Copperplate Minuscules – Basic Stroke Tips

When writing Copperplate, there is a lot to think about! Copperplate requires the additional skill of applying and releasing pressure on the nib whilst producing the correct shapes and proportions.

Applying pressure on the nib
When producing the basic full pressure stroke, pressure is applied before starting the stroke and not released until the line is complete ie. pressure on – produce the line – pressure off. A common mistake is to slowly apply and slowly release the pressure.

Pressure and Release strokes
Sometimes pressure needs to be applied gradually to the nib to produce a swell and then slowly reducing the pressure so the nib is back to producing a hairline. Or the other way around – the stroke starts thick and turns into a hairline. A common problem here is applying and/or releasing the pressure on the nib too quickly. When this happens, the transition between the two line thickness’s is too sudden and not gradual.

You can see this happening in the second shape on the image below. The thick stroke suddenly turns into a hairline.

This image also shows other common mistakes made when producing the pressure and release u shape; the first example is too wide, the second is too narrow and the third looks more like a hook shape.
The third example highlights another common mistake. Because Copperplate is written at a very steep slope it is hard keeping the individual pen strokes at the correct angle. When producing the u shape and the pen is starting to go back up the paper, the line being produced needs to be parallel with down-stroke part of the line. It can be helpful to have lots of  slope lines on your guideline sheet.

All of the common mistakes described can be seen in this final image.

You can see basic shapes that are too wide and too narrow. Other strokes have had the pressure applied and released too soon and too late.

1 thought on “Copperplate Minuscules – Basic Stroke Tips”

  1. Heather McCombie

    Could anyone please advise me on the construction of the basic full pressure stroke? The issue is this: I understand that the top and bottom of the stroke should be flat, and not rounded, and that this is achieved by pausing before drawing the stroke, and pausing before lifting the pen at the end. Some books indicate that the flat top and bottom of the stroke should be parallel to the ascender line. I am not sure how to achieve this, as the nib must be pointing in the direction of the slant line, and not parallel to the guide lines. Is there some special technique one must learn? Or is it equally correct to make the top and bottom at right angles to the stroke, making a rectangular shape? This seems to make more sense, and is much easier to achieve.
    Many thanks,

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