Basic Modern Calligraphy Toolkit

I began learning calligraphy when I was in my teens – yes, that was quite some time ago. 🙂 I love the beauty of a well-practiced hand. But, I also love the new more freeform modern calligraphy and hand-lettering styles that have hit the hobby circles. While I mostly use my skills for my own personal use, I’ve had a number of opportunities to create professional pieces and to teach classes and workshops. So much fun!

I’m working just short of full-time at a counseling clinic now, so there isn’t as much time for calligraphy or teaching. But I still get lots of questions about what tools I use and how to get started. I decided it would be easiest to create a blog post I can direct people to. That being said, there are SO MANY resources out there! The calligraphy and hand-lettering communities are super generous. Following is MY favorite resources for getting started. I’ll add lots of links – these are not sponsored; they’re just my favorites. Feel free to leave questions or comments about your favorites below!


Rhodia DotPad Notepad

The DotPad is my favorite practice paper – hands down. There are small, light dots to give guides, but they don’t hold you back from being more creative. The paper is super smooth and won’t rough up your pens. Copy paper is just not at all good for your pens. You will go through pens and nibs about twice as fast as you would when using DotPads or Marker paper.

Canson Marker Pad

Marker paper has no guides – though the pads usually come with a guide sheet you can place behind the sheet you’re working with. I’ve used Marker paper for final projects before and love the clean, crisp, white look.

JetPens is probably my favorite place to get supplies. They consistently have what I need/want and their price point is awesome – especially when you factor in shipping. If you order just $25 worth of supplies (who can’t get to $25 at an office/hobby supply store??), they ship for free.

Writing Implements:

Honestly, my favorite tool for practice is a pencil. Talk about versatility and forgivability! You can start with the basic words, add thickness here and there, drop or raise your descenders and ascenders, and erase as you go. It’s awesome! Any soft pencil will do – just look for the ones with white erasers (they won’t leave yucky red marks). Or, better yet, get a Kneaded Rubber Eraser at any hobby store, including my favorite JetPens.

And then there are pens…

The Fudenosuke Hard Tip Brush Pen is my workhorse. These pens go and go and go! The tip is extremely resilient and gives a consistent look. Light touch = thin lines, press firm = thick lines. It’s a durable yet beautiful piece of art in and of itself! Plus, it now comes in…



If you’d like to try your hand at the pen holder and nib, I recommend two great starter tools: The Oblique Pen Nib Holder :

and the Nikko G Nib:

Both are sleek and easy to use. So much so that most of my calligra-friends use them daily and in their professional projects. There are lots of great options out there once you get familiar with these basic tools, but you may find you prefer these for most of your work moving forward.

If you decide to try the Oblique and Nib option, you’ll need a great, dependable ink. I would highly recommend Higgins Calligraphy Ink.

Now here is where I will have to stray from JetPens. I love Dinky Dips for holding my ink while I’m working. They are the perfect depth for the nibs. The only place I’ve found these specific jars with screw top lids is at They also have slightly larger sizes of jars which are great if you’re working on a larger project and don’t want to keep refilling the Dinky Dip. Unfortunately, I can’t use the pictures from their site, but if you click on the link you’ll see them. I haven’t found anything I like as much as the Dinky Dips, so even though I have to pay for shipping, I place an order once a year or so for 2-3 bags of them. I end up sharing ink a lot and I have lots of colors, so I use them constantly and need new jars regularly. You may find one bag will last you a long time.

That’s all you need to get started! I’ll share links to favorite books and sites for guides and exemplars next time. Have fun!

*Just a reminder: This post is NOT SPONSORED and I get no kickbacks. Just sharing my favorites.

Day 8 of 25 Cards, 25 Days

This card was inspired by a paper artist I follow, Vicky Papaioannou at Clip-n-Cuts blog. I don’t yet have the stitched heart dies, so I just created it using my Silhouette. Simple, but fun. A great patterned paper makes all the difference!

Day 5 of 25 Cards, 25 Days

This little bear is a favorite embellishment this year. I’m hoping to find the perfect setting for him on one my cards this year. This isn’t really my favorite, but it was still fun to create.

Day 4 of 25 Cards, 25 Days

It’s hard to see the dimensional effect in this photo, but this card was super fun to make. I love using foam tape to add dimension and using embossed, stamped images to create backgrounds with interest.

Day 3 of 25 Cards, 25 Days

A little fun with masks and coloring. I love my Tombow Dual brush markers for shading and creating dimension. And the Tim Holtz Distress inks create the perfect blends for the sky!

Day 2 of 25 Cards, 25 Days


I love this snowy glitter paper – it was perfect for this lovely snowflake! The Darice Embossing folder created the perfect backdrop with the help from a little white ink.

Day 1 of 25 Cards, 25 Days

Since the holiday season can be hectic and distracting, I wanted to give myself the gift of time this year; time to create. When I am creating, I am able to focus my thoughts and feel peace. Besides, it’s fun!

This year I really wanted to make my own Christmas cards, but I wanted to make each one different and unique; unless I just fall in love with the design and can think of different color schemes and such to add interest. That’s the case with this cute card. I love the texture and natural colors of the ribbons! And, while it’s difficult to see, the gold star reflects the tiny gold specks in the ribbon I used for the trunk. I have some additional color ideas for this fun design that I will be testing in the next few days.

O Christmas Tree - Ribbon

Merry Christmas to all!

Revealing the Past

The more I work with this little table, the more deeply I fall in love with it. The details are just beautiful.

I got started with the Cistristrip by using all the precautions listed – chemical-resistant gloves, goggles, well-ventilated area, drop cloth, etc. But, I have to say, the Citristrip is absolutely a dream to work with! I could almost forget I’m working with a strong chemical! There is a light orange scent, but definitely not anything toxic smelling. I did get a bit on some clothing and on my skin. I washed both immediately and noticed no long-term effects from it. Again, I wouldn’t push it, because this is a powerful chemical, but it’s definitely a great product to work with and a huge step forward from chemical furniture strippers of the past!


I started out cautiously with a fairly thin coat and left it on the shortest amount of time – barely over 30 minutes.


I knew that this table had been painted at least twice before; the green latex that was showing and a pink latex that was peeking through here and there (and that I remembered from my youth). But even with this super cautious application of the Cistristrip, I started to see some indications of a coat of ivory below the pink.




Obviously, it was going to take more than half an hour to get through three layers of paint! I went ahead and coated this same section again and gave it a couple of hours. This time I got some serious results.



One of the truly remarkable discoveries is how well preserved these routed motifs are! The wood edges are crisp – almost as if they had been cut yesterday! And as the Cistristrip works to remove the layers of paint, it is definitely pulling up some paint that was inlaid in the motifs as well. The interior “flower” was a reddish color, but it’s hard to tell just yet what color the surrounding lines had been. I’m hoping as I continue to gently work the latex out of the grooves, I will be able to solve the mystery of what colors were in there.

I’ve already started trying to decide how in the world I can possibly do this sweet table justice in it’s new life. Somehow I want to honor it’s past and yet carry it forward. It’s a huge weight.