Tips For Choosing Calligraphy Ink Colors

Calligraphy is the art of beautiful handwriting. It involves using pens and brushes to artistically write letters or text. Calligraphers can use many different tools and mediums, but some of the most common are dip pens, brush pens, and colored inks.

Using colored inks in calligraphy can add visual interest, dimension, and help convey meaning. While black ink is traditional, incorporating a range of ink colors allows calligraphers to be more expressive and creative with their work. The choice of color can complement the style of calligraphy, match the purpose of the piece, and evoke certain emotions or meanings.

Consider the Style of Calligraphy

The style of calligraphy you are practicing will influence the color palette you choose. For example, Gothic blackletter styles often use a limited palette of blacks, grays, and deep colors like burgundy. On the other hand,brush calligraphy and modern pointed pen styles may incorporate a wide spectrum of bright colors.

For traditional Arabic calligraphy, combinations of black, red, blue, and gold are common.East Asian calligraphy tends to use black ink, with occasional red accents.

If you are unsure where to start, look up color palettes associated with your preferred calligraphy style for inspiration. For example, this Pinterest board shows colorful brush calligraphy styles.

Match the Color to the Purpose

When selecting calligraphy ink colors, it’s important to consider the purpose of the work. Certain colors may be better suited for specific uses.

For wedding invitations and other formal events, traditional black ink is a timeless choice that will complement any design aesthetic. However, for a more lighthearted event like a baby shower, pastel colors like soft pinks, blues, and greens can set the right lively tone.

If creating art prints or wall hangings, vibrant jewel tones like emerald, sapphire, and amethyst can be striking. Metallic inks in silver, gold, and copper can also add a touch of glamour for decorative artwork.

For inspirational quotes, positive affirmations, or religious calligraphy, try uplifting colors like sky blue, purple, yellow, or orange. Avoid darker shades for these purposes.

When addressing envelopes, simple black provides high legibility and matches most mailing stationery sets. Color inks may be harder to read depending on the paper color.

For coloring book pages or letters to children, bright primary colors and pastels tend to appeal most. Whimsical colors like lilac, seafoam, and lime also create a playful mood.

Consider testing some ink colors on practice sheets before starting your final work. This allows you to match the color to the purpose and make sure it suits the overall vision.

Consider Color Symbolism and Meaning

Throughout history, certain colors have developed cultural and symbolic meanings. When selecting ink colors for calligraphy, it can be helpful to consider these associations and choose colors that reinforce the message or feeling you want to convey. For example:

Red often symbolizes passion, love, anger, and intensity. It’s a bold, energetic color that can add excitement to your calligraphy.

Blue is frequently associated with calmness, tranquility, wisdom, and loyalty. Its peaceful vibe can create a relaxed, thoughtful mood.

Green represents nature, growth, health, and renewal. It brings to mind the freshness of spring and can signify new beginnings.

Purple has historically been tied to royalty, luxury, ambition, and magic. Its rich hue can create an air of elegance and mystique.

Yellow evokes happiness, optimism, and energy. It’s a cheerful color that conveys joy and warmth.

Black is linked with sophistication, mystery, and power. Combined with calligraphy, it can have a dramatic, elegant effect.

Considering these symbolic color meanings can help you match the ink tones to the vibe and message of your work.

Complementary and Contrasting Colors

Using complementary colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel is a great way to create pleasing combinations in calligraphy. The high contrast draws attention and makes the letters pop. Some examples of complementary color pairs that work well include:

Orange and Blue: A vibrant orange against a deep blue makes a bold statement (

Red and Green: The Christmas color combo is classic for a reason. The red pops against the green (

Purple and Yellow: Regal purple and bright yellow complement each other beautifully.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different shades of complementary colors for a unique look.

Contrasting colors that are not opposites can also make interesting combinations like pairing cool blues with warm oranges and reds. The contrast in temperature can be eye-catching.

No matter what color combo you choose, remember that complementary colors will make each other stand out and add visual interest to your calligraphy pieces.

Experiment with Metallic and Neon Colors

Metallic and neon calligraphy inks can add a fun pop of color and vibrancy to your work. They are great for adding accents, embellishments, and drawing attention to certain words or phrases. According to The Postman’s Knock, metallic and neon inks work best when used sparingly as an accent color. Too much metallic or neon ink can look overwhelming on the page.

Use neon and metallic colors purposefully to highlight key words or phrases you want to stand out. Metallic inks like gold, silver, and copper can create an elegant, sophisticated look perfect for wedding invitations, diplomas, certificates, and formal stationery. Neon pinks, oranges, greens add bright, youthful energy ideal for party invitations, greeting cards, and artistic calligraphy projects.

Always test neon and metallic inks on practice sheets first. They tend to have more pigment and thicker consistency than traditional calligraphy inks. You may need to thin them slightly by diluting with water, or use a broader nib for best flow and coverage, according to JetPens.

Match Darker Colors with Thicker Nibs

The size and shape of your calligraphy nib impacts the kind of strokes it can make. Thicker nibs with wide edges tend to lay down more ink and create thicker strokes and lines. Thinner nibs allow for more delicate thin lines and details. When choosing ink colors, you’ll want to match darker, more saturated inks with your thicker nibs. These inks will complement the natural thick strokes these nibs produce. According to, popular starter nibs like the Nikko G and Blue Pumpkin nibs have wide shapes that hold a lot of ink, making them ideal for pairing with rich, dark colored inks.

Lighter and more pastel ink colors will work better with thinner nibs, as the thinner strokes won’t overpower the lightness of the ink. Thinner nibs like the Hunt 101 and Gillott 303 allow for finer details that pair nicely with soft or neon colors that need a delicate touch.

Testing out different nib and ink combinations on practice sheets is the best way to get a feel for which thick and thin nibs work with your palette of ink colors.

Consider Legibility

The legibility of your calligraphy can depend greatly on the ink color you choose. Lighter colors like yellow, light blue, pink, and light green may look beautiful, but can often be harder to read, especially on white paper.

Darker colors like black, dark blue, dark purple, and brown tend to have much better contrast on light paper, making them easier to read. As this source notes, black ink is the most legible option for calligraphy.

If using lighter colors, consider writing with a thicker nib or larger lettering to make it stand out more. You can also outline lighter letters with a dark color or use a darker paper. Test out different color combinations on practice sheets before using lighter inks for important projects.

Test Colors on Practice Sheets

Before using new ink colors on final pieces, it’s wise to test them out on practice sheets first. This allows you to experiment with different color combinations risk-free. As you’re testing colors, consider factors like:

  • How the colors look together – do they complement each other or clash?
  • How the ink flows and handles with your nibs.
  • If certain colors bleed or feather more than others on your paper.
  • How lightfast different pigments are.

Testing first on practice sheets helps identify any potential issues and lets you gain a feel for each new ink. You can create practice sheets specifically for color testing. Or simply use scrap paper, old book pages, or backs of used prints. This helps avoid surprises on final works and builds your confidence with new inks. As The Postman’s Knock advises, “Test, test, and test again before moving your favorite combinations to nice paper.”

Learn from Color Inspiration

Looking at examples of creative use of color in calligraphy can be a great source of inspiration for your own ink color choices. Spend some time browsing calligraphy art on social media, in books and magazines, or at exhibitions. Take note of color combinations that catch your eye. Which palettes evoke certain moods or feelings? How do colors interact with each other? Observe how different calligraphers use color to enhance their work. Look for examples that push beyond basic black ink and expand your sense of what’s possible. Curate a collection of favorite pieces to refer back to when selecting your own colors. Let the creative use of color by others spark new ideas and color combinations to try in your own calligraphy.

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