Guide-sheets and how to use them
Calligraphers love talking tools. Undeniably, one topic which always arises in a calli-conversation is that on paper—which paper does not bleed nor feather, how GSM affects the quality of writing, etc. As is expected, popular brands such as Rhodia and Clairefontaine (interestingly, these two brands belong to the same group, ‘Clairefontaine-Rhodia’) usually emerge winners. As a result, many calligraphers use these paper for practice, especially the Rhodia dot or grid pad.
While I cannot deny the fact that these papers are extremely ink-friendly, I opine that using these pads for practise do not provide the best environment for learning calligraphy. Disclaimer: When I say calligraphy, I actually only refer to the subset, copperplate.
First and foremost, copperplate scripts require a consistent slant on all letters, and this slant is not printed on the pads.
Secondly, these pads usually come with a spacing of 5mm between horizontal ‘lines’. This is way too small for practise, especially with a G nib, and using 2 squares (10mm) is slightly bigger than what most people are comfortable with.
The alternative to using these pads usually involve printing one single guide-sheet, then over-laying this with paper translucent enough to see the lines behind. I dislike this method as well, as your eye now has to focus more on trying to look through the paper at the guidelines, rather than focusing on the letters you are writing.
Therefore, we have developed these guide-sheets for you to print, so that you may write directly on these sheets.
The concept of guide lines in copperplate calligraphy is quite simple. All lower-case which are the same height as the letter x should be written in the x-height region, with the top and bottom of the letter touching the waist and base line respectively. Letters which extend beyond the height of x should extend into the ascender or descender.
The slant line provides the angle at which your letters should be slanted. Please note that the lines only indicate the angle which you should be writing, not the width of each letter, nor where letters should be placed.
This provides the ratio of the height of the ascender / descender space to the x-height. For example, if the x-height is 20mm and the ascender / descender space is 40mm, the ratio would be 2:1:2 (ascender : x-height : descender). The height of the ascender space is almost always the height of the descender space.
Common ratios include 1:1:1, 2:1:2, 3:2:3.
The proportion is relative, and does not give an indication how large the letters will be.
This provides the absolute height of the x-height. For example, if the x-height is 10mm, the distance between the base and waist is 10mm. From the x-height, we can calculate the ascender and descender space using the proportions. For example, a proportion of 2:1:2 | x-height 10mm would mean that the ascender and descender space is 2 times that of the x-height, which is 20mm respectively.
In copperplate, x-height is not determined by the nib size. You may choose to write at any x-height, depending on how large you want your words to be.
This provides the degree which the letters are slanted in degrees, measured from the base line. In general, copperplate is usually written between 52° - 57°, and can go even steeper or mellower depending on the situation.
The slant lines provide an indication in which your shaded-strokes should be angled. It does not indicate how wide the letters should be, nor do they indicate where letters should be placed on the paper.
We have provided these guide-sheets free-of-charge, and our hope is that you practise well. Please purchase some bleed-proof / feather-proof paper of your choice, and print these guide-sheets. After which, please write directly on the printed guide-sheets. Using the overlay method would force your eye to look for the guide-lines, rather than allowing your eyes to focus on the letter-forms.
You may use these guide-sheets for your own personal practise, or in non-profit cases such as calligraphy-jams, outreach programs.
These guide-sheets must not be used in commercial cases where there is profit, such as in workshops. We would also appreciate if you did not remove our branding / logos.
Lastly, we hope you enjoy writing with these guide-sheets.
Click here to download our guide-sheets and exemplars
Please print without margins for actual size. If printed with margins, the x-height may vary slightly.
Legal & Copyright
The copyright in our free-to-use guide-sheets belongs to the Scribblers Collective.
Print any of the guide-sheets or download any of them onto disk for your personal use;
Print any of the guide-sheets or download any of them onto disk for non-profit use;
Provide a link to this web site from any other web site, but not reproduce or store any of our guide-sheets on any other web site without our prior consent.
“Personal use” in this context includes use in your business, but you may not incorporate any part of these pages in any commercial document or in any material sold or otherwise made available for profit without our prior consent. You may not alter / remove any of the Scribblers Collective’s logos or branding without written consent.
You may not copy any of these pages or do any other act in relation to any of these pages which is prohibited by copyright except as expressly authorised above.
For corporate use or white labelling, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.