The G nib is probably the most fabled nib among people interested in the creation of manga. So what is a “G nib” exactly? Basically, it’s a Japanese-made pen nib that has cuts in its shoulders that make a “g” shape. This nib is large, but capable of creating fine lines for its size. It is also slightly flexible, making line modulation possible, but at the same time it’s stable and so feels solid and capable of lasting a long time.
As of this writing, three makes of G nibs can be obtained in the U.S.: the Nikko, the Zebra, and the Tachikawa. So which is the best? As with anything, it comes down to personal taste. But let me run through the three versions and tell you what I think.
The first G nib I ever purchased was the Nikko G. The metal of the Nikko feels a bit tinny and is the lightest of the three G nibs. When drawing, it feels a bit stiff and tends to be capable of less line modulation than the other makes. If you are new to dip pens, this may be a good thing because that stiffness would make it easier to control. However, it’s a tad scratchy. I personally love a nib with a smooth feel on the page. Overall, this may be an okay G nib if you are a complete beginner, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a more experienced pen-and-ink artist.
This is the second G nib I tried. Straight away, I noticed that it offered a much thinner line than the Nikko. Its line is even slightly thinner than the Tachikawa’s line. It is more flexible than the Nikko, but shares its scratchiness. Overall, I think the Zebra is better than the Nikko. Still, I don’t like the feel of it on the page.
I don’t know if these only recently became available, but I only got a pack of the Tachikawa nibs a little while ago. The Tachikawa is closer in color to the Nikko, but looks more like brushed steel than tin. While its line may not be quite as thin as the Zebra’s, this is the most elastic nib of the three. It swells much more easily, which I like. Overall, the Tachikawa feels much smoother than the other two G nibs. It’s simply the easiest to draw with. So if you’ve got a firm hand with pen-and-ink, this is definitely the one I’d recommend.
While all these nibs are flexible, and the JetPens guide even warns people that they may be too flexible for some people, I find all the G pens to be pretty stiff. Yes, they offer some line modulation, but for years I used the Hunt 100, which is the squirrelliest nib out there. So I’m used to the other end of the flexibility spectrum. These days, I tend to use Brause nibs, especially the 511. These nibs tend to be more flexible and just flow better. So while the G nibs are perfectly fine and are pretty easy nibs to use in terms of skill, I find them limiting. I just feel cramped and stiff when I use them. Again, this is a matter of personal taste and my own nib using history. I just don’t want people to think they have to use G nibs just because their favorite manga artist does. They are not necessarily the best nibs out there.
Buying the nibs
These nibs are now easy to buy on-line. Both JetPens and Paper & Ink Arts have all three makes.
JetPens: Nikko, Zebra, Tachikawa. Paper & Ink Arts: Nikko, Zebra, Tachikawa.
If you buy these in a store, let me offer a warning about the packaging. Not only is it in Japanese, it can be a bit misleading. For instance, the Zebra G nibs can come in a package that says “IC Comic.” The Tachikawa package doesn’t have any English on it at all besides the letter G. Still, in both cases you can just look at the nibs themselves. All three makes have their names embossed on them in English.
Lastly, here’s a similar comparison of the nibs, but with a focus on using them for calligraphy (spoiler: the author agrees with me about the Tachikawa).