For some time now I’ve wanted to try my hand at stippling with a dip pen. Over the years I’ve acquired a small number of nibs and holders which I have rarely used. Frankly, I don’t even know why I bought them because none of my projects ever required them. I guess since I’m a lover of all things involving pen and ink, I just picked up a few for collecting sakes.
Last night I finally got around to experimenting. I’ll immediately say this…it was hellish! Since I was just experimenting I chose to do just a small drawing of tulips. That little drawing turned into five and half hours of frustration and learning on the fly. Before I jumped into it I did read up on using dip pens and watched a couple of Youtube videos on dip pens. This information turned out not to be too helpful in the end.
First off, what I was trying to do wasn’t typical for dip pens. Dip pens are mainly used for writing, calligraphy and drawing, particularly line and cross hatch drawing. So information on using a dip pen for stippling was pretty scant.
Second there are a number of different nibs used for different purposes. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific nib for stippling. So finding one that was suitable was trial and error. I started off using the #100 Artist nib, then the #99 Drawing nib, on to the #103 Mapping nib and the #108 Litho Hawk nib. The Mapping nib turned out to be my favorite but with this nib along with all the others I kept running into my third problem; ink flow.
I constantly had ink flow problems. I could never get a steady flow on any nib. Instead the ink would just sit there in a blob on the tip of nib. So problem solving this required some online searching where I soon learned that dip pen nibs are made with a coating that keeps them from rusting and that coating needs to be removed in order to have better and consistent ink flow. So hoping that this would solve my problem, I did everything suggested for getting rid of the coating. I dipped them in boiling water, I scrubbed them with toothpaste and I passed them through an open flame. NONE OF THIS WORKED!!! (Feeling my frustration yet.) I ended up losing my Mapping nib through this. The tines were so fine and delicate that passing them through a flame made them brittle and they broke. 😩
So at my wits end I went scrounging around through my other nibs, the ones I knew were specifically for calligraphy. At this point I was at a complete disregard concerning everything I had learned about drawing with dip pens and was just going for whatever I could find that would work. In my little container of nibs I found two, what are called “bowl point”, nibs. I popped them into two standard holders and gave them a try. Lo and behold, I had some luck. The ink flowed with no issues. And although the dots from my initial stippling with these nibs were a bit to big for my liking, I soon learned that with a much lighter touch and lesser ink, I could get a finer stippling. I went on to complete my little tulip drawing with a lot less frustration. One minor issue I encountered while working with these nibs was that once all the ink was used I would have to clean the nib before I could dip it in more ink. It’s a minor issue that I’m sure I’ll work the kinks out on, I’m just relieved that I found something that works.
After doing some research I’ve learned that bowl point nibs are designed to have better ink flow consistency and are typically used for industrial arts and drawing that requires precision like technical drawing. They have a much stiffer and sturdier point that can withstand all the tapping required for doing pointillism/stipple work. So if you ever want to try your hand at stippling with a dip pen I suggest getting a variety of nibs and seeing what works for you but start with the 512 and 513 Bowl Point nibs and go from there. 😉