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Copperplate Writing – Best Practice

Copperplate Writing – Best Practice

With Copperplate, it is important to have the right equipment and materials.

Drawing Board

For most work, a calligrapher will use a drawing board, which if at the correct angle will help improve ink flow. When writing Copperplate, I personally tend not to use a board. By having the paper flat on the desk, it naturally increases the ink flow because the penholder and nib will be more upright.


Pointed nibs will not last very long. Typically they will start to scratch after writing only a few A3 pages. Some nibs are better than others. The Leonardt Principal EF nib will normally last longer than the Gillott nibs. Vintage nibs last longer than most of the modern nibs.When the nibs start to scratch, I know some calligraphers have tried to sharpen them – I believe with mixed results. I have never had any success with sharpening pointed nibs.


The right ink is important. Many inks are too thick and will not flow well from the nib. Some inks are thin enough to flow, but are still quite thick and give a heavier hairline. Often it is possible to make the ink the correct consistency by adding a little water. For best results I use Walker’s Copperplate Ink. This recipe has been fine tuned by Brian Walker over the years and gives excellent results – a very fine hairline and dark shades.


The paper must be very smooth for Copperplate. If the paper is not smooth enough the nib will catch on it as you try and make it glide over the paper. If the nib is starting to scratch or the paper is not smooth enough, you will be disappointed with your efforts and very quickly become disheartened. Ordinary layout paper can be suitable as can a quality, but very smooth cartridge paper. For final pieces of work use a quality paper, these include some papers designed for ink-jet printers.

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