Type@Cooper - Half Full Bevel Mock

Half Full Bevel Mock


with John Downer




Mon., Jun. 20 – Tue., Jun. 21, 2016
10:00AM – 5:00PM
location: On campus

A discount is available to Typographics conference participants. A promotional discount code will be found on the PDF of qualifying conference tickets. Please apply the code to workshop registration.

This consolidated two-day workshop will be held a week after John Downer's annual sign painting course. Students will use lettering brushes, but no prior experience with a brush is necessary. Much of the coursework will involve drafting letterforms, learning about their proportions, and cutting templates. Proper structure and workable color combinations will be addressed, as they provide a foundation for understanding each system.

Monday Morning
Half Block is a sign painters' style of block lettering which includes no curves. All of the letters which would ordinarily have curves are reduced to angled strokes. The outer contour of O is an octagon, which is ideal when reversing the figure-ground relationship.

Monday Afternoon
Full Block is also a sign painters' style of lettering. It is based on Half Block, but it has slab serifs. No curves exist in this style, either. Full Block was used extensively on 19th-century wall signs, most of which were painted on brickwork.

Tuesday Morning
Bevel Edge letters are seen in traditional sign painting. Bevels can be either monochromatic or polychromatic. The illusion created by bevels helps make the face of the letter appear to be in low relief, above the surface of the background.

Tuesday Afternoon
Mock Block is a special treatment seen in sign painting, but not in printing. It's a way of giving a letter a two-tone "close shade" (which makes the letter look as if it were cut out of thick material) and then a "cast shade" on the opposite side. The resulting shade on the underside is in fact the background color.


    Required Materials

  • Pencil, eraser, ballpoint pen
  • Scissors and an X-Acto knife
  • Steel ruler, plastic triangle
  • Jumbo marker (1 red, 1 black)
  • Apron or smock


Card stock and tempera paint will be provided. A lettering brush can be purchased for $10, or alternatively borrowed and returned after class.





Instructor: John Downer

Half Full Bevel Mock
Mr. Downer is a sign painter, a typeface designer, and an educator. He has written about type and type history for various publications and is widely known as a perceptive type critic. His typefaces have been published by Bitstream, Font Bureau, Emigre, House Industries, and Design Lab. Among his most popular type designs are Iowan Old Style (on iBooks reader and iOS 7+), Roxy, Ironmonger, and the ubiquitous food and beverage branding favorite, Brothers.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, a region of the US with a rich history of sign painting and hand-lettering, Mr. Downer was first introduced to commercial pen & brush lettering in the 1960s in junior high school. He began an apprenticeship in a sign painting shop at age 18. He holds BA, MA, and MFA degrees in art.

Mr. Downer has been a journeyman sign painter since 1973, a freelance typeface designer since 1983, and a crusader for designers’ rights his entire adult life. He began teaching lettering at the university level in 1972, making him one of the most experienced American educators in the fields of lettering and typeface design. He’s been teaching in the Type@Cooper program at The Cooper Union since its founding in 2010. He established the Sign Painting Support Group on Facebook as a platform to educate and guide serious enthusiasts and professionals in the principles of letter construction and the tricks of the trade. Follow him on Instagram.





Venue