When I started modern calligraphy, the proper technique for drawing letters took some getting used to. Like most beginners, I struggled to get that clear transition from “thick down” to “thin up” without an awkward taper or a wiggly upstroke. I was also overwhelmed by the amount of supplies, tools, and writing utensils that exist (but don’t get me wrong, I was super excited too. I love any excuse to buy a new pen). People RAVED about the Tombow Dual Brush Pens, yet I could not for the life of me get a good outcome with them! (Sidenote: They are fantastic brush pens … but are most definitely NOT beginner-friendly! Don’t be discouraged if you need to set yours aside for awhile.)
While practice was absolutely the #1 key to improving my skills, using the right tools for my skill level set me up for success. The goal is to ultimately build up muscle memory, and a good brush pen or marker will help you do that. Today, I am sharing the supplies that I found to be the best in helping me improve and maximize my practice as a beginner.
1. & 2. Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip & Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip I’m starting this list off with two pens that are often seen together and often recommended for beginners, for great reason! Unofficially referred to as “Fudes”, the Tombow Fudenosukes are my absolute favorite to start with. These are black ink brush tip pens; the tips are small and flexible. They often come as a set so you can purchase them both together. As the name implies, the Hard Tip pen has a stiffer tip. This gives you less “wiggle room” with the amount of pressure you put on your pen, which may not sound user-friendly, but this actually is perfect to help a beginner learn the technique and build muscle memory. Once you’re comfortable with the Hard Tip, try the Soft Tip. While the Soft Tip obviously has a softer tip than the Hard Tip, it is still firm and easy to work with. Try them both; I personally found that starting with the Hard Tip and “graduating” to the Soft Tip worked best, but the opposite may be the case for you.
3. Crayola Supertips These are on my list because they are so affordable and easy to find, and you may already have them! These have a chisel tip, so when you increase the pressure on the marker, you’re drawing with the side of the tip and when you decrease pressure, you’re drawing with just the very top; it doesn’t bend like a brush marker would. You may need to use a slightly different technique and grip than you would using a brush pen, which is totally okay and makes for good practice and exercising that muscle memory. 😉
4. Pentel Aquash water brush This one is really fun! Intended for watercolor lettering (my favorite!), these brushes are made with fine plastic bristles and a chamber to hold water or even ink. When you squeeze the tube, a small amount of liquid is fed to the bristles, making watercolor less messy and giving you more control over the amount of ink or paint you’re working with. Because these are similar to traditional paintbrushes, but with stiffer, less porous bristles and (typically) a smaller tip, I find these great for beginners, especially if you have your heart set on watercolor lettering!
5. Fine Point Sharpie I’m rounding out this list with an oldie but goodie, and a slightly different way to do calligraphy. Sharpies are perfect for doing faux calligraphy where, instead of using pressure to vary your stroke thickness, you draw the thickness in instead and fill it in. I like using Sharpies for this because they produce consistent lines and work nicely for both drawing lines and filling them in. While I tend to prefer smaller brush tips for “classic” modern calligraphy practice, I like the thicker lines that a Sharpie produces if I am doing faux calligraphy.
I feel like I should close this out by saying that there are a TON of awesome tools out there for modern calligraphy, so if none of my recommendations resonate with you, don’t hesitate to try something else. In my opinion, half the fun of any new hobby is trying out the different supplies and figuring out what you like! Happy calligraphing!