Things You Should Know When Getting Started With Watercolor Paint

Things You Should Know When Getting Started With Water color Paint

The unpredictable pigment, wet colors,   bleeding, and spectrum or saturation can be beautiful and intimidating at the time. As a newbie, you don’t need to allow this to scare you away. To help your journey and have a brush in your hand, here are things you should know when getting started with water color paint. 

Get Good Brushes

As a starter, you don’t need too much brush for water colour paints, but rather you need a few good ones. Starting with a single brush is okay, but you’ll go farther if you have a set of small, medium, and large round brushes. You can also add a medium flat brush and a mop brush.    

Always Remember To Use A Palette

If you are planning your own set of colors, then you should consider having a palette because this will be your playground for mixing colors. You can start by buying a watercolor palette with wells for mixing colors, or you can opt for a flat, non-porous surface. Something like an old plate. It would be best to get something bigger than what you may think you’ll need because you wouldn’t want your nicely mixed colors to start flowing into one another. 

Don’t Over Stress Yourself When it Comes To Shopping For Paints

When you want to buy water colour paints set, you don’t need to break the bank. All you have to do is get a few high-quality basic paints. The paint to choose, be it dried cakes or tubes, is dependent on you but in all, ensure you have red, yellow, blue, and black paints. 

Getting a travel watercolor kit is an excellent way to make your first shopping trip easy. This is because this kit usually comes with primary colors. 

Use Top Notch Watercolor Paper

You must think all papers are the same, right? Well, this isn’t the case when it comes to watercolor painting. You should buy water colour paints paper for your painting. If you try painting on regular old printer paper or craft paper, you will likely not have a good outcome. With these papers, your color will find it challenging to stick to the paper, and you may also find the paper wrapping as you paint. In the case of watercolor paper, it absorbs the moisture of watercolor, leaving behind a bright pigment.

Ensure You Have Clean Water and Scrap Paper as Part of Your Tools

Clean water and scrap paper are very important in watercolor painting. With a nice container of clean water, you’ll be able to thin out your water colour paints and ease your pain when switching from one color to the other. Ensure you change the water frequently to avoid muddying up with colors. 

Scrap papers are needed to test water colour paints before using real paper. Having a small piece of watercolor paper is your best, but you could use any paper in a pinch, just that they may not dry as they should on your finished surface. 

Things You Should Know When Getting Started With Watercolor Paint

Begin With A Sketch

The first thing you should do before painting is to have a sketch. It would be best if you worked out your compositions as a sketch. With this, your composition becomes more solidified. Your sketch can be on a separate piece of paper, or you can have a direct pencil sketch on your paper.

Set Your Painting Space 

You should have a neatly set up painting space. Your brushes, work surface, watercolor paint set, paper towel for brush drying paint, palette, water for mixing, and scrap paper should be properly set up. All these should be within your arms’ length. Although you should ensure one does not get in the way of another so that you don’t knock them off during painting. 

Get Used to the Bleed

A common feature of watercolor paint is that they bleed when wet paints are applied close. You may be worried about this, but you don’t need to fear because this can be an opportunity to create beautiful visual effects like gradients. If you are afraid of your watercolor paint bleeding out, you should allow each color to dry completely before applying another. Click here for actionable acrylic paint tips you should know.

Getting Masking Fluid Is Important 

Another notorious feature of watercolor paint is that they are hard to control. They are fond of making their way to parts of the paint where you don’t want them to be. To save yourself from this stress, you need masking fluid. This will block out any area you don’t want the paints to get to. Once the applied masking fluid has dried up, apply the paint and let it dry, after which you clean up the masking fluid to reveal a clean paper.  

Things You Should Know When Getting Started With Watercolor Paint

Enjoy the Process

It would be best to have the mindset that you want a fun-filled watercolor painting experience and not one filled with fear. If you approach painting this way, you are on your way to having a fun-filled and adventurous watercolor painting journey. You should experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them. You can only become good at the watercolor painting by practicing regularly. 

Mix Paint Than You Think Is Needed

It will be a headache for you if, after painting, you discover that a part of the painting is missing. Aside from this, it is also challenging to remix color and still have the same result as the initial one. So, it’s always best to have enough painting available for use.  

Don’t let Mistakes Have a Stronghold On You

If you paint a wrong color, or paint bled out in a way you are not cool with, or you mistakenly painted a blotch on the page. You don’t need to worry about this. Usually, these errors can either be fixed or blended into your work.

Starting your watercolor painting journey can be a little difficult, but employing the tips mentioned above will make your journey much more straightforward. 

Pen Doctor: How to use Blotting Paper and Restoring Banana-Shaped Pens

Pen Doctor: How to use Blotting Paper and Restoring Banana-Shaped Pens

How to use Blotting Paper

Maribel Almeida asks: I have a packet of blotting paper and I do not know how to use it. I was just given a fountain pen and I infer that it is used somehow in the course of writing with a fountain pen. I just don’t know-how. I would like to know the proper way to use blotting paper if possible. I greatly appreciate any instruction or advice you can impart.

I’m sure you know this, but the purpose of blotting paper is to remove excess ink from a written page. There are two reasons for wanting to do this:

  • The obvious reason for blotting is to dry your writing if there isn’t time to allow it to dry naturally.
  • A less obvious reason is to prevent bleeding or feathering. If you’re using a paper with a finish that can’t handle very wet ink lines such as the monster strokes you get from a superflex nib, you can write a few words, give the ink a few seconds to set onto the paper but not long enough to begin feathering, and then blot the writing before going on. This is perhaps inconvenient, but the end result may well be worth it. Click here for latest Y2K fashion trending.

The use of blotter paper is actually very simple, but it takes a moment of thought to see why the right way works.

You’ll need to lay your pen down, or at least park it between your lips (never your teeth!) or two fingers (like a cigarette). Pick up the sheet of blotter paper with two hands and position it over the text you want to blot — but don’t just quickly press it down willy-nilly.

If you do, you can actually spread a very wet, heavy ink line (such as you get when you push a Superflex nib), squishing it like a bug and making a splat on the paper. Instead, lay one edge of the blotter on the paper, hold that edge gently with a finger or two, and “roll’ the blotter down onto the paper. This allows the blotter to absorb the excess ink in an orderly manner. See the upper figure.

If you find yourself blotting frequently, you may want to add a rocker blotter. to your writing station. A rocker blotter, so-called because it rocks back and forth like a baby’s cradle, is a small “platform” with a cylindrically curved surface. Attached to the under surface is a sheet of blotting paper. Most rocker blotters have handles, but some are designed so that you pick them up just by gripping the long sides.

To use a rocker blotter, you don’t need to lay your pen down. Just pick up the blotter, lay one end of it against the paper, and roll it across the writing you want to blot.

Restoring Banana-Shaped Pens

Israel Ben-Sinai asks: I collect Israeli locally made pens. Some of them were made from low-quality plastics, and I find many distortions, where the pen is not straight (it looks like a long radius bow). In other cases, the pen and the cap have shrunk differently and it is almost impossible to screw the cap onto the body.

Could something be done to rectify this problem?

Yes and no. It’s possible to repair some of these pens, but it’s risky and not always guaranteed success. This is a task best left to experts. If you want to try it, however, I recommend starting on pens you really do not care about; you are almost certain to ruin several.

Disassemble the pen completely, removing all of the internal parts. Insert into the barrel a closely-fitting rod of a material that won’t soften with heat and also won’t absorb heat. Heat the entire barrel just enough that it barely begins to soften but not enough that it sags. Gently roll the barrel, using the rod inside it as a mandrel, on a smooth flat surface that will not absorb heat. Be careful of the threads as you do this! The barrel will cool rapidly; you may have to repeat the operation several times to get the part really straight. Repeat the heating and rolling process with the cap. When you’re satisfied with the results, reassemble the pen.

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I also recommend reading our new post about “A brief guide on acrylic paint” by clicking here

Actionable acrylic paint tips you should know

Actionable acrylic paint tips you should know

Do you moisten the brush before beginning to paint with acrylic paint?

Consider using a dry brush to add texture and detail to the painting. When you move a dry brush over the surface of your painting, it will skip slightly. This gives the paint a gritty appearance, which is ideal for places where you want to add some texture or detail. 

  • For example, you may dry brush the ground in your painting to simulate grass.
  • If you’re dry brushing, make careful to properly wipe the brush dry between colors if you rinse it.

How should acrylic paint be thinned?

Add water to make the color more transparent. Acrylic paint may seem thick and impenetrable when applied directly from the tube. Increase the opacity of the paint by adding additional water to the paint on your palette. Add extra water to the paint to make it more translucent. 

When combining acrylic paint with water, never add more than roughly 20% water to the paint. If you use more than that, the binding ingredient that holds the paint to the surface may break down, resulting in the paint peeling off after it dries.

Acrylics may be thinned with glaze or paste to alter the texture of the paint. On a canvas, if you use solely straight acrylic paint, the whole work will have a boring, homogeneous feel. By diluting the acrylics with mix-ins, the visual texture is varied. Therefore, while thinning the acrylic, include additional media such as glaze or texture paste. In general, thinned acrylic paints have a liquid, watery appearance after they have dried. 

  • Glazes will provide a satiny sheen to the cured paint and a brilliant, lustrous texture.
  • Texture pastes give the paint a rough, chunky texture, but may dilute the color somewhat after drying.
  • Avoid using more than roughly 30% of your chosen medium, as this will result in the paint not coating the surface of your canvas.

How are acrylic paints blended on a canvas?

Paint a line of one color, then another, blending with your brush in between. Arrange the two lines in such a way that one is directly above the other. Then, work your way up and down the lines with your brush. This creates a smooth gradient, giving the colors the appearance of being merged together. 

The smoothest transition will occur if both colors are moist while you work. If you like a more textured effect, apply the darker color first, allow it to dry, and then brush the lighter color over it.

Can acrylic paints be layered?

Yes, layer your work to add texture and depth. It is recommended to work in layers while using acrylic paint. This enables you to add depth, for example, by using varied colors of green to create shadows and highlights in a tree. Allow sufficient time for each coat of paint to cure completely before painting another layer over it. While thin layers dry in roughly 30 minutes, heavy layers take well over an hour to dry.

Begin with dark colors and wide shapes and work your way up to bright hues and detail. When you begin painting, begin by sketching out your outlines, major forms, and any dark regions. Utilize the darkest hues in your palette. Then, progressively brighten the colors as you add additional layers, adding detail, texture, and highlights. 

Once cured, acrylic paint does not mix. If you begin with the lightest colors and then add darker tones, the darker colors will just cover over the lighter ones—they will not grow lighter. This is a general rule—if you apply too much highlight, you may need to go back in with a deeper hue and fill in some detail. That is perfectly OK!

If you’re accustomed to painting with watercolors, you’ll note that this is the polar reverse of that approach, in which you always begin with the lightest hue and work your way to the darkest.

How do you use acrylic paint to create texture?

With a wet brush, splatter paint to create large areas of color. Coat the bristles of a paintbrush or toothbrush with water and then with paint. With one hand, firmly grasp the brush, and with the other, hit the brush just below the bristles. The paint will clump and adhere to the canvas as it flies off in thick clots. 

  • Splattering is an excellent technique to utilize while creating abstract art. Alternatively, experiment with splattering to add texture to your painting.
  • To manage the spatter area, try holding the brush around 2–3 in (5.1–7.6 cm) from the canvas. Additionally, you may use masking tape to seal up any parts that you do not want splashed.

Stipple the canvas by dotting the paint on it. Stipple by coating the bristles of a paintbrush with paint and gently tapping the tip of the brush on the canvas to produce a feathery, dotted look. This technique is ideal for painting birds or animals, or for infusing an abstract piece with a feathery texture. 

Never move the brushes along with the canvas while stippling. This will smear the stipples together, defeating the purpose of the effect. Additionally, you may dip a sponge in paint and dab it gently on the canvas to produce a bubbly look.

How can you get perfectly straight lines while painting with acrylics?

Apply a strip of masking tape to the canvas to create crisp edges. Masking tape may be used in the same way as painters use painter’s tape, for example, to outline the edge of a ceiling. Masking tape may be applied straight to the canvas or to dried paint without hurting it. Simply push the tape firmly to ensure that no paint bleeds under its surface. After painting the hard edge, carefully peel away the masking tape to expose your flawlessly straight line.

This method is ideal for highlighting the sharp edges of a mountain top or the clean lines of a structure.

What is the proper way to clean acrylic paint off a palette?

Allow used paints to dry completely before discarding them in the garbage. Avoid washing your color palette, since the acrylic paint may block your plumbing. Rather than that, use a plastic tray as a color palette and allow any remaining paint to dry after usage. Then, after the paint has fully dried, remove it off the tray. 

Alternatively, you might just apply fresh, wet paint right over the dried paints. It’s ideal to use the same color as the dried paint—colors will not mix after the paint is dry, but if you layer various colors over the dried acrylic paint, it may be difficult to discern which color you’re using. If the paints are still rather wet, you may be able to remove them off the palette with a moist paper towel. Check out Acrylic paint tips for beginners

Acrylic paint tips for beginners

Acrylic paint tips for beginners

Acrylic paint is an excellent medium to work with if you’re feeling creative. It’s quite versatile—you can paint on a range of various surfaces and easily create a variety of different textures and effects. Additionally, it dries rapidly, which means you don’t have to wait as long between applications as you would with oil paint. However, you must exercise caution to prevent the paint from drying out as you work with it. If you’re ready to create your next masterpiece, we’re here to answer your most pressing acrylic paint inquiries!

Which kind of canvas is ideal for acrylic painting?

A simple approach is to use a primed, stretched canvas. If you’re just starting out as a painter, the canvas will be your preferred surface. The simplest method to obtain canvas is to get it stretched over a wooden frame. Additionally, they are often primed in advance.

To save money, use an unprimed, unstretched canvas. Canvases that have not been stretched are often offered as cloth coiled on a huge roll. You’ll need to carefully stretch the canvas and secure it to a wooden frame. Then, apply a coat of gesso to the canvas and allow it to dry completely before beginning to paint.

If you’re going to use watered-down acrylic paint, use thick watercolor paper. If you enjoy the watercolor effect but prefer acrylic paint, consider painting on at least 300 lb. weight art paper. Due to the fact that art paper is less expensive than canvas, this might be an inexpensive option to practice with acrylics.

Bear in mind that since paper absorbs part of the acrylic paint, the completed piece will be less vibrant than if you used a non-porous medium such as prepared canvas or wood.

When using thinner paper, it may wrinkle, distort, and perhaps rip.

What is the proper way to set up an acrylic paint palette?

Squeeze a tiny quantity of each hue onto a palette. With acrylic paint, a little goes a long way, so start with a little dab of each hue. In this manner, the colors will not dry up before you use them, and there will paint plenty remaining in the tube to add more as needed. Distribute the colors evenly throughout the palette’s perimeter. In this manner, you may utilize the palette’s core to combine multiple colors.

  • Begin with the three primary hues of red, blue, and yellow, as well as black and white.
  • Alternatively, if you like a more natural palette, you may begin with the basic colors white, yellow, red, brown, and blue.
  • If the acrylic paint is in a jar, use a palette knife to scrape out a little bit.

Can acrylic paint be mixed to create new colors?

Yes, you may combine colors in your palette to create new colors. Painters seldom use an acrylic color directly from the tube. To fine-tune your color choices, place two dabs of complementary hues in the middle of your palette and blend them using a knife or brush. This will assist you in creating vibrant colors that will give your artwork a unique appeal. Use a little amount of white paint to lighten a color without affecting its opacity. Likewise, you may darken your hue by combining it with dark blue or brown paint. 

  • While you’re working, consider glancing at a color wheel. For instance, if you examine a color wheel, you’ll see that combining red and yellow produces a vivid orange. 
  • Work fast while mixing acrylic paints, since acrylic paints dry rapidly.

How can acrylic paint be kept from drying out?

While painting, mist your palette every 10-15 minutes. Fill a small spray bottle halfway with water and store it nearby. Spritz the water over the acrylic paint on the palette about every 10-15 minutes. This should assist in preventing the acrylic paint from drying out as you work. 

If the acrylic paint dries in your palette, re-wet it with more of the same hue. If the dried acrylic paint has become too thick, you may also scrape it away for a clean start.

Utilize a stay-wet palette to keep the acrylic paint wet for an extended period of time. You may buy a stay-wet palette or construct your own by putting around 6-10 sheets of paper towels together. Thoroughly soak the paper towels, then set them on a tray and acrylic paint straight onto them.

Which brushes are appropriate for acrylic paint?

Outline your subject’s contours using big, flat strokes. When beginning an acrylic painting, begin by sketching out the basic forms of the things in your composition. For instance, if you’re painting a stunning mountain scene, begin by sketching the peaks’ distinct curves. 

If your backdrop area is vast, you may choose to lay down the foundation color after painting your outlines. Then, if necessary, complete any details later in the process. While painting outlines, you may find it beneficial to work with opaque acrylic colors—typically, this will be color straight from the tube. Then, when it comes to details, use more transparent colors or acrylic paint that has been thinned with water or a thinning solution.

Add details to your artwork using tiny brushes. Once the primary forms of your picture are complete, take up your smaller detail brushes. Utilize them to enhance details, such as thin lines or texture. Utilize a selection of fine-tipped brushes to create lines and visual effects of varying sizes on your canvas.

For instance, after the main mountain peaks have been contoured, use smaller, more pointed brushes to fill in details such as individual trees, a lake, or campers on the beach. Visit to read about A brief overview of what acrylic paint is.

Experiment with various brush shapes to get unique effects. The curvature of the brush has a significant effect on the appearance of the acrylic paint after it is applied to the canvas. Keep a range of brushes on hand to add diversity and detail simply. For instance, you may use:

  • Round brushes for lines and precision work 
  • Flat brushes for wide, strong strokes and filling in vast expanses 
  • Fan brushes for blending and feathering
A brief overview on what acrylic paint is

A brief overview of what acrylic paint is

Acrylics are a form of painting that employs a synthetic resin to bond the pigment – the same pigment that is used in oil paintings. In contrast to oils, they may darken as they dry. However, acrylics dry quicker than oil paintings, which may take days or even weeks to dry depending on the humidity and temperature. Acrylics are also water-soluble, while oils need mineral spirits or turpentine to clean, and are less expensive than oils.

Acrylic Paints Acrylic paints are available in a variety of grades, from student to professional. It is preferable to purchase high-quality main and maybe secondary colors rather than a wide variety of inexpensive colors. Student colors are more prone to fade with time. Prior to purchasing huge numbers of colors, purchase little amounts to confirm you like the brand’s quality. Specialty acrylics such as iridescent, fluorescent, and glitter are also available from certain manufacturers. Visit to read more about acrylics’ color.

Paint Supplies You’ll Need for Acrylic Painting Featured Video

Acrylic Substances

Acrylic mediums are used to alter the viscosity of the paint (making it thicker to reveal brush strokes or thinner for washes), the finish (matte or gloss), the drying period, the addition of texture, and to prevent over-thinning. If you dilute acrylic paint with too much water, there will be insufficient binders to keep the pigment together, resulting in uneven paint.

Brushes Acrylic paint may be applied thinly or thickly. For washes where you don’t want brush traces to appear, use soft sable brushes or the less expensive synthetic substitutes. For thicker paint, use polyester brushes developed exclusively for acrylics. Prove your preference by experimenting with both long and short handle brushes. Because various brush head shapes produce distinct effects, a variety pack might assist you in getting started. Always clean your brushes immediately, since dried paint in the brush head might cause the brush to deteriorate. Although high-quality artist brushes are not cheap, they will last a long time with careful care. A palette knife may aid with color mixing, while a stylus enables you to create precise, crisp dots and points.

Acrylic palette 

Acrylics may be used on wooden or plastic palettes, but it’s difficult to remove all of the dried paint. Disposable palettes—pads of paper with a top sheet that you pull off and discard—resolve this issue. If the paint dries out too soon, consider using a palette meant to keep it wet: the paint is put on a sheet of parchment paper on top of a moist piece of watercolor paper or sponge, which prevents the paint from drying out as rapidly as it would on a dry palette.


Varnish shields completed works of art from dirt and pollutants in the air. The varnish used on paintings is reversible, which means that if the varnish gets filthy, the painting may be cleaned. Varnish is offered in two finishes: gloss and matte. You may combine the two to get the desired amount of shine. Before varnishing, ensure that your artwork is completely dry.

Composition of Paint

Each painting is made up of a pigment and a binder. The binder used in oils, acrylics, and watercolors is what differentiates them. Oil paints use an oil binder, watercolors use a plant-based binder called gum arabic, and acrylics use an acrylic polymer emulsion as a binder.


Acrylics dry more quickly than oils and are more flexible once dry. Additionally, unlike watercolors, they are permanent and cannot be revived. If you make an error with acrylics, just let it dry for a few minutes before painting over it. This is one of the reasons I choose acrylics since I make a lot of errors as a result of my Parkinson’s disease.

The disadvantage with acrylics is that they dry rapidly, making perfect blending more difficult. This is an area in which oils thrive. However, certain acrylic paints and additives enable you to paint with the obvious brushstrokes of oil paint or with the inky substance of water paint. As seen, acrylics are quite adaptable.

Artist Paints are available in two grades: student and professional.

Student paint often has a larger proportion of filler to pigment than professional paint and has a limited color palette. It is still a good paint for teaching the fundamentals of painting and color mixing to beginners, and it has the additional benefit of being less expensive.

Professional-grade paint is more costly but contains more pigment, which results in more brilliant hues. Additionally, professional-quality paints often come in a wider variety of hues.

Additionally, acrylic craft paints are available. They are more affordable and include far more filler than artist paints. They are excellent for crafts but should not be utilized for artistic art because of their poor adhesion and overall lack of lightfastness.


The term “lightfastness” relates to the degree to which paint colors fade over time. ASTM, an international organization, grades acrylic paints according to their lightfastness, with I being the most lightfast. Certain manufacturers use letters, with AA being the most common. The container’s or manufacturer’s website will indicate the container’s or manufacturer’s light-fastness or permanence.


The viscosity of paint refers to its thickness or consistency. Heavy body paints are thick and creamy, making them suitable for painting with obvious brush strokes or texture. They may still be diluted with a little water or acrylic medium to provide a smoother finish.

The fluid acrylics are on the opposite extreme of the spectrum. They have a thin, watery consistency that is similar to that of ink. With the proper airbrush medium, you can really use them in an airbrush. They are suitable for translucent color washes or a watercolor style.

We offer soft body or standard artist paints in the center. These paints are thinner but not inky, resembling thick cream in substance. They are perfect for stacking colors smoothly.

Final thoughts

This overview will veer you in the right direction as regards painting with acrylic paint. You can read about A brief guide on acrylic paint by visiting

A brief guide on acrylic paint

A brief guide on acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is composed of pigment, which gives it its color, and a synthetic resin binder. The binder is what binds the pigment particles together and gives acrylic paint its buttery quality when squeezed from the tube.

These two components may have been visible if you came upon a tube of acrylic that had separated. When the tube is squeezed, a gelatinous, almost transparent material (the binder) emerges first, followed by the colorful acrylic paint. This is often the result of a hastily completed work at the manufacturer or an old and improperly kept tube. It’s a simple repair, however: just recombine the pigment and binder.

The Ingredients in Paint Vary by Manufacturer

Things get more challenging when you wish to know the actual composition of the binder. Each manufacturer has its own recipe, and some incorporate cost-cutting additives.

Additionally, paints may include a range of additives. Surfactants, for example, are employed to disperse pigments, while anti-foaming agents prevent acrylic paint from foaming during application. Cheaper paints may include fillers, opacifiers, or dyes that are less expensive than genuine pigments.

Additionally, various kinds of acrylic paint contain varying amounts of pigment. This process is referred to as pigment loading. If you’ve experimented with multiple brands of what should be the same hue, you may have run across this. Often, it is very obvious that one brand’s colors are more vibrant than those of another.

For these reasons, painters often commit to a single acrylic paint brand. However, some painters discover that a single manufacturer creates a hue that they like over others. When they discover something they adore, artists are notoriously loyal.

Whether You Are Capable of Making Your Own Acrylic Paint

While many oil painters like blending their colors, is this feasible with acrylic paint? You can also manufacture acrylic paint. However, because of the nature of acrylic paint, this is more challenging. You’ll need to work quickly.

Speed is critical since the major difference between oil and acrylic paints is that acrylic paint is water-based and thus dry more quickly. The same pace at which you paint is the speed at which you must mix.

Mixing Acrylic Paint

Apart from speed, mixing acrylic paint is very simple, albeit not as straightforward as with oils. At its most basic level, an acrylic paint formula involves a pigment and a binder, as well as a container for the acrylic paint to be stored. Additionally, you may add additional ingredients.

You have two options for the pigment:

Dry pigment may be used. Identical to that used with oil paints. This is because it is a common element in both forms of acrylic paint.

You’ll need to crush the pigment into a water or alcohol base. Organic colors will disperse far more easily in alcohol, and you will add water before the alcohol evaporates.

The second kind of pigment is termed an aqua-dispersion, which is what Kama Pigments sells. These have already taken care of the most challenging element of acrylic paint mixing by dispersing the color into a water base. All that is required is to combine it with the binder.

When it comes to the binder, practically any acrylic medium that would typically be used with a conventional tube of acrylic paint would work. As previously stated, the fundamental medium for this function is a “binder media,” although you may also use a gel medium, impasto medium, or iridescent medium. Each of these selections will result in a unique impact on your completed acrylic paint.

While mixing acrylic paint requires some effort and a learning curve, the freedom it provides to create unique paints may make the effort worthwhile in the long run.

How to paint streak-free flat-colored regions

You’re painting with acrylic paint and correctly mixing the acrylic paint, yet your brush strokes still have streaks. Why is it, and how can you create a lovely, ‘flat’ color area?

Several variables might be acting against you. While acrylic paint is a simple sort of acrylic paint to deal with, they are not failsafe, and you must exercise caution in their application and selection. Whether you’re having trouble with streaks, give one of these strategies a try to see if it resolves the problem.

Acrylic paint Supplies You’ll Need for Acrylic Painting Featured Video

Paints That Are Transparent

To begin, ensure that you’re utilizing an opaque color rather than a translucent one. The tube should indicate this, or you may determine this for yourself. It is simpler to produce a flat hue using opaque colors than with transparent ones. Click here to read about Actionable acrylic paint tips you should know.

Utilize an Opaque Paint

Additionally, you may combine a little amount of a very opaque color, such as titanium white or titanium buff, with the transparent color to create a more uniformly distributed color. If the final color is not sufficiently vivid, wait until it dries before glazing it with the transparent color.

Combine It

Another way to experiment with is blending the acrylic paint with a very big, soft brush before it dries entirely. If the acrylic paint dries quicker than you can mix it, experiment with a wider brush or pre-wet the canvas before painting (either with a brush or with a spray bottle).

Is the Acrylic paint Yours?

Many of the most frequent issues that artists have while working with acrylic paint arise from the acrylic paint they use. If none of the preceding methods worked, it’s time to examine the acrylic paint you’re using.

Acrylic paints for students and low-quality artists are often packed with more filler than professional-grade paints. This might result in less-than-optimal results when transferred to canvas or paper. Purchase a single tube of high-quality acrylic paint and compare it to the paints you currently own. Keep an eye out for opaque shades.

Even among professional-grade acrylic paint, variances in workability and opacity exist. If the paints you’ve picked fall short of your expectations, give another manufacturer a shot. You are not required to make a significant financial commitment throughout your trials. Rather than that, pick simply one or two of your most frequently used colors.

It’s quite simple for artists to get fixated on a particular color, and we often dread change. However, if it is not performing as expected, there may be a better solution available. Each painter has a unique style and method, which means that what works well for your buddy or teacher may not work well for you.

If you’re having trouble achieving flat color with acrylic paint, consider switching to gouache. This opaque watercolor paint may suit your style more than acrylic paint, yet it lacks the waterproof properties of acrylic. Visit to read about your home decor.

Anatomy of a Fountain Pen III: Sheaffer’s Snorkel

Anatomy of a Fountain Pen III: Sheaffer’s Snorkel

Anatomy of a Fountain Pen III: Sheaffer’s Snorkel

The Struggle to Survive: 

In 1952, Sheaffer introduced the most complicated fountain pen ever designed. This pen, the famous Snorkel, was designed to compete with the burgeoning popularity of ballpoint pens by virtue of its simple, convenient filling system that eliminated the mess commonly associated with fountain pens.

To fill the Snorkel, the user extends a small tube that is normally hidden within the feed; only the Snorkel tube is immersed in the ink, and there is no need to wipe off excess ink after filling. For about a decade, the Snorkel did compete successfully, with a range of models culminating in 1959’s PFM, the Pen For Men. This article illustrates a pen similar to a Sentinel, with Sheaffer’s conical Triumph nib; the company also produced Snorkels with the traditional open nib. The illustrations depict the pen with its proportions altered for artistic purposes.

Monkey Motion

To make the Snorkel’s filling system simple for the user meant that the pen would have to be complicated internally. The first figure shows the pen with various parts cut away to reveal the inner workings. You can see immediately that there are a large number of parts:

The Snorkel uses the Touchdown filling system that Sheaffer introduced in 1948, but in the Snorkel, it is necessary to move the entire filling system within the pen. This movement is accomplished by redesigning the section that it becomes only a small bit of hard rubber that secures the sac and the Snorkel tube. The sac protector is a tight slip fit over the section so that the assembly becomes a moderately strong “cartridge” that can slide back and forth in grooves on the inside of the gripping section, which has replaced the original section to provide a finger hold.

The Snorkel tube is fitted through a small hole in the hard rubber section; it passes through the point holder gasket and extends to the end of a hole that has been drilled through the feed to accommodate it. The Snorkel tube contains a secondary feed, in the form of a slender strip of hard rubber with an ink channel. There are small slots near the end of the tube; these slots allow ink to “leak” from the inside of the tube to the outside. Once outside the Snorkel tube, the ink finds that there is also a slit cut in the main feed, and capillary action draws the ink through that slit to fill the comb fins and deliver the ink to the nib in the same way as with an ordinary feed and nib.

The back end of the coupling ring screws into the gripping section to secure the point holder gasket in place. The feed slips into the coupling ring, and the nib screws onto the front end of the coupling ring to secure the feed in place.

The sac protector is threaded for part of its length. At the front end of the threaded portion is a ring into which one end of the spring fits; the other end of the spring presses against a ledge on the interior of the barrel. The Touchdown tube is threaded to match the sac protector; and the blind cap, unlike the blind cap in the ordinary Touchdown system, is not threaded.

The interior of the pen is sealed airtight by the point holder gasket, the O-ring, the threaded joint between the barrel and the gripping section, and a gasket that seals the screw securing the Touchdown tube to the blind cap. Air can enter only through a dimpled groove in the Touchdown tube near the blind cap and through a hole in the Touchdown tube near the tube’s threaded portion.

The dimpled groove is open at the beginning of the Touchdown tube’s travel as it is extended from the pen, and the hole is open when it passes the O-ring as the Touchdown tube reaches its full extension. If any of the four sealing points leaks, the pen will not fill properly.

How It Works: 

As you can see, the spring tries to force the sac protector (and the rest of the “cartridge”) forward, extending the Snorkel tube. The blind cap and Touchdown tube prevent this. The following figure shows step 1 of the filling process. The user unscrews the blind cap, releasing the “cartridge” so that the spring can slide it forward.

Next, the user extends the Touchdown tube. A partial vacuum builds up, but the sac protector keeps the sac from distending. As the Touchdown tube reaches the end of its outward travel, air enters the barrel through the hole near the threaded end of the tube.

The user immerses the tip of the Snorkel tube in the ink and then presses quickly down on the blind cap. This restores the Touchdown tube to its rest position, compressing air as the tube travels. The compressed air squeezes the sac. The following illustration shows the pen at the instant just before the pressure is released by the dimpled groove when the Touchdown tube reaches the end of its travel; note the squeezed sac.

When the Touchdown tube reaches the end of its travel, pressure is released. As the sac resumes its normal shape, external air pressure forces ink into the sac.

Last, the user screws down the blind cap again. The threads on the Touchdown tube engage the threads on the sac protector, drawing the “cartridge” backward against the spring. The Snorkel tube disappears into the section, and the user returns to writing.

Is It Working Right? 

To test a Snorkel, fill it with water. Aim the filled pen in some harmless direction. Extend the Touchdown tube and then depress it quickly. If all the seals are working right, the pen will shoot a stream of water that can travel about six feet (2 m).

I also recommend reading our new post about “Actionable acrylic paint tips you should know

Parker Jotter 50th Anniversary

Parker Jotter 50th Anniversary

Parker recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the best-selling Parker Jotter with three special Jubilee anniversary editions.

In 1946 Kenneth Parker wrote a letter to Time magazine stating that he resented the notion that the Parker Pen Co. was napping because it didn’t have a product in the exploding ballpoint pen market. Unknown was the fact that Parker had been researching and developing ballpoint pens since the 1940s.

“As long as two years ago, our management realized-between naps-that we could make a quick, fast bulge in sales and profits by marketing a ball pen.” Kenneth Parker predicted with a short statement…”If and when Parker brings out a ball pen, it won’t resemble anything now on the market.”

After waiting almost nine years to enter the ballpoint market Parker put the Jotter into production in just 90 days. This project was the responsibility of Daniel Parker and on December 22, 1953 “Operation Scramble” was launched. This was a rush to production and the first Jotters emerged from Janesville on January 5, 1954, and was priced at $2.95.

This was the start of the decline of the fountain pen and the era of the ballpoint. In 1953 the value of ballpoint sales finally overtook the sales of fountain pens. Parker’s late entry into the ball pen market proved to be a brilliant move, particularly because of Jotter’s design innovation, quality, and price point.

One of the most important designs was the rotating refill. With each click, the Jotter’s ball would rotate 90 degrees, which means it would wear evenly,” he said. “All of the other ball pens were wearing unevenly, and after three or four weeks, they didn’t work.” This feature exists to this day. There were many other improvements in the design of the Jotter over the years, most notably the sintered steel ball which had a textured surface and allowed for a better grip on paper and better ink flow and delivery. The result was the introduction of the “T- Ball” Jotter in June 1957 and Parker lowered the retail price to $1.95.

To mark this 50th anniversary, Parker has launched the Jotter Jubilee, a special edition pen that will only be produced through November.

The Jotter Jubilee is available in two finishes and two colors. It follows the patterns and designs of the 1950s, and the trademark Parker clip has lost its feathers. The top of the plunger is engraved with “50.” The collection features the fun and colorful Jotter Gel 50s collection in five 50s inspired color finishes; the stylish Jotter Special Edition range with ball blasted maze or dots patterns, and the sophisticated Jotter Premier Edition model with its silver filigree-sleeved barrel. check out for Acrylic Color.

The design inspiration of all the new pens has been taken from the 1950 era – the decade when design and technology were booming, and when the Jotter was born – and re-interprets the brand for the 21st century. The Maze pattern references the square and abstract graphics which were found on virtually everything in the print media of the 1950s. The Dots pattern is also a timely theme, taken from the halftone screen printing technique used at that time for the growing popular comics and illustrated press. Similar to the vintage Parker 45 Harlequin pattern, the effect is created by sandblasting which leaves a matte and gloss finish.

The Jotter Jubilee Special Edition is a universal, ageless writing instrument that will kick off the next 50 years with style. In a choice of charcoal or blue finish, the Jotter Jubilee Special Edition features a modern twist with these two ’50s influenced patterns.

The third, and most highly anticipated new development from Parker for the Jotter Jubilee, however, is the stunning new Premier Edition model – which will only be available at the end of this year.

This is a pen for design aficionados and collectors. Based on the original Jotter Filigree – a pen that was sold almost exclusively at the 1959 New York World’s Fair – the Jotter Premier Edition features a sterling silver cap, hallmarked as a guarantee of quality, and a sterling silver button and filigree sleeve.

Available in two finishes – licorice black on silver, and saffron yellow on silver – the body is ornamented with a remarkable effect, achieved by cutting a pattern into the sterling silver sleeve, and then molding the colored barrel with the sleeve. This complicated technique gives a beautiful result that again references the square and abstract graphics so popular in the 1950s, making the Premier Edition pen and its shiny black metallic gift box the last word in contemporary chic.

The Jotter was Parker’s first-ever ballpoint pen, although not the first ballpoint pen on the market, extensive research and development meant that when Parker launched the Jotter, it blew away the competition with its innovative design, new materials, and long refill lifetime. Then heralded as a beacon of modernity, today it is still the essential lively Parker companion.

The Jotter remains today as a worldwide symbol of Parker design and success more than any other product in its history. The Jotter is accessible and affordable, yet unsurpassed in its quality, and over the course of the last half-century, more than 750 million have been sold worldwide.

All new Jotter models are packaged in specially designed Jubilee gift boxes.

Vintage Parker Jotters from the collection of Don Lavin
Reference material from The Incredible Ball Point Pen by Henry Gostony and Stuart Schneider

The Parker Jotter Jubilee and the book The Incredible Ball Point Pen
are available from Fountain Pen Hospital

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The Joy of Flex

The Joy of Flex

Q1. What is Flex, Why do some nibs have it and others don’t?

A1. Actually, that’s two questions, but if it wasn’t for the second part, the first couldn’t be asked.

With increased hand pressure on the pen, some nibs respond by having the tine tips move apart and leave a wider ink line. The tines do not bend, they move apart like scissors. With the release of pressure, the tines snap back together quickly and make their ‘normal’ line width. Nibs have flex because they are designed that way.

Q2. Why Would Anyone Want A Flexible Nib?

A2. Flex nibs can give a wide variation in line widths and make shaded fashion letters, where one part of a letter may be 3 to 5 times wider than another part of the same letter.

Q3. Don’t Italic and Stub Nibs Also Give Line Variations?

A3. Stubs and Italics usually give line variation because they make a wide down stroke and a much narrower cross stroke. There usually isn’t a variance in the widths of the strokes as with a flexible nib. (Yes,
there are Flexible Stub and Flexible Italic nibs, just to confuse things.)

Q4. Do All Flex Nibs Flex The Same Amount? [How Much Flex Would A Flex Nib Flex If A Flex Nib Flexed Full Flex?]

A4. There is no fixed ratio. It seems that if a nib actually flexes by the tines separating (without bending) and snapping back to their ‘normal’ line, the nib is at least “Semi-Flex: Flex and Super-Flex are likewise subjective evaluations.

Not that anyone ever asked me to do it, but it seems to me that a Semi-flex nib will make a line up to 3 times the width of its normal line; a flexible nib, up to 5 times; a Superflex up to 7. No such standard exists, but using this as a working definition, the difference between ‘soft’ nibs ( which may increase line width by the bending of the tines) and flexible ones is clearer.

You may also like to read about Best fashion designing courses in Idaho

Q5. What is a Nibs “Normal” Line

A5. The “Normal” Line is the nib width as set by the Manufacturer – EF, F, M, B, BB, 3B etc. A flex nib should always return to its ‘normal’ line when pressure is released.

Q6. Don’t All Nibs Make A Wider Line When Pressure is Applied?

A6. True, even a BiC will leave a wider line when it’s pressed harder into the paper. But fountain pens leave ink “on’ paper, not ‘in’ paper ( except for those using Parker SuperChrome ink). The difference is the
amount of pressure. A rigid nib will act like a Ball Point ball – pressure will not change the width of the nib unless it breaks it. A ‘soft’ or ‘responsive’ nib will bend under light pressure and may even flex, but it will not ‘snap back to the ‘normal’ line. (The nibs can usually be reset.)

Q7. Can Too Much Pressure Be Put On A Flex Nib?

A7. Flex nibs become ‘sprung’ when too much force is applied. The nib may, under great force, break.

Q8. How Much Pressure is Safe To Use On A Flex Nib?

A8. The pressure will differ from pen to pen and nib to nib, but do not press so hard that the nib tines bend after they have flexed to their optimal width – the optimal point is “just before the flexed tines

Q9. What Are Flex Nibs Good For?

A9. Flexible nibs make some people’s handwriting look more interesting. Sadly, no pen has the ability to make the content more interesting. Flexible nibs are good for correspondence and short notes.

Q10 What Can’t Flex Nibs Do Well?

A10. Flexible nibs are harder to use than Rigid nibs. Flexible nibs tend to be less smooth than rigid nibs. (Probably due to the flexes flexing.) Flexible nibs can’t make carbon copies. Flexible nibs aren’t
great for writing quickly.

Q11. Where Does One Find Flexible Nibs?

A11. For advertising purposes, nearly every pen boasts “flexible nibs.” As a general rule, flexible nibs are somewhat hard to find. Even in the ‘golden age of pens, Flexible nibs were a small fraction of a company’s output. Some vintage pen dealers are very scrupulous in describing the amount of flex a given nib has on a given pen. I have two Crocker Pens about 100 years old, one has a Superflex nib the other rivals a modern rigid nib like a Waterman or a Rotring. The only way to know if a nib is flexible is to see if it flexes. OMAS offers a 14kt Superflex Nib – but I never wanted to be parted from any of my OMAS pens long enough to have one retrofitted.

Q12. Are Any Modern Nibs Flexible?

A12. Not having tried all modern nibs, I can’t say. Pens with somewhat flexible nibs that I have are Marlen Atellans, some Viscontis, some Pelikans, some MBs, some OMAS 18kt nibs, Diplomat 1922, Delta, Cross,
Stipula Namiki. None of these modern nibs has the same amount of flex as some vintage Flexible nibs. Most of these are Semi-flex, the tines spread a moderate amount.

Q13. Are There Modern Manufacturers Who Don’t Make Flexible Nibs?

A13. In general, I don’t think that Rotring, Lamy, Waterman ( save for the Liaison and Serenite), Aurora, Ancora, Sheaffer, Alvin have any flexible nibs

Q14. What Vintage Pens Have Flexible Nibs?

A14. Nearly every vintage manufacturer made some flexible nibs – but these were a minor part of their offerings. Not only were few flexible nibs made, but flexible nibs are more subject to breakage, its likely
that fewer survived.

Q15 Are Flexible Nibs Hard To Use?

A15 They are hard to use well. First, one needs to write with very little pressure on the nib or the range of line widths is lost. (If your hand is so heavy that the nib is always flexed then there’s nowhere to go.)

Flexible nibs tend to magnify handwriting problems – so if you are not happy with your handwriting as it is you’ll be downright appalled by what a flexible nib can do to it. Getting the nib to flex when you want
it to is only half the problem. The other is keeping it from flexing when you don’t want it flexed.

Also, because there is the possibility for the wide variation inline widths, letters have to be made consistently or the handwriting is very hard to read.

If you have practiced an Italic writing style and are used to the zen of pen – the discipline necessary to make handwriting into a spiritual exercise (art or craft, if you prefer) the transition will be easy. If
you see writing as finding out what the nib will do, you’ll probably be a natural. If handwriting is making the nib do what you want it to without any realization that nibs are different, you likely to have

Q16. What Advantages Do Rigid Nibs Have Over Flex Nibs?

A 16 Rigid nibs are easier to write with and usually smoother nibs. Rigid nibs aren’t as touchy about handwriting style or angle of attack. In the pre-Xerox, pre-PC office setting, Rigid (manifold) nibs were
needed to make carbon copies; to make accounting and bookkeeping entries in large Ledgers with fixed columns (Most companies made an Accountant nib, an EEF rigid nib.)

Rigid nibs are much more durable. The rise of the Lifetime Guarantee by Parker and Sheaffer moved these companies even more heavily toward rigid nibs – They don’t have to be replaced nearly as often. Many rigid nib pens can survive being dropped nib first onto the floor. This is a death knell for a flexible one. Unlike flexible nibs, rigid nibs usually don’t get sprung. If they do become out of alignment, they are not hard to realign.

Q17. How Do You Know If You Should Try Flexible Nibs?

A17. Even inexpensive fountain pens with flex nibs are a fairly expensive item. The most economical way to practice with Italic, stub, flexible, oblique, reverse oblique, or scroll nibs is to get a handful of Speedball ( or other dip nibs) and some wooden or plastic holders. A basic Speedball Lettering or Calligraphy manual, some ink and paper, and some time are all you need to experiment with all sorts of styles.
Knowing the proper way to make letters isn’t all that necessary for rigid nibs, but is a prerequisite for flexible nibs.

Practice takes time, but the skills developed remain with you after the practice ceases. Flexible nibs require the writer to be mindful of what he or she is doing – so the learner must be disciplined in
practice. If you have 15 minutes a day, do it for 15 minutes each day – don’t try to do 90 minutes once a week (it really too boring to do for 90 minutes of correct letter formation for most of us — although some people can seem to do it endlessly — like that roommate, you had who tuned a guitar string for an hour per string, but never played anything.)

Q.18 Can you Tell If A Nib Is Flexible Just By Looking At It?

A.18. In comparing flexible nibs to rigid nibs: the tines of a flexible nib maybe be longer and thinner, the breather hole will be further from the tip, and the shoulders of the nib will not be as blocky.

Viewed from the side, a rigid nib will probably have a constant thickness while a flexible nib thins out towards the nib tipping. But this isn’t foolproof especially if you don’t have a known rigid nib for comparison. The only obvious evidence that a nib is flexible comes by flexing it. Put the nib on a white piece of paper and press very lightly, if the tines separate, it’s flexible. If the tines both separate and bend, they may not go back to their normal line.

Q19. Are Only 14kt Nibs Flexible?

A19, Flexibility depends on how a nib is made, not what it’s made of. Steel nibs can be as Superflex as springs. With Gold nibs, the increase of other metals in the alloy means that a 12kt nib could be more
flexible than a 14kt . . .18kt. But all materials can be made into flexible or rigid nibs.

Q20 Have You Told Us Everything You Know About Flexible Nibs?

A20. I’ve probably told you more than I know – but we have space to fill.

Q21. Where Did You Get The Flexible Nib Pens You Have

A21. I’ve picked up a flexible Conklin Nozac 5M at a pen show. The rest have come from dealers and individuals over the internet To mention individual names and purchases risks being a commercial endorsement and also risks not mentioning the names of very reputable dealers.

Q22. Are There Web sites With Information On Nibs?

A.22. As this is for information, you might want to check:,,,, They will all have good links to other sites of

Q23 Are Fine, Medium, and Broad the only Sizes of Flex Nibs?

A.23 In Vintage pens, one can (infrequently) come across flexible and semi-flex nibs in Italic, Stub, and Oblique. Combinations like flexible fine Italic nibs occasionally turn up.

Q 24. Are Flexible Nibs Worth More Than Non-Flexible Nibs?

A.24. Worth and price don’t always have a direct relationship in pens – often they’ve never been introduced properly. Flexible nibs are probably scarcer than rigid nibs, but then they’re also more likely to
break and harder to use It seems a toss-up to me, but then I’m not selling any. The price the seller gets is related only to how much the buyer wants the item.

Q 25. What Credentials Do You Have To Write This Piece?

A.25. I’m not a nib meister, calligrapher, or graphic artist, nor a well-known pen collector, metallurgist, pen repair specialist nor even all that knowledgeable on pen history and design.

I do use and like flexible and semiflexible nibs. They aren’t even the organizing principle of my collection- they just sort of happened as I was collecting odd filler mechanisms. Having practiced Italic calligraphy about 30 years ago -so that my handwriting could be read by me – I found that the techniques, though rusty, still carried over. A light hand and the ability to adapt yourself to find out what the nib is
capable of doing is probably the best indicator of whether someone should use flexible nibs.

Also, flexible nibs are not good for all writing – trying to take notes on a lecture with a flex nib is a recipe for disaster – and not helpful when one has to write fast. In these situations, break out the Carene
or Rotring 900. The viewpoints and opinions expressed are not necessarily the opinions
of nor the people associated with it. The secretary will disavow all knowledge (oops, wrong channel.)

Recommended Reading

Fountain Pen Nibs: The Basics

Fountain Pen Nibs: The Basics

Fountain pen nibs are made in a bewildering array of sizes and styles. Of course, covering everything about every kind of nib in one article would be bewildering as well—I won’t do that—but there should be enough useful information to help you better decide what nibs might best suit your writing style. In this article, I’ll pretend to be knowledgeable about the following aspects of nibs:

  • Nib tip shapes
  • Nib sizes and types
  • Problems

Nib Tip Shapes

There are three basic nib shapes: Round, stub, and italic. Ballpoint, oblique, and calligraphy nibs are merely slight variations of the round and italic shapes, and I’ll discuss these variations in their appropriate contexts.

Round Nibs: A round nib is ground and polished to have roughly a circular footprint so that its line width is fairly uniform no matter what direction the nib is moving across the paper. I say “roughly” because the shape is rarely a true circle. Nibs are small, and hands are big. Grinding a nib to a geometrically perfect shape by hand just isn’t possible, but this is one area in which “close enough” really is close enough. Here is a magnified silhouette representing the basic shape of a round nib, together with a cross illustrating the uniform stroke width that this nib produces:

ball-point nib is like a standard round nib, but it is also ground and polished so that you can write with it while holding the pen with its nib on the underside instead of in the usual nib-uppermost orientation. This gives a finer line so that you can have, in effect, two different nib sizes on one pen. Parker was famous for the quality of its ball-point nibs. Sheaffer’s Feathertouch nibs are also ball-point nibs, and Sheaffer included a ball-point nib among the choices it offered for the interchangeable-nib Fineline series of pens that it produced to compete with Esterbrook. (But note that Fineline nibs are not interchangeable with Esterbrook’s Renew Point nibs!) Learn more about Fountain pens at

Stub Nibs: A stub nib is elongated sideways, to have a footprint that is somewhat elliptical. This makes it lay down a slightly broader line when moving up and down (in relation to the nib itself) and a narrower one when moving sideways (again, in relation to the nib). The eccentricity of the ellipse isn’t too pronounced, and the nib is still polished to have nice rounded edges. This means that you can write with a stub just about as easily as with a standard nib. Here is a magnified silhouette representing the basic shape of a stub nib, together with a cross illustrating the slight variation in stroke width that this nib produces:

Italic Nibs: An italic nib is much more elongated. This makes the difference between its broad (up-and-down) strokes and its narrow strokes (sideways) much more pronounced than with a stub. There’s a readily perceptible straight edge across the tip of an italic. Here is a magnified silhouette representing the basic shape of an italic nib, together with a cross illustrating the more extreme variation in stroke width that this nib produces:

When you write with an italic, you hold the pen with the nib generally away from your forearm (as with a stub or a round nib). I mention this point here because you hold a pen with an oblique nib differently, and I’ll describe that difference later. When used by a right-handed person, an italic will generally make strokes that are of roughly equal width in both the vertical and horizontal directions; strokes from the upper right to the lower left will be thinner, and strokes from the upper left to the lower right will be thicker, as shown here:

This is the stroke arrangement most commonly seen in Old English and other blackletter styles and in many italic and Chancery styles:

The Old English text shows additional ornamentation that would be applied with a very fine dip-pen nib called a “crow quill.” (The illustrations here were actually produced using typeset fonts, but they are characteristic.)

Left-handed writers use so many different writing styles, overwriting and underwriting, writing uphill, writing horizontally, and writing downhill, that it’s not really possible to illustrate a typical left-handed writer’s results. Depending on the way you position your hand and align your paper, your broad and narrow strokes will be aligned in directions different from those of a right-handed writer, and likely different even from those of other left-handed writers. You’ll have to experiment for yourself.

As you might have guessed by now, italics and calligraphy nibs are the same things in terms of form; but a calligraphy nib might be even wider yet. Italics are finished with relatively less rounding to their edges than round or stub nibs. This square-edged grind and the wider footprint result in a greater tendency to catch on corners and a greater tendency to skip if the nib isn’t held straight-on to the paper (i.e., when one side of the nib lifts away due to the nib’s being rocked sideways). Writing too rapidly with an italic tends to produce scratchiness and skips.

True calligraphy nibs are often even squarer than italics; the intent is to give a very crisp and controllable line width. This is why you can’t just pick up an italic or a calligraphy nib and dash off a note the way you would with your usual nib. You’re forced to write more slowly in order to retain control of your writing. But with practice, some writers become very proficient with italic nibs, producing beautiful text.

Now we come to the oblique. An oblique is exactly like an italic except that it’s cut on a slant. The oblique shown in the following figure is a right oblique; it looks like a right foot when viewed from the top. A left oblique is cut on the opposite slant. In this figure, the italic is on the left and the oblique is on the right:

When you write with an oblique, you must change the orientation of the pen in order to make the nib’s flat surface contact the paper. A right oblique, when used by a right-handed person, will be oriented with the nib generally away from the body rather than the forearm. This will give broader strokes when the pen is drawn toward or away from the body and narrower strokes when the pen is drawn sideways across the body. In general, this is ideal for producing letters shaded in the way roman type is shaded, with thick verticals and thin horizontals, as seen here:

Left-handed writers, both underwriters and overwriters, will generally have better success with a left oblique than with a right oblique; at least, the left oblique will be easier to hold. As with an italic, you’ll need to experiment to find the best oblique for you.

Nib Sizes and Types

Nib Sizes: Nibs are made in five basic size designation: Extra fine (XF), fine (F), medium (M), broad (B), and double broad (BB). As you might expect, some manufacturers make additional sizes, such as a triple broad (BBB). There is no international standard that specifies the exact sizes for nibs, so different manufacturers will make nibs that are somewhat different in size. The tips of modern nibs seem to be a little larger, generally, than those of vintage nibs of the same designation. I suspect that this is so because over the years a broader line has become more popular, perhaps because of the influence of the ballpoint pen, so that the nib that produces a line of “usual” size is larger than it used to be. (There are technological limitations on how small a ballpoint can be and still work; a medium ballpoint produces a broader line than the average vintage medium fountain pen nib.)

Japanese nibs tend to be a little finer than their Western equivalents; a Japanese M nib is about the same size as a European F. If you’re an antiquarian account who writes with a tiny spidery hand, a Japanese XF might be just what you need.

Nib Types: When I speak of nib types, I’m referring to flexibility or the lack of it.

Most pens today—as did many in the past, including Duofold’s of the 1920s and the sturdily-built Sheaffer Triumphs of the 1940s—have nibs that run firm to rigid; they have little or no flexibility. These nibs stand up very well to being used with a firm writing pressure; and this is probably a good thing because most modern writers have learned to write using a ballpoint, which requires firm pressure. Among vintage pens, you may find nibs labeled Manifold.

These are very rigid nibs designed to be used under enough pressure to make two or three carbon copies. Some fountain-pen users dismiss nibs this rigid, calling them “nails,” but these nibs do have a purpose. George Parker, in manufacturing the revolutionary Duofold—one still hailed by many collectors as one of the best pens ever—chose to install a nail-like nib in a vast majority of the Duofold’s his company produced. The many people who bought these pens and the thousands who collect them today outnumber the few who disparage firm nibs as “nails.” In fact, for the majority of users, “nails” are actually better than flexible nibs, and this was as true 80 years ago as it is today. That’s why modern nibs are firmer: It makes sense to the majority of people to use this kind of nib. That being said, I reside on the crotchety side of the fence myself, and I carry a pen with a very firm nib only when I expect to be signing credit-card receipts.

Sooner or later, nearly every fountain-pen user will discover flexible nibs. Flex nibs, which were more common in the earlier part of the 20th century but are still available today, produce interesting and attractive stroke variation with only an ordinary round tip. As you press more firmly, the nib’s tines spread, and the stroke grows broader. Flex nibs have been made in semi-flexible, flexible, and super-flexible variants; a super-flex will do under relatively light pressure the same things that a semi-flex does with more pressure.

By choosing the proper degree of flexibility you can fit your nib to your writing style without risking a nib that becomes sprung from the application of too much pressure. The difference between what a flex nib will do and what an italic or oblique will due to lies in the fact that the italic or oblique produces its stroke variation, for the most part, in specific directions, as described earlier in this article. A flex nib, on the other hand, can produce a broad or narrow stroke in any direction; this yields handwriting that its users extol as being much more characterful and personal, citing the uniqueness of every individual’s particular combination of stroke direction and pressure. Mastering a flex nib isn’t easy, but many users find it well worth the effort.

The ultimate flex nib for some writers is a flex italic. With a flex italic, your writing takes on a combination of italic and flex characteristics, thinner than expected in some places and as broad as the Pacific Ocean in others. Writing with a flex italic is difficult to master—even more so than a regular flexible nib. Flex italics have all the bad handling characteristics of both of their parent types. They are not for the faint of heart.

Some makers, notably Moore, attempted to produce nibs that were a delicately-balanced compromise between flexibility and the rigidity needed for making carbon copies; Moore labeled its nibs of this type as Maniflex, and most of them are more nail-like than not.


A nib can misbehave for several reasons, some of which are simple maintenance problems of dirt, oil, or clogging. (If you use cheap paper, for example, fibers can become lodged in the slit and inhibit the flow of ink.) But beyond these common maintenance problems, nibs can suffer flaws of manufacture or be damaged by improper use. I’ll discuss a few of the more common such problems.

Too Dry or Too Wet: If a nib writes but refuses to lay down enough ink to satisfy you, it’s possible that the slit is too narrow for your writing style. Similarly, if the line is always too wet, the slit might be too wide. The slit width needs to be different for nibs of different sizes; that is, an XF needs a very tight slit if it is not to throw too much ink, while a BB needs a slit more nearly the width of the Grand Canyon to supply the large quantity of ink needed. But there’s a balance here; too narrow a slit produces a dry writer, and a slit that’s too wide dumps more ink than the nib can handle, leading to uneven lines and slow drying.

As a general rule, the nib tines should not touch each other when the nib is at rest. The firmer or more rigid the nib, the more important it is that the tines not touch; if they do, the nib is likely to suffer an extreme case of the “too dry” syndrome. As with most rules, however, there is an exception. A flexible nib’s tines touch at the tip when the nib is at rest; in fact, they are slightly sprung so that if you move one tine slightly up or down, the two tips will overlap very slightly.

Loss of Line: A nib’s slit must conform to certain restrictions of shape. The slitting process, performed with a very thin abrasive wheel, produces a slit that is perfectly straight; that is, the slit’s sides are the same distance from each other along the slit’s length, as shown here:

The nibs in most inexpensive and moderately-priced pens go to market this way, and for the most part, these nibs perform reasonably well. Occasionally, a nib with a straight slit will have difficulty maintaining capillary action and will stop writing from time to time. This is more common in broad nibs, whose slits are wider. A quick shake will usually restart the nib, but it’s an annoyance, and it creates the risk of splattering your companions. Worse, if your name is Lewis Waterman, you risk destroying an important insurance contract and having to find a new line of work.

Better-quality nibs, which are hand-finished, usually exhibit a slight taper to the slit. You can see, upon close examination, that the tines are slightly closer together at the tip than they are at the breather hole:

A tapered slit is more conducive to the proper capillary action, and nibs with tapered slits are usually more reliable writers than those with straight slits.

A more severe loss-of-line problem can occur if a nib’s slit has an inverse taper; that is, if the slit is wider at the tip than it is at the breather hole:

In this case, capillary action has an uphill battle from the outset, and the pen will probably refuse to write more frequently than it actually writes. This problem can occur when a nib is sprung by the application of too much pressure. When this happens, the loss-of-line problem is aggravated by the fact that the tines, which are now bent slightly upward, are no longer in proper contact with the feed. An inexperienced repair person may diagnose this problem incorrectly as a feed that isn’t set properly, and he or she may simply re-set the feed without solving the real problem.

Hard Starting: This is the condition that occurs when a nib doesn’t start laying down ink immediately upon contact with the paper. The most common nib-related cause of hard starting is slit edges that are improperly ground. Look at the round nib silhouette, repeated below. Note the slight rounding of the edges where the slit is cut through. If these edges are not rounded, the nib is likely to be scratchy. Many inexpensive modern pens, and some not so inexpensive, have nibs that suffer this fault. But if the slit edges are rounded too much, capillary action will hold the ink too far away from the paper instead of drawing it toward the paper as intended, and the nib will have trouble starting. This condition is shown on the right in the figure here:

If your nib starts after a little extra push and then writes well, the fault may well be slit edges that are too round. Nibs with too-round slit edges tend to be very smooth, so there is a delicate balance between too round and just right.

In Conclusion

Different people write in different ways. The important thing is to experiment and have fun; and whatever nib style you like, don’t let anyone disparage the nib—or you—because, in the end, no one’s right or wrong or more elegant or less elegant. The only mistake any fountain-pen user can make is never to try a different style nib.

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