Which Calligraphy Pen/Nibs Set Should I Buy?

calligraphy, supplies

Drawing’, ‘Mapping’, ‘Calligraphy’ … There are many calligraphy ‘sets’ options on offer, but which one is the right one for you? Should you buy one-off nibs and holders instead? Calligraphy tools can be such an investment, you don’t want to buy the wrong set. Here I attempt to give a rough guide before buying what could be your first calligraphy tools.

First of all, it really helps to know the classifications of calligraphy and to have what you’re aiming to create in mind. Straight to the example: if you want to learn Copperplate, you’d do better with the Speedball Oblique set (with 6 pointed nibs) than the Calligraphy set (4 broad + 2 pointed nibs), because you’ll have no use for the broad nibs. This also applies for any other calligraphy that warrants for an oblique holder and pointed nibs.

On the other hand, if you wish to deepen your Italics practice, the Speedball C series is the one for you, with 6 broad-edge nibs all in different sizes. You might also consider Winsor and Newton Complete Calligraphy set, with 5 broad nibs (making it a poor choice if you wish to learn Copperplate). I was completely drooling over this item before realising what a broad pen was.


Needless to say, if you want to produce the all-too-popular brush lettering, you would need a pointed brush or a brush pen. For casual modern calligraphy, a pointed nib in a straight holder will do. If you prefer to opt out of sets and buy a holder and the nibs separately, just make sure the nibs can fit inside your holder.


Overall, since the packaging doesn’t often go into details about what every set does, it’s always a good idea to Google your available options before purchasing. Upon Googling, I found out that Joseph Gillott’s ‘drawing’ sets are actually ‘fine’ nibs, while ‘mapping’ is ‘extra fine’, (and ‘manga’ is the combination of both). So although you’re probably not going to mostly ‘draw’ or cartograph a ‘map’, technically, you can use those sets for calligraphy.

Like all other common brand ‘art’ supplies, what they do with ‘sets’ is just compiling the items that they already have available and sell it together. Either for helping the customer or making more sales, they can be confusing sometimes, but we needn’t be too mesmerised. Often they also provide how-to-use ‘guides’, though I’m doubtful of their actual effectiveness (it’s like a recipe on the butter box packaging). In the end, they’re just tools and what you produce depends on how you use them.



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