Imagine a dozen or so people bent over paper, each one doing both the same thing as the others and doing something entirely different. This is “A Brush with Silence,” a live exhibition created by artist and calligrapher Brody Neuenschwander, which gathers calligraphers who write in a range of languages and scripts. Attendees can observe the many nuances between Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Cyrillic, Western, and other calligraphic scripts. One of the oldest visual art forms in history, calligraphy is an all-encompassing term that not only spans cultures, each with their own requisite tools, but history. While Western calligraphy traditionally uses flat- and flex-nib pens to create script, Eastern calligraphy tends toward brushes and Arabic calligraphy often uses a hollow reed pen. Today, chisel- and brush-tip markers can be used for colorful calligraphy. For the best calligraphic pen sets with which to achieve a range of styles, explore the following options.
1. Speedball Complete Calligraphy Kit
Speedball offers a number of Western Calligraphy sets depending on differing needs, but this one is the most versatile (though note that it’s best for right-handed folks). Along with the standard pen barrel, it includes an oblique nib holder that makes a right slant easier for righties. Even if the oblique barrel is not useful for you, this set is still an excellent package and includes 12 milliliters of rich black acrylic ink, a pen cleaner, a 1.3-millimeter marker, a 50-sheet practice pad, and Speedball’s comprehensive textbook.
2. Cretacolor Calligraphy Set
German art-supply company Cretacolor makes an admirable no-nonsense Western calligraphy set of high-quality materials. The stylish black pen comes with three flat-edge tips ranging from 1.1 millimeters to 1.9 millimeters and six ink cartridges in black, blue, red, and green. Unlike other sets that are built to be discarded in favor of a nicer set once the learner has mastered the basics, this one can last and grow with you. The included ink converter makes it easy to refill with your choice of ink.
3. Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen Set
While Western calligraphy pens have a single plate that has two tines, between which ink flows, Pilot has reinvented the form by using two whole plates laid on top of each other, with ink that flows between them. The result is a smooth writing experience and dramatic changes in line thickness. This set comes with four pens of different nib widths, each with a single nib and one red and one black ink cartridge. The included cleaning tools keep the sharp pens in tip-top shape.
4. Hajj Wafaa Arabic Calligraphy Set
There are many forms of Arabic and Persian calligraphy, but most feature dense script in black ink. One traditional tool is the qalam, which is a flat nib made from a cut, dried reed. It is also an accessible tool for any calligraphers trained on Western calligraphy pens, as it functions similarly to a rigid italic tip. This kit comes with ten bamboo pens ranging from two to 15 millimeters in width, a bottle of black ink made of soot, a sponge to control the amount of ink after dipping, and a a nib holder, and a PU leather roll for safe carrying.
5. Kuretake Bimoji Brush Pen Set
For traditional Chinese and Japanese calligraphy, one must use a brush. But today, brush pens allow for much of the same experience without the need for a separate ink well. This disposable set from Japanese company Kuretake includes a range of sizes of flexible brush-tip markers with velvety black ink. One of the medium brushes has a brush head with separated bristles, which takes more practice to use but can create the visible brushstrokes that are impossible with felt-tip markers.