Calligraphy for Beginners 2 – The Elegance of Italics | Jackson Alves | Skillshare

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Calligraphy for Beginners 2 – The Elegance of Italics

teacher avatar Jackson Alves, Letterer, calligrapher and teacher.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class 01 – Choosing your pen


    • 3.

      Class 02 – Using your pen


    • 4.

      Class 03 – Preparing the surface


    • 5.

      Class 04 – Warming up exercises


    • 6.

      Class 05 – The Skeleton of Italics


    • 7.

      Class 06 – The Minuscules


    • 8.

      Class 07 – The Capitals


    • 9.

      Class 08 – The Numbers


    • 10.

      Class 09 – The Words


    • 11.

      Class 10 – The Basic Swashes


    • 12.

      Class 11 – Conclusion


    • 13.

      Next steps


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About This Class

Calligraphy for beginners is a three class sequence for anyone who wants to start studying calligraphy.  This is the second installment of that sequence.

This class is about Italic Letters, my interpretation of the classic Italic Script from the 15th century. Italic isn't the easiest style to learn, but I’ll show you some techniques to make the process easier and in the final portion of the class, you'll create some of your own beautiful words in this style.

Italics is a elegant style with sexy curves and fluid movement. In addition, this class provides the basis for my next exciting class: Brush Pen Italics!So, what

are you waiting for? Join me to perfect creating Italic Letters!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jackson Alves

Letterer, calligrapher and teacher.


Jackson Alves is a letterer, calligrapher and teacher based in Brazil. After graduating in 2003 with a degree in Graphic Design, Jackson has accumulated over 20 years of experience, working locally and internationally. In the last eight years, Jackson has made his mark in the typography world, collaborating with clients from Brazil, the USA, the UK, France, Switzerland, Russia, and Australia. Jackson’s background in calligraphy has shaped his lettering style, with fluid and graceful curves, bold style choices, and a keen eye for aesthetics. As well as being published in multiple design blogs, books and magazines, Jackson was awarded the 10th Graphic Design Biennial in Brazil in 2013, also the Type Directors Club “Certificate of Typographic Excellence” in 2016... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Trailer : Hi guys, my name is Jackson Alves, a Brazilian letterer and calligrapher, living in Curitiba, a city in the south of Brazil, where I run my own studio working for clients all over the world. I'm coming back with my second online calligraphy class, the second of three class sequence called Calligraphy for beginners. This class is about italic letters. My interpretation of the Classic Italic script from the 15th century. Italic is not an easy style to learn, but we use some techniques to make the process easier, and the final course of this class, you write beautiful words on the style. Italic is a beautiful style with sexy curves. In addition to that, this class will prepare you for my next class, Brush Pen Italics. So what are you waiting for join me to perfect creating italic letters. 2. Class 01 – Choosing your pen: I'm assuming you watched my first class in calligraphy for beginners. If something sounds weird to you, maybe it's a good idea to review that class first. I will show you some pens but before I do this, I'd like to explain that you can totally use that handmade calligraphy pen we made in last class but you'll need to increase the size of your guidelines or make a new pen with a smaller nib. Because now we need 3.8 millimeters nib and the last one had six millimeters nib. These are some of my recommended pens for creating italics. This is the original handmade calligraphy pen I made but this one is a little big for our class today. It has six millimeter nib width and we need that 3.8 millimeter. This is a Speedball broad edge nib 1c. Speedball is one of my favorite nib brands. If you decide to buy a broad edge nib, don't forget to buy the nib holder. This is a Brause nib. I always prefer a nib with an ink reservoir. You can use one without it, like this one but you'll need to dip the pen into the ink constantly. This is the Pilot Parallel Pen. It is a great choice for convenience because with this pen, the ink flows automatically and you don't need to worry about dipping it into the ink all the time. The bad news is, it is pretty expensive in some countries, like Brazil, for example. Please choose a green one for this class, the green band is 3.8 millimeters, don't get the wrong one. In case you chose the Parallel pen, don't forget to buy the cartridges because you will need some for this class. If you didn't choose the parallel for all others, you'll need Indian ink or some calligraphic ink like this one. You can also refill the Parallel using ink and an ink syringe. Remember that you can also use other pens or even a flat brush to take this class. But for each pen or brush with different nibs size, you will need to make new guidelines to fit the nib you're using. 3. Class 02 – Using your pen: You've already learned in the last class how to use our handmade calligraphy pen, dipping it into the inkwell. But for this model, this speedball, it's better to use a pointed brush like this to fill the pen reservoir. It's an extra step but, it will give you a better control of the ink flow. Check this out, if you opted for the parallel pen, you only need to write because ink flows automatically from the nib. Hey, I almost forgot the lefties, maybe I can't explain better because I'm not left handed, but I'll try my best and show you how terrible I'm with my left hand. Check this out. That's the way the righties write, and that's the way the lefties can write. 4. Class 03 – Preparing the surface: This time I recommend you use thinner illustration sheets of paper because we will need to see through the sheets of paper and to use the guidelines. You could also use a thicker sheet of paper. But for that you need also a light box like this. Now we need the guidelines. I provide you with a file to print, but before using that you need to understand how to create this and why we create it like this. The x height of italics are 5 nib widths, like the foundational style. But the height of the ascenders and descenders are 4 nib widths. The height of the capitals are 8 nib widths, 3 more than x height. For this class it's also important to make the diagonal guidelines. Because now the letters have some tilt. The angle of this guides should be tilted forward 10 degrees compared to straight vertical lines of the foundational style. 5. Class 04 – Warming up exercises: We'll do some quick exercise to warm up our hand for the italics. For this class, our pens needs to be kept at 45 degree angle for all exercises. This is 45 degrees here. First, make the straight lines. You need to keep the pen at 45 degrees and use the guideline. Notice that you need keep the pen at 45 degrees and also write the lines in this angle here of 10 degrees. Forty-five and the diagonal lines and keep doing this the entire line. After that, you start to make the basic strokes. It's almost the same here, 45, go to this line here and start with a little curve, and a straight line, and little curve. Little curve, straight line, little curve, and go on. Notice that first, I put the paper in the horizontal and also when I start writing, I try to use my entire arm like this. It's better to write the letters like this. If you try to use just your fingers, it's possible that you'll start to make something like this because it's better to work with your entire arm like this. This time it's just a little line but when you think about the line, for example, the letters with ascenders for example, or if you think about the letter f, letter f has ascenders and descenders. You start here and you go this entire line until here. You can see that it's impossible to draw this line just moving your fingers. Think about that. After you complete the entire line here with this basic stroke, we'll start to make the ellipse. Take this 45 degrees, go to this line, first part and second part. First part, second part. You can take this moment to think about a more condensed ellipse like this or wider like this. When you find the better shape, try to repeat and repeat again the entire line. After that, we need to make the base of the letter m. The base of the letter m, you start like this stroke, little curve, straight line and go up, little curve, straight line and go up, little curve, straight line. Continue to repeat this part. Notice that your rhythm is important, so try to find it in here. You don't need to be so fast but try to find a rhythm here. Complete the entire line. To finish, the base of the letter u. Forty five degrees, we'll start with the basic stroke and go up, straight, little curve, go up, straight, little curve, go up, and repeat again and again. Find the rhythm here and repeat the entire line. 6. Class 05 – The Skeleton of Italics: To start our journey in the italic world, we'll use the guideline sheet to trace the basic shape of the letters. These guidelines are the skeletons of letters, and we'll use the same for this class, and for the next class about the brush pen letters. You can check this, and other class files on the tab Class Project. So let's take a closer look at the skeletal. Notice that, this is slightly different from the classic letters you learn in school. The best shape of this skeleton is not rounded, for example. Probably you learned something in school like, letter a, letter b, but the skeleton is not rounded like this, or like another styles, for example, the copperplate like this. The skeleton is more like a triangle, something we can start like this. So our skeleton for this class is this one. The space outside of the letter, for example, here, and the space inside of the letter, have the same importance. You need to think about this space and this space. Because calligraphy is not about the black part of the letters, about the ink, but also about the empty space, this part, this part, and stuff like that, and the important part is we use the same skeleton in this class, so the italics with the broad edge nib, and also if the brush pen, the next class I will teach here. Actually, the original italic script from the 15th century, was more condensed, something like this. Because the original italic was created to save space. But for our class, I create something more wide. Which is a little bit easier to do. Take your sheet of the skeleton, and then let's start to make the letters. 7. Class 06 – The Minuscules: For this class, take your guideline sheet and put your blank sheet of paper on top of it to start writing. You should be able to see through the top sheet, because that is better to use a thin sheet of paper. Or you can use a lightbox like this. For the letter'' a'', we'll start like this. You can use the 45 degree angle guide I put on the top of the sheet to find and hold the pen in that angle. I made this and you can copy this angle here. You should be tracing this skeleton guide as closely as possible and by doing this, you start to understand the correct shape of the letters. Take the 45 degree here, and above of this skeleton, will start to move make the movement. We start the letter ''a'' in this part here, and going down, little curve, going up, and stop here. After that, second stroke, start here, going to connect you from this one. After that, start here, going down, and finish here. Letter ''b''. I made the skeleton just with a straight line here, but we start to make a little curve, remember that basic stroke of the warm up exercise, so take the 45 degrees, start a little bit here, make a little curve, and after that, going down, stop here, and going up and down, and finish here. Letter ''c''. Again 45, start here, similar to letter ''a'', the beginning of the letter, stop here, and this last part here. Letter ''d''. Again, we start exactly like the letter ''a''. But now we have ascender. So start with this line, going down, finish here. Letter ''e''. Start here, curve, stop here, similar to letter ''c'', but this time you go down here and finish here. Usually letter 'f'' is one of the hardest letter to draw because is a letter that we have ascender and the descender. So you need to start 45 degrees, you need to start on these guide here, going down, little curve here, and finish with this curve on top of the letter, and another curve on this part of the letter to the bottom, and finish with a straight line here. For this part of the letter, you can keep this 45 degrees, or you can decrease a little bit the angle, so you can do for example 45 degree, something like 30 degrees,something like that, and make this finish line here. Letter ''g''. Letter ''g'' we have two models, so the basic one we start like the letter 'a'', so we start writing a letter ''a''. Stop here, and here, and after that, you need to draw this descender until here, and finish here. But we have also second model, so 45 degrees. This time, we need to draw, you should write smaller ellipsis like this, after that you draw the descender, and the finish here. Letter ''h''. Start here, little curve, straight line, going up, little curve, straight, little curve. The basic stroke is the letter ''i''. Go here, little curve, straight line, little curve, and just draw this little part here like this. Letter ''j''. Similar to that. Start similar but go with the descender, little curve and finish with this part and this again. Letter ''k''. Again, basic stroke, little curve,and straight line. On this part, on the x height, write a little curve here, touch the first stroke and finish here. Straight line, little curve. Letter ''l''. Again, basic stroke. Letter ''m''. Basic stroke. We already write this letter in the warm up exercise. Little curve going up, straight line, little curve going up, straight line. I decided to use this skeleton because in this time, for beginners is easier to start to learn the letters writing above the skeleton. But of course, as you start to practice, you need to write the letter without the skeleton, or you can make a quick skeleton with a pencil and write over the pencil. Forty five degrees, letter ''n'', again basic stroke, little curve, straight line, going up, little curve, going down straight line, and little curve to finish. Letter ''o''. All the time it takes this 45 degrees here, and draw this part first, going up, and this part after. Letter ''p''. Again, little curve, straight line, and take this part going up, going down and finish it here. Letter ''q''. exactly the same letter ''a''. This part first, going up, stop here, close this part and draw the descender. Letter ''r''. Forty five degrees, straight line. Take this part going up, little curve, stop here. Letter ''s''. Forty five there, start on here, draw this curve here and finish drawing the bottom part and the upper part. Letter ''t''. Notice that to start letter ''t'', above the x height, but it's not exactly an ascender is not true, this part, just a little bit above, going down, little curve, and like the letter ''f'', this part, this stroke of letter ''t'', you can keep the 45 degrees or decrease a little bit the angle, and make this part. Letter ''u''. Start here, little curve, straight line, little curve going up, straight line, little curve. Letter ''v'' is a little bit like this, not exactly a straight line more curved, start here, finish here. ''W' is similar to letter ''v'', so double letter ''v'' and letter x, little curve, straight line, little curve but standing straight line is diagonal, and you start in this part here, the bottom part, going up and finish here. Letter ''y''. You start exactly the same as letter ''v'', but when you come here, you continue the line, and stop here. Letter ''z''. Take the 45 degrees, draw the first stroke, and this second stroke is better to rotate your pen from 45 degrees to 0 degrees like this. I will explain why. If you don't rotate the pen, it take this first part, 45 degrees, going down in diagonal line, 45 degrees and finish here. But the problem here is there's a lot of empty space here. So, if you draw it like this, it's better to draw another line here. But another way is change the angle. So, you draw the first part 45 degrees, change the pen for 0 degrees, draw this part, and again, come back to 45 degrees, and finish the letter. Now you don't need to draw this another stroke. 8. Class 07 – The Capitals: It's time to written the capitals. The height of the capital is 8 nib widths. You can take your capitals guideline sheet and start to do the exercise. The letter A, you take the 45 degree angle. You can start here, in this ornament of the letter. Start here, going up, horizontal line, stop here. Forty five degrees. Draw this part of the letter, going down. Stop here. Finish this part here.Take again 45 degrees, go this part, straight line, little curve, and the last stroke here. Letter B. Letter B, you start on the straight line. This part here, you don't need two touch, exactly the guideline, just a little bit here, and draw this part, and stop here. After that, you draw this part. Draw this, second curve, stop here, and come back here to draw the last part. Letter C. This curve first, stop here. Come back here, and draw the last part. Letter D, you start like the letter B. Straight line first, finish here. Come back here, draw this part of the ornament, come back here draw the second curve, going down, stop here. After that come back here, and finish the letter. Letter E. Take 45 degrees, we can start with the straight line. In the ending of this stroke you go and draw a little curve like this. Come back to this part, draw the swash. Horizontal line, stop here. You draw just this little piece here. Another horizontal line, and the last horizontal line. Letter F, 45 degrees. We can start with the straight line here, similar to letter E but, this time we're going down and draw the descender. Stop here. Another part of the curve, and this part, a horizontal line. You can finish with this little part here, and last stroke. Letter G.Curve, going up, stop here. Come back here, draw this part. Similar to letter C but, with a longer line here. Come back here draw this last part, the descender. You can add a horizontal line here if you think it's better. Letter H. I can start with the ornament, going up, stop here. Straight line, little curve. You draw another vertical line, little curve hear and you finish the middle section. Letter I. Just a little curve here. Stop here. Going down with a straight line, and finish here. Letter J, start here, go with the horizontal line. Come back with the vertical line until the descender, and finish here. Letter K. This part first, similar to letter A. Straight line, little curve here in the ending, and you need to finish with a horizontal line here, a little bit. Come back here. Curve, touch the first stroke, and from this part straight line finish here. Letter L. Start here, straight line, little curve, little stroke, and the last stroke the tale. Letter M. Start here, come back here, going down. The last stroke of letter M. Letter N, start like letter M with the ornament, with the swash. After you draw this part here, then you write diagonal line, here. The last part. Letter O. First curve and second curve. Letter P, similar with the start of letter B, straight line and stop here with a little curve. We draw the last part here, little horizontal line.The part of the ornament, come back here, another curve, stop here, and we finish with another horizontal line here. Letter Q. Start here, stop here. We will try to draw the second curve but in the ending, don't touch the first stroke, like this. We will get two strokes here. Then this part, you'll write the tail of the letter Q. Letter R. Start like letter P, straight line, a little curve here, horizontal line here, curve again and again, and finish with the tail. Letter S. Start here, going down, curve again, come back here, another curve, then we finish it here. Letter T. We can start with this swash here. After that, draw the horizontal line, a little curve here, and after the stroke, draw the last one. Little curve, little horizontal line here. Similar to letter P, similar to letter R like this. Letter U. We can start from the ornament again, horizontal line, and draw this part going up. Again. Last part. Letter V. Start with the swash, the ornament, this part first, straight line and letter V is ready. W. Again, a double letter V. Here, this stroke, and here, and last stroke. Letter X. Start here, horizontal line, last stroke, the diagonal. Now is the last stroke. So curve here, through here, until here. Letter Y. Start here. After that here, going down, curve, going up, come back here, straight line, descender, and the last stroke. Letter Z. We can start with the little stroke here, horizontal line, the diagonal, again, rotate your pen to zero degree and draw this part. The last stroke, you can make a little bit tail like this. I made here another letter. This is an ampersand. So we'll start ampersand with this stroke, and we stop here. Then come back to the beginning and stop here. Similar to the number eight. Come back here, write another curve and stop here. Again here, and the last stroke, another ornament. You can go a little bit more and draw it like this. So we have the capitals now. 9. Class 08 – The Numbers: [MUSIC]. Lets move on to numbers. Similar to the first class, the numbers we'll make have ascenders and descenders, but notice that if you use the new original guide of the ascenders and descenders, for example, the number six will be a little bigger. You take the half size of the ascenders and descenders to draw this part. Let's do this. Let's start with the zero. Zero is the same of the letter O. Thank you for finding this. For example, the zero wider than the letter O or more condensed. It's up to you. Just to try to do something a little bit different. Number one, start with 45 degrees, draw this first part here and a straight line and you finish this a little bit, horizontal line here. Number two, 45 going down, stop here, you finish here. Number three, 45, start here, going down. Second stroke, stop here and last stroke here. Number four, 45 degrees, make this diagonal line first. You don't touch the baseline a little bit to go with this horizontal line, stop here, and the last stroke, start here, going down and stop in this line. Another number with a descender. Number five, start here, straight line and another curve similar to the last part of the number three, and a horizontal line here. Number six, 45 degrees, start here, going down, curves, stop here. Come back here, draw another curve, stop here. The last part, here. Number seven, similar to letters Z. Drawn this first part, rotate your pen to zero degrees or almost zero like 10 degrees and draw this part here. Number eight, start here, going down, stop here. Second part will stop here, but you don't continue to draw this line. Stop here, move the pen a little bit above. Take here, draw the last part like this. The last number, number nine, take there to 45 degrees, draw this part. Notice, the first elipse, you don't touch the baseline. Is a little bit smaller. The last stroke here, and finish here. We have the numbers now. 10. Class 09 – The Words: As I told you in the last class, the first class, it's very important to practice writing word instead of only practicing the alphabet because of the letter spacing. So let's start writing words. A lot of words and review everything and then do it again and again and again to correct our mistakes. Also make sure to use words with different beginning letters to practice your various capital letters as your train your eye. You'll figure out how to space the letters in different words. So let's start. You can start with the pencil and create just the skeleton of the letter. So for example here, you can start to draw the skeleton. Here are some words that start with the word amazing. So this moment, you should know the skeleton for letters. So something like this. You start thinking about the letter spacing. Size of letters. Go on and write a lot of words, complete the entire page. So I wrote these words, just the skeleton. I tried to use different beginning letters. So we can test out how the letter A works, letter M, letter E with letter L, and go on. So next step, let's see how it works is the ink. So with the broad edge nib. I will take this right angle here, 45 degree. Start to write. Even with the pencil under this sheet of paper, all the time you take the ink and trace it over it. You need to think about space because sometimes when you write with the pencil, you don't fit exactly over the spacing. So all the time, see the skeleton of the pencil and try to understand the size of your nib. If think if the skeletons right, or if you need to fix something. 11. Class 10 – The Basic Swashes: If you carefully watch my first-class, you'll remember that I said, "Walk first, then run." By this I mean, you first need to practice the basics and get the shapes of the letters perfect. After that, you can try to add some flourishes and some swashes. The rule is the same here, you want to make use of the ascenders and or descenders of the letters to create something more decorative or fancy. Look at these words and think. Don't try to add too much ornaments, edit yourself and try to understand when you need to stop. Many times with calligraphy, less is more. For example, the first word, Amazing. You can use this capital letter to improve this part here, the ornament or this part, or increase the last stroke here. The best letter after this capital, you can use this Amazing here because this letter Z, you can increase this tail and letter G you can increase this part or you can increase this part. If you take a word like Cool, letter C is not a great letter to add swashes. We can just increase a little bit the letter and just that. You can try to connect these two letters here and letter L, you can add some curve to the other side here. The beauty also, you can increase, for example, letter T or maybe letter Y. A little bit letter of B, the letter E, the letter A, U, it's not a good choice to add flourishes or swashes. With other words or something like this like Elegant, you can use the letter E, use the letter G, letter T. Great, you have the letter G and the letter T, letter R, letter E, letter A, you can't use to do swashes here. Here we have the letter K, it's a good letter to increase the tail here. Letter M here, letter Q again because of the tail, the letter L here is great. Letter Z is great to increase this tail here, letter B you can take this ascender, here you can take the capital ascender. Here the capital descender, letter L because of the tail, because it's a capital. The double T again, and letter H and letter D because of the ascender. When I start teaching calligraphy for beginners, I like to say to my students that the regular way to use the pen is like this for example. You hold the pen like this and all the time and try to pull the pen like this while always moving like this. I say to my students that avoid using the pen in the opposite way like this, push the pen like this, go up. It's harder to do this, but sometimes it's a great feature to add in your calligraphy. Therefore, as you start practicing, sometimes you can try to use this movement to go the other way of the pen. For example, the letter A here. I can start right here and I made a little rotation of the nib here to finish this part, you can use this part for example. I need to draw here and the regular way is go down, stop here, come back here and draw this part. You can do something like start here, going down and go further away, finish here or you can use this kind of feature. It's only possible if I draw this in the opposite way of the pen like this, go from this side. Of course, it's harder to do it like this. As you start practicing more, you can try to do this. Another feature you can add, if you lengthen the last stroke a little bit and flick your pen, there will be a connection to the next letter, like this, for example. I start with the letter M here until here, just regular strokes. In the last one, the normal way is to stop like this with only a little stroke. If we can come here and do something like this. This stroke will start to connect to the next letter so continue here. I like to write just little strokes, thin lines as features like this. Again, letter I and then the last part you go a little bit longer and next letter. Pay attention, although this looks like a cursive script, because you can see this letter touch another letter, it's not. They are separate letters. Don't try to write cursive script with a broad nip pen. Italics don't work like this. Hold on just a little bit longer, we are going to study the cursive script in the next class. Take the right angle here 45. Also this part here. You can see that if you draw in the regular way, I draw this part first, come back here and another part here. I draw here, going in the opposite way and I take the pen off the paper. I'd like to show you, for example, the letter S, the word super. I will increase this letter a little bit. Take the right angle here. You can add another feature, for example, I like to put some free strokes like this. I'll show you, for example the word letters here. In this word letters, for example, I can take the letter L and increase a little bit here and add more curve here, free stroke. For the last part, I will draw in the last stroke, so letter E, and the stroke of letter T. You can do something quick and the last stroke, take this part and draw something bigger, longer. Think about this on each word and I'll show this page with more features. 12. Class 11 – Conclusion: Well guys, this isn't a goodbye, it's just a see you soon. Thank you for joining me today and I hope you enjoyed this class. Keep practicing the Italics because they will help you so much for my next class; The Brush Letters. Don't forget to publish your project on the project gallery so we can share our progress with each other. You might even get a message from me about how to improve. Stay tuned, keep practicing, enjoy the process. With each stroke you are improving. Take care and see you soon. 13. Next steps: Hey, I almost forgot. I'd like to invite you to know the other classes I'm teaching here on Skillshare. You can learn the expressiveness of the brush pen letters on the class number 3. You can learn a bold effect of the black letters in the class number 4 don't miss that classes. See you there.