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How to Use Dip Pens?

how to use dip pens

Although they look similar, dip and fountain pens are different writing tools. Each one has a different use or purpose. Fountain pens are mostly for general writing purposes, like journaling and note-taking.

Technically, you can use dip pens for the same things that you would a fountain pen, but it is not quite as convenient. However, if you want to do ink calligraphy, it is best if you use dip pens.

It might look challenging, but learning how to use dip pens is not that difficult. And once you get the hang of using these pens for general writing, learning how to use them for calligraphy and drawing will be much easier.

Step-by-Step Guide

drawing with dip pen

What to Prepare:

  • A dip pen nib of your choice
  • Nib holder
  • Ink
  • Lots of paper

Detailed Steps:

Step 1 – Choose your nib. The nib is the most essential part of the dip pen, which is why you need to choose the right one. The first thing you should make sure of is that your pen nib is compatible with your nib holder.

Take note that some pen brands use proprietary nibs for their pen holders while others can accommodate nibs from different manufacturers. Since you are just a beginner, you should buy a complete kit from one manufacturer.

Also, since you are only a beginner and you just want to familiarize yourself with using dip pens, the nib size should be anything between 0.5mm and 0.7mm.

Step 2 – Choose your ink. One distinct advantage that dip pens have over fountain pens is that they can use almost any kind of ink. Meanwhile, fountain pens need to use ink that has just the right consistency so that it can flow from the reservoir to the tip.

For beginners, Indian ink is highly recommended because they are more readily available and they dry relatively quickly. They also get a slightly glossy finish. On the other hand, Sumi ink has a matte finish and a slightly looser consistency. However, it can be a bit harder to find.

If you want to try using colored inks, you can try using acrylic inks. However, these inks are quite thin and are not recommended for beginners. These inks tend to bleed through the paper if you are not careful.

Step 3 – Work on your grip. Now here is the part where you start using the dip pen. Hold the dip pen as you would a regular pencil. Your grip should be tight enough that the pen will not be turning over as you write.

However, it is still not so much that you cannot control it properly. Make sure that you are holding the pen correctly, with the reservoir (the indent) of the nib facing upward.

Step 4 – Dip the nib in the ink. Open your ink bottle, and then gently dip the nib of your pen up until the reservoir hole. Make sure that you do not submerge the whole nib in the ink. The reservoir hole stores the ink so you can write without having to dip the pen quite as often.

When you apply pressure on the tip of the nib, it slightly splits in half and will let the ink flow through. You need to shake off the excess ink to prevent the tip from blotting.

use dip pens

Step 5 – Find your perfect writing angle. Typically, you will need to hold the pen at a 45-degree angle in relation to the writing surface. Holding the nib at this angle makes it easier for the ink to flow from the reservoir to the tip. Also, this promotes ease in making the nib glide over the paper and ensuring that it does not snag in the fibers of the paper.

However, if you are not comfortable holding the pen at exactly 45 degrees, you can hold it at whatever angle is more comfortable for you. What is important is that the ink reservoir is pointing up.

Step 6 – Practice your strokes. Lay down a sheet of paper and then start practicing. At first, you might not be able to make a clear line, and if so, you have to hold the pen at another angle.

For starters, draw a couple of lines. Experiment by varying the amount of pressure you are putting on the tip of the nib. You will find that this will affect the thickness of the lines. If you will be using the dip pen for drawing, practice shading techniques like cross-hatching. If you are thinking of calligraphy, practice making flowing and curving lines.

You can also try writing a couple of words. Make sure that you dip the pen after every sentence, or when you start noticing that your lines are getting a bit too thin to keep the nib from drying.

Don’t expect to master using a dip pen right off the bat. It will take a couple of days before you can comfortably use the dip pen for regular writing, and after that, you will need to practice even longer for drawing and calligraphy.

Proper Maintenance Tips for Dip Pens

dip pen nip

To make sure that your dip pens can last for as long as possible, you will need to maintain them properly and regularly.

Rinse the nib – If you will be taking a break, whether you are just taking a quick break or you are done for the day, you need to rinse the nibs thoroughly. It is bad practice to let the ink dry in the nib as it will cause the nib to jam and stop writing.

You only need to swirl the nib around in a cup of clean water and then wipe it dry using paper towels.

Proper storage – When you are done for the day, make sure that you store your dip pen vertically with the nib pointing up. This will prevent the nib from getting damaged. You can also store the dip pen horizontally in your desk drawer. Just make sure that it does not roll around too much.


Learning how to use dip pens can be an enjoyable activity, and the learning curve is not that steep. In addition, you will not be spending that much on this hobby. Dip pen sets are quite cheap, and you also do not need expensive inks for practicing. All you need is just a bit of patience and setting time for regular practice.

Once you get the hang of the basics of using dip pens, you will realize that just the act of using a dip pen for writing is akin to meditation.

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