Inks & Papers: Part One

By Kristen Ashley

Previously we’ve talked about calligraphy dip-pens and brush markers–tools you can use to write more beautifully. And we’ve talked about how to construct your own personal handwriting style. Now let’s move on to inks and papers: the final material components of what will soon be your new favorite hobby, modern calligraphy.

I always recommend that beginners start with black ink because it’s the easiest to use. The black colorants (usually a type of soot) are naturally opaque and can be easily blended, resulting in a silky, user-friendly material. Colored, metallic, and white inks can be trickier; they often need a lot of stirring before use, and the colorants are more likely to clog your nib. While these inks are beautiful and not terribly difficult, I think you’ll have a better time starting with a black ink. Sumi ink, India ink, and acrylic-based inks are all good options.

Once you feel ready to venture out, try P.H. Martin’s or Windsor & Newton’s white ink. They’re opaque enough to show-up on dark papers. One of my favorite brands for black ink, Daler Rowney, makes a white ink that’s usually too washy to use on its own… But it does make a good mixer for creating custom pastels. (Yes, you can blend your inks just as you would paint. Daler Rowney’s “FW” acrylic inks and P.H. Martin’s “Bombay” India inks both come in a vast array of colors, but sometimes you’ll need a custom blend!)

Join me for a calligraphy class, and we will talk more about these, as well as walnut inks, watercolor paints used as ink, and masking fluid. We offer multiple classes a month, and you can find all the details on our website,

See you soon, and stay tuned for Part 2, when we’ll discuss my favorite material of all… paper!