Tag Archives: Guideline sheets

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 2

Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

 Link to WEEK 1

Sorry to see a few people missing from the last session due to holidays, work commitments, illness etc. Hope to see you all again soon. Some new faces though, made the mix of abilities even more interesting and everyone had the chance to recap as the roundhand alphabet was demonstrated once more with the double pencils and then later with a broad nib.

Then, a look around the room to find that most had been doing their homework “PPP” and had even made a start on the Roman Capitals. Some though were a bit confused by my notations on the sample. I apologise for not pointing out the formula for letter proportion which can be found on Lesson 2 Roman Capitals.

Monumental capitals might be 8 to 10 nib-widths high. These on the example are 7. Pen angle should be 30 degrees except for diagonals -AWXYZ- 45 degrees, and legs of N, written with an almost upright pen. Capitals in body text are better kept to perhaps half again as high as the minuscules. Widths of Roman capitals vary from 1 nib width – ”I”, to half a square – “E”,  3/4 – ”G”, 1 square – ”O”, to one and a half squares -”W”.

Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

We have one left handed scribe among us and it might be worth mentioning that he took calligraphy classes while on a graphic design course but was never asked to try to write from below the line rather than over the top, which is more natural for a “leftie” when writing with a pencil or ballpoint, but not as efficient when using a broad nibbed pen. I must say I am impressed with his progress so far with the double pencils, I am hoping the transition to pen and ink will be as painless.

Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

Just a couple of comments in passing, this week, on spacing, make sure to use the balloon example, even when practising, to give your eye, brain, hand and arm, plenty of exercise and to build up coordination.

Balloon.calligraphy spacing guide.Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

On layout. You will notice that all your guideline sheets have borders. Not very big ones so far as we need to conserve paper while practising. Later on in the course we will be looking into the correlation of white and black space but it is a good idea to bear in mind that a page with half the amount of black space to white, if nicely balanced, is easier to read and much more restful to the eye than a page crammed from corner to corner.

calligraphy templates.combinations.x height guide.jpg.Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

To make it easier to work out what this is all about. The x’s to the left of the page have the space of two x’s between them, making room for  ascender and descender . The x’s to the right of the page have only one x between them, useful for a page of capitals or uncials, or, short or intermingling ascenders and descenders. So if we always work in multiples of 1/8 of an inch, one guide line sheet will suffice for any number of layouts. More on this later.

Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

Hoping you are able to make the next session where we will be putting the above into action.

Link to WEEK 3

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 1


It was good to see so many people showing an interest and turning out on such a freezing cold day. I know that some had some experience, but most had no idea what they were letting themselves in for. They each received a starter pack with the instructions, “On pain of death, do not write on these guideline sheets”. “Why not?” you may ask. Well, with care these sheets will last a lifetime. Once written on, unless you have unlimited access to a copier or PC with a printer, they are gone.

In the pack were …. A3, Roundhand and Roman alphabets. 1 inch lines, a double page spread of 1/8 inch lines. A4, a sheet of 1/8 inch lines with various combinations of letter sizes that can be used using the same guideline sheet, and a simple spacing guide, “the balloon is going up”.

New roundhand alphabet.double pencils.img.jpg New Roman Alphabet.double pencils.img.jpg. Template. 1 inch guidelines. A3.calligraphy.img.jpg.  Template.1/8" guidelines. A3. double page spread.img.jpg. A4 Template combinations using 1/8" guidelines.img.jpg. The balloon is going up.a lesson in spacing.Bill Grant.img.jpg.

…….. and a set of double pencils.

First, with a sheet of decorators lining paper spread across two tables, a very brief  (we are here to learn how to do, rather than why) history of the scripts we were going to be using in this session, from Greek, to Roman Capitals, Roman Cursive, leaving Uncials for another day, through Alcuin’s involvement with the Carolingian and Humanist scripts, to Edward Johnston’s study of his foundational hand with which we begin  today. Incidentally, Johnston’s book, Writing & Illuminating & Lettering is available, free, to download or read online.

Perhaps I should have used Jeffrey’s video to illustrate.


From Alpha to Omega, and A to Z and then a 30 foot roll of humanist minuscules with an x height of 12 inches spread before them the participants were invited to join in with their double pencils. Then, when I thought I had them on the ropes, I allowed a weary but cheery group to take a seat and with their 1 inch guidelines, begin the first lesson in earnest.

Update. This video was filmed at Luton Irish Forum Calligraphy Group on 1st October 2013 by Peter Moss.


Calligraphy workshop day 1.jpg.


First tracing from the guide sheet and then freehand using the 1 inch lines and referring to Calligradoodles 0002, cups of tea and lots of chat, time was flying and skills increasing. Roman Capitals (Lesson Two) will have to wait ’til  next time but has been set as “gentle” homework as our next meeting is two weeks from now.

A very quick look at what we shall be playing with over the next four sessions,

plus, at some point we are hoping to do a live filming of Old English Blackletter Caps and minuscules as they are demonstrated. It looks as if we are going to be kept very busy indeed.

I know that some of the class are unable, due to previous engagements, work etc to attend each session, but if you follow the blog and practise whenever you can, you should be able to keep up with events.

With Thanks to Luton Culture and the Museum staff for putting up with us, and  JEWELS for their generously discounted materials.

Don’t forget. If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to use the comments box.

More help and support at Calligraphy at Bill’s Space Mk II on Facebook.

Looking forward to next time.

Link to WEEK 2

Keep watching this space, and P,P,P.

Hints and Tips

Just a few things that might make your calligraphy a little easier.

A simple light table.
There are commercially made light-boxes etc available.
Mine is made from a sheet of toughened glass 18″ x 26″ with ground edges. I am lucky enough to have two pieces so I can double the size if necessary. It sits upon a strip of quadrant screwed to the edge of the desk and rests on the shelf above. The light itself was designed to be used beneath a kitchen cupboard.

You could make a frame to hold the glass and enclose the light for table top use.

In answer to a question that crops up from time to time.I draw as few lines as I can practically get away with. I have a guideline sheet, landscape on A3, marked up with 1/8″ lines, that I slip under the page I am working on. I use multiples of 1/8″ for x height and choose a nib to suit. If I do have to draw lines I still use the same measurements, so rather than draw lines to fit ,two, three, four, etc. nib widths, I will chose a nib to fit within these multiples of 1/8″.
In workshop situations I always tape a 1 metre steel rule to a table. Most people find it simplicity itself to run a large set square down the ruler rather than make dots on the page.


With a ruler gripped or glued to the edge, a set square that runs along the quadrant, A guideline sheet marked with 1/8″ lines, you are ready for any eventuality,  just as long as you are working on paper rather than heavy card or very dark colours. In any case, this is very useful set up if you have to draw lines and have not got a drawing machine.
Now you need to make up templates of your most used formats.
This one is A3 size with 1/8 inch guidelines. It will still come in handy if you can only print it off on A4.
Template A3 double page, img, jpg
Perhaps the regular certificate inscription, envelope, place-card, or Wedding Album. A spiral or two will come in very handy.
With compasses, first make an arc 1/2″ radius to the left of the centre line. Move compass point to the bottom of the arc then open the radius until it joins the top of the arc. Draw the right-hand arc. Move the compass point back to its first position and open the radius until it joins the bottom of the arc. Keep stepping back and forth until the desired size spiral is complete.
If you wish to also put in a guide line for x height, follow the same steps adding the required measurement.
calligraphy templates.combinations.jpg
After sixty years I have worked out a way to find how much space I need to complete a page of text.
The x heights from top to bottom of the page on the left show a gap for ascenders and descenders. Those on the right just one free line for either mingled asc / desc or uncials, capitals etc. Using this method, all you need to do to work out the space needed to complete a project is to write out the longest line of text, then adjust the nib size for each x height. Fit the nib to the x height rather than draw lines to correspond with nib widths.
I made up this template as I had a regular batch of Wedding albums to inscribe.
Even if you are working on dark card, it is a simple matter to fold the page and mark off the points then pencil in the lines.  Much easier than having to measure everything each time.
Blundell Harling A1 Challenge Lightboard
Have fun.  I shall be back soon with some more hints and tips.
Keep watching this space.