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Choosing the right calligraphy pen can be challenging because there are so many different kinds available. When purchasing a calligraphy pen, it's important to take your needs and your level of expertise into consideration. Some calligraphy pens come in sets with a variety of colors, while others come without any ink and you have to purchase your ink separately. In terms of skill level, a more lightweight pen with water-based ink is great for beginners who may be more prone to spills and need to get used to the technique involved with calligraphy.
Calligraphy pens are similar to fountain pens in that some can be dipped in ink while others use cartridges. The nibs are another factor to consider: some have just one nib while others have several interchangeable nibs of different styles so you can create thin or thick lettering. Calligraphy markers are available, too and are great for beginners. To find the best calligraphy pen for your needs and skill level, read on.
Best Overall: Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pens
This highly popular Pilot calligraphy pen set comes with four pens and you can choose from four sizes: 1.5mm, 2.4mm, 3.8mm, and 6.0mm. Each comes with two ink cartridges as well—one red and one black. Touch the nibs together to blend the colors and create some interesting effects. The parallel plate technology helps make your work sharp and precise.
You also get a little nib cleaner to keep your calligraphy pens in top shape. The Pilot Parallel is refillable so it should last for a while—you won’t have to replace it when it runs dry and, of course, you get four of these pens so your calligraphy needs should be met for years to come.
Best All-Purpose Kit: Staedtler Calligraphy Pen Set
This isn’t just a calligraphy pen—this Staedtler 33-piece set includes everything you could possibly need to create great calligraphy, from four pens with interchangeable nibs to 20 ink cartridges in seven colors.
The nibs include five shapes and sizes from extra fine to extra broad. The kit even includes an instruction book and a practice pad to help you get started. Everything comes in a neatly organized storage tin. The calligraphy pens are pretty, too, with a marble-like finish. The ink is 20 percent water-based and is supplied to the nib by a little internal pump—no dipping required. If this all sounds like a bit more than you need, Staedtler offers a 7-piece starter set as well.
Read Next: The Best Fountain Pens
Best Color Selection: Sakura 8-Piece Pigma Brush Pen Set
If your goal is to introduce a little color into your work, Sakura’s eight-pack of Pigma brush markers has you covered. These inks are bold and intense: in addition to black, you get purple, green, blue, orange, rose, brown, and red. The pens offer superior ink flow from both the sides and the tips, and the ink is fade-resistant, chemical-proof, and waterproof. It’s compatible with most types of paper to prevent bleeding and smears.
The fine tips are made of flexible elastic so you can draw and paint with these or you can write with them—or do both. Sakura’s calligraphy pens are also available in smaller packs.
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Best Handcrafted: GC Quill Antique Feather Writing Quill Pen
The GC Quill artist-grade pen is as cutting-edge as it is beautiful. It includes six different stainless steel nibs in varying sizes to accommodate a range of calligraphy techniques. This antique-style pen is handcrafted of birch wood and fashioned after the calligraphy pens of old.
The pen’s case and the two ink bottles that come with it are as pretty as the pen itself. You can dip this pen in ink, making it more appropriate for experienced users. The ink flows smoothly, as one might expect from a pen of this caliber. The calligraphy pen also comes with gold sealing wax, and the ostrich feather is rumored to be the real deal. Even more, GC offers a money-back guarantee and this pen can also make a great gift for a calligraphy lover.
Best for Beginners: Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens
Tombow’s Fudenosuke pens come in a two-pack or a three-pack. At least one pen has a soft nib, while the other has a hard nib, giving you the ability to accommodate various styles of writing using fine or medium strokes. This can be a nice perk if you’re just learning and want to explore different techniques. These calligraphy pens are lightweight, which is also helpful for beginners. The black ink is also water-based so it can be removed from clothing and fabric in the event of a spill.
The price is right, too, if you’re unsure whether you want to commit to calligraphy just yet. About the only thing you’ll give up in exchange for the savings is that you’ll have to buy a new pack when these run out of ink. They’re not refillable.
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Best Marker for Beginners: Zig Memory System Tip Millennium Marker
Zig's black marker—not to be confused with an actual pen—is another great choice for beginners. Markers tend to be easier to use and less complicated to handle.
The tip of this marker is .45mm, which is narrow and precise but not particularly challenging. The ink is smear-proof after it dries, and it’s acid-free and photo-safe if you want to label those images you captured on vacation. Zig also offers a set of eight markers, all in different colors, and the colors are blendable. This calligraphy set has a lot of versatility with its dual tips feature, where the markers offer different sizes at each end.
Best for Comfort: Speedball Oblique Pen Set
Speedball’s pen has a special oblique handle that’s designed to accommodate the unique wrist positioning that calligraphy sometimes requires. It’s great for both left- and right-handers. You can create those flourishes and curves without strain or discomfort, making this pen a good choice for both beginners and accomplished artists alike.
This calligraphy pen comes with six different nibs and the price is really nice, especially considering all you get for your money. You do have to buy the ink separately, however. The Oblique pen is specifically designed for Spenserian and copperplate scripts.
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Best Fine Tip: Pentel Fude Brush Pen
For extremely precise calligraphy work, opt for Pentel's Fude Brush Pen in Medium. Designed for Chinese calligraphy, this pen features nylon brush tips and are filled with water-based black inks, making them ideal for painting and sketching as well. Its flexible nibs also offer varying line widths, while the pen can be refilled with black or gray color cartridges. Although reviewers say that this calligraphy pen takes some getting used to, most agree that it's great for producing detailed, fine lines.