Lets Get Inky with Nibs: An Inktober Series

Inking with a nib might seem intimidating, but it only takes a little practice to get a hang for the basics.  Nib inking is commonly referred to as dip pen inking, and is seeing a resurgence in popularity, especially among letterers.  There's a great deal of appeal for comic artists as well, and dip pens are still very popular in Japan, although not quite as popular here in the West.

Inking with a dip pen or nib pen takes a great deal of patience, but offers more control than brush inking.  Nibs can be quite affordable, but are commonly sold in sets- often with nibs you won't need.  I recommend you find a store that offers nibs open stock, such as Paper and Ink Arts- this will allow you to sample a variety of nibs without purchasing sets. 

Robust Inking Toolkit Guide for Professional Artists

Inking with a nib is very much about personal preference.  First off, you may not enjoy it at all, preferring brushes, brush pens, or technical pens to nibs.  Secondly, you might enjoy the act of inking with a nib, but hate the maintenance that nibs require.  Thirdly, you may discover that you prefer some nibs to others, so I recommend you experiment widely.  Even amongst nib types, there are certain brands that work better than others.

Main Categories of Nibs


Maru (map)

G Nib

Spoon (turnip, globe, Saji, Kabura)


Fixed Width:



A, B, C, D


Generally refers to monoline/fixed width nibs such as A, B, C, and D

Terms You May Hear:

Pointed Pen
In this post, Pointed Pen nibs have been referred to mainly as 'flexible' nibs.  Pointed refers to the tip of the nib, which often comes for a point and takes advantage of twin tines flexing to release ink.  These nibs were originally designed for correspondence and calligraphy.  Originally used for copperplate.

In this post, Monoline has been referred to as Fixed Width.  These are nibs that only make one lineweight- A, B, C, D and tape nibs fall into this category.  These nibs are not designed to flex, and additional pressure may ruin the nib.

Although artists will use pointed pen nibs and monoline nibs for art, originally, artists used drawing nibs.  These nibs were originally designed for drawing and sketching and are capable of very fine lines.

Mapping nibs were originally designed for cartography.  These nibs have very fine points and are similar to crowquill nibs.

Music nibs come in two varieties- a three tined nib suitable for drawing the staff, and 5 pronged nibs for drawing the signature.

Scroll nibs feature two points, and are used for decorative scrollwork or special effects.

Popular Brands:

Common Brands:

My Favorite Nibs:
Tachikawa G Nib
Brause Rose
Kuretake Saji
Tachikawa Tank
Brause Steno

For a wonderful introduction to inking with nibs, please check out this post- Inking Basics- Nibs!

Nibs for Borders:

Nibs for Lettering (these are generally Fixed Weight Nibs)
Speedball A, B, C, D

Nibs for Varied Lineweight Cartooning
Brause Rose (originally used for hand written correspondence)
Brause Steno (originally used for handwritten notes)
Tachikawa or Zebra G or Student Nibs
Spoon and Globe Nibs

Manga Nibs
Kuretake Saji
Zebra and Tachikawa G and Student Nibs
Deleter Maru nibs

For an overview of various types of nibs with detailed photos, check out this post- In The Inking Supply Box 

Inking Tutorials 

Manga Nib Demonstration

Nib Exposure

Inking with a Manga Nib- Kuretake Saji Demonstration

Inking Your Character To Life With a Nib

Inktober Saji Nib Timelapse:

Inktober G Nib Timelapse:

Inks to Use with Dip Pens

Acrylic Inks:

Sumi Inks
Kuretake - Regular- Cartoonist
Moon Palace

Deleter Inks
Deleter 1- Semi gloss finish, suitable for use with alcohol markers
Deleter 2- Quick drying time, alcohol marker proof
Deleter 3- Waterproof, matte finish
Deleter 4- Darkest ink, waterproof
Deleter 5- Indian style ink.  Waterproof.
Deleter 6- Indian Ink Style.  Fast Drying.  Waterproof.

Kaimei Sol K- Alcohol marker proof.

Indian Inks- available in waterproof and non waterproof
Dr PH Martin's Bombay Inks (available in a variety of colors)- waterproof when dry
Winsor and Newton- Not Waterproof

Liquid Watercolors
Dr PH Martin's Radiant Concentrated Watercolors

Fountain Pen Inks
Pigment Based- Waterproof:
Platinum- Carbon Black, Rose Red, Sepia, Blue 
Sailor Storia Inks

Dye Based- Generally Non Waterproof: 
J Herbin
Noodler's Inks

For more ink compatibility tests, check out Once Upon a Tine

Walnut Ink

This can be prepared at home by collecting walnuts, purchased as crystals, or purchased as a ready made ink.

Walnut ink is an ink made from the green husk surrounding the nut of walnuts. The Black Walnut Juglans nigra is usually used. The ink may be liquid or made of crystals that are mixed with water before use. It can be used to produce stains and darken paper to make it look older.

Iron Gall Ink

Iron gall ink (also known as iron gall nut ink, oak gall ink, and common ink) is a purple-black or brown-black ink made from iron salts and tannic acids from vegetable sources.

Please note that Iron Gall Ink can be highly destructive to papers and nibs, due to acid content.


How to use watercolors with dip pens

Finetec Watercolors

Gold/Metallic Inks
Gold and Silver Mica Ink
Winsor and Newton Gold Ink
Winsor and Newton Silver Ink

Creating Colored Lineart wtih Nibs

G Nib Inking with FW Acrylic Pearlescent Moon Violet 

Inking with Pearlescent Black

Inking with Waterfall Green

J Herbin Ink Swatches

Nib Holders:

Types of Holders


Used for calligraphy


Used for calligraphy, sketching, and inking

Brands of Holders:


Recommended Nib Holders:


Papers to Ink On

Strathmore 400 and 500 series- plate
Strathmore 400 and 500 series- vellum
Illustration board
Hotpress watercolor paper

Terms to Know

Tank- A small reservoir attached to the nib to increase ink capacity.
Cage- A spring welded onto the nib to increase ink capacity.  Ink sticks to the spring, allowing the nib to hold more ink.

Other Types of Dip Pens


Handmade Folded Pen Unboxing and Demonstration:


Reed Pen Size Breakdown:


Paper and Ink Arts Haul:

Recommended Additional Materials

Tips and Tricks

With cheaply made nibs, excessive force can cause the nib to shatter.  Hunt nibs are particularly prone to this.

New nibs have been coated with oil to prevent rusting.  You can remove this in a number of ways:

  • Burning the oil off with a lighter (may cause nib discolouration)
  • Wiping the oil off with an alcohol wipe
  • Washing your nibs in a dish of water and dishsoap before first use

For more information about Nib Care, check out this post-Brush and Nib Care.

Excessive force can cause nibs, even high quality nibs, to 'nip' and tear at the paper

Nib Reviews:

Student Art Nib Set

Outside Reviews: 

The Well Appointed Desk- Review: Kaweco Special Dip Pen

Gourmet Pens- Review: Brause Dip Pen Set
Parka Blogs: Review: Speedball Sketching Project Set

The Desk of Lori: Pen Review: Kaweco Special Dip Pen

Second Opinions and Outside Resources
Deleter Ink Difference
Difference of Deleter Nibs
Dip Nib Guide
Wikipedia: Walnut Ink
Making A Walnut Ink
Wikipedia: Iron Gall Ink
The Iron Gall Ink Website
The Postman's Knock- How To Use Watercolors With Dip Pens
The Postman's Knock- Watercolor Calligraphy Tutorial
The Postman's Knock- How to Know When a Calligraphy Nib is Done
How to Use the Finetec Palette
Which Calligraphy Nibs To Use and Why
Common Calligraphy Ink Problems + How To Solve Them
How To Prepare New Calligraphy Nibs for Use
Getting to Know the Brause Rose Nib
5 Tips for Maintaining Your Calligraphy Nibs
Six Tips for Taming Calligraphy Nibs
Richmond Illustration Inc- Inking Tutorial Part 1
Jackson's- A Guide To Dip Pens and Drawing Ink
Jetpens-How to Use Manga Nibs
The Lowdown on Calligraphy Nibs


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