Envelope addressed using Pilot Parallel Pens

In my everyday role as a “serious” calligrapher, when addressing envelopes for weddings and corporate events I use regular dip nibs and waterproof ink to achieve a restrained, classic look. But occasionally, when I’m “off-duty,” I pull out my Pilot Parallel Pens, simply to put some fun back into my envelope-addressing and birthday card creating (see here and here).

I recently sent my daughter a letter, and used my Parallel Pens to address the envelope in a fun way. She liked the effect so much that I decided to address another envelope, creating the same effect with the same pens, to feature here (see main image above).

It’s quite simple to achieve this effect, and a great opportunity to use your calligraphy skills to brighten up your intended recipient’s day. Who wouldn’t want to receive an envelope that looked like this?

Here’s how I achieved the effect…

I started off by pencilling a slightly curved line across the envelope from left to right (a quick movement… nothing too precise) to act as the baseline for the large lettering. Keep the pencilled line quite low on the envelope, starting about three-quarters way down on the left. If preferred, a parallel pencil line can be drawn above to create an x-height.

I used my 6.00mm Parallel Pen, loaded with green ink, to speedily write the words “Sherlock Holmes.” But before starting to write, and at frequent intervals while writing, I transferred red ink from my 3.8mm pen into the 6.00mm pen by touching the two nibs together. Hold the pen that you intend to write with upside down, and feed ink into its nib from above. The longer the nibs touch, the more ink will be transferred, and so the gradation between colours will be longer. Although I used red and green inks together, Pilot offer a pack of “Mixable Colour cartridges” which includes 12 assorted colours. Some produce amazing gradated effects when mixed… others produce the colour of mud! It’s really down to trial and error, so experiment with different colours. If you load four Parallel Pens with four different coloured cartridges, you can mix them in various permutations to produce extreme gradated effects.

Another brilliant function of a Parallel Pen is that by tipping the nib onto its corner, a monoline can be produced, which is excellent for handwriting, drawing, or for producing extended hairlines in calligraphic lettering (all the hairlines in “Sherlock Holmes” above were created spontaneously, and on the fly.

After lettering “Sherlock Holmes” in a compressed Italic to fit the envelope’s width, I simply dotted each letter using a silver monoline gel pen to add some highlights.

I lettered the remainder of the address in Italics using a Manuscript broad nib to provide contrast in lettering size. I wrote with black ink so as not to dilute the colourful effect of the top line, or lessen its effect as a focal point. For consistency, and to tie the two elements of the composition together, I looped the “k” in the small lettering to echo the loop in the large “l” above.

Why did I choose to address the envelope to “Sherlock Holmes,” you might ask.

Well, while googling for an appropriate generic address to write, I discovered that 221b Baker Street, London, is the (allegedly) most famous address in the world, surpassing even 10 Downing Street and the White House in popularity. That’s the rather uninspiring reason for my choosing that particular address. More interesting is the fact that although the address of The Sherlock Holmes Museum is 221b Baker Street, London, the building is actually located between 237 and 241 Baker Street. So, now you know!

The elusive Parallel Pen Wizardry book

If you already own a set of Parallel Pens, or intend to treat yourself to a set, you should definitely consider purchasing the book “Parallel Pen Wizardry,” by Brenda Broadbent, which is devoted exclusively to the pens. If you can track a copy down, that is. For some reason the book is not widely available in the UK, although it can be purchased from stockists in the US. At time of writing John Neal Bookseller in US has available copies here, although international postage may be costly. The book consists of just 25 pages, but contains a lot of useful information & examples, and is a good companion to the pens.

It’s much easier to find the actual pens, which can be purchased at most High Street art stores for around £12.00 each. With four different sizes of pen available (1.5, 2.4, 3.8, and 6.00mm) the full set works out quite expensive if purchased individually. A more economical way is to purchase a set of the three smallest sized pens Pilot Parallel Pen Set of 3"" at Amazon for just £19.95 + £1.99 p&p (at time of writing), then purchase the 6.00mm pen separately, if required.

One final note of warning. My first experience of Parallel Pens was very negative, as the ink bled and feathered to an extreme level. I gradually discovered that this was due, not to the Pilot cartridges or pens, but to the type of paper I was using. In my experience, Pilot Parallel pens are very particular about the type of medium onto which they will write sharply. Experiment with different papers. I have found that Navigator printer/copier paper works well for general practicing, and is not too expensive.

If you haven’t already done so, treat yourself to some Pilot Parallel Pens, and see how they put “FUN” back into your calligraphy.

And if you have any opinions about Pilot Parallel Pens (or addressing envelopes, or anything remotely calligraphic), I’d love you to leave a comment.

New nib sizes… 2.00mm, 3.00mm, 4.5mm and a hand-cut 1.00mm.


Tonight, a day after writing the above post, I discovered (purely by accident) some new additions to the Pilot Parallel Pen range. An online store called “Paper & Ink Arts” is offering a set of three Parallel Pens with nib sizes 2.00mm, 3.00mm and 4.5mm for $40.50 (American dollars). Remarkably, they are also offering an additional Parallel Pen with a hand-cut 1.00mm nib, for small lettering, which retails at $14.95 (American dollars).

About the 1.00mm nib, the website states, “NEW 1mm size – Just right for envelope work! We’ve had lots of requests for a smaller Parallel Pen and are happy to announce a 1mm pen, hand cut for us in the US by a master craftsman. Try this new size to give you more options with the terrific Parallel Pen design. (You will notice that your 1mm pen’s package was opened so that we could cut your nib and that we have marked your custom cut pen with its new size.) Comes with 1 red and 1 black cartridge and a bladder converter.”

Unfortunately, every single page on the “Paper & Ink Arts” online store has an identical URL, so it’s not possible to direct you straight to the relevant page. But you can access their website here, then type “Parallel Pens” into the search engine on the home page. On the resulting page, click “Parallel Pens.” On the next page, scroll down until you see the new nib sizes.

At present there doesn’t appear to be any UK stockists of these new nib sizes. But if, like me, you’re tempted to be the first kid on the block to own the new pens, it may be worth paying the international postage and waiting a week or two for them to arrive from the States. I’m sure they’ll be worth it (and just think of the kudos)!

Update: Thanks to Sergii, who commented that the 1.5, 2.4, 3.8, and 6.00mm pens are available for £8.99 each (at time of writing), including UK p&p at The Writing Desk.


7 Responses to Envelope addressed using Pilot Parallel Pens

  1. una bailli says:

    Hi Duncan

    Absolutely beautiful – you are always so generous with your talent and sharing how to create something as beautiful as this.

    Must send my next snail mail using these pens.

    Thanks soooooooooo much – made my afternoon


    • Thank you, Una. I always make an effort to address envelopes in calligraphy. To me, they are miniature blank canvasses going a-begging, and it seems a shame not to make the effort to make them attractive. I’m sure a calligraphed envelope must bring a smile to a weary postman’s face, and that’s a good enough excuse to get the broad-nibbed pens out! I’m delighted that you found the post useful. Best wishes, Duncan

  2. Sergii says:

    Hello Duncan!
    Cool work! Do you know about “Mail Across the World”? It is a project of displaying beautifully written international mail art. http://maaw.atelier-calligraphie.com/

    And one more link, where you could buy Pilot Parallel Pens in UK (£9 each):


    • Thank you, Sergii. I did as you suggested and had a look at “Mail Across The World,” and found it really interesting. Thank you for that link, and also for the link you gave me for the £9.00 Pilot Parallel Pens.
      Much appreciated.
      Best wishes,

  3. Scarlet says:

    Your posts are always so informative! Thank you… I’ll see if I can get hold of the Parallel Pens. Can you get similar results with ordinary marker pens?
    Your addressed envelope is inspiring me to be a little more adventurous!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Scarlet. Yes, you could produce lettering in the same style as my example using ordinary marker pens, but you would only get the colour transition by using Parallel Pens. If you do decide to purchase them, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. A reader of my blog gave me an additional link,
      http://thewritingdesk.co.uk/showproduct.php?brand=Pilot&range=Parallel+Pen&cat=pens where he says you can buy the pens for £9.00 each. I haven’t visited the site, so I don’t know what they charge for p&p, but it’s another option in addition to the links already on my blog.
      Thank you for taking the time to get in touch.
      Best wishes,
      PS… I visited your blog and your lettering is fantastic. Much more varied in style than mine. I’m envious!

  4. Scarlet says:

    Your Italic is what I aspire to – sharp and lively… I can sometimes be too rigid and lose the life – I need to loosen up!
    I only started using the pointed pen in December 2010 and I’m still learning about how different nibs behave with different types of paper and ink. Once you get the knack of holding the pen at a peculiar angle it’s quite good fun. I had to go through the horrible phase of making wobbly letter forms and had to resist the urge to give up – after the initial shock, love for the pointed pen grew.

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