Type@Cooper - Sign Painting Techniques Applied to Type Design: Rendering the Built-up and Cut-in Letters

Sign Painting Techniques Applied to Type Design: Rendering the Built-up and Cut-in Letters


with John Downer




Sat., Apr. 12 – Sun., Apr. 13, 2014
10:00AM – 5:00PM
location: New Academic Building

John Downer’s sign painting career began in the late 1960s and was instrumental in steering his path toward type design. In this introductory course, he will teach the two main kinds of letterform construction which have traditionally been done with a brush: single-stroke and built-up. Students will learn the importance of paint consistency and brush control. The class will focus on rendering a few particular styles of capital letters that were commonly used in American sign painting during the 20th century. Script lettering will be addressed in the final day and a half.
  • No. 2 Pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Wooden yardstick.


The instructor will have available the following items
1/2” flat brush, Show card brushes, and 2 sided white railroad board, plastic cups, tape and tempera paint for you to purchase directly from him.
Please bring $50 cash to class on Monday morning.

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Lecturer: John Downer

Sign Painting Techniques Applied to Type Design: Rendering the Built-up and Cut-in Letters
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 in the lettering game. He has written about type and type history for various publications, and he is widely known as a perceptive type critic. His typefaces have been published by Bitstream, Font Bureau, Emigre, House Industries, and Design Lab. Stylistically, his designs refer to various eras of history and means of letterform production: 19th- and 20th-century American sign painting and show card writing; 19th- and 20th-century American chromolithography and wood type; 18th-century European book types; 15th- and 16th-century Chancery cursive writing styles; 15th- and 16th-century Venetian printing; and 2nd-century Imperial Roman epigraphy.



Venue