When we initially started learning modern calligraphy and brush lettering, we bought ALL the stationery! It was a bit of an excuse to go wild in the aisles both in stores and online. In retrospect, we wasted money on supplies that we found we didn't really need or more annoyingly were not fit for the job e.g. inks that don't flow well on pointed nibs, papers that are difficult to work with etc etc. Pragmatically, we can see that these mistakes were all part of learning but there have got to be more cost effective ways to learn, right? So, we thought that it was about time we collated a list of some of our modern lettering stationery 'must haves'. After all, having the right tool for the job makes things so much easier and means your modern lettering progress will be both quicker and more enjoyable.
Our product of choice for practice paper is Rhodia pads. Specifically we are fans of Rhodia Dot Pad No 18 (A4), this is a high grade vellum paper. Traditional vellum is made from calf skin but Rhodia uses paper from the Clairefontaine mill which produces the fine paper using pulp and wood by-products from sustainable forests. The paper is chlorine-free because it is not bleached like other papers, and natural inks are added to the paper making process that are water-based and made from vegetable oil pigments. High quality and ethical - we are sold! It is the smoothest paper to write on and has a light grey grid pattern. This helps with practice as you can manage uniformity of letters, spacing and lay out.
A good quality black ink is an essential lettering supply. The ink that we particularly like for the consistency it provides is Higgins Eternal Permanent Black Ink. It is a carbon pigment and dye based ink and has archival quality meaning that it will not degrade the paper. It dries within 10 minutes to a gorgeous matte sheen. This ink is suitable for both nib and brush and gives a gorgeous tonal effect when used. We would recommend using this Higgins Eternal ink with a good quality paper as the water content means that is has a tendency to bleed on lower quality paper.
3. Pen Holder
A go-to option for us is a cork tipped straight pen holder - we are currently using this one produced by Brause. We like the slightly wider tip created by the cork and find them super comfortable to use when completing bigger pieces of calligraphy. The cork can be sanded to create a custom grip too so you can actually achieve a completely bespoke pen holder in a very affordable way making them a true modern calligraphy must have.
The great thing about nibs is that they are a relatively inexpensive modern calligraphy supply
purchase and a great way to experiment. Like most things in life, there is no 'one size fits all' and we recommend some practice with different nibs to find ones that work for you. Keep experimenting as your practice improves; you will find different nibs easier to work with as your modern calligraphy develops. Our go-to modern calligraphy nib is a Zebra G Nib. These are super strong so can cope with modern calligraphy beginners who are getting to grips with the application of differing pressure. So they are a forgiving nib and remain a staple in our supplies.
Our must have brush for modern lettering are the Pro Arte Masterstroke 60 Round brushes, we mostly use size 2 and 4. These are nylon multi purpose brushes with a round tip. Synthetic brushes such as these are designed to mimic the structure and performance of natural hair brushes, so they hold a good amount of liquid and maintain their point well throughout use. This means they are perfect for getting the definition between thick and thin strokes in brush lettering. These brushes are super durable and if looked after well, will last years.
6. Ink Stand
If, like us, you are a slightly clumsy calligrapher then an ink stand is a must have. An ink stand will minimise the risk of ink spillages and provide a swoon worthy desk accessory. We love them so much so that we designed our own, collaborating with a local independent designer/craftsman Nick James. Each of our ink stands is handcrafted using sustainable French Oak. The stand holds any ink pot with the diameter of up to 4.5mm. It is angled for ease of dip pen action as well as making the most of every drop of ink. There is also a groove for your brush or pen holder. It's compact and clean lines work well on the smallest of desks and the wood is unvarnished to help maintain its eco-credentials.
Our final must have is storage for your stationery and modern lettering goodies. We believe that if you look after your stationery supplies they will last a long time. A brilliant option for lettering enthusiasts is a cantilever toolbox. We have this one from Fred Aldous. It is metal so has a retro vibe and is weighty and large so it holds ALL of our kit (which is a lot)! A good tool box will have a space for everything - cantilevers are ideal as the fold out trays provide easy access to pen holders and brushes and the bottom compartment keeps all inks and paints safe and secure. A 'must have' for lettering lovers everywhere.
And that's it, the seven 'must have' items that we recommend for modern lettering lovers. We have a curated selection of items in our online stationery shop including both cult classics and hand crafted goodies.
If you have any lettering items that you wouldn't be without do, please let us know in the comments.
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