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How to choose and use calligraphy nibs?
Close-up of Visconti silver nib on paper with cursive writing.

Writing

How to choose and use calligraphy nibs?

20.05.2023

Calligraphy is a passion that requires few but essential tools. All you need to get started is good-quality paper and a calligraphy nib! To choose a suitable one, you must first identify your writing style and discover all the secrets of the nib, the true soul of every fountain pen.

Perhaps not everyone knows what calligraphy nibs look like, but before the advent of ballpoint pens, even among schoolchildren, people wrote with a nib mounted on a nib holder made of different materials: metal, wood, plastic, or even of more valuable quality. Are you interested in trying your hand at calligraphy and reviving a gesture from the past? In that case, you can opt for an instrument equipped with a metal nib to ensure smoother calligraphy, even for novices.

Pennino Visconti fra mani artigiano in bianco e nero

Different types of nibs for the calligraphy you prefer

There are different types of calligraphy nibs, and you might need help understanding which is most suitable for your style. Generally, one can distinguish thin nibs with flexible or rigid tips from nibs with truncated or rounded ends. With this overview of the different categories of nibs, choosing the right one and unleashing your creativity will become easy.

Fine-tip calligraphy nib

Versatile and easy to use, the fine calligraphy nib is perfect for those who like to vary the thickness of the stroke while writing. With this alternating thickness, you can achieve a striking chiaroscuro effect, typical of cursive typefaces such as Copperplate or Spencerian. In some cases, one can also opt for so-called “elbow” nibs, characterized by a greater inclination to facilitate the writing of cursive strokes. This type of nib debuted in the 18th century. It gradually replaced quills, which had been used as the primary writing instrument until then.

The delicate stroke of the fine or extra-fine steel nib is well suited to the flowing, harmonious line of the Mirage fountain pen, in which there is no interruption between the barrel and the cap. The resin nuances create a brilliant, hypnotic surface in all six available color variants. On the other hand, for those who want a unique and special fine nib, there is the Van Gogh The Novel Reader fountain pen featuring a steel nib in yellow gold coloring embellished with the engraving of the signature of the famous Dutch painter.

Truncated tip calligraphy nib

In addition to fine-tipped nibs for practicing cursive writing, there are also truncated-tip calligraphy nibs. For example, within this category is the Mitchell nib, which features a square tip cut in the middle to allow ink to flow from the reservoir. Given its distinctive tip, this British-made nib is well suited for all medieval and Renaissance calligraphy.

Another example of a truncated nib is the Speedball nib, which has a broad tip cut at an angle: to the right for right-handed people and the left for left-handed people. This type of nib is the perfect choice to try your hand at traditional broad-tipped calligraphy. In the same Speedball series, you can also find variants with a bullet tip for lettering and creating logos or titles.

Stub and the italic calligraphy nibs

Are you a lover of the Gothic script? You will find the stub nib hard to resist. Its versatile tip is flattened to a rectangular shape that offers a considerable variation in thickness between the horizontal stroke, which is broader and more prominent, and the vertical stroke, which is thinner and lighter. In light of this characteristic, the stub nib is perfect for medieval writing requiring this type of stroke variation.

The stub nib is also one of the variants available for most Visconti fountain pens: in addition to one of the four extra-fine, fine, medium, and broad sizes, it is also possible to choose this particular type of nib. Among the fountain pens that feature the stub nib option, here are two iconic examples inspired by the beauty of Florence and its region. The Homo Sapiens Tuscan Hills features an 18-karat gold nib in a palladium color that perfectly matches the green and brown resin veins that recall the striking landscape of the Tuscan countryside. Inspired by Florentine Renaissance art, the Medici fountain pen is a riot of elegance with its golden veins further enhanced by its 18-karat gold stub nib, available in yellow gold or ruthenium.

People often confuse the stub nib with the italic one, considering them synonymous. In reality, the italic nib’s tip has more rounded edges. It, therefore, does not allow for the same variation in thickness between the horizontal and vertical strokes and is less smooth on paper.

 

Those who want to have fun learning to write with the curlicues and flourishes of the most elegant types of calligraphy can now count on this brief guide to find the most suitable nibs for their chosen style. In general, it is essential to remember that more flexible nibs are always preferable when you want to experiment and play with more articulate letters, while for more formal, everyday writing, you can also rely on more rigid nibs.

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