Getting to Know Your Nibs

You’ve just bought a batch of dip pen nibs, a holder or two, a bottle of ink and a pad of paper because you’re finally going to try out this old and honorable method of picture-making. Where to start? The image above is how I solved that problem. I’ve done 14+ pages of these now and they’ve turned out to not only give me an idea of how good the nib is but what kind of line it makes and how flexible it is (I’ll be doing a separate post on just flexible nibs in the near future). They’re all done freehand by eye. I chose this one because it has examples for all the artist nibs that Esterbrook and Gillott made (I only use vintage nibs, not new and that is also a topic for a future post). I pretty quickly established a pattern for trying out various characteristics. All of them are done on 9×12″ Strathmore 300 Vellum Bristol. The ink is mostly Carbon Platinum.

This is the test page I created to try out Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay inks. I tested them using a sturdy nib (which I didn’t identify, argh), also on Strathmore 300 Cold Press paper, to try them out for writing, quickly made lines and what happens when I add water using a small brush. I really like them but haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to use them yet.

I test my nibs for drawing by, well, drawing with them. A variety of small drawings using different nibs gives me a quick reference. These are takhi/Przewalski’s horses that I saw and photographed in Mongolia. They were all done freehand with no pencil underdrawing.

I did this page to specifically try out nibs that I think would be suitable for beginners. They’re all quite sturdy except for the Esterbrook #354 but suitable for a beginner with a light touch. These were also done directly from photos from my travels.

I had fun doing this page of just birds, also freehand.

Finally, here’s a full scene using a Russian nib and in made in Russia that I bought from an Etsy seller who lives in Moscow, PopelPen.

So I hope this has given you some ideas on how to move forward. Great for a rainy day. There’s no substitute for knowing your tools and media but it doesn’t have to be a drag. Have fun!

If this was helpful or you want to share how you do it, let me. know in the comments!

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