Italic Calligraphy Supplies

If you want to do calligraphy the Michael Korman way (Korlligraphy), you need the appropriate supplies. I’m going to tell you what I use for italic calligraphy. Any other kind of calligraphy, you’re on your own.

If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend getting the Pilot Parallel Pens and start having fun with those. Then, you can work from there.

(Prices last updated: June 30, 2021)

Fountain Pens

Fountain pens are so much fun. Much better than ball point pens. I refuse to use ball point pens these days, in fact.

This was the first fountain pen I ever owned. I love it because it’s German and it has a red ring around it. It’s also very comfortable to hold.

I don’t know why it’s so expensive on Amazon right now. You can get it cheaper somewhere else or some other time. I’ve bought a couple, and they were around $23.

Make sure you get one with the italic nib. Italic nib sizes are measured in millimeters. The non-italic nibs are called “medium”, “broad”, “fine”, etc.

You can fill it with standard international ink cartridges, or use a converter.

These are great, stylish fountain pens. I have the black one, and the gray one with the retro houndstooth pattern.

Make sure you get the one with the 1.0 mm stub nib, since it comes in other varieties.

They take Pilot cartridges (it comes with one). You can’t use standard international cartridges with these pens.

I almost never buy Pilot cartridges. What I do is refill old cartridges with bottled ink, using a blunt-tipped syringe. That way, I feel like a real pen hacker.

If you only buy one item on this list, it should be this one. These are the coolest pens ever invented. You get all four sizes for only $23. That’s $5.75 per pen. This is the best deal in calligraphy.

These pens take Pilot cartridges, but you can fill them with any fountain pen ink (I use a syringe to refill the cartridges when they’re empty).

These pens are watertight when the cap is sealed. That’s pretty cool.

They are basically fountain pens, but they have a weird kind of nib with two metal plates that are parallel to each other. It lets you do cool things like mix ink colors to get a gradient effect, and also write with the corner of the nib to make a thin line.

Also, the 6.0 mm nib is freaking awesome.

Ink for Fountain Pens

Make sure you only fill fountain pens with ink that is specifically labeled as being safe for fountain pens. You cannot fill fountain pens with India ink, acrylic ink, sumi ink, or any other calligraphy ink that’s not made for fountain pens (well…you can fill the pen with that ink…just don’t expect to empty it).

Fountain pens take cartridges, or you can use a converter and fill it from a bottle. Personally, I usually refill ink cartridges with a blunt syringe. That’s just how I roll. Sometimes, I pretend to inject my arm. It freaks out my friends.

This ink is made in Massachusetts (I think). Noodler’s makes tons of different colors, all with different properties.

I like X-Feather for calligraphy, because it’s waterproof and pretty black as far as fountain pen inks go. It almost looks like India ink.

The only problem is that it takes a long time to dry, and sometimes smudges even after it’s dry. But, it’s good for practice and everyday writing. I wouldn’t use it for a certificate, though.

This ink is not waterproof, but I love the color, and I love how it writes. I also feel like I want to drink it out of the bottle.

These are standard international cartridges (long ones, though) which fit in the rOtring ArtPen. I like how the ink writes, but it’s not waterproof. 

This is a fantastic fountain pen ink which is waterproof, quick-drying, and expensive. It also smells weird.

But, it’s Japanese and comes in a stylish bottle. I love those bottles.

I don’t use this ink for anything larger than 1.0mm nib fountain pens, because it’s too expensive.

Calligraphy Markers

Markers are nice because they’re easy to use, portable, and less messy than fountain pens. I prefer fountain and dip pens, though.

Calligraphy markers normally suck, because they don’t have sharp edges and they get even less sharp as you use them.

The Pigma Calligrapher markers, on the other hand, are different. The tips of these pens are made of some kind of hard plastic, so they don’t dull. It feels almost like using a dip pen.

As I said, I prefer fountain and dip pens, but if you want markers, these are the best.

Books on Italic Calligraphy

Books are good. They contain knowledge. Don’t take them too seriously, but study them. Remember they are written by human beings who have biases and perspectives. Sometimes, you have to do what you see them do, rather than do what they say to do…

This is the book I learned italic calligraphy from. It was published in the 1960’s, and was out of print for a while.

It walks you through step-by-step all the letter forms and principles of italic, and has tons of exercises, many involving tracing. He also has you copy quotes and poems, and has a bunch of useful advice.

You need three different pen sizes for this book: broad (1.3 mm, although I used 1.5 mm), medium (1.1 mm), and fine (1.0mm).

You might want to get a used copy from the original printing (that’s what I have). I’m not sure, but looking at the Amazon reviews, it seems like the new edition has worse printing.

When Steve Jobs was a student at Reed College, he took Lloyd Reynolds’ calligraphy course. That’s why he insisted the Macintosh operating system had better have decent typefaces.

This book is technical, and I haven’t worked through much of it yet. But, I watched a lot of Reynolds’ 10-hour TV series in which he demonstrates all of it. You can find it on YouTube. It’s old, but worth watching. It’s relaxing.

$15.92 (used)

A Handwriting Manual, by Alfred Fairbank

This is a famous book. I find it useful to read descriptions of italic from different authors. Each one has their own perspective, and you pick up different things from each.