Art Blog

Practicing Pointed Pen Calligraphy Without a Dip Pen & Ink

Traditional calligraphy relies on a special tool — a pointed pen and dip ink. Which begs the question: Can you learn or practice pointed pen calligraphy without using a dip pen and ink? What a question! It may seem impossible, but the answer may surprise you.

illustration of writing utensils in a goblet

Why would you want to do calligraphy without a dip pen?

I can think of all kinds of reasons: Perhaps you’re an eager calligrapher recovering from surgery or an injury and can’t sit properly for calligraphy. Perhaps you have a disability. Perhaps you’re traveling, and don’t want to carry a pointed pen nib and inks. Maybe you just don’t want to spend your hard-earned money just yet, or you just don’t feel like getting inky fingers!

For whatever reason, if ink and nibs are not accessible to you at the moment, you can certainly work on your form, shapes, strokes and movements required for pointed pen calligraphy without the dip pen and ink.

3 ways to practice calligraphy without a calligraphy pen

1. Practice in pencil

Different types of drawing pencils

Regular old pencils are a great tool to use for practicing calligraphy. By using regular lined paper and a pencil, along with some careful focus, we can practice our pointed pen calligraphy strokes anywhere, anytime! 

Use the pencil as you would use a pointed pen — specifically, apply pressure in the same way. When making heavy downstrokes, put additional pressure on the pencil, just as you would with a on your pointed pen nib. This will results in a heavier, darker downstroke. The same idea goes for the upstroke or hairline.

Of course, pencil calligraphy will not have as great of contrasts as ink, but it’s nonetheless an efficient way to practice our heavy downstroke and light upstroke techniques. For thick dark downstrokes, try a heavier pencil such as a 4B.

2. Use a marker

A marker — whether it’s your kids’ school markers, a permanent marker or an artist-grade tool — is a useful and portable tool for practicing calligraphy. Just like a pencil, you can apply pressure to a marker to create thick and thin lines.

For a more pointed pen–like look, choose a medium weigh, rounded marker (that is, a marker that’s not too hard-tipped and doesn’t have a square or chisel tip). A marker has the advantage of ink flow, greater thick and thin contrasts, and of course vibrant colors!

3. Have fun with a fountain pen

Fountain pen for calligraphy

If a dip pen and ink aren’t available, this is the best way for many people to write with ink.

Fountain pens vary widely in price, materials and design. Any fountain pen will work for elegant writing practice and will allow for some variation stroke weights, with heavier downstrokes.

However, if you’re interested in purchasing a pen specifically for pointed pen calligraphy practice, I recommend choosing a Noodler’s flex pen, which has a flexible nib that allows for movements more similar to your calligraphy techniques. This pen is an enjoyable way to write beautifully in ink.

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