My top five essential tools for calligraphy

In my previous post, I shared the basic items you need to begin calligraphy, including my favorite inks and nibs. In this post, I wanted to share the most important supplies used in my daily calligraphy work! These tools have really sped up the efficiency and quality of my work, so I wanted to share these discoveries with you also.

  1. Magnetic ink stirrer – this is one of my most expensive convenience splurges ($40), and is the one tool I use the very most for all my work. The most annoying part of working with metallic inks is that it will separate as you use them, requiring you to mix them up continually as you work, which doesn’t sound like a lot of work, but the ink will separate after every minute or two – making it quite inconvenient for larger projects.
    this is how gold ink looks when it separates

    This magnetic stirrer uses a magnetic bead that you place inside your ink jar, and the magnetic base of the tool will cause the bead to dance inside your ink jar, thus stirring your ink automatically! With the ink continuously mixed, my work becomes much more streamlined using this. The Taylor Speedstir is now available on Amazon too (I originally hunted mine down at a hot tub company)! If you do a lot of work with metallic inks, I cannot encourage you enough to just save yourself so much headache and use this stirrer. You will need a couple of additional things though:

    1. Plastic ink cups – Because the base is fairly small, you will need to find plastic ink jars that can fit within the base and are shallow enough for you to dip your nibs into. I ‘decant’ all my ink into these small cups.  They are also pretty cheap, which makes them useful for mixing custom ink colors with gouache.

    2. Magnetic beads – the one that comes with the stirrer is a bit large for the small paint cup – (if you use it, you will find that your ink will mix too violently, which is a weird thing to imagine, but totally true!). After playing Goldilocks with several sizes of magnetic beads, I recommend the 0.5 inch stirrer beads which I get from eBay because it’s cheaper. Buy a handful so that you always have them ready for new metallic inks you want to mix, and then you don’t have to keep transferring them from each new paint jar.
    3. Rechargeable batteries – the stirrer will drain batteries (or maybe I just use mine too much!), so you’ll definitely want to stock up on rechargeables if you don’t have them already.The stirrer uses 4 AA batteries – you’ll also need a couple more for the the laser level I recommended below. I’ve used both Eneloop and Amazon Basics batteries, and they both last about the same, so go with the cheaper one (Amazon).

  2. Lightpad – I am currently using the Huion USB powered lightpad from Amazon in A3 size (which is a bit large, but I love the extra workspace). I previously bought the Litup brand from Amazon, but after a couple of years, the power slot got loose and doesn’t keep it’s charge anymore. The Huion is definitely an upgrade – slightly lighter, the power button is slightly sunken (which is good because sometimes the side of your hand will accidentally adjust the brightness of the board), and it has variable brightness levels from dim to super bright.

    The lightpad is instrumental for so many things, including: seeing guidelines through white or light colored envelopes, tracing lettering that you’ve sketched out for commissions, hand-deckling invitations and placecards, etc. I never thought I would use it as much as I have had, but it saves so much time especially if you’re producing repetitive work (copies of things). Do note, I’ve tried the Huion wireless version, and it could not keep a consistent charge and kept flickering, so I decided remaining corded was probably best!

  3. Laser level – I bought the Black & Decker laser level ($15) as a cheap alternative to the Slider Writer from Paper Ink Arts ($60, now discontinued), and while the Slider Writer has handy rulers attached to it, you can just use guidelines you print yourself to align the laser level similarly on your desk.

    It is perfect for colored/opaque papers where you cannot use your lightpad. I also use them for tile work, to keep my lettering straight on larger pieces.

  4. Erasers – I love the kneaded eraser because there’s no eraser dust. It comes in handy for more textured handmade papers, where you can erase by just dabbing the paper, and leaving the paper intact (other erasers may loosen long paper fibers). The kneaded eraser is also kind of therapeutic to play with (like putty) – you can see how quickly it can lose its shape and get gross by seeing my used kneaded eraser in the top right of the picture above.
    • Tombow’s Mono sand eraser is also a must for your toolbox to help remove small errors in your pieces, including ink splotches that show up when printing on handmade paper through your inkjet. It’s kind of like if sandpaper and rubber eraser had a baby – it would be a Mono sand eraser. If I make a small error on envelope, for instance, I’d scratch off the ink lightly with an X-acto knife, and then smooth the paper using the Mono sand eraser. I’ve had the same Mono eraser for the last few years, and it still looks exactly the same as when I bought it – seems like one eraser will last you forever.

  5. Metal ruler – Nothing fancy, I picked the absolute cheapest one from Amazon when I first got started. My ruler has a soft cork back, which helps it slide across paper and a pretty nice sharp metal edge that is necessary to hand-deckle (hand-tear) regular paper to simulate the natural deckle of handmade paper.

    All you have to do is lay the ruler firmly against the paper where you want to tear it with one hand, and then with the other hand, lift the paper up against the edge and let it rip!

And those are my top 5 essential tools for calligraphy work! I apologize if it looks like I buy everything from Amazon, but I honestly do. Living in New York, hunting down specific supplies can be a serious chore and honestly a bit overwhelming, so I am always thankful for online stores for making life so much easier! Hope this post was helpful to you, and thanks so much for reading! If you have any other essential tools, I’d love to hear them!


Han is a modern calligrapher and stationery designer who is an avid bubble tea drinker and loves puns a little too much.

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