Roman Capitals – Serifs

Serifs are small strokes added to letters to ‘finish’ the letter.  They can enhance the letters, but if produced badly will spoil the letter rather than ‘finishing it’.

Letter with and without a serif

You need to be careful when adding serifs.  If they are too big they can distract from the letterform and can even alter the final shape of the letter.

Some letters do not have serifs, for example ‘C’ and ‘O’

The most popular styles of serifs are the hook and slab.

Hook Serifs

These are the easiest style of serif to produce.  They appear at the start and/or end of a straight pen-stroke.  It’s important to make these serifs small.  When producing the hook shape it can help to visualise a small circle, which you trace round with the pen.  Otherwise this circle shape can be too big, which will make the serif too large.

Hook serifs are made at the same time as the main pen stroke rather than afterwards.  For example, both serifs on the letter ‘I’ and the letter itself is produced with one pen-stroke.

Hook serifs

Slab Serifs

Slab serifs are small straight lines and are added after the letter has been produced rather than at the same time as the main stroke. So a letter ‘I’ would be made from three pen-strokes.

It’s better to flatten the pen angle for these serifs as leaving the pen at 45 degrees can make the serif look to ‘heavy’ or ‘chunky’.  With slab serifs be careful not to construct them off centre, which will spoil the letter.

Slab serifs

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