A Basic Guide to Using Dip Pens Posted on 23 Aug 09:10

Dip pens are fantastic and easy to use but in a world of fineliners and biros they are starting to look increasingly exotic. If you’re unprepared it can seem a little overwhelming: smudged ink, occasional blobs and a funny scratching noise are all par for the course when you’re getting started. Persevere and follow these tips and within a short time you’ll forget you’re doing something new and just go with the flow (pun intended).

Most nibs have a thin layer of protective lacquer on them to protect them from corrosion. Before you start, wash the nib in alcohol to dissolve the lacquer and then dry the nib thoroughly. You only have to do this once.

Before you start, set up your writing area with the ink on the same side of the paper as your writing hand. If you write with your left hand you’ll have to take extra care not to smudge it as you go. Dip pens can be a bit messier than other pens so make sure you protect the surface of your table or desk, particularly under your inkwell. If you’re using one of our inks then any spills can be removed by cleaning with alcohol but this won’t help much if the ink has soaked into fabric or wood.

The first obvious thing about a dip pen is that you have to add the ink yourself, regularly. It’s all common sense really. Get a piece of scrap paper, dip your pen and start writing. You want to find an amount of ink that lets you write for the longest time possible but without excess ink blobbing or bleeding all over your paper. Pretty soon you’ll know when and how much to load it with before it runs dry. If you can’t get the ink to stop bleeding no matter what you do then you may need to use a better paper.

If this is a new nib it will begin to subtly bend to suit your hand and a lot of the scratching will stop. Too much pressure will cause ink to flood out of the nib while too little will send the nib scuttling over the surface of the paper without leaving any ink behind so make sure you’re confident before you start on anything irreplaceable.

And that's about it, enough to get you experimenting anyway. Like all arts there is of course a whole lot more to it than can be covered in a few paragraphs. We’ll be adding more content soon covering how to select your nibs and holder and touching on basic calligraphy. If you’d like to be alerted you can sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page.