Updated: Dec 2, 2019
So far in the Back to Basics series, we've looked at preparing our calligraphy nibs for use, and types of paper to use for our practice and finished pieces. The final piece of the getting started with calligraphy is learning about what ink to use! This may seem like the easiest piece of th
e puzzle, but can be deceptively complicated.
We've all seen the "learn calligraphy now!" kits in hobby stores, amazon...even at my favorite place in the world, Harry Potter World. Unfortunately these kits usually include cheap supplies that will frustrate more than encourage practicing your new hobby.
Thankfully, good quality ink isn't too hard to find. The easiest ink to start with is pre-mixed ink, which is all ready for lettering as soon as you break the seal. Beyond that, there are colored inks, ink sticks for grinding, paint-based mix-your-own inks, metallic inks.....so many possibilities!
My favorite ink for beginning calligraphers is the Higgins Eternal Ink. It's non-waterproof, has a great flow rate off the nib, and is a pretty true black color. It's easy to find in hobby stores, or online, and is pretty inexpensive as far as ink goes. Sumi pre-mixed inks are a great option too!
You can also take your ink game up a step by grinding your own ink. Ink sticks come in a rainbow of colors, so this is a great way to add color to your calligraphy! All you need is some distilled water, an ink stick, and a grinding stone (in many cases, the ink sticks can be bought with a grinding stone included). Here are some basic instructions for grinding your own ink for use!
If ink sticks aren't your thing, you can always try some of the colored inks available on the market. Personally, I don't care for many of these, because they dry quickly and will gum up your nib a lot, which can lead to frustrating results and poor ink flow. I like to mix my own inks with gouache (more on this next month!) But (just as with all the recommendations I give) everyone has different preferences, so I really encourage you to try out different types of ink and find what you like best!
If you want to add some bling to your lettering, then you and I have that in common! My favorite metallic inks are the Dr. Ph Martin's Iridescent Inks, and Finetec Pan Watercolors. (The Dr. Martin's can be a bit thick, so you may want to dilute it a bit with some distilled water if it doesn't flow readily down your nib.)
If you already have a favorite ink, I'd love to hear about it! Please share it in the comments below.