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Copperplate - Getting Started

Copperplate - Getting Started

Copperplate looks like it is written at speed because the letters are joined (cursive). In fact Copperplate needs to be written very slowly. Although the letters appear joined, the letters are not written as one continuous stroke. They are built up from a series of pen strokes. A good pen control is required to produce the characteristic hairlines and thick strokes.


With all styles of Calligraphy it is recommended you first practising writing with a larger text height (x-height). Unlike broad-edged calligraphy, the x-height is not measured in terms of nib widths. Typical x-heights are 4, 5 or 6mm. The ‘normal’ ratio of ascender – x-heights – descender is 3:2:3. Therefore if you have an x-height of 4mm, you would have 6mm for ascenders and descenders.
Copperplate writing has a steep slope, typically 55 degrees from the horizontal. It can be hard to write at such a steep angle (especially if you are right-handed). This is why a right-handed calligrapher will often use an oblique pen holder, which will help the nib point at an angle close to the required 55 degrees.
If you are right-handed, rotating the paper in an anti-clockwise direction can help you achieve the correct pen angle. Left handed calligraphers usually they prefer to keep the paper straight. These are only guidelines – experiment to find the combination of pen holder, nib type and paper angle that is most comfortable for you.

Drawing Board

With most styles of Calligraphy the drawing board is at quite a steep angle. With Copperplate writing the board needs to be at a much flatter angle. This makes the up strokes easier and helps prevent the nib from digging in to the paper. A flatter angle also helps ink flow, because the nib will be at a steeper angle to the paper.

Our Skills Centre is packed with in-depth, practical courses on Copperplate and many other calligraphy styles.

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