Learning Copperplate Script & Deliberate Practice

Published Categorized as Design
copperplate calligraphy-1

Lately I’ve been working on my hand lettering skills, something I’ve always been pretty weak in. I started quite low pressure, just getting myself into the habit of spending 15 minutes a day doing something creative that’s for me instead of for work, and although I really enjoyed messing around with lettering I wasn’t really making much progress. That shouldn’t really have been surprising – I’d jump in without any research, guide lines or plan and just play around, which although fun resulted in some pretty bad composition and showed some serious holes in my technique.

Last week I listened to Sean Wes’ podcast (he’s a pretty amazing at lettering) about deliberate practice – breaking down a skill into chunks and practicing those with a defined objective in mind. ‘Passive’ practice, which is what I was doing previously, will lead to improvement but at a much slower pace. I’d argue (and I think it is brought up in the podcast) that this kind of practice is still necessary explore creative expression without restraints, and to have more fun with it than repetitive exercises. But my lack of deliberate practice in other things that I’ve dabbled in (sewing, drawing, painting, sculpting, knitting, Javascript, Ruby on Rails…) is definitely a reason why I don’t progress as fast as I’d like and inevitably give up.

End result: I’ve decided to seriously work specifically on Buy Ativan Copperplate script – properly, with the dip pen and everything. It feels delightfully archaic, now that even writing with a pen is starting to become less common compared to typing. Copperplate is a tricky and very slow script, and it feels a bit indulgent spending an hour methodically writing out the exercises at a snail’s pace. It’s only been a couple of days, but I’m loving it so far and I think that going through the boring bits, repeating the same line or curve (not even an actual letter!) again and again are helping improve my muscle memory and technique. I still jump ahead every now and then and write actual words to see overall progress though!

The copperplate nib is extra cool – it has an elbow in it, and is flexible to allow lots of variation in line weight. Here’s a closeup of how it looks:

copperplate calligraphy-2

I don’t have the best track record with keeping up with new habits, despite the best intentions, so let’s see how long this lasts! If the 10,000 hours rule is to be believed, and I practice diligently for an hour a day, I’ll have mastered copperplate within oh, 28 years. Every journey starts with the first step though right?

P.S. I’ve been putting some of my practice pieces up on Instagram (@chigarden) if anyone is interested – constructive criticism is very welcome!


  1. Good on you! I love the way calligraphy looks. I had gotten a very primitive set of pens when I was younger, but never really had the time. I think the disposable inks also threw me off a bit. You’ve inspired me to hunt for my old set though!

    1. I have an old set with those ink cartridges which I think my mum got at a garage sale when I was a kid! It’s fun to play with and very convenient, but personally I like the feel of a dip nib and a bottle of ink much better.

  2. I’m loving your calligraphy photos on Insta! Just wondering where you learn the typography from (if that makes sense) as I’ve got a calligraphy set myself and want to get into it but don’t know how or where to start!

    1. Thanks Joan! I have a book for learning copperplate style – it’s called ‘Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy – A Step-by-Step Manual’ by Eleanor Winters. It’s fantastic, going through right from learning the basic strokes and shapes, to the characters and how to space and join them, with illustrations of common mistakes etc. This one is intended specifically for copperplate style though, so you’ll need an elbow nib, a holder and ink to dip into rather than the pens that come with cartridges. I’m sure there are great books out there for italic and blackletter styles that would be compatible though.

      I’ve also heard really great things about the http://istilllovecalligraphy.com/ online course – I think I might give it a shot if I start to stall with my book :)

  3. Keep it up! I too am a beginner at calligraphy. This past summer I took a class at my local community college and it was in Copperplate/English Roundhand. I fell in love! I now tons of nibs and a few different holders. It’s been great finding inspirational works on Pinterest and Instagram. There are so many talented people out there. I’ll be sure to follow you.

    If I may add more great resources to your list…the Molly’s. Molly Jacques (http://mollyjacquesillustration.com/), teaches a Skillshare class (http://skl.sh/1cemfHB) and Molly Suber Thorpe (http://www.plurabellecalligraphy.com/) recently released a book (http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Calligraphy-Everything-Started-Script/dp/1250016320/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384269903&sr=1-4&keywords=calligraphy).

    Full disclaimer: the Skillshare link, if used, will give the buyer and myself a discount.

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