Keep Learning! Keep Practicing! Keep Going!

I know you’re eager to learn and master Copperplate and/or Spencerian script — we all are!

The truth is: learning takes time.

This applies to anything worth learning — may it be a musical instrument, knitting, Jiu-Jitsu.  Learning a script is no different.  We have to put in the time and the effort.


If you’ve just started, don’t be too hard on yourself.  “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” as they say.  Script is one of those things.  It isn’t mastered in a day… or a week… or a month (well, unless you hideout in a cave for a month and do nothing but study and practice all day long!)

Learning a script takes hours of study and practice.  And even those who are proficient in the script are continuously learning and finding ways to improve their existing script.


I once heard someone give a speech about how you shouldn’t aim to be the “best.”  Instead, aim to keep getting “better.” The speaker went on to say that by being the “best” means you’ve stopped trying to be better — what a great insight!

I’ve been at it (Copperplate Script) for over a year-and-a-half and I’m constantly learning new things.  New things to improve.  New things to try.  So many things!


My script at the beginning of my Copperplate journey (January 2015) and my script from a couple of months ago (June 2016). Still learning everyday!

My mentor and friend Ate Gail (@the_md_writes) always says, “The learning never stops.” She’s so right!

Though I feel like I’ve come a long way from January 2015, I know that I still have a ways to go and that’s ok.  I’m enjoying every bit of the process.

Even if you think you’ve got a handle on this script, don’t settle.  Keep at it.  Keep studying.  Keep practicing.  Keep learning.  Keep getting better.

Happy writing!

Your Pointed-Pen Companion,

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness


7-Day Copperplate Calligraphy Bootcamp on Periscope

Hello, Friends!

As some of you may know, I’ve been taking Master Penman Harvest Crittenden‘s Beginning Spencerian online class for the last 6 weeks.  During this time, I haven’t done much Copperplate practice.  In preparation for an Introduction to Copperplate Calligraphy workshop that I’ll be hosting with by good friend Grace Jimenez (@bygraceabounds) in March, I’ve concluded that I need to get my Copperplate game back on — stat!


For the next 7 days, I’ll be doing a personal Copperplate Bootcamp to get my letterforms back in shape — literally!  I’ll be sharing 7 of my favorite drill exercises (one per day) on Periscope (@anintran), an awesome app that allows you to watch and broadcast videos live.  Cool, right?


Join me on Periscope (@anintran)

I broadcasted Day 1 of my Copperplate Bootcamp earlier this evening.  Note: Periscope broadcasts expire after 24 hours.


Get your pen, paper, and ink out and do these drill exercises with me.  If you post on Instagram, be sure to tag your photos #anintran_drills so I can see your drills too.

The materials that I’ll be using during my broadcast over the next 7 days are:


Let’s do this!

See you on Periscope (@anintran)!

Your Pointed Pen Companion,




Be Right Back!

Hi there!

I’ll be taking a short break from blogging as I prepare for my upcoming copperplate calligraphy workshops.

You can still find me on Instagram (I can’t stay away!) and you can always check out my previous blog posts:


Basic Concepts


Copperplate Calligraphy Boot camp



Be back soon!


Copperplate Calligraphy Bootcamp: How to Practice Underturn Strokes

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been preparing for drill exercises here in my blog.

We’ve talked about what drills are and why we should do them and how we can prepare prepare for drill exercises.

It’s important to note that the lowercase Copperplate letterforms can be broken down into 7 basic strokes:

  1. underturn
  2. overturn
  3. compound curve
  4. full-pressure
  5. oval
  6. ascending stem loop
  7. descending stem loop

In this post, I’ll share with you how I study the underturn stroke and how I do my drill exercises.  This u-shape stoke is sometimes called the “pressure-release” stroke, the “i-stroke” or the “u-stroke”.

To avoid confusion, I’ll refer to this stroke only as the underturn stroke.


Underturn Stroke


order of operations:

1. Study
2. Define goal(s)
3. Practice & Critique
4. Repeat

Let’s do this!


Studying is an important part of learning Copperplate.  How else will you know how to draw something if you don’t know what it looks like?

And I don’t mean taking a quick glance over at your exemplar.  I mean really study it.  Take some notes.

Some things to study:

  • Where is the shade on this stroke?  Is it on the left or the right of the ‘u’ shape?
  • How tall is the stroke?
  • When does the shade start to taper off?
  • How much space in inside the counter of the underturn?

Notes on the underturn:


Underturn stroke study.

  • The top of the shade is squared-off.
  • The shade is on the left of the ‘u’.
  • The stroke starts the the header line (or waist line), touches the base line, and comes back up to the waist line.
  • The shade has an even width until it’s about two-thirds of the way down; then it begins to taper off.
  • By the time it reaches the baseline, the shade has completely tapered off — the tines are closed and the hairline begins.
  • The hairline curves to the right and touches the baseline.
  • It makes a tight (but not too tight) u-turn back up to the header line.
  • The shade and the hairline are parallel to the main slant (55 degrees).

What are some of your observations on this stroke?

STep 2: Define your goal(S)

Copperplate calligraphy is not something that can be learned overnight.  It takes weeks, months, years of deliberate practice.

As you study and practice, it’s important to know what your goals are — your overall goal and practice session goal.

Your overall goal may be to learn Copperplate so you can address envelopes in time for the holidays or help you sister out with signage for her wedding.  Why are you learning copperplate?.

Your practice session goal is a much smaller goal.  It’s something that will help you move toward your overall calligraphy goal.  This smaller goal will help you focus and learn copperplate in bite-size chunks.  There’s a lot to learn, but if you break it down, you’ll find that learning this script is easy.

Your practice session goal for today could be as simple as learning what an understroke is and what it looks like.  It could be to square the top of your shade or improve your shade-to-hairline transition.  Maybe you want to work on the turn or consistenly touching the header or baseline.

Now, it’s possible you want to work on all of those things today… but if you’re just beginning, I urge you to pick one thing until you’ve gotten the hang of it.

You’re aim is draw consistent strokes that closely resemble that of your exemplar.

If this is your first time drawing an underturn stroke, you may consider starting in this order:
1. Draw consistent ‘u’ shapes
2. Draw consistent and even shading
3. Shade-to-hairline transition
4. Squared tops

Aim for improvement each time your sit down to practice.  Don’t worry if your practice sheets are messy and imperfect.  Do your best.

Step 3: Practice & Critique

Before you begin, make sure you’ve prepared your nib and your workspace.  As you do these drill exercises, be mindful of the alignment of your nib to the main slant.  This will help you maximize  the opening of your tines.


How to make the underturn stroke:


  1. At the headerline, apply pressure to your nib to open the tines (this will also square the top).
  2. Pull the pen downwards at a 55 degree angle while maintaining an even shade.
  3. At about 2/3 of the way down toward the baseline, gradually release the pressure from your pen.  As you near the baseline, curve to the right.  Your nib should be closed (relaxed).  Your shade should be fully transitioned into a hairline.
  4. Touch the baseline and make a narrow u-turn back up toward the header line.  Straighten out your hairline as you complete your upstroke so that it becomes parallel to the shade (55 degrees).


Take it slow.  Draw each stroke slowly and carefully.  Concentrate on the shape of your underturn stroke.  Practice your control of the pen.

Draw a line or two of individual (not connected) underturn strokes.  Compare them to each other.  Circle or star your best ones.


Make a note of error that you keep making.  For instance, are your turns always too pointy?  Do your shades taper off too soon or not soon enough?

Once you’ve noted areas that need work, attempt a few more lines of drills, paying careful attention to how you can make improvements based on the critiques you made from your first set.

Once you’ve got a handle on drawing individual underturns, connect them.  Be sure to lift after completing each stroke.  Connecting them will help refine the consistency of your stroke and spacing.

Keep and eye out for these common issues


The shape of the underturns in the first row are good; the problem lies in the shading.  The second row illustrates problems with the u-shape.

  1. Good underturn stroke
  2. Tapers out too soon
  3. Pointy top of stem; should be squared
  4. Tapered shade
  5. Uneven swelling of shade towards the bottom
  6. Inconsistent shading
  7. Pointy bottom
  8. Shade and hairline are not parallel
  9. Hairline curves toward the shade (not parallel)
  10. Shade curves toward the hairline (not parallel)
  11. Underturn is too wide

Step 4: Repeat

Study the underturn stroke.  What is it supposed to look like?

Define you the purpose of your practice.  What do you want to work on today?  The shading?  The turn?  The consistency of your u-shape?

Which issues keep showing up and what can you do to improve?

Practice & critique your work.  What worked out?  What didn’t?  How can you improve?


Start with the basics.  If you practice these drill exercises correctly, your calligraphy is sure to improve.

Be kind to yourself.  Remember, learning copperplate takes time.  Doing these drill exercises correctly will help you improve more quickly than if you skipped them.


A sample of my script from December 2014 and from this month.

It’s easier to develop good habits from the beginning than to break bad ones.  So get in the habit of learning these strokes properly the first time around; it will save you a lot of time.


Happy Writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe below to receive notifications on more copperplate calligraphy tips and tutorials.

Are you on Instagram?  Be sure to say hi!  @anintran



How to Prepare for Drill Exercises

Learning copperplate requires careful study and practice.  Drill exercises are a great way to put your studies into practice.

In my previous blog, I told you what drills were and gave you 3 reasons why you should do them.   In this post, I’ll help you prepare for the drill exercises that we’ll be doing together over the next few posts.

Let’s get ready!

To prepare for drills, here’s what you’ll need:

1. Focus Time

To get the most out of your practice sessions, you need to be 100% focused on the task at hand.  To do this, you’ll need to dedicate a set amount of time to practice.

Think about how much time you’d like to set aside for practice and how often you want to do it.  Maybe 15-20 minutes Monday to Friday or 30 minutes 3-4 times a week?  Whatever you decide,  stick with it.  Mark your calendar.


This was my schedule over the summer.  Nowadays, I practice for 20-30 minutes every other day or so — or when I can.

Designate a workspace in your home where you can practice comfortably, free from distractions.  If you can, try to schedule your practice time around the same time for each session.

Even if you only have 10-15 minutes to practice, make every minute count!

Read more about how to optimize your practice time.

2. the right MATERIALS

Practicing with the right materials is really important.

Can you imagine training for 10k marathon wearing combat boots, a business suit, and a beach hat?  Sure, it’s doable; but it probably would yield the same results as training in proper gear.

Most of the frustration I had when I was just starting to learn calligraphy was because I was using the wrong materials — I’ll save that story for another day!

Here are some things that I recommend for drill exercises:

Beginner-Friendly NiBs

My favorites are the Brause 361 (“Blue Pumpkin”) and the Zebra G nib.  They’re smooth on upstrokes and make squaring tops and bottoms of stems easy.  Once you get the hang of your strokes, you can try using sharper and more flexible nibs.

Read more about my favorite nibs.



I highly recommend using an oblique penholder.  If you’re a lefty, a straight penholder would probably work best for you.

Sharisse De Leon, a fellow pointed pen and brush calligrapher, has some great tips for lefties on her blog.

Black Ink

Black ink is ideal for drill exercises because it’s easy to see.  My favorite black ink is the Kuretake Sumi Ink from

Lined Paper

Two kinds of lined paper (top) and 2 kinds of guide sheets that I use (bottom).

I highly recommend practicing your drills on white lined paper so you have definitive lines for reference.  I suggest practicing drills with 7-10mm x-heights, at least in the beginning.  If you use the Rhodia bloc paper like I do, double the blocks to create an x-height of 10mm.

Guide Sheet

If your paper doesn’t already have the 52-55° slant lines, you’ll definitely need a guide sheet with the appropriate slant to slip under your practice paper.  This will help you to practice your strokes at the correct angle.  You can find printable guide sheets at and


You’ll absolutely need an exemplar for reference.  How else will you know how to draw something if you don’t know what it looks like?

There are many resources available online.  I love the exemplars from Dr. Joe Vitolo’s website  Find a style that you like, print it out, study it, and use it as a reference.


Alright.  So you’re all set.  You’ve set aside some quiet time and you’ve got all of your supplies.  Now what?

Start with the basics.  Study your exemplar and practice one stroke at a time.

And I mean really study them.  Take notes.


Here’s what my printed exemplar looks like.

Study the exemplar.  What do the individual strokes look like?  How do they curve and when does it curve?  When does the shade begin to taper off?  When does it straighten out? etc.

When you practice, draw each stroke slowly and carefully.  Try your best to draw them as close to your example as you can.

After a couple of lines.  Stop and examine your work.  Critique it.  Make note of how you can improve.  Continue on to the next line of drills, implementing the critiques you made on the previous lines.


Critique your own work. Make note of the things that went well and things you need improvement.

Take it slow.  Start with the basic strokes.

Study the basic strokes one at a time — which is what we’ll be doing over the next few weeks.  Afterwards, we’ll work our way to joining the individual strokes to form letterforms.


Be sure to hang on to some of your practice sheets so you can keep track of your progress.  Put a date on them.  Aim for progress with each practice.


A comparison of one of my very first drill exercises from February 2015 and a more recent one from this month.

If you’re up an an extra challenge, write the pangram “Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow”  (or any pangram you like) and date it.  Once a month or so, rewrite the same pangram and compare it to the previous ones that you’ve written.  Admire your progress and check for areas that need improvement.  Again, take notes


In my next post, we’ll start our first set of drill exercises.  Be sure to have all of these things ready so you can have successful drill session.

Remember: drills are integral to your success with copperplate calligraphy.  Let’s make the most of our practice time.  Set a focus time for deliberate practice and be prepared with the “right” tools.  And don’t forget to track your progress.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly and easily you progress when you make time to practice these drills properly.


Happy Writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe below to receive notifications on more copperplate calligraphy tips and tutorials.

Are you on Instagram?  Be sure to say hi!  @anintran




3 Reasons Why You Should Do Drill Exercises

When I first picked up a pointed pen, I had never heard of drills.  In fact, I didn’t even know what copperplate calligraphy was!  All I knew was that I wanted to write pretty.  I figured that a little practice would make me better, but I didn’t know how to practice.

For the  first 2 months, I practiced by writing whole words and full sentences.  No matter how often and how frequent I practiced, I wasn’t seeing much improvement in my letterforms.  It wasn’t until I started doing drill exercises that I began to see drastic improvement in my script.  (Thanks, Ate Gail Madalag, for telling me about drills!)


A comparison of my calligraphy before I knew about drills and how to study (top) and after months of studying and doing drill exercises (bottom).

In this blog, I’ll tell you why drills are important and why I highly recommend them.  In the upcoming posts, I’ll share tips on how to study and how to do drill exercises.


Learning copperplate requires patience, diligent study, and deliberate practice.

A drill is a deliberate practice of drawing the same stroke or sequence of strokes repeatedly to develop brain and muscle memory, and to practice drawing consistent strokes and letterforms.

In time, drill exercises will help you memorize how the stroke looks, how it feels when you draw them, when to apply pressure and when to release pressure, how much pressure to apply, etc.


A drill exercise of compound curves.

Drills are integral to your copperplate calligraphy learning experience.

3 Reasons Why You Should Do Drills

1. Drills build a strong foundation

As beginners, we may have the urge to start writing  words and sentences immediately.  However, our success in learning this script really weighs heavily on the groundwork we create.

The deliberate practice of drill exercises will help you to slow down and build a strong foundation — which, in turn, will speed up your learning experience.

2. Drills help you Focus and Break it down

Copperplate script is drawn one stroke at a time and so it makes sense to learn it the same way: one stroke at a time.


The lowercase A is composed of 3 strokes. This photo shows the series of drills that make up the letter ‘a’.

Drills help you to focus on each stroke — what it looks like, how it’s drawn, when and where pressure is applied and released, etc.  Once you learn the basic strokes, you’ll find it easy to compose the letterforms and words.

3. Drills Develop Brain and Muscle Memory

Learning copperplate requires both conscious and physical effort.  Drills are a great way to train our mind and our body to work together.

Whenever we do anything repetitive, we form habits — so make sure you practice your drills accurately and as true to the exemplar as you can.

Drills will help you memorize what a strokes and letterforms look like how it feels when you draw it.  Soon enough, you’ll be able to create identical and consistent strokes without much effort.

  • Practice makes progress.
  • Your drills will improve over time along with your script.
  • Drills are a great way to warm up before writing.

A comparison of one of my very first drill exercises (top) and a recent one (bottom).

Although drills may seem tedious at first, I urge you to do them and to stick with them.

Drill exercises are an essential part of learning copperplate script.  They’ll help you create a strong foundation for your script and will help you learn more quickly than if you skipped them — I’m speaking from experience here.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share tips on how to study and how to do drills.  Stay tuned!

Happy Writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe below to receive notifications on more copperplate calligraphy tips and tutorials.

Are you on Instagram?  Be sure to say hi!  @anintran

Three Ways to Prevent Ink Blobs

Ink blobs can make Copperplate practice a frustrating and messy experience.  I find that the best way to deal with them is to prevent them.


An ink blob is a small pool or bead of ink that collects within or on top of  shaded strokes.


Red arrows indicate ink blobs. It’s hard to see the globule on the right ‘a’, but trust me, it’s a tiny blob of ink.


To prevent these globules form occurring, let’s identify what causes them.

From my experience, ink blobs happen when:

  1. The nib has not been properly prepared.
  2. There isn’t enough ink on the nib.
  3. There’s too much ink on the nib.



Preventing ink blobs is easy.  If you keep these things in mind, you’ll minimize your ink blob experience.


Unprepared nibs tend to cause ink to form globules.


See the ink collecting on the tines of the nib?  When the ink unevenly adheres to the nib like this, they sometimes transfer on to the paper in globs.

Preparing your nib before you use it is very important.  During manufacturing, nibs are coated with a clear protective varnish that keeps them from rusting while in storage.  Removing this coating will help the ink adhere to the nib evenly.

Protective coating may be removed with dish washing detergent or toothpaste

Removing the varnish using toothpaste.

To learn how to prepare your nibs, click here.


Dip your pen in your ink well just past the vent hole.


Dip your nib in your ink well past the vent hole.

If your nib doesn’t have enough ink, the ink may pool at the very top of your stroke due to the cohesion properties of liquid.


Left: Nib not dipped deep enough. Right: Nib dipped past the vent hole.


Overloaded nibs will look like this. The ink will swell on the top and underside of the nib.

If your nib is overloaded with ink, the excess ink may drip, gush out of the nib upon contact with the paper or when you open your tines, causing a mess and possibly ruining your project.


Remove excess ink from your nib.

To get rid of excess ink, carefully run the side of your nib (shoulder to tip) along the inner rim of your ink well once or twice.  The excess ink from your nib will run down the side of the jar.

This is especially helpful when using thin inks like Higgins Eternal black ink, Yasutomo sumi ink, and Daiso sumi ink.


Easy fixes, right?

Ink blobs don’t need to be a part of your practice sheets or final projects.  These 3 simple tips should help keep your Copperplate experience to a minimum.

Happy Writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,



P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe below to receive notifications on more copperplate calligraphy tips and tutorials.

Check out my Instagram for regular tips and tutorials as well.

How to Practice Squaring Full-Pressure Stem Strokes

Squaring tops and bottoms of full-pressure strokes in Copperplate is easy once you understand how tines work and put in some practice — which is what this blog is about.


What are squared stems?


Red brackets indicate squared tops and bottoms of stem strokes the word “pin” written in copperplate script.

Squared tops and/or bottoms of stems appear in letters such as ‘p’, ‘i’, ‘n’, and other letterforms with similar strokes.  These squared-off stems are parallel to the horizontal baseline.


A drill is an exercise where you carefully and accurately draw the same stroke or sequence of strokes repeatedly.  The purpose of drill exercises is to memorize the strokes and to develop muscle memory.  In time, you’ll be able to draw practiced strokes without much effort.


A sheet of full-pressure strokes drills.

Be sure to practice drills precisely. Be mindful of the proper height, length, width, and overall shapeDrills help you achieve consistent strokes.

Recommended materials for practice

Aside from your favorite nib, penholder, and ink, I recommend using lined paper and a guide sheet (if your paper doesn’t already have guidelines).

Lined paper will help you practice the proper proportion of this stroke. Lined paper will also help you to check if your squared ends are parallel to the horizontal lines of your paper.  I like to use the Rhodia Bloc (gridded) pad from

A guide sheet under your paper will help you practice at the correct angle (52-55*). You can print out guidesheets from IAMPETH.COM.


The full-pressure stroke is a long, shaded stroke with an evenly shaded stem.   In the alphabet, only the letter ‘p’ contains this stroke (see “pin” photo above). This stroke is typically between 2.5 to 3.5 x-heights in length, depending on the exemplar you’re following or your personal preference.


Note: for this exercise, I drew this stroke in 2 x-heights in length to show that the squared edges are parallel to the horizontal baseline.


  1. Place pen on paper along a horizontal line. Stop.
  2. Apply pressure to your nib to open the tines to the desired width. Stop.
  3. While maintaining the pressure, pull your pen down.
  4. When you reach the desired length, stop.
  5. Slowly release the pressure.  Be mindful of your tines.  The left tine should remain stationary while the right tine closes to the left.

Try also practicing shorter and longer lengths.

Be mindful of the position and angle of your nib. It should be parallel to the main slant of your script (follow guide sheet).



A. Pointy or rounded tops (or bottoms) are a result of creating the stroke before the tines are fully open.

Try this: Be sure to open the tines before you pull your pen downward to make the stroke.

B. Tapered strokes result from uneven pressure applied while making the downstroke.

Try this: Maintain the pressure on the down stroke.

C. Clipped paper fibers at the tip of your nib may result from the following:

a.  You’re applying too much pressure to your nib (you’re really digging your nib in there).

b.  Your paper is too “soft” and the sharp tines easily snag the paper.

Try this:

  • Apply less pressure
  • Use a more flexible nib
  • Try good quality paper designed for calligraphy

Squaring the tops and bottoms becomes easy when you understand how tines work and with practice. Remember to practice your drills carefully and accurately.

I hope you found this helpful.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,



P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe below to receive notifications on more copperplate calligraphy tips and tutorials.

Check out my Instagram for regular tips and tutorials as well.


How Tines Work to Square off Tops and Bottoms of Shaded Strokes

One of the most common questions I’m asked is:

How do you square off the tops and bottoms on your shaded strokes?

My answer is: 1) you must first understand how the tines of your pointed pen work; and then 2) practice, practice, practice!

In this post, I’ll be sharing how tines work.  My next blog will be about how to practice squaring off those stems.

What are tines?

In my previous blog, I talked about basic nib anatomy.


Comparison of a relaxed Zebra G nib and a flexed one.

Tines are the two prongs of the nib that are designed to flex (split open) when pressure is applied to the tip.  When the tines are relaxed, the slit is closed and the prongs are side-by-side.  The flexibility of the tines and the amount of pressure you apply to the tip of your nib determines the thickness of your shades.


How do Tines work?

You can manipulate the tines of your nib by adjusting the amount of pressure you apply to your pen.  The more pressure you apply, the wider the slit opens.  I used to think that the two tines always flexed together; that is, when one tine flexes, the other flexes too — but this isn’t the case.  The tines flex independent of each other. 

When squaring the top or bottom of stems, only one tine is flexed at a time; the other remains at rest.

HOW to manipulate the tines

Let’s take a closer look.  When you apply pressure to your nib, notice which tine flexes and which stays relaxed.  Which tine “moves” and in which direction?  When you release the pressure, which tine moves and in which direction?

To square off the tops of shades strokes, apply pressure to only the right side of your pen.  This will flex (bend upward) only the right tine, which will make the  relaxed left tine move downward.  The pressure on the right tine will keep the right tip in place.  As you pull you pen down ward to make the stem stroke, maintain a consistent pressure.

To square off the bottom of the stem, carefully release the pressure from the pen.  Doing this will relax the right tine, which will close the slit to the left and square the bottom.

Next week, I’ll go more into detail about squaring the tops and bottom of stem strokes and share some fun drill exercises with you.


Give it a try.  See if you can manipulate the movement of tines on your nib.

When you apply pressure, see if you can:

  1. move the tines side-to-side
  2. move both tines simultaneously
  3. move only the left tine (put more pressure on the right side of the pen)
  4. move only the right tine (put more pressure on the left side of the pen)
  5. flex only the right tine (up).  What happens to the left tine?  Which direction does it move?

Try it one more time.  This time, align your pen with the main slant angle (52-55 degrees from the baseline).


When writing Copperplate, your pen should be aligned with the main slant.

Let me know how this works out for you!

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


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Find me on Instagram @anintran.


Understanding Hairlines and Shades in Copperplate Calligraphy

One characteristic of Copperplate script is the intricate relationship between hairlines and shades. To construct proper Copperplate letterforms, we must understand how hairline and shaded strokes are made.

Note: I use the terms “pen” and “nib” interchangeably; they mean the same thing.


Unlike broad pens and fountain pens, the pointed dip pens used for Copperplate script are designed to flex.  Because of the sharp point and flexible tines of pointed pens, we are able to achieve hairline strokes and thick, shaded strokes by controlling the amount of pressure we apply to the nib.



Relaxed (closed) tines create hairline strokes.

Hairlines, the thinnest strokes, are achieved when the tines of the nib are relaxed (no pressure applied). The nib simply glides on the surface of the paper. Hairlines can be drawn in any direction (up, down, sideways, loops, etc.)  Note, however, that all upstrokes are hairlines.



Flexed (opened) tines created shades on downstrokes.

Shades, sometimes called “swells”, can be achieved when the tines of the nib are flexed.  Applying pressure to the nib flexes (opens) the tines, allowing more ink to be released on to the paper.  Because pressure is required to flex the tines, shaded strokes can only be made on down strokes.  The sharpness of the pen will cause the nib to snag or puncture the paper if too much pressure is applied on up strokes.



Depending on the pressure applied, a single nib can produce a varying thickness in shade. (nib: Tachikawa G)

Dependening on how much pressure you apply on the downstroke, shades can vary in thickness.   Dr. Joe Vitolo refers to this as “heft”.  The more pressure you place on the nib, the wider the tines open, creating thicker the shades.  Consistency is key.


The hairline-to-shade and shade-to-hairline transitions of strokes are smooth, not abrupt.  To achieve smooth transitions, the pressure on the nib must be gradually applied or released on the down stroke.


Inconsistencies are noted by red arrows

A) Smooth transitions and equal heft on the shades

B) Smooth transitions, inconsistent shading

C) Smooth transitions, inconsistent shading

D) Abrupt transitions, inconsistent shading (note the pointy curves).


Try these basic strokes.  Draw them slowly and precisely.  Pay careful attention to:

1) The transitions of from hairline-to-shade and shade to hairline.
Does the shade gradually thicken and/or taper off?

2) The consistency of the heft of your shades.
Are your shades equal in thickness?


Basic strokes drill exercise to practice the transition of hairlines to shade, and shades to hairlines. Note that the shades are made only on downward strokes.

The harmonious relationship between hairlines and shades make Copperplate elegant and beautiful.  When practicing these strokes, be sure to focus on the consistency of your shades and the smoothness of the transitions.

Learning a new skill requires a lot of practice and patience.  It’s ok if you don’t get it exactly right the first time or the second time.  Keep practicing.  Keep going.

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,


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