The Copperplate Sampler: Nib by Nib

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We frequently are asked which pointed pen nib is the best or which one a customer should use. Unfortunately, there will never be one correct answer to that question because pointed pen nibs are truly a matter of personal preference. Using the wrong nib can cause immense frustration and can make you feel as if you will never see success. Pointed pen nibs vary greatly in flexibility, and finding the one with the right give for your hand can make a tremendous difference. Our copperplate sampler allows you to try twenty-five of our more popular nibs to help you find the best fit.

To illustrate the difference in opinions and results, we asked three of our customers, all young and talented professional calligraphers,to test the nibs in the copperplate sampler for us.  Schin Loong, Bailey Amon Rivera, and Arney Walker all graciously agreed to participate and submitted wonderful sample writing along with their thoughts on each nib. Remember, opinions on nibs vary greatly. We’re not presenting these opinions as factual information about the nibs. Rather, we’re presenting them to allow you to see users’ experiences as they tested the various nibs. In fact, we encouraged all three ladies to be candid in their responses to the nibs by simply writing informal notes while they used each nib. Below you will find every nib in the sampler, along with writing samples and the thoughts of each calligrapher. These three ladies have different styles of writing, and each produced lovely, unique work. While even their insight can’t guarantee that you will select the perfect nib, seeing the various results and differences in opinions may be a helpful starting point.

GILLOTT NIBS

Gillott Nibs are manufactured in England and are among some of our most popular nibs, particularly the Gillott 303 and 404. They are a distinctive dark blue color, and many are quite small. Flexibility ranges.

Gillott 170:

schin10Schin: Pretty good nib I guess

 

 

 

 

Bailey: Tbar10his is a nice and easy nib. Nice thick “thin” strokes for digital reproduction.

 

 

aw1 Arney :Not sharp at all, not very flexible, thick hairlines

 

 

Gillott 290:

schin22  Schin: Hate this nib! UGH

 

 

 

 

bar10 Bailey: Good but a little difficult to write with

 

awg290  Arney: Flexible and sharp, fairly easy to write with, felt more comfortable to use

 

 

Gillott 291:

schin22 Schin: Hate this so much. Ew. Ugh!

 

 

 

 

bar291 Bailey: Very scratchy and difficult. Hard, especially on up strokes.

 

awg291Arney: Very sharp, very difficult to write with.

 

 

Gillott 303:

schin16 Schin: Love it! Popular favorite.

 

 

 

 

bar9 Bailey: Nice but a little difficult to use. Nice swells.

 

 

aw3Arney: Very sharp and mildly flexible. I used to use this, but it was tricky.

 

 

Gillott 404: 

schin12 Schin: Love it! Crowd favorite!

 

 

 

 

barglt404 Bailey: This is great! A little hard to start, but I think it would wear in well.

 

 

awg404 Arney: This is not as sharp as the 303 and had mid-range flexibility. Not a bad nib for a beginner; I think I used this one starting out, too.

 

 

Gillott 1068A:

schin19Schin: It’s okay I guess.

 

 

 

 

bar1068 Bailey: Smooth.

 

 

awg1068 Arney: Very stiff nib. There’s not a lot of difference in thick and thins. Another good nib for beginners.

 

 

Gillott 1950:

schin9Schin: Okay when it works.

 

 

 

 

bar1950

aw1950 Arney: Very thick hairlines. Not as flexible.

 

 

BRAUSE NIBS

Brause nibs are manufactured from cold steel and special tools are used to press out the specific models. The EF66 is one of the most popular in this line.

Brause EF66:

schin7 Schin: Always loved it and always will!

 

 

 

 

baref66 Bailey: I still like this nib. Why don’t I use it more?

 

aw2 Arney: This is my preferred nib, so I’m very comfortable with it. It’s not as sharp, and it gives you slightly thicker thins.

 

Brause 511:

schin24 Schin: I love it! Brause is great.

 

 

 

 

bar511 Bailey: Love, love, love!!

 

 

awb51 Arney: Medium flexibility, not too sharp. I really liked writing with this one.

 

Brause 513:

schin4 Schin: Pretty nice nib. Really comfy.

 

 

 

 

barbrs513 Bailey: Pretty nice to write with. Very delicate.

 

awh513 Arney: Very, very stiff. Thicks and thins not as pronounced; probably a good beginner nib.

 

HUNT NIBS

Hunt nibs are manufactured here in the United States by Speedball. This line offers a wide variety of choices and remains quite popular with our customers.

Hunt 22:

schin1Schin: Pretty nice!

 

 

 

 

bar22Bailey: Quite lovely. A little delicate, but not hard to use.

 

awh22Arney: Slightly more flexible than the Hunt 56.

 

Hunt 56:

schin23Schin: Pretty good! Love it.

 

 

 

 

barhnt56Bailey: Pretty nice. A little scratchy on the upstrokes.

 

 

awh56Arney: Very stiff. Probably another good beginner nib.

 

 

Hunt 99:

schin2 Schin: Love it! Scratchy, though.

 

 

 

 

barhnt99Bailey: Weird…maybe for flourishing? Hard to make letters with.

 

 

awh99Arney: Not sharp at all. All thick strokes. A bit awkward to write with.

 

 

Hunt 100:

schin5Schin: Kinda like it…sorta.

 

 

 

 

barhntBailey: Wouldn’t write.

 

 

awh100Arney: Very, very, very flexible and sharp. Tough for a beginner to use.

 

Hunt 101:

schin14Schin: Almost as good as the Leonardt Principal but much scratchier.

 

 

 

barhnt101Bailey: I like this nib. You have to be super delicate with your pressure, so it lends itself to very fine, delicate letters.

 

awhimperialArney: I like this one. It had medium flexibility and was a nice kind of sharp.

 

Hunt 103:

schin11Schin: Hate! Scratchy.

 

 

 

 

barhnt103Bailey: Difficult to write with. Very flexible.

 

 

Hunt 104:

schin21 Schin: Lovely delicate thing.

 

 

 

 

bar104 Bailey: Such a tiny nib. A little weird to write with; kind of scratchy. Good for tiny, thin writing.

 

aw104 Arney: Not a big difference in thicks and thins; needs a lot of ink; very small nib; not flexible.

 

Hunt 108:

schin20Schin: Great flex but scratchy.

 

 

 

 

barh108 Bailey: Interesting. Nice juicy swells, but it drops ink easily so you must develop a rhythm.

 

aw108Arney: Very, very flexible nib-probably too flexible for a beginner. Feels very fragile when writing; super small.

 

Hunt 513:

schin25 Schin: Stiff and boring.

 

 

 

 

barh513Bailey: Pretty nice. A little monoline even with pressure.

 

awh513Arney: This is a very, very big nib. It’s also very stiff; hard to maneuver and write with.

 

LEONARDT and HIRO NIBS

Leonardt nibs are manufactured in England by Manuscript. Several of these are a bit newer to our inventory, but the Hiro 40 and 41 remain two of the tried and true favorites.

Hiro 40:

schin18 Schin: Railroads a lot. Otherwise good.

 

 

 

 

bar40Bailey: Loose, drops ink so you have to write slowly. Good for precision and classic lettering.

 

awl40 Arney: I really liked this one. It holds ink really well and just the right amount of flexibility for me.

 

Hiro 41:
schin6

 

Schin: I know it’s popular, but I don’t like it much.

 

 

 

bar41Bailey: Nice. Creates interesting letters. Different.

 

awh41Arney: Thicker lines. It gives you a more square top to your letters.

 

Hiro 111:

schin13 Schin: Kinda stiff…MEH!

 

 

 

 

barhir111ef Bailey: Must be very light on upstrokes but nice to write with.

 

awleo111Arney: Not very flexible; no thicks and thins when I wrote with it.

 

Leonardt #30

schin17 Schin: Love it! Nice and easy.

 

 

 

 

barleo30 Bailey: Like. Good response. Thins are thick enough for reproduction.

 

 

awleo30 Arney: More flexible. I liked this nib.

 

Leonardt 300: (This is actually a ballpoint nib; the tines flip up on the end.)

schin3 Schin: I think I got a dud. 🙁

 

 

 

 

bar300 Bailey: Very strong. The tip is flattened which makes for an almost squared off line.

 

awl300 Arney: Very strange to write with. Bent tines.

 

CHROME NIB

Chrome nibs are very sturdy and hold up well for beginners.

Nikko G:

schin15 Schin: Oldie but goodie. One of my favorites.

 

 

 

 

barnikkoBailey: My favorite nib. It is durable and the thicks and thins are perfect for reproduction.

 

 

awnikko Arney: I use this one a lot for more delicate work. It’s a stiff nib, and it gives you great hairlines.

 

We appreciate the time and effort Schin, Bailey and Arney put forth in testing the sampler. Upcoming articles will feature all three ladies individually so that you can learn more about them, their favorite products, and their respective businesses. For more information about pointed pen calligraphy, be sure to read our article on getting started.

13 comments

  1. This is very helpful information especially to see the comments of the calligraphers is using the various kinds of nibs. My personal favorite is also the Brause EF66, but depends upon the project yet I find it is most versatile for my needs. Thank you for this useful blog. Judy Stough, Arizona

  2. This is such a great post! Just goes to show that nib preference is very subjective, and that we should try many of them to find ones we like. As our skills develop, our preferences change too! I only wish the photos are larger. Viewing the blog from my desktop, I could barely see the thumbnails, and not all of them are clickable to be enlarged.

    • You can purchase them all separately on our website. Which style of calligraphy interests you most? We have blog articles with recommendations for both pointed pen and broad edge calligraphy.

  3. Aside from getting to see the beautiful penmanship and difference amongst nibs, I love getting to see a little bit of everyone’s personality. Such a great blog post!

  4. Hi, I just loved this. I’m a beginner and I was so confuse about witch ones to buy because there are so many numbers for the same nib and where I live I can only find on internet without many choices and there are no explanations for the differences between them. I have the Leonardt 40, 41 (but they are rusted 🙁 ) , Gillott 303, which I think it’s a little difficult to use and a few more that I found in a kit but they have no name, I want to buy the famous Brause but there’s not here yet. Thank you so much for this.

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