How do You Use a Dip Pen?

How do You Use a Dip Pen?

dip pen calligraphy

If you’re thinking about trying the modern calligraphy, you need to go a bit over the basics of the tools that you’re going to have to use. It’s important to know something about your tool, if you want to get the best out of it.

The ABC on a dip pen

The dip pen, aka “nib”, is typically made with capillary channels, just like the fountain pen nibs are. It’s mounted in a handle or a holder, which is commonly made of wood.

The holder may also be made of bone, metal and plastic and there are pens even made of glass.

A dip pen doesn’t have an ink reservoir so you do need to recharge the ink from an ink bottle or ink bowl to keep on drawing and writing.

ABC on a dip pen

You may also use small tubular reservoirs to clip onto your dip pen, so you may draw for more minutes, without having to recharge the nib.

You may recharge by dipping into an inkwell, but most professionals (cartoonists, illustrators) are typically charging the pen with an eyedropper, a brush, getting more control over the amount of ink used. Therefore, dip pens aren’t dipped, hence the name “nib pens”.

How to use dip pens anyway

Even though the modern calligraphy seems so easy to the unexperienced eye, there’s a lot of effort put into it, especially if you’re at the beginning.

There are many types of dip pens that you can try that give various results. You may want to try an oblique calligraphy pen or a straight one as well, but the main principle is still the same: you do need to pay attention when applying the various degrees of pressure to the nib.

dip pen

You should begin by choosing your ink and the penholder, with a thin nib. A plastic penholder will do also. Some go for the India ink as it’s smooth and ensures less grief, with minor risk for bleeding. Little secret to keep in mind: it’s not difficult to get India ink in most art supply stores and the same goes for the dip pen holders.

You may continue with drawing some guidelines. When you go for “off-the-cuff” look though, you may skip this step.

It’s also important to center your calligraphy and to space it right. You need exactly where you’re going to write so why not use a pencil for some guidelines. If this isn’t for you, you can also try the Edwardian style of the oblique calligraphy.

Be prepared for some spitting, spatter ink though, and take time until you get to enjoy your results.

Keep in mind these tips

There’s no need to disappear and give up. Modern calligraphy looks amazing and it does require some patience and attention.

  • It’s better to hold the dip pen just like any other pen, but shouldn’t use it like a regular pen though.

It doesn’t quite make sense, we know. It’s important to vary the pressure you put on the nib. For instance, when you make a down stroke, it’s better to press hard. You do need to take off the pressure though when you make an upstroke. As a matter of fact, the nib should barely touch the paper.

You shouldn’t keep on pressing hard as you go up because the nib is going to catch in the paper, causing ink spatter.

  • The hole in the middle of the nib is just like a “well” for the ink. Therefore, when you dip the nib in the ink, you need to make sure you dip it just past the well.

Even though you feel like the well isn’t full, there’s always some reserve.

  • You need to make sure the tip of your pen is in the same position, facing the exact same way when you go up, sideways and so on.

Try not to ever turn the tip of your pen, as you’d do with an ordinary gel pen. Keep in mind that you always have to move your hand and not the pen.

  • It’s important that every now and then you wipe off the nib, for smoother flow.

You could easily keep a cup of water handy and use it when you notice the ink doesn’t flow as smooth as you want. Dip the pen in the water and wipe the excess off using a soft paper towel.

  • As soon as you dip the pen in ink, put the nib on the paper.

If otherwise, you may have to deal with the ink not flowing onto the paper. If the ink doesn’t flow though, tap the nib smoothly on your page to see if the ink comes out or not.

When ink still doesn’t flow, you need to re-dip and do it all over again.

The last tip

As we stated again, modern calligraphy takes time and patience. When you’re done, wait for 3 minutes or so (this relates a lot on your down strokes) so that the ink dries completely. Wait until the very end to erase the pencil lines and…sit back to admire your work!