Beginner calligraphers often get overwhelmed by the sheer number of choice available to them in terms of tools and materials for this art. Nibs, holders, and paper can be quite easy to select some basic options from. However, get to the ink section and you have a ton of colors, pigments, gouaches, acrylics and soooo much more to choose from. With that in mind, this post will be a brief overview of some of your best options for ink when starting out in broad-edged calligraphy. Keep in mind, that these selections are for dip pen work! Putting some (or all) of these choices in a fountain pen could clog the fountain pen and be a huge pain to try to fix. For suggested fountain pen inks try this post!
For beginners who just want to get some practice hours in, we suggest that you use Higgins Eternal Ink (I08, in our catalog).Higgins is an excellent choice because it is so inexpensive and requires much less effort to clean nibs. As a beginner, you can expect to make plenty of mistakes and endure lots of trial and error. Why make those mistakes with an expensive ink?
From our product description: A non-waterproof, carbon black ink for dip pens. Our most popular ink for classes. Recommended for copperplate (add a few drops of gum arabic). Perhaps the best ink for calligraphy for a beginner; it will cause the beginner the fewest problems. This ink will bleed more readily than other inks. If bleeding is a problem try Sumi Inks. 2.5 oz.
You can also add a little bit of gouache to Higgins Eternal to help give it a bit more body.
Walnut Ink Crystals are another inexpensive option for practice. Simply follow the directions by dissolving the ink crystals in water and then you’re off to the races. These crystals will give you a very nice walnut color to act as a change of pace from the standard black.
From our product description: Dissolve 1 teaspoon crystals in 1/2 cup distilled water, wait for 25-35 minutes, and then you will have a warm, rich walnut ink. The ink is lightfast, flows well and is highly recommended by many master scribes. Makes a wonderful brown or sepia ink for calligraphy, drawing, washes or antiquing paper. Non-waterproof.
Moon Palace Sumi is another fantastic option to try out. This Japanese sumi ink, dries waterproof and has a nice sheeny finish to it. Moon Palace works well on a vast number of papers and with many nibs. This is a great next step, if you would like to branch out from Higgins Eternal.
From our product description of I70 Moon Palace Sumi Ink: While the packaging is a bit different , this is the highly sought after and highly recommended Japanese Sumi Ink. For both broad edge and pointed pen work. Dries waterproof. A great calligraphy ink.
Gouache is yet another option for beginner calligraphers to explore. There are a wide variety of colors to choose from, gouache offers a smooth consistency and a bit of a different experience than bottled ink. Winsor & Newton and Schmincke are two of our most popular brands for gouache. For more information on how to use gouache for calligraphy, visit our product help page.
While choosing the right ink can be an important step in experimenting and growing as a calligrapher, it might be a good idea to not get bogged down too much in what ink you should be using. Instead, spend more time learning the craft, choose something basic such as Higgins, and then upgrade as needed.