I’m so glad that you’re here!
When I first started learning calligraphy, I had to scour around the internet looking for resources on copperplate calligraphy and over the years I have been collecting notes here and there. Thus, this is a compiled list of resources that would be helpful to those that are starting out, or even to those that are already practising copperplate calligraphy.
I hope this list comes to help!
You honestly don’t need fancy tools to get started, a basic pencil and paper is good enough for you to learn and practice the basic letterforms. However, to produce those hairlines upstrokes and thick downstrokes, one does require a pen and nib.
- Stickerrific! One of my go-to places to shop for my calligraphy and art supplies. They have a variety of calligraphy tools, from pen holders, nibs, inks, papers to all sorts of Finetec colours. In a nutshell, it’s stationery heaven.
- Cziplee – Also has a vast variety of calligraphy and art supplies.
- Smidapaper – A quaint stationery shop located in Penang. Loveee the vibes in this store!
These are my main go-to places for me to shop locally in Malaysia. For overseas art store that I have been following:
It’s really an individual preference when it comes to holders. Some penholder might feel hard and stiff on your hand, too heavy, too big, too small etc while it might be a perfect fit for another person. So trying out the penholder before buying will help you to decide if it fits your hand properly or not.
Penholders come in two forms – a straight holder and an oblique holder. The difference with these two is that and an oblique holder has a flange to hold your nibs. The flange is some sort of an extended part of the pen holder to help angle your nibs at a degree (~45°-55°) which will help in keeping your slants in place. A straight holder can also produce the same slant depending on the angle that you hold the pen. Therefore both pens do produce the same result depending on the calligrapher’s preference.
There are so many penholders out in the market and a variety of design to choose from. For a start, I would recommend beginners to try out both a straight holder and an oblique holder.
These are the penholder that I would recommend on a budget:
- Moblique 2-in-1 penholder by Luis Creation – a 2 in 1 holder at an affordable price. 2 in 1 means you get to try out both as a straight holder and oblique holder 🙂
Adjustable Oblique Plastic Holder with Metal Flange – A metal flange means you can adjust the flange to fit certain nibs.
- Straight holder – A plain straight holder.
You know those thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes that we all so love in the calligraphy community? That’s all produced by writing with a nib – the very essence of it.
Nibs come in a variety of hardness aka flexibility. Some nibs are stiff/hard (less or medium flexibility) which means that you will need to apply slightly more pressure to get the tines open to produce a thick stroke, while others could be softer (more flexible) which means a little pressure is enough to produce a thick stroke.
For beginners, where you are still learning on controlling the pressure on your tines (a little pressure or a lot of pressure?) – the recommendation is to start off with a harder aka less flexible nib.
The one nib that I would recommend would be the Nikko G nib. This nib is more on the less flexible side but is still able to produce a nice thin and thick stroke. Plus this nib is really durable, I’m still using the very first Nikko G that I bought a year or two ago!
Here comes the fun and colourful part of the supplies. Ink! There are so so so many beautiful inks that work well with a nib. You can even create your own mix of colours with gouache or write with metallic handmade watercolours that are seriously so beautiful with its shimmer.
But let us keep those beautiful inks for final projects as you wouldn’t want to waste these beautiful colours for practices right?
These are the two inks that I would recommend for beginners as practice inks:
- Walnut Ink – beautiful light brown in colour. You can get them in ink form or as in granules where you will need to add water to make it into ink.
- Sumi Ink – Moon Palace Sumi ink or Zig Kuretake Sumi Ink. If you’re looking for black ink this would be a good option. My favourite choice would be Moon Palace Sumi Ink
The last essential item of supplies is actually the most important piece. Paper. Without the right paper, the experience of writing with your nib and ink will not be a nice one. You might start to realise that your ink is feathering, and those supposedly thin upstrokes will end up looking as thick as those downstrokes. You will end up getting frustrated with your practices and wonder if you’re not doing it right.
That’s why I stress the importance of finding the right paper to write on. With the right paper, you will see your beautiful upstrokes and downstrokes and the ink will not bleed or feather.
These are the papers that I would recommend:
- RJ paper – Maple white (*my current fav!)
- Conqueror 100gsm
- Tomoe River Loose Writing sheets
Do note that this list is not exhaustive.
There are so many learning resources online. And the best part is that you can get it for Free! I first started learning from these free resources that I could get hold off before actually attending any in-person workshop. The best way to learn and get constructive feedback is still going for an in-person workshop. However, if you would love to explore on your own and start practising instantly, these are the resources to go to!
- IAMPETH – The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting is an international association for practising and preserving the arts of calligraphy, engrossing and penmanship. Take your time to scour this site as it has tons of videos, guide sheets, lessons on different scripts as well as rare books that you can browse through for samples and exemplars. Iampeth also holds an annual conference that I wish to attend someday!
- Masgrimes – Run by the awesome David Grimes. He is so kind enough to share a high resolution of the Zanerian Manual for your reference. The Zanerian Manual is one book that I constantly go back to refer to. David also runs an online learning called Dreaming in script where he will go really in-depth with Engrossers script. This is one class that is on my current bucket list! 🙂
- Dr Joe Vitolo – Manages the Zanerian.com website and has offered to share a free manual where I think is a good starting point to pick up. Check out his Instagram account as he shares very insightful tips on letterforms.
These sites are just a few that I often go to but there are plentiful if you take the time to look about.
My Favourite IG peeps!
Gosh! There are so many great people over at IG that I don’t think this list will be able to cover them all. These are the people that inspire me to keep going, keep learning, keep practising and keep sharing.