Setting Up a Basic Modern Calligraphy Toolkit

I began learning calligraphy when I was in my teens – yes, that was quite some time ago. 🙂 I love the beauty of a well-practiced hand. But, I also love the new more freeform modern calligraphy and hand-lettering styles that have hit the hobby circles. While I mostly use my skills for my own personal use, I’ve had a number of opportunities to create professional pieces and to teach classes and workshops. So much fun!

I’m working just short of full-time at a counseling clinic now, so there isn’t as much time for calligraphy or teaching. But I still get lots of questions about what tools I use and how to get started. I decided it would be easiest to create a blog post I can direct people to. That being said, there are SO MANY resources out there! The calligraphy and hand-lettering communities are super generous. Following is MY favorite resources for getting started. I’ll add lots of links – these are not sponsored; they’re just my favorites. Feel free to leave questions or comments about your favorites below!


Rhodia DotPad Notepad

The DotPad is my favorite practice paper – hands down. There are small, light dots to give guides, but they don’t hold you back from being more creative. The paper is super smooth and won’t rough up your pens. Copy paper is just not at all good for your pens. You will go through pens and nibs about twice as fast as you would when using DotPads or Marker paper.

Canson Marker Pad

Marker paper has no guides – though the pads usually come with a guide sheet you can place behind the sheet you’re working with. I’ve used Marker paper for final projects before and love the clean, crisp, white look.

JetPens is probably my favorite place to get supplies. They consistently have what I need/want and their price point is awesome – especially when you factor in shipping. If you order just $25 worth of supplies (who can’t get to $25 at an office/hobby supply store??), they ship for free.

Writing Implements:

Honestly, my favorite tool for practice is a pencil. Talk about versatility and forgivability! You can start with the basic words, add thickness here and there, drop or raise your descenders and ascenders, and erase as you go. It’s awesome! Any soft pencil will do – just look for the ones with white erasers (they won’t leave yucky red marks). Or, better yet, get a Kneaded Rubber Eraser at any hobby store, including my favorite JetPens.

And then there are pens…

The Fudenosuke Hard Tip Brush Pen is my workhorse. These pens go and go and go! The tip is extremely resilient and gives a consistent look. Light touch = thin lines, press firm = thick lines. It’s a durable yet beautiful piece of art in and of itself! Plus, it now comes in…



If you’d like to try your hand at the pen holder and nib, I recommend two great starter tools: The Oblique Pen Nib Holder :

and the Nikko G Nib:

Both are sleek and easy to use. So much so that most of my calligra-friends use them daily and in their professional projects. There are lots of great options out there once you get familiar with these basic tools, but you may find you prefer these for most of your work moving forward.

If you decide to try the Oblique and Nib option, you’ll need a great, dependable ink. I would highly recommend Higgins Calligraphy Ink.

Now here is where I will have to stray from JetPens. I love Dinky Dips for holding my ink while I’m working. They are the perfect depth for the nibs. The only place I’ve found these specific jars with screw top lids is at They also have slightly larger sizes of jars which are great if you’re working on a larger project and don’t want to keep refilling the Dinky Dip. Unfortunately, I can’t use the pictures from their site, but if you click on the link you’ll see them. I haven’t found anything I like as much as the Dinky Dips, so even though I have to pay for shipping, I place an order once a year or so for 2-3 bags of them. I end up sharing ink a lot and I have lots of colors, so I use them constantly and need new jars regularly. You may find one bag will last you a long time.

That’s all you need to get started! I’ll share links to favorite books and sites for guides and exemplars next time. Have fun!

*Just a reminder: This post is NOT SPONSORED and I get no kickbacks. Just sharing my favorites.