Learn to Paint Romans (and Serifs)

UK's dedicated monthly lettering course

07960113799   info@nickgarrettsignwriter.com

Carved Serif Letters: Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC)

Carved Serif Letters: Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC)

We will guide you through a complete understanding of the most popular Classic ‘Serif’ lettering and some beloved London Romans.

Lettering detail D Original Features Hornsey London NGS signwriters

Trajan lettering – Nick Garrett

Roman Lettering Rules

There have been many studies of Trajan Roman and having grown up with letter cutters I watched from an early age these masters marking out stones for cutting.

Mostly they used by eye knowledge from years of experience handed down from father to son.  Many of the classical forms were kept and yet all were modified.

The original forms were not by eye. These were meticulously drawn and chalked down… then cut in the same way that Albrecht Durer, Edward Johnston worked, and we work at NGS today.

Roman A

During the 1st century lettering changed in composition from monoline evenness to forms made from thick and thin strokes. Exactly why this happened remains unknown. Type historians have theorized that serifs resulted from stone cutters following the forms left by a square-cut writing implement; not a reed or quill, but a flat stiff brush.

catfish NGS

Edward Catich

Above is a late example of Rustic Capitals shown currently on James Mosley’s blog Typefoundry, where he quotes the observations of W. R. Lethaby in 1906, “The Roman characters which are our letters today, although their earlier forms have only come down to us cut in stone, must have been formed by incessant practice with a flat, stiff brush, or some such tool. This disposition of the thicks and thins, and the exact shape of the curves, must have been settled by an instrument used rapidly; I suppose, indeed, that most of the great monumental inscriptions were designed in situ by a master writer, and only cut in by the mason .”


Greek Brush lettering

Early Greek Brush lettering. c550 BC

Carved Serif Letters: Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC)

Carved Serif Letters: Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC)


Pre-Roman ‘Romans’

In time the strokes of these letter grew thicker, the aperture lessened, and serifs appeared. The new forms, used for inscriptions throughout the Greek empire, served as models for formal lettering in imperial Rome. And those Roman inscriptional letters—written with a flat brush, held at an angle like a broad nib pen, then carved into the stone with mallet and chisel—have served in their turn as models for calligraphers and type designers for the past two thousand years.

This class intends to light the way in a number of methods.  All useful for a lifetime’s journey refining your very own fine Roman lettering.


PDF Tom Perkins Interpretation of the Memorial to the Children of the Freedman Sextus Pompeius– on the Appian Way in Rome and dated the 1st or 2nd century ad

Venetian Roman  Fz 3Lettering detail D Original Features Hornsey London NGS signwritersLettering detail R Original Features Hornsey London NGS signwriters

Some of the most beautiful Romans you will ever believe.

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