The art of beautiful handwriting is called calligraphy. It can also be called the art of forming beautiful symbols by hand and arranging them artistically. The word “calligraphy” is of Greek origin and is an amalgamation of two words, “kallos” meaning beauty and “graphein” which means to write.

Calligraphy has flourished for thousands of years in several cultures around the world. It is still quite prevalent and is extensively used in font design, event and wedding invitations, graphic design, logo design, and religious art.

The pen and the brush are the main tools for a calligrapher. Calligraphy pens have nibs that may be rounded, flat, or pointed. Multi-nibbed pens are also available that are mainly used for decorative purposes.

Let’s take a look at the structure and working of a calligraphy pen.

What are the most common types of calligraphy pens?

Calligraphy can be done with almost any type of pen, even with a ballpoint pen. Here are the most commonly used pens and brushes for calligraphy

· Quill

A quill is a flight feather of a large bird. Quills were used for writing before the invention of the pen, and most medieval manuscripts were written with a quill pen. Quills, however, are not a preferred calligraphy tool as paper nowadays is made of wood pulp which wears the quill down.

· Dip pen

Like a fountain pen, a dip pen also has a nib and capillary channels mounted on a holder. They, however, have nothing to hold the ink in and you have to keep recharging the ink from a bowl to keep writing.

· Ink brush

Ink brushes are mostly used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean calligraphy. They are available in all sizes, materials, textures, and costs.

· Qalam

It is a type of pen made of dried reed, primarily used in Islamic calligraphy.

· Fountain pen

A fountain pen is the modern version of a dip pen, with internal storage to hold ink. Hence, unlike a dip pen, you do not need to dip a fountain pen in a bowl of ink.

The soaring popularity of the ballpoint pen has diminished the demand for fountain pens. However, fountain pens are still widely popular for calligraphic use.

Structure of a fountain pen (calligraphy pen)

There are four main parts to a fountain pen:

· Reservoir

The reservoir is what holds the ink in a fountain pen. It is located in the barrel of the pen. Gravity and capillary action cause the ink to flow from the reservoir to the nib through a thin plastic pipe called the feed.

· Feed

It is a thin plastic tube that connects the nib to the ink reservoir. The feed allows the flow of ink to the nib and also controls the amount of air that gets sucked up in the reservoir to replace the lost ink. It uses a series of narrow channels on its lower edge that allow air to move up to the reservoir as the ink flows down. The feed allows the ink to flow down only when the nib touches the paper. Ink does not flow when the pen is not in use.

· Nib

The metal end of the fountain pen that touches the paper is called the nib. Calligraphy pens use a variety of nibs- fine, medium, broad, music, oblique, reverse oblique, stub, italic, and 360-degree nibs.

· Collector

The set of grooves that you see underneath the fountain pen nib is called the collector. It collects the ink flowing down from the reservoir and prevents too much ink from flowing out at a time.

How it works?

Lewis Waterman patented the very first practical model of a fountain pen in 1884. Before that, fountain pens were considered unreliable and inconvenient as they cause a lot of leaks and spills. The main problem behind this was that there wasn’t adequate airflow.

The main principle behind the working of a fountain pen is managing the ink flow rate through the pen. When you hold a fountain pen upright, ink from the reservoir is pulled down by gravity. The ink goes down the feed to the nib, albeit in a controlled manner. If the ink that flows out of the reservoir is not replaced by an equal amount of air, it creates a vacuum that stops the flow of ink.

In earlier fountain pens, the airflow was not regulated, which caused a lot of spills. Waterman resolved this problem by cutting a series of fissures in the feed. The fissures caused a capillary action drawing the ink into these small channels at the same time the air was drawn back up, preventing leaks and spills.

How does the ink get on the paper? If you look closely at a fountain pen nib, you will observe that it has a small slit down its center. When you drag the nib on a paper, the ink is pulled down the slit by capillary action. As the ink flows onto the paper, more ink from the reservoir flows down to replace the ink that has flown out.

Think of it as a chain. Every molecule of ink is a link on the chain. As you pull the chain, more ink from the reservoir gets pulled into the feed.

The slit on the nib has a dual purpose. As the ink flows out, air enters the pen through the slit and moves in the opposite direction, filling up the reservoir replacing the lost ink.


Even though there are multiple calligraphy pens available in the market, calligraphy can be done with almost any pen. The choice of a calligraphy pen is purely a personal decision. If you are a beginner, we suggest you choose a pen that fits your hand well, so that you are comfortable writing with it.