This Week on Comic Tools: Lettering Nibs There was a period of a few years where I was really obsessed with achieving lettering like you see in old Sears and Robuck catalogues. One of the principal tools used to achieve solid block lettering was the lettering nib.
A lettering nib is a fixed-width (no flex) nib made for laying a lot of ink down in a specific shape. The tip of a lettering nib is a large shape of varying size that can be round or squared off, and when you draw with it you press the whole surface of the tip to the paper. Lettering nibs all have an extra piece of metal that fits over the nib to hold a huge bead of ink to feed the surface area of that enormous tip. Here's 3 different designs of ink resevoir, seen from the side:
Lettering nibs are VERY easy to use, and much more forgiving to draw with than a normal nib. Because of the wide, inflexible tip, you can move slowly and deliberately and not get a wobbly line like you would slowing down with a flexible nib. In fact, there's only one trick to drawing with a lettering nib:
To get really crisp, invisible seams on the corners of your letters, latch the shape of the tip up to the line, and then draw. Perfect corners every time.
If you get really good at this the lines look so clean they almost don't look like they were made by human hands. Or you can use the nib less carefully for lines that look neat yet have personality.
Make sure you always clean your lettering nibs after every use, because they can clog and lose function if you allow buildup. Make sure to wipe UNDERNEATH that extra piece of metal. Really get in there and floss the ink out.
My friend Hilary recently have me some lettering nibs with this fantastic latch design that lets the nib pop wide open for easy cleaning. You'd think this design would be flimsy, but it's actually quite tight and robust.
Nibs depicted in this post:
Ross F. George patent Speedball U.S.A. made by Hunt Pen Co., Size A-3 (Small square)
Ross F. George patent Speedball U.S.A. made by Hunt Pen Co., Size A-1 (Large square)
Resterbrook and Co. Drawlet pen, size No. 3 (small round)
Speedball Flicker U.S.A., George Patents, Hunt Pen Co., Size FB2 (large round w/flippy latch)
Next week on Comic Tools: Things you should read