The hand of Aubrey.


If you ever see my handwriting using a regular pen, you would never be able to guess that it was written by someone who practices calligraphy. Truth is, I am not really a ‘handwriting enthusiast’, but I fell in love with the process of drawing letters, which is why my hand is greatly influenced by Engrossers’ Script (ES).

According to Dr. Joseph Vitolo in his ‘Script in the Copperplate Style’ handout, ES is “not a form of handwriting”but is “more accurately described as the equivalent of engraving on paper”. This is how I literally feel whenever I write. However, you may find that I do not apply some of the rules of ES, because my literal hand is unable to achieve the required movement or pressure.


The materials we use play a significant role in achieving the desired result—they don’t have to be expensive, but they have to be right:

Nib: Leonardt Principal EF is always my nib of choice because it is very reliable in achieving extremely fine hairlines. I also find that it always creates very contrasting letters with its flexibility - thin hairlines and heavy shades.

Ink: Higgins Eternal and walnut inks are the best for those very fine hairlines. Iron gall ink is also flawless in that area.

Paper: I use Rhodia Paper 5x5 and lined for practice. For this exemplar, I used Conqueror Brilliant White.

Holder: I use an oblique pen holder to facilitate consistent shade formation which I find difficult whilst using a straight pen holder.


As ES uses 2:1:2 ratio, it is what I used for this exemplar. However, at times that I find the ascenders and descenders might be too tall or long, so I do use 3:2:3 occasionally.

The most comfortable x-height for me is 5mm - just enough to see whether the letter-forms are executed properly. In this exemplar, I am using Scribblers Collective’s 8mm x-height guide sheet, which I just discovered to be the maximum height I can tolerate.


I describe my hand as very traditional and elegant. It appears to be constrained because the strokes are simple with limited movement. This helps me achieve consistency in the thickness, length, slant, and spacing of the shades and the letter itself.

Here are some other attributes of my hand:


Same as ES, pen is lifted to transition from thick to thin, which explains the tiny spaces at the bottom of letters.

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The weight of the oval shade is heaviest at, or just a bit below the center of the letter and is done with 1 downward and 1 upward stroke. For ES, there are two downward strokes with one having less pressure to achieve the hairline.

Entry stroke for most of the minuscules, especially oval-based letterforms, joins at the center of the shade.


Ascending and descending stem loops are written in one stroke. This is why they don’t have the slight shade on the hairline (this can be done by either doing a light downward stroke or going back to the hairline and adding the shade).

The stem loops also start just a little above the header of the ‘x’ height (or end just a little below the baseline if descender).



My hand is mostly similar to Engrosser’s Script in which letters are drawn. Almost all rules are observed to achieve the contrast of the letters and consistency of shades, slants and loops. It may appear tight and constrained but its what makes it exquisite.



About the Artist

Aubrey Ilarde is a calligrapher based in Singapore. She fell in love with traditional calligraphy about 4 years ago and she has since worked to improve her script by learning from teachers and other calligraphy enthusiasts online. She believes in continuous learning and tries to broaden her knowledge about other scripts by attending workshops when given the opportunity.

Aubrey is a member of Scribblers Collective specialising in Engrosser’s Script.

Scribblers Collective