If you’re just tuning in, I would recommend you go through the following two posts before reading this one:
- Diving into Elegant Script: Spencerian and Copperplate Roundhand
- The Tools, Terms, and Techniques for Hand Lettering Elegant Scripts
In these posts, we talked about two schools of elegant script lettering, their histories, and how they differ. Then we talked about letter anatomy and the tools of a script artist. And finally, we went through some stroke exercises that are going to help you create the actual letters of the alphabet.
Now it’s time to apply everything we’ve learned so far and begin mastering the alphabet.
Practicing Minuscules (Lowercase Letters)
I have created a free guide for you to practice the minuscule alphabet with:
I would recommend printing out several copies.
On the first page, you’ll see the alphabet on the first couple of lines, slowly fading out as it gets further down the page.
Begin by tracing an entire line of the alphabet several times. Don’t worry about memorizing them yet. Just pay attention to the gestures of your hand and how it feels to write. Do your best to trace each letter perfectly.
Once you become comfortable with tracing the alphabet, start on an empty line and recreate the alphabet by visually referencing the alphabet that is printed on the guide. Repeat this as many times as you need to until you can eventually create each letter from reference perfectly.
Next, try to recreate the alphabet without looking at the reference. Continue to practice this until you can create them perfectly from memory.
You’ll be able to learn and recreate the alphabet pretty quickly, but the difficult part is effortlessly recreating them verbatim every time.
When you feel like you’ve mastered the alphabet, go back and write each letter as many times as you can fit on a row. Analyze each iteration of your letter and compare it to the letter that comes with the guide. Mark the imperfect ones and determine why they’re imperfect. Repeat the exercise while focusing on correcting that imperfection.
Scripting is a tedious discipline. Learning to execute the alphabet perfectly isn’t so much about skill or talent as it is training. Anyone can train their hands to do this.
Words and sentences
Once you’ve become comfortable with the alphabet, put your letters to the test by writing out words and sentences.
This is a great way to see how different letters connect with each other in different contexts. Here are some great sentences to practice:
- Jaded zombies acted quaintly but kept driving their oxen forward.
- A mad boxer shot a quick, gloved jab to the jaw of his dizzy opponent.
- The job requires extra pluck and zeal from every young wage earner.
- A quart jar of oil mixed with zinc oxide makes a very bright paint.
Practicing Majuscules (Uppercase Letters)
I have also created a guide to help with practicing the majuscule alphabet:
Again, I would recommend printing out several copies for your practicing.
I chose to keep this separate from the minuscule guide because I didn’t want to tempt you to move too fast. You should really spend a couple of days committing the minuscules to muscle memory before approaching the majuscules.
The majuscules don’t follow the same systematic rules as the minuscules. As a result, they’re more difficult to learn. Each letter can also contain many different variances.
The majuscule guide is comprised of the same visual patterns as the minuscule guide with each set of letters fading down several lines.
Repeat the same procedure for learning these letters as you did previously:
- Start by tracing until you’re comfortable recreating them from reference.
- Create them from reference until you’re comfortable recreating them from memory.
- Draw each one many times, examine their flaws.
- Redraw each letter while making a special effort to correct those flaws.
Perhaps you have heard of the “10,000 Hour Rule”. This rule states that if you practice one thing for 10,000 hours, you will become a master of that skill. Whether it’s true or not, it’s worth talking about what practice really means.
Consider someone learning to play guitar and that they’re struggling to play one part of a particular song. One could argue that if they play through this song over and over again, they’ll get better and will eventually master the song.
This is true, but someone who was deliberately practicing would play that one part of the song over and over until they mastered it. In this scenario, they’d learn much faster.
Now let’s apply this principle to lettering. Some letters are inevitably harder to master than other letters. If you keep practicing the alphabet over and over again, you’re going to progress slower.
Study your work to figure out where your weaknesses are, and strengthen those weaknesses.
If you’re having trouble with the letter S, then draw hundreds of them in isolation. Then draw a hundred words that contain a letter S.
This is deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is the fast track to mastering something quickly.
This is Just the beginning
If you’ve made it this far, hopefully you are starting to see just how fun and therapeutic script lettering can be. And the lettering more you do, the better you’ll get.
There will be frustrating moments, but don’t get discouraged and give up — everyone has to start from the beginning. If you keep up with your practice, you’ll be able to see yourself continually improving week after week.