Basic Supplies – Copperplate Calligraphy


In our previous blog we had an overview of different forms of calligraphy and various scripts under each form of calligraphy. The most popular and frequently used script is Copperplate Calligraphy under the Western form of Calligraphy. Presently in calligraphy, copperplate is referred to as a term applied to several types of shaded script developed over hundreds of years. 

Copperplate calligraphy in the modern day is a contemporary synonym for three fancy-looking pointed pen scripts: Engrosser’s Script, Engraver’s Script, and English Roundhand.

Picture : Copperplate Calligraphy Reference

Copperplate, formerly known as English Roundhand, is a style of calligraphic writing, that uses a sharp-pointed nib or a quill in place of the flat nib used in most calligraphic writing. Unfortunately, English Roundhand is now sometimes used by calligraphers as an alternative for the ‘Foundational Hand’ first developed and popularised by Edward Johnston.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the hand-penned script was transferred onto a copper plate using a pointed tool called a bruin for printing. The popularity of the script on copper plates influenced the name change from English Roundhand to Copperplate. It was also popularized by many calligraphers such as George Bickham, George Shelley, and Charles Snell through copybooks, printmaking, and writing manuals. To know more about Copperplate Calligraphy, refer tohttps://www.iampeth.com/lesson/engraver%E2%80%99s-script/demystifying-copperplatespencerian-script-enigma

Copperplate Calligraphy is characterized by fine hairlines produced when the pointed nib is just touching the paper and no pressure is applied to the nib, shades (thick strokes) are produced when the scribe applies pressure to open the nib. Now, let’s jump onto the supplies essential in your calligraphy toolkit to master the old artform.

List of Supplies:
  1. Flexi Nibs
  2. Ink
  3. Paper
  4. Holders
  5. Additional Resources

1. Flexi Nibs

A Flexi nib or nib is interchangeably used while referring to nibs used in Copperplate Calligraphy. Flexi nibs allow the user to create different line widths by adjusting the pressure applied onto the nib while writing. Our advice for beginner calligraphers would be to try as many nibs as possible on many different surfaces to understand the nib in depth. This exercise will help the beginner calligraphers make an informed choice in terms of nibs rather than trusting the literature. Ultimately, all calligraphers have their own set of personal favourite nibs depending on the work that needs to be created.

Create your own set of 5 nibs and buy from https://www.inknbliss.com/product-page/nibs-with-storage-tin-1.

No one nib is suitable for all kinds of work. Some of the beginner-friendly nibs:

  1. Nikko G – Great beginner nib, sturdy tip with good flex. 
  2. Brause 361 – Beginner friendly nib with a sturdy tip and moderate flex
  3. Hunt 22 B – Great flexibility and can handle textured papers
  4. Gillott 404 – Sturdy with medium flex, great for textured papers.

Picture : Different nibs used in Copperplate Calligraphy

2. Ink

Ink is a very vast topic in calligraphy and again one should practice as many inks on as many surfaces possible for clearer understanding. Walnut Ink Crystals (https://www.inknbliss.com/product-page/walnut-ink-crystals)  and Black Sumi Ink (https://www.delhidoodler.shop/collections/supplies/products/sumi-ink)  are the best options for beginners to practice and improve their scripts. Sumi Ink can be used on the lowest gsm of paper and works well with every nib and has a rich black pigment. Walnut crystals have a brown pigment and are beginner-friendly ink.

Ori and Calli’s Made in India Metallic Inks have a wide range of pigments available and come at a very pocket-friendly price, ideal for beginner to expert calligraphers https://www.paintspassion.com/collections/calligraphy-inks.

When working on black surfaces, Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof White is the go-to ink. This ink comes with a high quality of white pigment and lightfastness (resistant to fading when exposed to light). Buy your bleedproof ink here

 

Picture : Ori and Calli Metallic Inks

3. Papers

A very smooth paper is preferred for copperplate calligraphy. The smoothness of the paper will help the nib dance on the paper. For practice, JK Bond Paper (90gsm) is a good option since it is budget-friendly and comes in a pack of 100 papers. For commissioned projects, use high-quality paper (250-300 gsm) depending on the client’s requirement. Deckle-edged papers are a delight to work with for commission projects, they are available in a variety of sizes and colors https://www.paintspassion.com/collections/papers.

Deckle-edged papers add a classy, vintage vibe and enhance the calligraphy. Rhodia paper pads are also a great option to work with.

Please Note: Handmade papers are not suitable for calligraphy as the nib will scratch against the texture of the paper.

Picture : Deckled Edge Papers

 

4. Holders

Holders as the name suggests will hold the nib and assist the calligrapher in writing the script. There are two choices of holders: Oblique Holders and Straight Holders. Oblique Holders are preferred by calligraphers as it helps to deal with the steep writing angles. Right-handed calligraphers prefer oblique holders whereas left-handed calligraphers prefer straight or oblique holders. Oblique holders are found at https://raghunita.com/product/27008584/Wooden-Oblique-Holders

Picture : Wooden Oblique Holder with a Flange

Calligraphers prefer using a little heavier holder thus opt for wooden holders compared to plastic ones. An ideal holder for a beginner is an ornamental wooden oblique pen holder with a metal flange.

5. Additional Resources

To learn more about the script and to get a clearer understanding, there are many resources available in the form of books authored by great penmen, blogs, and online courses.

Books: Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy by Eleanor Winters and Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe

Blogs: IAMPETH is a dedicated platform with the intention to help novices and experts alike improve their lettering and artistic skills. Learn more about IAMPETH at https://www.iampeth.com/home

Here there is a basic list of supplies needed to start your Copperplate Calligraphy journey. We have provided links to buy most of the products in India to begin your creative journey.

Alternatively, you can also refer to https://thescratchynib.com/blog/how-to-assemble-a-copperplate-learning-kit-in-india for more details on how to curate your beginner calligraphy kit in India. To understand better about the supplies, it is better to do a little searching around the Internet and local art stores. If we have missed out on a few details or basic supplies, please feel free to write to us and we would love to hear from you.