10 common nib issues and their solutions.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sometimes artist can blame their tools. Nibs can cause frustrations. Here I outline 10 common frustrations and their solutions to help your calligraphy practise run smoothly.

Ink running off nib?

Does you ink feel like it won't stay on your nib and leaving blobs everywhere? Did you know that every nib is born with an oily coating? This coating is added during the manufacturing process . It prevents the nib from rusting and damage. However this oily coating must be removed before you use the nib otherwise the ink just runs right off the end and drips all over your paper or project. You need to prep your nib. You can do this my carefully pushing it in a potato and leaving for 10 mins (it works, I promise, no idea why) or some people cover in toothpaste and leave it for 10 minutes before washing if off and drying it. There are lots of crazy methods us calligraphers use that just seem to do the trick!

Brown & Rusty?

Given your nib a little spring clean and left it on a damp draining board? Sadly Nibs aren't designed to get wet. Once a nib has been prepped If left in a damp environment or not properly dried after cleaning nibs can rust. This can damage them making them very stiff or stretchy and unfit for purpose - time for a new one.

Can't get the dried ink off?

Had a great practice session but forgot to clean your nib? Don't worry we've all been there! However your nibs won't thank you for it. Leaving dried ink (especially metallic or white) can permanently clog up your nib. Causing ink flow problems. If you can't get the ink off and it's causing issues you may need to source a new nib.

No ink flow option 1?

Ink not flowing out the nib how it should? One of the reasons maybe that your nib is damaged or broken. One way you can tell is if the tines are no longer touching. This means the ink can't flow out the end of the nib. The tines can become damaged during the prepping stage, manufacturing process or if you've dropped or flexed your nib in the wrong way. You may just need a new nib?

No Ink flow option 2?

Nib not flowing out your nib as it should? The other reason for this is the ink you are using is too thick. Metallic ink and white ink are the common culprits. If the ink is too thick it can block the nib and stop the ink flow. This can lead to broken upstrokes or no upstrokes at all. You need to water your ink down to make it less viscous.I've written a blog post about this here.

Feeling Scratchy?

Over time nibs can loose their sharpness, flex and just don't provide the accurate, detail like they used to. Often this can first present itself when the nib seems scratchy (having previously been smooth) Thank it for the good times all the things you've learnt together. But, like they say every good thing must come to an end! You can recycle nibs as some artist use them for projects or making jewellery.

Lots of blobs?

Is your ink just flowing out your nib causing blobs to form on your page? One reason is that your ink could be too thin. Like paper, not all ink is made equal. Ink such as Indian ink can be too thin and some inks can be too watery. For beginners and practicing I always recommend Sumi ink, it's a highly pigmented black ink and is the perfect consistency for great ink flow and practice.

Catching or snagging?

Is your nib snagging or catching on your paper? The culprit maybe the type of paper you are using. There are many types of paper out there, but not all have a smooth surface and some can be quite challenging to letter on. Some paper is very fibrous particularly 'cotton rag' or handmade papers. Their surface is uneven and the nib can catch on the fibers causing the ink to flick and drag. This paper require a slightly more advance skill level and can cause issues for even the most skilled calligrapher.

Paper tearing?

Is your nib tearing the paper and ripping? You may be using the wrong type of paper. Sadly you can't use any old paper for calligraphy. The ink and nib require a certain quality that holds the ink and can tolerate the sharp nib.

Help! I am still having problems!

I hate to break it to you but sometimes it's not always the nibs fault. That old age saying about artists blaming their equipment, well, it can apply to calligraphers too. I've had times where I think it's the nib playing up, when in fact its actually me and my technique that's the issues (poor nib)! BUT DO NOT PANIC! There is always a solution!
Check out my other posts that might help troubleshoot those problems. I also talk about these issues in my various virtual and in person workshops too which you can find a list of here and here