Vintage Lettering Styles

Class 1 in the Writing with a Bent Nib series covers the unique lettering styles of European poster artists and American show card artists.

Writing with a Bent Nib series is now hosted on Hasson Studio. Purchasing above will open this class in a new tab.

Vintage Lettering Styles – Class Summary

The poster artists of Europe created a burst of energy in hand lettering at the turn of the 20th century. American show card artists also created their own unique and playful lettering styles. 

After highlighting the characteristics and tools that contributed to this vintage look, Randall demonstrates the unique Eccentric Title alphabet using the Speedball C-5 pen, sharing subtle pen manipulation and pressure and release techniques. As you follow along, you will gain invaluable skills that will help you when lettering many other broad-edged styles.

Vintage Lettering Styles includes a 28-page handout with myriad examples, a 78-page PDF that covers Silent Movie Titling in depth, and downloadable PDFs for all examples and alphabets demonstrated. 

The total duration of this class is 3 hours, 30 minutes. 

Students are invited to a private Facebook Group where you can get more information, ask questions, share your work, and meet your fellow students. 

This is the first class in Randall’s Writing with a Bent Nib five-part series. Note that each class in the series is sold separately OR you can purchase all five classes at a special bundle price!

You only need a few supplies to get started; see the Materials List below. 

Vintage Styles, Tools and Materials

In the early 1900s, lettering artists found that the traditional broad-edged pens and sign painter tools were unsuitable for creating show cards in the latest European styles, which favored lettering with a uniform width. Learn how artists adapted by using ruling pens, Payzant pens and Automatic pens, and how they mixed opaque pigments that would cover the board with just one stroke. 

The Show Card Style

The show card writers adapted their letters so that they could write them with greater speed. They favored full round ovals, condensed uprights, and lowercase designs for easy readability. Their layouts used fully justified blocks of text, even if it meant sacrificing the shape and width of the letterform. In this section, you’ll learn about the most common idiosyncrasies using historical examples.

Eccentric Title

The version of Eccentric Title you’ll learn was created by William Gordon in 1918 and it has characteristics that encourages mastery of the broad-edged pen. Using the flexible Speedball C-5 pen, you’ll use whole arm movement, pressure and release, and the corner of the pen to create this popular style from the silent movies. This section includes a 78-page PDF, Lettering of the Silent Film Era.

Drawn Lettering

To create the colorful posters from the early 1900s, artists used various tools to draw their letters. In this section, you’ll practice a variety of alphabets – Unique Squatty-Type, Modern Decorative Caps, and Freehand – by double-stroking letters using small nibs. Drawn lettering can really give you your own distinctive style and the vintage look is actually enhanced by the slight inconsistencies.

About Your Instructor

Randall M. Hasson is an artist, calligrapher, instructor and speaker who has appeared on the faculty of arts, lettering arts, and educational conferences in the United States, Canada and England. He owned and operated the Randall M. Hasson Gallery from 2000–2013 in San Diego, CA and Santa Fe, NM. He is the author of articles on a variety of art or lettering art related subjects and has appeared as a mainstage presenter and/or teacher with lecture topics covering public art, art history, the painting process, collaborative art projects, and the history of writing including the recent invention of the ADLaM alphabet in West Africa. 

In 2015, Randall co-edited the 24th (Centennial) Edition of The Speedball Textbook. He is currently writing and designing his forthcoming book Teaching America How to Letter – The Speedball Story, a history of commercial lettering and American show card writing in the early 1900s. It is due to be published by Letterform Archive in 2020.
Barbara Close

To learn more about this 5-part series, visit the Writing with a Bent Nib page at Hasson Studio.

How it works

  • Classes are prerecorded with excellent HD video quality and audio so you can see every detail
  • Practice immediately after you check out – no waiting for the class to start!
  • Replay a particular stroke or letter as many times as you like – even at different speeds!
  • Bite-sized lessons make it easy to pick up where you left off in the course or jump to a specific topic
  • Videos are tightly edited so as not to waste a second of your time!
  • Progress through the lessons at your own pace – you’ll never miss a homework deadline!
  • Copious handouts, resources, or detailed materials videos are included with each course.
  • Hasson Studio offers 2 years of extended access for individual courses; 3 years for multiple class bundles.  

Course Curriculum

“The Speedball Bent Nib is a new and unusual tool for me but I am really enjoying the journey. It is wonderful to learn about the history of these beautiful letterforms and to see just how versatile these nibs can be. The course content is wonderful and Randall is an amazing teacher!” 

Heather Victoria Held

Julie Gray

“Great course! Not only for beginners, but as a good refresher for experienced copperplate calligraphers. Barbara makes everything clear, concise and professional. A nicely produced online class for everyone interested in pointed pen.”

Hasson Studio

The Writing with a Bent Nib Series is now hosted directly by Randall Hasson.  
Purchasing below will redirect you to Hasson Studio in a new tab.

Learn more about the other classes in the Writing with a Bent Nib series.

Single Class


Vintage Lettering Styles
(class 1 in a 5-part series)
Hosted at Hasson Studio.

Writing with a Bent Nib Series (5 Classes)


Special bundle price ($100 savings).
Hosted at Hasson Studio.

Writing with a Bent Nib Series (5 Classes)
Installment Plan


Six monthly payments. Total $420.
($80 savings)
Hosted at Hasson Studio.