Copperplate Minuscules – The Basic Strokes
The proportions of the minuscule letters and the angle of slope are the two essential visual components of Copperplate minuscule. Copperplate has a standard relationship between the ascender, x-height and descender parts of the minuscule letters. In general the relationship is expressed as 3:2:3 (ascender = 3, x-height = 2, descender = 3). This ratio is based on the letter proportions found in many eighteenth century examples.
Degree of Slope
All Copperplate writing has a slope of 35° (or 55° from the write-line). It is strongly recommended to have slope guidelines as well as the write-line and x-height lines on your guide sheet.
The Basic Strokes
Copperplate minuscules are characterised by ovals, rounded forms, long ascenders and descenders.
Another characteristic is the thickness of the lines. Some line are very fine, which we call hairlines. These are produced when the nib is touching the paper with no pressure applied to the nib. The line produced is about the same thickness as the point of the nib. Other lines are very thick and are produced by applying a pressure on the nib. The greater the pressure, the more the tines on the nib open and a thicker line is produced.
Sometimes you need to combine pressure and release on a the nib to produce a swell or shade. The line starts as a hairline then gradually changes to a thick line when the pressure is applied and then back to a hairline when the pressure is released.
The majority of Copperplate minuscules are constructed from a combination of one or more basic strokes. For some letters the basic strokes have to be slightly modified.
By studying and mastering these basic strokes, the minuscule letters can be produced by combining and sometimes modifying a combination of these basic shapes.
1. The full pressure stroke
2. The pressure and release u shape – variations 1 and 2
3. The pressure and release n stroke
4. The pressure and release combination stroke
5. The o form
6. The Lead-in stroke
7. The Descender stroke
8. The Ascender loop
Work slowly; You need to concentrate on the direction the nib is pointing to maintain a 35° slope of your strokes. At the same time you need to think when to apply pressure on the nib to open the tines to produce a thicker stroke and when to apply no pressure for the nib to produce a hairline.
Practice each stroke until you are satisfied before moving on the next one.
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