20 May 2015 — bonus post, #SketchbookSkool

I start this post not with a drawing but an advisory:NERDY ART COMMENTARY AHEAD. Today’s bonus post goes into a lot of detail about dip pens and nibs, the perils and pleasures, and what some of the nibs draw like. If that is not for you, you may want to go now. I understand.

Now for those who stayed. I love dip pens and have been experimenting with them and learning their ways. Part of this experiment has been trying out different nibs, and I recently ordered a Speedball Sketching Set because a cartooning book I am reading says it’s more useful than the cartooning set for drawing the sorts of things I’d like to draw. One of the challenges of buying nibs is that is can be very hard to tell what each nib can do, and a couple of my fellow Sketchbook Skool klassmates told me they were wondering, too, and asked if I could share what I found. Here is a page of scribbles with each nib line labeled. This was not meant as a drawing, but more as a test of each nib’s strengths.
Speedball sketching lines

The #102 is often called the crow quill nib, so if you see that, now you know what it means. It is capable of very fine lines. The nice thing about the nibs in this set is that they all have tops that spread apart when pressure is applied, allowing you to vary the line width quite a bit, which I tried to do in the test. I was really surprised at some of them.

I had previously gotten a set of nibs that I think was for calligraphy. As long as I was making lines, I made lines for those, too.

speedball calligraphy lines

I am not sure if this was all the nibs, but it’s all the nibs that were together in my little Altoids tin where I keep them (the mints are long gone).  The A-5 and B-4 make very nice consistent lines. The C1 and C-2 also make very consistent lines (if you dip frequently, and you can see where they ran out) but also spread a little if desired. I accidentally closed the book before this was dry which created the mess. Those are better for calligraphy scripts like italic (that may not be it, but I was testing my scanty knowledge of working with a wide line to make calligraphic letters).

As long as I am here, a few random things I have learned about dip pens that you may find helpful. You don’t need the special pen cleaner. Water works fine, or soap and water if it is really messy. I prefer the waterproof ink like Speedball brand instead of the Higgin’s non-waterproof. I was using the non-waterproof today for another assignment and so I had that bottle open. I am going to get a tiny little bottle to put that ink in if I need to use if for dip pens–the container is tall and narrow because it houses an eyedropper, and it made a mess of the pen when dipping which was unnecessary (and by the time I was done I looked like I’d been having a fist fight with a chimney sweep). That’s what I know for now. As I learn more, I’ll share with you all.

Is there something you’ve learned that can help us all? I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments!



5 thoughts on “20 May 2015 — bonus post, #SketchbookSkool

  1. Speedball are readily available and cheap. But I’ve not bought them in decades. Back when I was serious about calligraphy, I bought German and English calligraphy nibs. Crowquill is the narrowest, finest of nib lines. But that Zen Comic G was close.


  2. I have a bunch of Speedball nibs at home. I need to take them out and play with them too. Maybe I will even like drawing with them. I’ll let you know. Thanks for sharing your findings here. I look forward to seeing more of your cartoons using them!


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