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Old 05-18-2016, 04:38 AM
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salman.khattak salman.khattak is offline
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Lightbulb Tutorial - Copperplate

These tutorials have been a while in the coming. Writing tutorials like these is a lot more work than I had expected. My hope is to share my love of Calligraphy with new (and old) friends through these.

I am going to follow Mr. Geoff Ford's structure. The tutorials will be divided into parts. Students will complete one part before moving on to the next.

Please feel free to ask as many questions as you would like. I will be checking in regularly and answering all questions and commenting on submitted work.

We will start our study of Copperplate with the small letter i.e. the minuscules. I have divided the minuscules into four groups. The first three are based on strokes common to the group. The last group contains the letters that do not share a pattern with other letters - these are the misfits.

We will need some materials before we start. I always recommend using the best materials you can afford for practice. The time we spend practising is our most valuable asset. It does not make sense to waste a second of it fighting with uncooperative paper or ink that doesn’t flow well. Here is what I recommend:

Ink: I will start with ink because it determines the other materials to some degree. I know the following to work well:
  • Higgins Eternal with a few drops of Gum Arabic.
  • Walnut ink (can be bought in liquid form or as crystals that are dissolved in water to make ink).
  • Pelikan Black with a good dollop of Gum arabic - experiment to find what works best for you.
  • Noodler’s Black with a good amount of water added.
Fountain pen inks contain surfactants which sometimes causes the ink to slide off the nib in an uncontrollable manner. The last two inks on my list are fountain pen inks but work well with pointed pens in my experience.

Please feel free to experiment with other inks but stay away from pigmented inks like Sumi or India. These can be made to work well with pointed pens but I don’t think it is worth the effort to fiddle with these inks when one is learning.

Paper: The paper you use should be smooth and should be able to take the ink you have chosen to work with. Higgins Eternal has a higher tendency to bleed than the other inks but it flows well. Some experimentation will be needed here.

Also, I recommend printing the guidelines on the paper you will be writing on. It makes a big difference over placing printed guidelines underneath the paper you are writing on. The paper you choose should be suitable for printing guidelines on the type of printer you have.

You can use paper with pre-printed lines on it e.g. Rhodia pads. Please maker sure the lines are at least 6mm apart though. On such papers you will only need the slant lines. We will be writing Copperplate at the traditional 55 degree angle from the baseline. You can either draw these on your paper or place a printed sheet with just the slant lines underneath.

Nib(s): We will be writing the minuscules at Ό inch x-height i.e. letters without ascenders or descenders will be Ό inch tall. We will need a nib that can handle writing at that size. I can recommend the following:
  • Speedball Hunt 101. These are commonly available in art stores and work very well.
  • Brause 66EF. These are easily available online and in some stores. This is very small nib but has more than enough flexibility for our purposes. It works well with inks that might be problematic with other nibs. Because of it’s small size, it needs a specially adjusted holder.
  • Leonardt Principal EF. This is an excellent nib and could have been at the top of the list. I have placed it at no.3 because it requires a delicate hand to get the best performance from it. Also, there have been reports of loss of quality lately (new nibs turning out bad).
  • Gillot 303. This is also an excellent nib but can be hard to use as it requires a delicate touch on the up strokes. There have been quality issues with this nib too but reportedly Gillott has invested in new tooling that will take care of these issues. Nibs produced with the new tooling are expected to be available in a few months from the time of this writing (May, 2016).
Various G nibs are very popular and often recommended for beginners because of their forgiving nature. These are excellent nibs but are a bit too stiff for writing at the size we will be practicing with. By all means get some (my favourite is the Zebra G) to play with. You will definitely find a use for it outside of these lessons - or for practicing Copperplate at a smaller size.

Holder(s): Oblique holders are usually recommended (but not absolutely necessary) for right handed people. I use one and do recommend it highly. However, you can write Copperplate with a straight holder if you want. You will need to turn the paper so that the slant lines are lined up with the direction of your holder shaft. The goal is to allow the nib to spread evenly on both sides of the shade on the downstrokes.

Left handed people, if they are underwriters, have an advantage in writing tilted scripts as their pen is naturally at the right angle. A little adjustment of the paper is all it takes and they are off.

One of the advantages of an oblique holder is that it presents the nib at a shallow angle to the paper. This helps sharp nibs make smooth hairlines on the upstroke without catching on the paper. In my opinion, this is a big enough advantage to consider using one - even for left handed scribes. Left handed oblique holders are available but some left handed calligraphers use just a regular right handed oblique.

Guidelines: As mentioned above, we will be using Ό inch x-height. I have prepared the guidelines in 2 sizes, A4 and US Letter. Both are attached to this post as pdf files. Please download the appropriate one and print it out on the paper of your choosing.


The illustration below shows how the guidelines are laid out. The traditional proportions for Copperplate are 3:2:3 i.e. the ascenders and descenders are 1.5 times the x-height. However, at the Ό inch x-height we are using, the ascenders will be hard to draw at those proportions. We will be drawing our ascenders and descenders at 1 times the x-height. Some exceptions apply though and will be noted as we go along.



Copperplate Minuscules - Group 1

OK - enough about the preparation. Let's get started with some Copperplate.

The first group of letters we will be working are based on the ‘i’ stroke i.e. the stroke that makes up the letter ‘i’.
The ‘i’ stroke starts at the waist line and goes down to the base line. The stroke is started at full shade (i.e. the full thickness of the letter) and drawn at this thickness down ⅔ rds of the way down. As the illustration shows, pressure is released in the last third while simultaneously moving the pen to the right. This causes the right tine of the nib to keep drawing a straight line down while the left tine closes down making an arc as the tines come together at the base line. This is where you stop. Pick up the pen off the page and put it back down to start the hairline stroke that will connect to the following letter if there is one.


The picking up of the pen ensures that the bottom of the shade comes to a point as well as avoids pulling excess ink into the hairline.

Here is the group of letters based on the ‘i’ stroke:

i - Start with a hairline at the base line and go up to the middle of the x-height or slightly above - this is the entry hairline. Now place the pen at the waist line and apply pressure to the nib to spread the tines and pull down towards the base line. The stroke should be placed such that it meets the entry hairline halfway down the stroke. Gradually release the pressure on the nib two-thirds of the way down while moving the pen to the right bringing the stroke to a point on the base line directly below the right side of the stroke. This will cause the left side of the stroke to have a curved shape. Now lift the pen for a beat, put it back down and draw the hairline back up to the middle of the x-height, this is the exit hairline.

The dot is placed directly above the ‘i’, halfway between the waistline and the the 1st Ascender line. It is the same thickness at the letter - no more. You can go back and make the top of the starting stroke ‘square’ now. In time, you will learn to square the tops directly at the start of the stroke but there is no need to spend time on it at this time.

It is worth your while to practice this stroke until you can do it without thinking. The best way to do that is to use Mr. Geoff Ford’s method of practising in groups of 5. Here is how you do it:

Write the letter 5 times. Now stop and look at each letter you have drawn and place a tick mark against ones that are good. Now pick the best one and try to replicate or improve on it 5 more times. Repeat.

This process not only take the boredom out of the practice, it helps sharpen the eye in the process. Once you can see what a good letter is, making it well is just a short distance behind.

So when do you know when you have it? When you can consistently make 3-4 out good ones in a group of 5.

u - All that practice with the ‘i’ will come in use here. The ‘u’ is nothing more than two ‘i’s written next to each other i.e. the exit hairline of the first ‘i’, is the entry hairline of the second. All done.

w - The ‘w’ is just a ‘u’ with the exit stroke drawn all the way up to the waist line. The ‘blob’ in the end comes ⅓ of the way down and back up to the waistline, or the following letter if there is one. You can draw the blob without any pressure on the nib and then fill it in - or you can make it one go if you feel like it. Please note that the hairline stroke becomes pretty much parallel to the main stroke as it reaches the waistline - it does not curve back into the letter.

t - Now things are getting interesting. The ‘t’ is drawn like an ‘i’ that starts halfway between the waistline and the 1st Ascender line and goes down to the baseline. The tapering at the bottom is the last third of the ‘i’ part of the letter so if you cover the tops, the bottoms of the ‘t’ and the ‘i’ would look the same. The crossbar is drawn halfway between the top of the letter and the waistline.

l - This is beginning to feel like cheating now. The ‘l’ is just and ‘i’ that starts at the 1st Ascender line and goes all the way down to the baseline. As with the ‘t’, the tapering at the bottom should match that of an ‘i’.

b - The ‘b’ is an ‘l’ that is finished like a ‘w’ i.e. the exit stroke it taken all the way to the waist line and then the blob is drawn.

j - Things were getting a bit repetitive with the ‘i’ stroke so we will play with something a little different. The ‘j’ is not strictly based on the ‘i’ stroke but it begins like one. It is used in a few other letters so practicing it with the first group will pay dividends later. You start just like with the ‘i’ but keep moving down at full thickness through the baseline. As you move below the baseline, start to taper your stroke towards the right gradually until you come to a point at about the 1st Descender line. Continue to draw the stroke as you go a little (about 1/3rd) below the 1st Descender line and come around to form the bowl of the letter and go up to join the downstroke just below the baseline where you lift the pen. The exit stroke continues on the right side of the downstroke as a hairline. The reason you pick up your pen is to avoid drawing excess ink into the hairline exit stroke from the still wet downstroke.

The dot is placed above the main stroke just as in the ‘i’.

This completes our first group. Take your time with it. When satisfied with your work, post the following words for review:

ill, will, built, jilt and a word of your choice made up of these letters.
Attached Images
File Type: pdf Copperplate-qtr in-A4.pdf (8.7 KB, 212 views)
File Type: pdf Copperplate-qtr in-US Letter.pdf (6.8 KB, 153 views)
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Old 05-20-2016, 09:36 PM
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salman.khattak salman.khattak is offline
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Here is lesson 2. I have lessons 3 and 4 almost ready and will add them after these are taken up.

Copperplate Minuscules - Group 2

This group has two strokes. The inverted ‘i’ stroke and the compound stroke. These are shown below.


The inverted ‘i’ starts with a hairline midway between the base and the waist lines. As it goes up, the hairline curves slightly in the clockwise direction until it reaches the waist line where the shaded stroke will begin. The down stroke starts with a gradual shade that achieves full width about ⅓ rd of the way down. The nib naturally moves to the right during this stroke causing the right tine to form the curve. The stroke is completed by drawing the full width all the way down to the base line.





The compound curve looks a little tricky but becomes simple when you realize that it starts like and inverted ‘i’ and ends like a regular ‘i’. That is all there is to it really.

The most common mistake with this stroke is that the top curve does not match the bottom one. It is very easy to make the bottom of this stroke heavier than the top - a slight difference is acceptable but ideally the top and the bottom should have the same thickness. Watch out for that when you are practising your groups of 5.

Once you have mastered these two strokes, the following letters will be easy to form.


n - an ‘n’ is formed by drawing an inverted ‘i’ followed by the compound curve. The rising entry hairline of the compound stroke touches the inverted ‘i’ in the middle of the waist and base lines.

m - an ‘m’ is formed by drawing two inverted ‘i’ strokes followed by a compound curve.

h - the ‘h’ is formed by drawing a hairline, followed by a full width down stroke that begins at the 1st Ascender line. This line is uniformly thick all the way to the base line. You can go back and square the top and bottom after the stroke is drawn. This is then followed by a compound curve.

y - the ‘y’ is a compound curve followed by a ‘j’ stroke.

p - the ‘p’ starts with a hairline. The main stroke starts halfway between the waist and the 1st Ascender lines. This stroke continues, with uniform thickness, all the way down to the 1st Descender line. Square the top and bottom of the stroke after drawing it if needed. This stroke is followed by a compound stroke.

v - the ‘v’ is just a compound stroke where the exit hairline goes all the way up to the waist line and is finished with a blob like in a ‘w’ or a ‘b’ from Group-1.

Practice these letters until satisfied. Post the following words for feedback when ready.

bin, mint, nymph, vim and one word of your choosing that includes letters from both groups we have studied so far.
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Old 06-01-2016, 04:41 AM
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Thank you Salman. I'll share this site with newbies that are interested to learn.
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Old 06-01-2016, 02:59 PM
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Thank you sapphire10. I use this model in my workshops and find that students get to understand the structure quite quickly even it takes a while to get the strokes down.

I believe this understanding is key for further study after the workshop is over.

I hope people can benefit from these lessons.

- Salman
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Old 07-03-2016, 03:51 PM
Rokesana Rokesana is offline
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Hello
I had a go at set 1 from the notes, I wanted to upload to show you how I got on but my file size is too big. I'm not very tech savvy :/
Does anyone know how I can reduce the size of the file?
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Old 07-03-2016, 05:38 PM
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salman.khattak salman.khattak is offline
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Welcome to WetCanvas Rokesana. It is great to finally see some action in this forum :-)

I think the maximum file size allowed is 800 pixels in height or width. You can resize pictures using 'Paint' on Windows and 'Preview' on a Mac.

BTW - you just need to upload your best examples of the exercise given at the end of lesson-1 i.e. ill, will, built, jilt and a word of your choice made up of these letters.
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Old 07-03-2016, 06:25 PM
Rokesana Rokesana is offline
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Thanks Salman
I don't have access to a Mac at the moment so will post in the next few days
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Old 07-07-2016, 10:27 PM
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Salman, I will join in on these lessons in a couple of weeks. I've just started on Geoff's previous lessons on italics, and will start up with these lessons after finishing the italics.

Thanks for taking this on.
Jim
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Old 07-08-2016, 02:31 AM
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

I will be looking forward to your joining us Jim. Have you been posting your Italic exercises? I have not seen them if you did.

Rokesana - you can use Paint if you are on Windows. You don't have to have a Mac to resize photos :-)

- Salman
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Old 07-13-2016, 09:28 PM
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Salman, I have not been posting my italics exercises. I have just been doing them at my own pace, when I find the time (rather slowly ). The submissions by other students and Geoff's critiques have helped me understand the key elements of each script and helped me critique my own work.

For your copperplate lessons, I will endeavour to be more timely and post my efforts.

Jim
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Old 07-14-2016, 04:19 PM
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Jim - there is never any hurry with Calligraphy. This is for your enjoyment and should not cause any stress. Please take as much time as you need. I will be glad to help whenever you ask for it.

- Salman
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Old 07-21-2016, 08:05 PM
Rokesana Rokesana is offline
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Hi Salman
How are you? Well I hope
I have attached an example of my writing for the set 1 letters. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated

Thank you in advance

Rokesana
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Old 07-21-2016, 08:10 PM
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

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Last edited by Rokesana : 07-21-2016 at 08:13 PM. Reason: Poorly written
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Old 07-21-2016, 08:12 PM
Rokesana Rokesana is offline
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

I have focussed on these letters for the past few weeks I can see that I still don't have a steady hand for longer letters such as l&t
there are also angle and spacing issues. Would you recommend I continue with the letters or move on and practise set 2 along with set 1?
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Old 07-22-2016, 03:35 AM
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Re: Tutorial - Copperplate

Rokesana - this is a great start - you have indeed paid attention to the lessons and have a steady hand.

Your letters are well formed but will benefit from some fine tuning. Since you have started well, lets make them really nice :-)

1. There is a tendency for some letters to be written slightly upright in relation to others (and the slant lines). This is easily fixed by rotating the paper counter-clockwise a little until the slit in your nib is more or less in line with the slant lines. Check this a few times as you go down the page.

2. It seems to me that you are going from the shaded stroke to the hairline in one go at the base line. This results in the bottoms of the letters to be a bit more rounded. It is great if you can fix this without lifting the pen but I think it would be easier to lift the pen just slightly off the paper when you reach the base line.

3. Your letters tend to be too close together. The exit hairline should meet the following letter at 1/2 x-height i.e. in the middle of the base and waist lines. When letters are too close together, the exit hairline joins the following letter closer to the baseline resulting in an abrupt transition. A very slight gap is preferable to 'impaling' the next letter :-)

I see that I never gave any instructions on linking and spacing of letters in words. That is my bad. I will add an explanation with examples in the next couple of days.

It would help if you did your exercises using a dark ink. Black or Brown (Walnut) inks are best. It is hard to see the details when you use light coloured or Gold ink.

You can start working on lesson 2 while reworking lesson 1. Please keep the things I mentioned here in mind for lesson 2 as well. Please include the words for both lessons in your next upload.

- Salman
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