Ames Guide helpful links

I’m addicted to Periscope lately. It’s an amazingly good teaching tool for calligraphers – so much of our craft is really difficult to convey without hearing and seeing someone do it, and seeing it close up; Periscope lets that happen and even gives you the opportunity to interact. I’ve stayed up far too late a few times listening to Paul Antonio (@pascribe) discuss flourishes or Kei Haniya (@keihaniya) talk about drills!

And of course, seeing all that teaching and learning going on makes me want to join in – so I did one a while ago (now safely lost to the internet) on how useful I find the Ames Lettering Guide.


I can’t seem to make Instagram embeds work here (I’m sure I could figure it out, if I put some time into it, but I’ve got better things to do!) but here is a link to a 15-second clip of how the guide works that I posted on Instagram the other day.

I’ve had a few questions about it since then, so I thought I’d put together a few links. You can use this tool on anything as long as you have a t-square and a pencil – or even just a ruler and a pencil, but it’s really the t-square that makes the magic. I’ve done a few large-scale wedding seating charts lately, and this is the device I used to rule up all of them – there’s no other way I could so quickly and accurately get lines exactly 6.5mm apart all the way down a one-metre-high piece of card.

The Ames Guide was originally, I believe, designed for engineers, architects, and comic book letterers. All three of those professions now letter digitally for the most part – it’s just us calligraphers now.

The guide itself seems to go for something ridiculous on eBay … but you can get it for $3.30USD at Paper Ink Arts. If you don’t have a t-square, you can just use a ruler, but you’ll have more difficulty lining up the guide if you don’t have an easy way of ensuring your ruler is perfectly horizontal.

You’ll also need an edge to rest the t-square against. With these seating charts, I used the table – I taped the chart down with artists’ tape against the corner of my kitchen table, so that I could be sure I had a perfectly square edge to work from. With anything smaller, I would have used my slope drawing board. Occasionally, if I am working flat, I just use the edge of my lightpad, which is conveniently squared and has ruled markings.

Here is a clearly diagrammed article discussing its use in comics. Not so useful for calligraphers, but it is the clearest explanation of the ratios I have found.

This one focuses on broad pen scripts, and is very thorough.

And here is a quick youtube video (produced by someone else, not me) covering the Ames Guide, so you can see it in motion.

I hope those are useful!

If you want to follow me on Periscope, I can’t promise any particular wisdom, just the occasional babble … but you can find me under @moyagraphy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s