Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Calligraphy Practice Sheets - Pilot Parallel Pen

I love the Pilot Parallel Pen!

Yes, I fill it with my own ink, and I’m just waiting for the day when they decide to sell empty cartridges for it. In the meantime, I use the provided ink for practice... and I’ve found that Xerox Premium Inkjet paper (not to be confused with Premium Laser paper) works great for practice. I’ve created guidelines for each pen size, which you can download, print off on your Inkjet printer and use as practice sheets. Or, if you prefer, use under a sheet of paper. (You can just barely see them through a piece of Xerox Premium Inkjet paper.)

Each one of these pdf’s contains two pages. The first one is designed to be used for Foundational, Blackletter, Carolingian or Neuland, the second page can be used for Italic, Fraktur and Roman Caps. Print at 100% for accurate sizing, though depending on your printer margins, the edges might cut off. Scale to fit page and they’re just a bit smaller, but seem to work well, too.
You can download the guides here.

[ Note: after this post was published, a reader pointed out, quite correctly, that there are several types of Xerox Premium Inkjet paper - the brightness differs, and it does affect how the paper takes ink. When I wrote this post, Xerox made a paper with brightness of 113 which worked beautifully, but it is no longer available. But experimentation has taught me that the higher the brightness, the better the paper works for this purpose. A brightness of 98 will work, but a brightness of 100 or 113 will work better! So get the highest you can! ]


Encre said...

I am surprised to read that : when I bought my parallel pens, there were a converter with everyone of them (I bought them separatly) and I am very glad about that, as an ink bottle is much less expensive than cartridges... Is it because I bought them from an Ebay seller located in Hong Kong??? Was it just a little extra I was lucky enough to get?

Thank you for very interesting blog!

Alice Young said...

Yes, they do all come with plastic converters - but I have found that in many sets, the converter is too loose to fill with ink. In others, it fits tightly, and can be filled as a cartridge would be filled. You can also fill the entire barrel of the pen with ink, but I've never tried that... the potential mess is too great!

Of course, it is possible that they are packaged and sold a bit differently in Hong Kong than in Canada, too. Any way, if the converters work for you - great!

I wish I read French, Encre, so I could read your blog, too!

j said...

It's not a converter. It's supposed to be used to clean the pen. The empty cartridges soon add up and having something to put your ink in never becomes a problem.

Alice Young said...

Thanks for your comment, J. Yes, on the instructions from the manufacturer, it is described as a "converter to wash the pen." And again, if it fits loosely, that's all it can be used for. But if it fits snugly, there's no reason you can't fill it with ink.

Interestingly the manufacturer also has a warning that we should not re-use empty cartridges... but I think they just want us to buy more cartridges! I agree with J that if you save them, you soon get a collection.

Anonymous said...

A Calligraphy Kit should contain everything you need to start learning to create beautiful writing. As a minimum you need a pen and ink, some paper and a ‘Sampler’ or examples of the lettering you want to create. It is useful to have at least some basic instructions of how to create each letter. After that it is practice, practice, practice…
Blots ‘Introduction to Calligraphy’ has these essentials. It consists of a 3.8mm Pilot Parallel Pen which is one of the best and easiest of the calligraphy fountain pens.
Two sets of guidelines are supplied to place under the writing sheet to guide you in the size of letters. Two Sampler sheets, Italic and Roundhand, are supplied to illustrate each letter of the alphabet. A single A4 sheet of instructions gives a basic introduction to forming letters.

It is possible to create your own ‘kit’ by putting together your own essentials – a calligraphy pen, ink, paper. You can make your own guidelines. Guidelines are designed for re-use under a sheet of layout paper to save time in ruling out new pages. The ruled lines should be bold enough to show through the page and give a general view of the size of each letter. As you progress you will rule up your page in pencil and when it has been lettered (and dried!) rub out the pencil lines with an eraser. The size of your kit is starting to grow already, by adding pencil, ruler and eraser. It is easier to letter if you use a board ( a piece of MDF will do to start with). Place it on a table and raise it to about 30° by placing some large books at the back. You should be able to sit comfortably at the table with your feet on the floor and not be leaning over the board.
There are two types of Calligraphy Pen. The most traditional pen is a quill. A feather is cured (heated) and cut to make a broad edged pen. Reeds can also be dried and cut to make a calligraphy pen. The traditional steel dip pen (Mitchell, Speedball, Brause, Leonardt as held in a penholder. It is often called a dip pen but better control is gained by using a brush to load the pen with ink. The modern fountain pen has also been fitted with calligraphy nibs (Manuscript, Rotring ArtPen). The latest addition to the calligraphy fountain pens has been the Pilot Parallel Pen which is a radically different design consisting of two parallel blades which feed the ink to the paper.
Calligraphy Ink should be chosen with care. Most fountain pen inks are dye based. They are often brilliant colours which are fine for reproduction but will fade on exposure to light. Pigment based inks are fade resistant. Carbon based black inks will not fade. Waterproof inks should be avoided unless chosen for a particular purpose as they tend to dry on the pen and thicken the fine lines.

Joyce Berger said...

If I fill the barrel with india ink on my parallel pen do you know if it will clog?

Alice Young said...

Yes, Joyce, india ink will clog your parallel pen. So will most sumi inks. The one exception I have heard, is Moon Palace sumi (available at John Neal), which apparently works. Your question reminded that I should buy some and test it out!

I have tried india ink, and it does get dry and flakey, which creates real challenges in the pen.

Thanks for asking!

Anonymous said...

Three things - 1) I filled the barrel of my 3.8 Pilot Parallel pen with Sumi ink. It worked great for awhile. However, I forgot about it and took it on an airplane. I've tried to clean it out with Windex and with mild detergent. Maybe I need a pipe cleaner, because now I can't get the ink to flow although the pen looks pretty clean. Any suggestions?
2) Does anyone know where we can buy parts?
3) Does anyone know a cardstock-weight inexpensive paper (or watercolor paper) that the Pilot Parallel pen cartridge ink won't bleed on?

Anonymous said...

Changing the subject to paper:
I bought a ream of Xerox Premium Inkjet paper and was quite disappointed (particularly because I had to special order it and it was extra expensive). It absorbs the ink and doesn't give a smooth line.
I later learned there are several varieties of Xerox Premium Inkjet paper. They are all 24 lb. but differ in brightness. The one I got is 98. The other two are 95 and 97. Could this make a difference?
Thanks, and THANKS for the guidelines!

Alice Young said...

Anonymous, I'm so sorry if you bought paper you weren't able to use!

I, too am still learning about which papers are best. Xerox used to make a Premium Inkjet with a brightness of 113 and it worked magnificently. I didn't realize the brightness was such a big factor - it is, and I'm learning that the higher the brightness, the better the ink sits on the paper. Though Xerox doesn't make the brightness 113 anymore, apparently they have a new line out that is brightness of 100, so I'm looking forward to trying that!

Thanks for pointing this out - I'm going to try to amend this post so people look for the highest brightness.

Anonymous said...

What ink would you recommend for Pilot Parallel pens? The ink in Pilot's cartridges is indeed to demanding of the paper - I have to use Rhodia for practice, which works well, but is too expensive.

Alice Young said...

Anonymous, I generally use FW Acrylic black ink in my pens. Now, many people will tell you that you can't use acrylics in a cartridge pen. And, indeed, if you fill the pen and put it aside for 6 mos. it might get dry and nasty. But if you use it regularly, it will be no problem, and the FW has much more 'body' - not as watery as the Parallel Pen ink.

Or, if I want some lovely colour, I use J. Herbin inks.

Anonymous said...

I am new to the art of calligraphy and I am using Mitchell roundhand nibs. I am struggling to get going bec they are scratchy & snag the paper and make inkspots. Any tips? Are speedball nibs better?

Anonymous said...

I can't stop "playing" with the Pilot parallel pens! Thank you for sharing your experience, breathtaking art and info about them here. I have 3 loaded with turquoise, pink, and yellow which of course allows me to do the most beautiful colour combos. Pink to orange to yellow. Yellow to green to blue. Blue to purple to pink. etc. LOVE IT!!! I so can't put them down that I even write with them at work. What really puts them over the top for me is that I add a drop (JUST ONE! Any more will clog the pen) of Daler-Rowney Permanence White Pearl Pearlescent Liquid Acrylic which makes the ink sparkle!

Thanks again for sharing!


Xerox 8500 ink said...

I have always wondered why writings have come out different on the different types of paper. I originally thought that it was from the coatings or chemicals that are placed on the plain white paper when it gets printed out, but never have I really taken it into consideration while writing. I recently started writing calligraphy but started because of the way my grandfather wrote when I was a child. He always used calligraphy pens and even had a feather pen in his office at work.

Alexandra Cole said...

Thank you so much for your blog! It is very useful, as I am looking at starting calligraphy and looking for a good starting pen. Your page with the guides and the paper recommendation is the best I've found in the hours I've been looking! Thanks again!

gruvee said...

For paper that usually won't bleed I use Canson Calligraphy parchment. For heavier paper I use hot-pressed Fabriano cotton.

gruvee said...

Papers: I use Canson Calligraphy tablets and Fabriano hot-pressed 100% Cotton. Fabiano also makes a variety of card sizes in their Medio Evalis Dal 1904 line.

serepre said...


I am a bit lost in the choice of the set of pens.

- I have bought Pilot parallel pens and I am happy about them. But I guess with those pens I cannot write any kind of alphabet… for example I am fascinated by copperlate english calligraphy and I am not able to do such alphabet with the pilot pens.

- I asked to the shop assistant if he had a pen to write copperplate alphabets and he sold me the ROTRING ARTPEN LETTERING B. do you know what´s the purpose of this pen and if I can use it for copperplate alphabet? I would like to understand what is the purpose of it before using it, so that in case I can return it back.

thanks a lot