The first time I ever saw wedding envelopes addressed in calligraphy (somewhere within the Pinterest Black Hole of Wedding Planning™), I instantly thought "Yup. I want that. I'm doing it."
Little did I know I had just pushed myself down a rabbit hole... I had no idea what supplies I needed, what brands were respected, and how the hell dip pens actually worked. And the calligraphy "starter kits", like most artist starter kits, were overpriced, borderline patronizing, garbage. Thankfully one of my character flaws is stubbornness, so I trudged on. Today, I'm a huge calligraphy nerd and consider this lost art one of my joys, hobbies, and part of my profession!
Here's what you need to get started:
- a quality, flexible nib - Brause Extra Fine 66
- an ink formulated specifically for calligraphy - Yasutomo Sumi Ink
- a comfortable holder that the nib will fit into - Tachikawa Comic Pen Nib Holder T-40
After attempting calligraphy with a cheap Manuscript cartridge calligraphy pen with horrible results, I knew I had to treat myself to the real deal - I mean, I couldn't suck THAT much, it had to be my pen's fault, right?! Thankfully, it IS your pen's fault (mostly). Excellent nibs push ink in beautiful ways that cheap ones simply cannot. Brause EF66 came highly recommended by the calligraphy nerd community, and I can totally see why. It's crazy flexible and easily makes super thicks and super thins that make calligraphy such a beauty. It's not the end-all-be-all of nibs, but if you're trying to buy yourself one decent nib just to get started, this one's solid.
Before I bought the Sumi ink, I broke open some cheap cartridge pen inks and made do with it. Learn from me and never do that. My god what a DIFFERENCE it makes to have decent ink. You gotta get it - it just flows better, dries better, sits on paper better... you just gotta.
The Tachikawa Comic Pen Nib Holder is marketed primarily towards manga artists, but I love love LOVE this holder. First off, it's cute as hell and ergonomically designed (i.e. wide and has a squishy part) and that was already enough for me to buy it, but it ALSO HAS A CAP! WHAT!
You may be wondering why I'm sharing this information - hiring a calligrapher should be the equivalent of dining at a nice restaurant - i.e. even if you kind of know what ingredients are in the dish and have a general idea of how to prepare it, why not pay a professional to do it? Ultimately way easier, with more predictable results and less time/energy consumed. But it's always nice to know how they did it :)