"Mostly I don't know where to start. I like to look at all of the pretty scrolls but I don't know what basic supplies to get to start trying."
It certainly sounded like me when I first started, and even though I have an art background I had no clue how to get started or what supplies I needed. I spoke with a few people, found a few online scribal communities, joined some email lists, and asked a few questions. There was however a lot of trial and error and although I've gained confidence and skill I still remember those first tentative steps, so here are my recommendations for beginners on the types of tools and materials to equip themselves with.
Artist Paint Brushes - You'll want to build a selection of small, "round" brushes that have a point. Look for brushes that have at least one "0", preferably multiple "0000" or "3/0" - that's their size. Synthetic hair is fine, and cheaper. "Gold Scepter" is a brand that springs to mind that is readily available in the smallest sizes and perform very well.
Personally I find the "student grade" paints chalky so they end up looking pale or weird on the page. This is a personal gripe I have from my college days though, others may disagree with me.
Pens for Calligraphy - You can usually buy basic calligraphy nibs and holders in sets at the art store. Speedball brand is probably what you will find and they do the job just fine. Each set will have a variety of nib sizes to create different size letters, but make sure at least one of the nibs comes to a fine-point so that you can use it for drawing the lines for your art work.
Now, I haven't personally seen Iron / Oak Gall Ink sold in any of the stores I've been in (I buy it online), therefore my other beginner recommendation for dip-pens is Sumi black ink. It comes in a bright green, heavy plastic bottle with a black cap and the ink itself has a nice viscosity to it. A word of warning though, it is very corrosive on your nibs if you don't clean them properly. It's very black, and works really well for line-work. You can also find this ink in red (red bottle, black cap).
Personally I opt for a 2H as it works FOR ME, but choose a grade that will work for the type of pressure you're likely to apply while using it. To hard and it will damage your surface, to soft and you'll have a tougher time while erasing.
I personally find those hard white rubbers a little weird to use and dislike them. I tend to use what is known as a "putty rubber" or "kneadable eraser" as it works better for me. These are usually found near the pencil selection in the art store.
Straight Edge - You'll need some sort of ruler to mark out your page and draw the lines you'll need for calligraphy. Rulers can be purchased in a variety of materials, lengths and styles. Personally I recommend that you buy one made out of metal as plastic and wooden rulers have the potential of being sliced by your craft knife, thus ruining the straight edge. If you can find one that has a cork backing even better, as this raises the edge off the page a little and helps avoid bleeding or smudging.
Paint Palette - Cheap, multi-well plastic palettes can be found at arts and crafts stores. However, you could also use a dinner plate, ceramic tiles, muscle (or other crustacean) shells, a glass ashtray or any other number of household items you probably already own.
Other Random Supplies - Although you don't NEED any of the following supplies they're useful to have around.
- Distilled Water - I tend to use this rather than regular tap water to avoid the various additives combined at the treatment plants. One argument is that because it's "purer" it's closer to period water, but who knows if this is true or even really matters.
- Eye-dropper / Pipette - Found at pharmacies, they end up being very useful for adding very small amounts of water to your paints to thin them.
- Scalpel / Craft Knife - If you're buying the pads of Bristol paper you probably won't need a craft knife as they're already sized appropriately. However they useful to have around.
- Cotton Ear-Buds - Yes, the things you clean your ears with. They're actually very useful dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean your calligraphy nibs.
- Rubbing Alcohol - As mentioned above, rubbing alcohol is great for cleaning your calligraphy nibs.
- Magnifier - Helps you not strain your eyes!
- 100% Talc - Wash your hands, dry them and then coat them in talc. It's stop your hands from sweating while you work.
- Scrap Paper - Rest your hand on some scrap paper while you work as it will protect the page you're working on from getting greasy and picking up smudges. Hands are dirty!
Useful Links - There are numerous online resources for the things I have mentioned in this post, below are a few of the websites I find useful. Remember to check your local arts and crafts stores as many of these items can be found there.