To learn copperplate calligraphy (also known as Engrosser’s script) is not an easy task. For those of us learning, it has a very steep learning curve and can be quite frustrating. But fear not! There are resources that can get you where you want to be. Of course it takes a lot of practice, but learning copperplate calligraphy can be sped up with the proper tips, tricks, and teachings. Below I’ve listed 3 different online learning resources to choose from, depending on what kind of calligrapher you are. But first you need to know what calligraphy tools to use for copperplate calligraphy.
Table of Contents
Tools You Will Need For Copperplate Calligraphy
Regardless of what kind of calligrapher you are, you will need the right tools to learn copperplate calligraphy. I have used a lot of calligraphy tools while I was learning, some worked, some didn’t and below are my favourites that make it easier for me to learn copperplate calligraphy. If you already have the tools please skip this section and go right to basic strokes. If you aren’t planning on getting any tools try my video Copperplate with a Pencil video.
1. Oblique Pen Holder
An oblique pen holder makes it much easier to write the letters at the 55 degree slant without putting extra stress on the wrist or holding the paper at a very different angle.
Oblique Pen: PaperInkArts.com
2. A Beginner Friendly Nib
A calligraphy nib is incredibly important, as only the pressure sensitive tines of the nib can create the beautiful contrast of thick and this strokes. The Zebra G Nib is incredibly beginner friendly as its pressure sensitivity is low so you don’t need to have to have incredibly accurate pressure to succeed at making letters. This does sacrifice a little bit of line contrast, but once you feel practiced enough I would suggest getting a more sensitive nib. Also make sure you properly prepare and care for your nib, you can find out how to do that here.
Calligraphy Nib: Zebra G Nib
3. Calligraphy Ink
Most calligraphy ink should do the job here, but in my experience the viscosity of India ink works perfectly with the Zebra G nib.
Calligraphy Ink: Speedball Super Black
4. Bleed Proof Paper
Finding paper worthy of calligraphy is hard as there are just so many types. If you ask me about any specific paper, I cannot answer for sure that the paper will cooperate with ink. However, we have one metric to measure to help make sure the paper you use should work is weight, which is measured in lbs or gsm (grams per square metre). I recommend 32lb or 120gsm for the best chance that your paper won’t bleed. If you want to learn more, I go into more depth on calligraphy paper in my other post here if you are interested
Bleed Proof Paper: HP Premium 32 Paper
Three Ways to Learn Copperplate Calligraphy Online
Disclaimer: If you have never learned any style of pointed pen calligraphy, I suggest getting the basics down with Modern Calligraphy. It is the perfect introductory script to learn the basic strokes, the tools of the trade, and troubleshooting any problems you may be facing with the pointed pen. There are less rules to adhere to when learning, making pointed pen calligraphy easier to pick up. However, with option 1, you can learn all the basics step-by-step at your own pace.
1. For the Eager Beginner – Online Copperplate Calligraphy Course
If you have never really used a pointed pen or written calligraphy before, an instructional online course for beginners is what you need. I have developed a course on Udemy.com that allows someone who has never used a pointed pen before to learn the basic strokes then all the way to calligraphy compositions.
You can find it and all it’s details here: Learn Copperplate Calligraphy Course
2. For the Motivated Self Learner –
If you are persistent on learning copperplate calligraphy, and you are a self learner, practice sheets are what you need. This isn’t any old copybook though. They have all the tips and tricks to fast track you to learning the skill you want:
- The Tools You’ll Need
- Basic Strokes
- 3 Methods of Flat Tops and Bottoms
- The 5 Guidelines of Flourishing
- Common problems and Probable Solutions page (to help solve annoying blobbing/pointed pen problems)
You can find the practice sheets and all it’s details here:
3. For the Careful Spender – Instructional Tutorial Blogpost
As someone who did learn copperplate calligraphy from online resources, I understand this selection. When you are first starting, you may not want to spend anything until you know you like it. The only thing I can say is that it took me quite a while to get where I wanted to be with the copperplate script. A lot of problems were from things I didn’t know about ink, paper and proper method. These hurdles could have been avoided if I attended a course or bought a book. That said, I will try to outline as much as I can in this tutorial blogpost. Read on!
But First: An Ultra-Brief History of Copperplate
Copperplate calligraphy is an contemporary synonym for 3 fancy looking pointed pen scripts: Engrosser’s Script, Engraver’s Script, and English Roundhand. It is a calligraphic style that is based on shaded letters which have been developed over hundreds of years starting around 1650. During it’s standardization, it was engraved onto copper plates for printing, thus granting the scripts’ name. It was also popularized by many calligraphers such as George Bickham, George Shelley and Charles Snell through copybooks, printmaking and writing manuals.
Now onto the learning!
Download Free Basic Practice Sheet with 55° Slant
If you didn’t already know I have a basic copperplate practice sheet available to download on my website. It’s 55 degree guideline with some letters to copy. My other sheets teach everything you need to know from stroke order to flourishing.
- For the Free Practice sheet:
- If you need more info on the premium practice book on sale now:
What are the Basic Strokes of Copperplate Calligraphy?
Before we get to the basic strokes, we need to know the fundamentals of pointed pen calligraphy: (1) Upstrokes and (2) Downstrokes.
Upstrokes are typically made every time a new lowercase letter is started and are created by applying light nib pressure onto the page while swinging in an upward (away from you) motion. This will make a thin evenly-weighted line that will connect each letter.
Downstrokes are typically made every time you need to make the thick lines that create the identifiable part of each letter. Downstrokes are done by applying medium nib pressure onto the page while pulling the pen downwards (towards yourself). This will create a thicker strokes that contrast well with your upstrokes.
In the image above there are 7 basic strokes: (1) the entrance stroke, (2) oval, (3) underturn, (4) overturn, (5) compound, (6) ascender, and (7) descender. All 7 of these strokes are made up of transitioning between downstrokes and upstrokes.
PROTIP:While practicing these strokes make sure you are applying that 55 degree angle that we mentioned earlier. I suggest having the paper at that angle (or as close as you can) so that when you are making downstroke you will be pulling straight towards yourself.
Once you’ve gotten familiar with the basic strokes for copperplate calligraphy, try piecing together the practice strokes into letters!
(6) Ascender + (5) compound = “h” and so forth. Don’t forget to always start a lowercase letter with an entrance stroke!
Check out the other combinations:
- (2) Oval + (7) Descender = “g”
- (4) Overturn + (4) Overturn + (5) Compound = “m”
- (5) Compound + (3) Underturn = “u”
There are a few more strokes that help make up the lowercase alphabet: the dot (found in c, i, j, s, and x), flat tops (found in a, d, i, j, m, n, p, q, t, u, w,& y) and the small underturn (found in b, o, v, & w).
These additional strokes really bring home the unique elegance of copperplate. The dot is easy, but the flat tops and small underturn are difficult to master. Try to practice these calligraphic strokes with the free basic practice sheet below:
Differences Between Modern Calligraphy and Copperplate Calligraphy
Copperplate calligraphy can easily be identified in one word as I said in the Complete Beginners Guide as “fancy.” It has a strict 55 degree slant, flat tops and feet and perfect oval flourishes. Modern calligraphy has a certain flow to it and has no consistent size, spacing or connections. You can see the difference in style and tone between modern calligraphy and copperplate calligraphy below.
If you would like to learn modern calligraphy I have a separate post with free lowercase practice sheets here: How to Learn Modern Calligraphy
Now get practicing, so you can learn copperplate calligraphy! If I missed something in this post please leave a comment and let me know!
Thank you for reading all the way until the end. 🙂
11 thoughts on “Copperplate Calligraphy For Beginners – Basic Strokes & Practice Sheets”
I bought the copperplate practice booklet and I find it very helpful. Unfortunately I am a little confused by the part on stroke movement. It feels so unnatural to move my hole arm instead of my fingers and I can’t imagine you could get the same precision with that. Could you perhaps write an more elaborate article about the right ways of using finger, elbow and shoulder movements. I’m curious if I’m doing it right and how long it will to take to feel less weird.
Hi Anouk! It is definitely weird at first. It is the ideal way of doing calligraphy to minimize repetitive strain injuries. It is really hard to overwrite the writing motion we have all done for many years. I would say start slowly and repeat your practice. It will take a while, and will be much harder at first than if you were just writing the conventional way. However, there are many calligraphers that get by with the normal writing motion. So it is really up to you, just be aware that this can cause repetitive strain injury (repetitive fine motor strain and pressure). I still catch myself writing conventionally, it’s not the end of the world. I hope this helps.
Very nice and well explained Article
Thank you so much for the detailed post! I am practicing brush lettering and my teacher recommended us to use tracing paper. It’s smooth, you can put your practice sheets underneath and don’t need to print them over and over. Do you think it would work for learning Copperplate calligraphy?
Copperplate calligraphy would usually use a pointed pen and ink and tracing paper is to low a density for ink. It would bleed everywhere! If you are learning with a brush pen it should work. Though I do not have copperplate brush sheets yet…. yet.
Do you have any instructions that would help lefties with the various strokes?
When I was learning calligraphy in general I had to actually begin at the end of a line of words and work from right to left, and often the downstrokes were up and upstrokes were down
I personally do not have a left-handed friendly tutorials. Below are some lefty calligraphers that may help you:
– Connie Chen
– Logos Calligraphy
At some point I would like to make resources for lefties, but I think I would need to partner up with a lefty.
I ordered your Copperplate Master Class and found it very helpful and well-written. For some reason I can print everythng except the practice sheets. Very odd. Can you help, please?
I would love to help you get practicing. I just need a bit more info on the issue. Please email email@example.com more details about your printing issue.
Thank you for responding. I purchased and downloaded the Copperplate Masterclass. It is really excellent and a huge help to me. The problem is the blank guideline sheets just didn’t print with everything else. I also tried printing just those pages with no luck. I have printed multiple calligraphy guidelines from other sources with no issues. I want to be able to print yours though because I like the size and detail!