Calligraphy Class

Simple Uncial Calligraphy Worksheets

This style of calligraphy is very historic, but still very much in use today by lovers of Celtic Calligraphy. It is an easy hand to learn as there are NO proper Ascenders or Descenders, it has a ‘natural’ pen angle of 20 degrees from the horizontal, the letters are upright, with a round body which is carried through almost the whole alphabet.

Uncial Hand using a 2mm nib as example:-

Ascender height - none
X-height - 4 x the nib width which is 4x2mm = 8mm
Descender height - none
Rule a set of lines, at the size of the x-height, the whole way down your page.  Leave one empty line space in between each line of writing.  Please look at my full exemplar to see how I have used the lines.
Pen Angle - 20 degrees from the Base Line (running across the page from left to right)
Letter slope - Upright

USE A SHARP PENCIL, A GOOD RULER AND A PROTRACTOR FOR LINE RULING

CHECK YOUR MEASUREMENTS FREQUENTLY 

When you write a whole piece of prose or poetry, leave a single empty line space between each line of writing.

The pen angle is only 20 degrees, so it is quite low to the horizontal or Baseline and it gives thick lines when you pull down from the top to the bottom in a stem stroke or the letter ‘i’. However, as you move in a circular motion the line easily moves from thick to thin. Have a look at this example:-

The ’round’ letter shape can be seen in almost every letter of this alphabet. The ‘v’, w, x, y & z and definitely NOT round letters, although the serifs of all the letters are round shapes. The serifs are basically the same as those used for Foundational hand described below. There are also straight stems to letters such as b, h, l, k, n, p, q, and t and you may notice how thick these stems are. The circular shape of the ‘o’ is carried through the letters c, e, b, d, f, g, h, m, p, q, r, s, u and in the optional shapes for the letters at the bottom – t, w, d and n.

Here is a page with the basic pen strokes on the left side and some words written in Uncial on the right. You can see from the words that they are spaced apart, do not touch or link and that each one stands alone. The space around each letter in a word should be roughly the same – if they are too far apart the word looks as though it is just a collection of letters – if too close they appear to ‘crowd’ each other. It just takes practise and observation to get the spacing right.

Start by exploring the Basic Strokes which are used to make the letters. Then move on to the full exemplar below and learn the letters, and finally try out some of the words I have given on the right hand side of the page above.

Make sure that you rule up your page according to the information I have given in the section in the Beginners Skills page. The x-height for Uncial is 4 nib widths – so if you have a pen with a nib size of 2mms you will need to rule up lines which are 8mms apart for your x-height. As there are NO ascender or descender spaces to worry about for Uncial, I suggest that you simply rule up your whole page with lines which are the x-height width apart, as I have done in the exemplar below.

In this exemplar the lines are 4 nib widths apart the whole way down. The pen angle lines are drawn at 20 degrees up from the Horizontal baseline. The letters k, l, d, and h are only ONE nib width about the waistline at the top and j, f, p, q and y are only ONE nib width below the baseline. This is to help the reader distinguish between the letters. NOTE: the exemplar letters are in FAMILY GROUPS.
You will notice that the letter ‘a’ is quite different. The first stroke (the stem) is written from left to right and not straight down. Similar to the ‘x’. the ‘bowl’ of the ‘a’ is small, starts from the centre of the stem and pushes out and down, curving round back to meet the stem lower down. It has an elegant shape and is worth the work to get it right.


Foundational Hand Worksheets

Here is a set of exemplars for the Basic Broad-edged nib style known as Foundational Hand. Start by ruling up a set of lines for the size of pen you will be using. Information about ruling up a page is on the Important Beginners Skills page. Don’t forget to use the correct ascender, x-height and descender size and the correct pen angle for Foundational Hand, or you can go to https://scribblers.co.uk/ and use the guideline generator on their website.

Foundational Hand using a 3mm nib as example:-

Ascender height - 3 x the nib width 3x3mm = 9mm
X-height - 4 x the nib width 4x3mm = 12mm
Descender height - 3 x the nib width 3x3mm = 9mm
Empty space 5mm - this space is used for your practice sheet so that your letters are not crammed together.
Pen Angle - 30 degrees from the Base Line (running across the page from left to right)
Letter slope - Upright

USE A SHARP PENCIL, A GOOD RULER AND A PROTRACTOR FOR LINE RULING

CHECK YOUR MEASUREMENTS FREQUENTLY 

USE A GUIDE FOR MARKING WHERE YOUR LINES WILL GO - SEE THE INFORMATION ABOUT LINE RULING ON THE 'IMPORTANT BEGINNERS SKILLS' PAGE

The next image shows 2 line sets. The top set is labelled to refresh your memory – for more information about line ruling please refer to the Important Beginners Skills page. The lower line set shows Foundational Hand letters. Make sure you follow the red direction lines.

  • ‘o’ is made with 2 strokes of the pen and is a full circle letter. The first stroke begins just below the waistline and moves down and out to create a half-circle curve, lift off and replace the nib inside the starting point of the first stroke. Now move up to the waistline, across and down, in a circular movement and meet up with the first stroke.
  • ‘i’ is a single pen stroke with small, round serifs at the start and finish and a straight stem in between.
  • ‘b’ starts with a small serif then the pen moves straight down the stem of the letter until almost at the baseline. Here the pen moves around in a curve, touching the baseline and finishes round to the right, just above the baseline. Lift the pen off and replace it just below the waistline and inside the stem. Now make a curved stroke just like the second stroke of the letter ‘o’ and meet the first stroke at its thinnest point. You can see that it is similar to making a ‘o’ but with an ascender stem to start.
  • ‘q’ starts like the first stroke of ‘o’, then lift the pen off and replace it just inside the beginning of the first stroke of the ‘o’ and move up to the waistline and across, lifting off when this stroke is about as wide as the first stroke. Now place the pen slightly off to the right, still at 30 degrees pen angle, and pull it across and down to meet up with the edges of the first 2 strokes. Take the pen down to the descender line and make a small round serif to finish. This letter is similar to ‘o’ but with a descender stem finish.

When you have created or printed a set of lines to write on, I suggest that you practice making pen strokes and holding your pen so that the angle of the nib is kept at 30 Degrees. This does take a bit of practice to do so I have included a sheet of Basic Foundation Hand strokes for you to try. Aim to keep the pen angle at 30 Degrees all the time as this will give your pen strokes the correct width. As you move your pen in straight lines and curved lines across the page, you should start to see how the lines become thin and thick. Your pen moves in the direction of the coloured arrows – this is called the DUCTUS.

All the pen strokes in the Basic Pen Strokes image below are used in creating this style of calligraphic writing. They are also a good introduction to your broad-edge nib pen and worth practicing and playing with before you move on to making letters.

Now we can move on to creating letters by following the exemplars below. When I teach calligraphy classes, my students work in FAMILY GROUPS of letter SHAPES. You will see in the following 2 exemplars that the formation of the letters flows more easily from letter to letter when you work this way. Always move your pen in the direction and in the numbered order of the arrows – the Ductus. And remember that you have to LIFT your pen off the page when you complete a stroke and then place it carefully where you want to begin the next stroke. This is not cursive writing.

Writing words

When you have learnt how to rule up lines for Foundational Hand and have worked with the alphabet, you will want to move on to ruling up a full page and do some more practice with letters and with words. Try NOT to write the same letter over and over again. It doesn’t really help and can be a very frustrating experience. Instead I suggest that you write each letter only 3 times and then move on to another letter in the same family group. When you have practiced all of that family group then write some simple words using those letters only. After you have done that you can more easily move on to do the same with each of the family groups, gradually incorporating more letters into your words until you can use the whole alphabet in a Pangram – that’s a sentence which uses every letter of the alphabet.

  • ‘o’ group:- o, c, e, d, q, b, & p
  • straight group:- i, j & f
  • bottom curve group:- l, t, u
  • upper curve group:-n, m, r, h, a, s & g
  • angled letters group:- v, w, y, x, k & z
Follow the direction arrows when you make the letters and try out some words for fun
Angled letters have a different pen angle. This is clearly marked on each direction stroke.
Now try more words and remember that the pen angle is very important. These letters are all UPRIGHT but if you have problems keeping straight you can always put in some extra UPRIGHT LINES on the page to help you.
Here are some more Pangrams to try:
the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog;
six of the women quietly gave back prizes to the judge;
picking just six quinces, the new farmhand proved strong but lazy;
weekly magazines request help for and by junior executives;
pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

Lastly, I suggest that you try writing in this new Calligraphic Hand in several different sizes of nibs, from large to small. It is more difficult to write with a very small nib as it is hard to be accurate with a very tiny nib. The best way that I have found is to practice with something like a nursery rhyme, starting with your largest nib and working gradually through every size of nib you have, using the same piece of text, until you reach your smallest nib. Rule up a page with one line set for each nib size and label them. Then scan the ruled sheet so that you can write it several times without having to re-rule it. And keep practicing.