Lessons in Engrosser's Script: Group III Lowercase

In this chapter we will continue our examination of the lower case letterforms, specifically the Group III forms. The letterforms in the first group (Figure 1A) are composed of a single basic shape shown with its corresponding pen stroke illustrated by the arrows in Figures 2A.

Try drawing this form in a single pen stroke without lifting the pen. Since letters are typically formed from left to right you should begin with the hairline lead in upstroke. Continue this stroke up and over the top. Pressure is gradually increased as the pen travels towards the right. If done correctly, the shade will be smoothly curving at the top and gradually thickening as the pen descends and more pressure is applied. Pressure is then released in the same gradual manner as the pen travels to the right to form the smoothly curving shade to hairline upstroke.


Please note that the shade form is actually a small reversed compound curve formed by a combination of pen directionality and the application of varying pressure to the nib. In the case of the 'v' the hairline continues upward towards the header line. Finish with a small half dot as shown in Figure 1A.

For high-grade work the half dot should be drawn and then filled in with ink as was previously discussed in the last installment of this series. If speed is needed, the half dot may be formed in one step by applying pressure to the nib on the down stroke when forming the connector hairline. An important point to remember is that the curvature of this connector should be identical to the bottom of the letter at the baseline. This serves to reinforce the overall symmetry of the letter and helps maintain uniform letter spacing.

The 'x' is formed in an identical manner save for the crossing. Please note that in this form of the letter 'x' the hairline crossing does not actually cross the shade. In fact, it is formed using two separate hairline strokes that do not touch the shade. Draw the first stroke of the crossing from the header line on the right side of the letter using a slight amount of pressure to give the line a little weight at the top (Figure 2B). The pressure is then released to form the remainder of the hairline towards the main shade slightly above center. The hairline should gently curve down towards the shade as shown in Figure 2B. As I mentioned above, I do not actually touch the shade with the hairline to prevent 'bleed in' from the wet ink of the shade. The letter ‘x’ is then finished on the left side of the main shade using a hairline down stroke. Start the hairline just below center of the shade and continue curving gently downward to the baseline. Apply slight pressure at the baseline to give some weight to the finish of the line.


The Figure 1B category contains a single letter, the lowercase 'r'. I consider this letter to be a transitional form between the 'v/x' and 'm/n' letterforms. This particular style of ‘r’ was used extensively by past master penman CW Norder. The 'r' uses a similar hairline lead in and shade transition stroke as the 'v'. However, the difference is that the shade ends at the baseline in a cutoff rather than curving around and upwards like the ‘v’ (Figure 2C). Always try to see the similarities in letterforms rather than viewing them as distinct entities.

As before, simply draw the lead in hairline and shade in one continuous stroke and end it in a cutoff at the baseline (Figure 2C). Next, extend a hairline up from the mid point of the shade up to the header (Figure 2D). This hairline should be on or closely approach the main slant angle. Remember to leave a slight gap between the shade and the hairline. The pen is lifted off the paper and repositioned on the header line to the right of the hairline upstroke. Make the short curving shade with hairline connector loop as shown in Figure 2E. The top of this shade should be squared off. This can be done if necessary by retouching the shade at the header. Keep the curvature of this hairline connector loop consistent with your other shade to hairline transitions (Figure 3).

The Figure 1C letterforms are 'm' and 'n'. These letters are constructed using exactly the
same strokes described above in detail (Figure 2A and 2C). The ‘m’ and ‘n’ build upon the
previous letterforms. Hopefully by this point everyone will see that an 'n' is nothing more
than the letter 'm' with one shaded stroke missing on its left side.


The 'm' is formed from left to right using a total of three strokes and the 'n' is formed using two strokes. For example, the ‘n’ is formed by combining the previously discussed forms as shown in the final illustration of Figure 2.

An important point to remember when constructing these letters is to keep your transitions, 'shade to hairline' or 'hairline to shade' as consistent as possible (Figure 3).