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"Mastering the Basics: A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Dip Pen Calligraphy"

Updated: May 8

This calligraphy tutorial will cover the following :

  1. Materials to Start Dip Pen Calligraphy

  2. Basic Strokes and Constructing

  3. Letterforms

  4. BUY downloadable practice sheets

“ What tools and materials do I need for dip pen calligraphy ? ”


Whilst I always say that at the end of the day, a calligrapher’s favorite nibs are a subject of personal preference, there are quite a few that I’d recommend for beginners.

Nikko / Zebra G A popular nib for beginners, the G nibs are not too stiff or too soft / flexible, thus resulting in greater control when you’re just starting out.

Hunt 22 A slightly softer nib in comparison to the G nibs, the Hunt 22 is a great choice if you’d like a little flex in your nibs without losing control.

Hunt 101 & Leonardt Principal – This is a very flexible nib, with a sharp point.

The flexibility of the nib results in thick, luscious down strokes (also known as shades), and the sharp point results in fine hairlines.

This creates a beautiful contrast between your thick and thin strokes.

How to prepare new calligraphy nibs

Before you actually start using your nibs you need to prepare them by taking of the oil coating that is applied by the manufacturer.

You see, the nib manufacturers apply a protective layer on the nib in order to prevent them from rusting, and before you can start using them you need to remove this oily coating.

This step is essential because if you don’t do it, the ink wont stay on the nib and it will be very hard (if not impossible) to use them.

Luckily this process is quite simple, it only takes a few minutes and needs to be done only once.

Here are a few ways you can do this –

1. Tooth paste

Apply a bit of tooth paste on your tooth brush and gently scrub the nib (both sides) for about 30 seconds.

Be sure to scrub it gently in order to not damage the nib.

Once you are done, rinse it well under water and dry it off completely with a paper towel (or a rag)

2. Rubbing alcohol/acetone

With the help of a cotton swab rub some alcohol/acetone on the nib. Once you have cleaned the whole nib you are ready to use it.

3. Stick it in a potato!

Yups! good old fashioned potato does the trick when it comes to nib preparation.

All you need to do is grab a fresh potato and slowly (very gently) slide the nib inside of it – don’t stick the whole thing in otherwise it will be hard to pull it out.

Don’t hold it more than 10-15 minutes otherwise your nib might start to rust.

Once you are done, simply dry it off and you are all set.

Pen holders

There are 2 main types of pen holders for calligraphy;

Whilst the oblique holder is admittedly more suited for right handers, there are now also oblique pen holders for left handers.


Although normal copy paper would work for practice (as long as it’s bleed proof), I would suggest getting some Rhodia paper if you can afford it. I love these Rhodia pads because :

⦁ The ink doesn’t bleed ⦁ The surface is extremely smooth so your nibs don’t snag as much on them ⦁ They come in blank sheets, lined and with dot grids. My favorite for beginners are the lined pads.


When it comes to ink, you really have a wide choice.

However, here are a few recommendations for beginners –

Not all ink are the same, some are too thick while others too liquid.

How do I get started writing calligraphy ?

Basic strokes

I like to think of calligraphy as a composite of different basic strokes.

Please refer to the attached guide sheet to practice some of these strokes on your own –

artdimple91 calligraphy worksheet
Basic stroke practise page of ArtDimple91 Dippen calligraphy worksheet
Underturn – start by applying pressure on your nib on the down stroke, slowly curving upstrokes and releasing pressure as you do that.
Overturn – the opposite of the underturn, start with an upstroke, curving downwards and applying pressure for a thicker down stroke.
Compound Stroke – a combination of the overturn and underturn, start as if you’re writing an overturn, and connect that to the underturn after your down stroke.
Ascender – this stroke is used for tall letters like ‘l, b, k, h etc’. Start with a thin

upstroke, and cross over to end with a thicker down stroke.

Descender – this stroke is used for letters such as ‘ g, j, y, and z’. Start with a thick down stroke, crossing over to end with a thin delicate upstroke loop.


Now that you know the basic strokes, it’s time to combine them to form letterforms, or alphabets.

watch the video for better learning

BUY Downloadable practice sheets

Now it’s time to practice!

We’ve prepared some paid downloadable practice sheets that will help you practice the basic calligraphy strokes as well as alphabets and words that will keep your letter forms nice and consistent.

Here are some final tips on how to keep on improving :

Set aside 10-15 minutes each day for intentional practice.

Intentional practice means paying close attention to your letterforms, and studying each one intently before moving on to the next.

I like to practice with quotes and poems to practice long form writing, and I think writing out the lyrics of your favorite songs can be an interesting way to keep on practicing.

Have fun. After all that has been said and done, remember to always have fun.

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