Copperplate Calligraphy: 6 Steps to Perfecting the Underturn

For this week’s Copperplate Calligraphy Precision Practice (C2P2), we’re going to talk about one of the few strokes that I personally have a lot of difficult with, which is the underturn! Let’s dive right into it!

Copperplate Calligraphy Underturn: 6 Steps to achieving accuracy and consistency


When you’re practicing your calligraphy basic strokes, you’ll tend to find a few strokes that will trip you up. So if you find going one way is so much easier than going the other way, that’s super normal! For myself, the underturn is one of them!

When we studied the oval in the previous practice, I mentioned that the width of your oval determines the width of all your letters and spacing.

Taking a deeper look into it, the oval also determines the shape of the rounded strokes.

In the video, you can see that the bottom half of the underturn should look exactly the same as the bottom half of the oval.


Important points to consider in an Underturn

There are a 6 important points to consider when we do the underturn stroke.


Point number 1 – square top

The underturn starts off with a square top, and then move downward straight along the 55 degree slant line.

If you want to learn more about square tops, you can check out my full pressure stroke post!

Basically, squaring a top requires you to make a small horizontal line, press the nib down and WAIT for the thines to spread to the desired width, and then move the pen down.

The waiting is very very important! So be patient and go slow!


Point number 2 – Once you get to the middle of the x-height (pink line), start decreasing pressure

When you’re moving the pen down, it’s a full pressure stroke until the middle of the x-height (or pink line), you should get ready to start decreasing pressure by this point and start preparing for the underturn.


Point number 3 – Get the pen ready to start curving away from the slant line by this point

Slowing down is the key! Usually when we write, our hand tends to move faster than our brain!

To counter this, we have to slow down, and our brain has to actively work to tell our hand what to do.

In this case, our brain needs to tell our hand to start curving, otherwise, the stroke is going to go further down, creating a pointed corner.

*Of course, if that’s the effect you want to aim for, then that’s up to you. But always understand what you’re trying to achieve, and then keep everything consistent!


Point number 4 – Meeting the baseline in middle of the space

Aim for the middle of the space as the bottom apex, making sure that the pen meets the baseline.


Point number 5  – Aim for the middle of the x-height for the right apex

This is the point where the right most apex is located on the oval, so this is the point to aim for.


Point number 6  – Move up to the x-height along the 55 degree slant line

This is a straight line going up along the 55 degree slant line


Bonus Point

As you can see, I practice with the intention that all of my shades are located to the right of the slant lines. This is very important in regards to keeping my letters consistent.

One of the main struggles I keep hearing is stroke consistency. This is something I personally also struggle with! That’s why I came up with this guideline!

With this guide sheet, you don’t necessarily need to place the shades to the right of the slant line. If you have a heavier hand, or if you like to write wider, you can still utilize my guideline to practice.

Once you’d established a shape and width that you like, then place your stroke onto my guidesheet that makes the most sense to you, then you can proceed to practice consistency!

Each spacing (x-height, 1st ascender, 2nd ascender) is divided into thirds, these are meant to serve as a visual cue and specific places to aim your strokes! Utilizing this guide, you can get yourself ready to increase or decrease pressure, or prepare yourself for any turns, and have specific spots where you can aim for, while keeping the width consistent!


Bonus Point 2

If you’re having trouble with keeping your stroke within a certain width, whether the width of my guideline, or the wide you’d pre-determined, that means you need to slow down!

Slow down and be patient!

It is not a race!

Breathe out when you come down, and breathe in when you go back up on the underturn! Slow down your breathing and slow down your writing.


I really hope these points help you!


Every Wednestdary night, I go on IG Live to practice and do demo/answer questions!  It starts at 9:30pm EST, and all the Live sessions will be made available on IGTV for 24 hours!


If you’re ready to take your Copperplate Calligraphy further, I offer a special Copperplate Calligraphy Experience! Contact me for more information!!


If you’re interest to grab my guidesheets and practice alongside me

You can get them below! 

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