the horizontal lines on the page. So you have plenty of time to catch up. I will be uploading my progress with the hashtag #adelynmakesplayalong. Use this hashtag too if you decide to join me and we can practise alongside each other. It’s the only way to learn! Oh, and I can attest that the calligraphy community is the nicest and most helpful bunch I have ever known!
Practise those drills,
- This is the free Copperplate lessons I am starting with – the Flourish Forum. Consider joining as the members-only section gives you a lot more resources. The forum is very active with a place to learn pretty much everything connected to the pointed pen.
- IAMPETH website has a great resource of lessons and guides.
- I found the this webpage on the Vintage Pen website really useful and it explained very simply the basics of how to hold the pen, what direction your nib needs to be and the direction of pressure.
- You cannot go past Nina Tran, Your Copperplate Companion, for learning the Copperplate script.
- If you have Instagram, just search hashtags like #calligraphy, #copperplate, #handlettering etc for inspiration and motivation. The talent out there is incredible!
- The experts recommend Eleanor Winters’ book Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy. I haven’t read the book yet so am suggesting this based on recommendations from the experts.