How to Use Speedball Calligraphy Pens

Written by deborah waltenburg Google
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The Speedball calligraphy pen, created and patented by Ross F. George, got its start at the C. Howard Hunt Pen Company in 1915. Used frequently by calligraphy artists and hand letterers throughout the world, the Speedball calligraphy pen allows the artist to create smooth, classic lines and letters with minimal effort. Speedball penholders and nibs are available in a variety of sizes and are readily available at art supply stores everywhere.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Speedball calligraphy penholders
  • Speedball calligraphy nibs (assorted sizes)
  • Small, round-tip sable paint brush
  • Lint free cloth
  • Practice paper

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    Speedball Calligraphy Pens and Accessories

  1. 1

    Purchase an assortment of Speedball lettering nibs, available individually or in sets with the penholder. The lettering nibs come in different shapes (square, round or flat), a variety of widths from fine point to poster size, and are made in right-hand, left-hand and universal configurations.

  2. 2

    Purchase several penholders. When doing calligraphy, a variety of line widths may be required for a particular lettering style. If you only have one penholder, you will have to stop, clean and change nibs before proceeding.

  3. 3

    Use trial and error to find an ink that suits your lettering style and taste. Available in a vast array of colours and viscosities, the type of ink needed depends on the type of paper being used and the project.

  4. 4

    Keep your calligraphy pens clean when not in use. Whether you rinse them with warm water or use a commercial product, such as Speedball Pen Cleaner, to clean and protect nibs from ink deposits and rust.

    Using Speedball Calligraphy Pens

  1. 1

    Assemble pens by inserting the base of the nib into the arced edge of the penholder. Gently push the nib in until it stops. Do not force or put pressure on the nib point to push it in, as this will damage its ability to distribute ink evenly and affect quality of writing.

  2. 2

    Load ink on to the nib by dipping the paintbrush into the ink, then brushing the bottom of the nib with ink to load it. Keep some scratch paper beside your work, to distribute excess ink from the nib and adjust ink flow.

  3. 3

    Practice your form and angles. The suggested angle changes depending upon the lettering style; however, most require at least a 30 degree angle. Experiment with a variety of surface angles, from flat surface to an angled desk or light box.

  4. 4

    Apply firm but gentle pressure to form letters. Excessive pressure will cause some nibs to split, distorting the appearance of the line. Too little pressure will cause breaks in the line and uneven distribution of the ink.

Tips and warnings

  • Protect your work surface from ink spills by laying down several layers of newspaper under the ink bottle or by setting it in a wide-mouthed bowl.
  • Use a lightbox and line stencils or lined practice paper to perfect your lettering form.
  • Do not put nibs away wet. Rust will form, leaving the nib unusable.

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