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Introduction to Blackletter Calligraphy

lettering Jul 25, 2022
Introduction to blackletter calligraphy

Have you ever wanted to try Blackletter calligraphy but had no idea where or how to start? Maybe even feel a bit intimidated by this style of lettering? Whether you’re totally new or already familiar, you’re in the right place because today you’ll learn some stylized Blackletter calligraphy, and it’s gonna be a cinch!

I’m Tamer with Blackletter Foundry, and I am super excited to work with you today. I want to say a huge thank you to Peggy and the fantastic team at The Pigeon Letters for giving me the opportunity to be here; it’s a huge honor to be featured on the blog and to connect with YOU!

As a tribute to Peggy’s fantastic support of animals, I thought it would be fun to create a colorful, stylized, furry design of the word “Animals” using Blackletter style calligraphy. 

Curious what on earth I’m talking about? We’re going to learn how to make this, and I promise it’ll be super easy.

 

 

Oh, and if you’d rather watch this tutorial, here’s a video walkthrough.

 

 

 

Supplies:

Before we dive into the process, let’s talk about the supplies we’re going to use…

 

  1. Strathmore calligraphy paper: I recommend this paper because it’s inexpensive (you get 50 sheets in a pad) and doesn’t bleed with any of the numerous inks I regularly throw at it, but feel free to use your preferred paper of choice.
  2. 4.5mm Pilot parallel pen
  3. Pilot mixable color violet pen cartridge
  4. Pencil, ruler, and eraser
  5. Liquitex acrylic ink and a small jar for dipping/color blending
  6. Pigma Micron pen (size 01) or a Monoline studio pen from The Pigeon Letters
  7. White gel pen (size 05) 
  8. The Ultimate Blackletter Guide SheetI created this free collection of guide sheets with tons of helpful features to make it easy to learn Blackletter calligraphy. You can download the specific guide I’m using in this workshop right here

 

 

Step 1: Basic Strokes

Before we start writing, let’s go over the four simple lines that are the building blocks for every one of the letters. They are:

 

 

  •  A vertical line (moving downward)
  •  A thick diagonal line (moving from left to right in a downward direction)
  •  A thin diagonal line (moving from left to right in an upward direction)
  •  A thick horizontal line (moving from left to right)

Ok, there is one exception, because, technically, there’s a fifth line that we’re going to use, but we’re only going to need it one time (for the “s” at the end of the word), and it’s still super easy. You’ll just use the corner of the pen to create a thin horizontal line. 

 

 


Why not try modern calligraphy next? 


 

 

Step 2: Ultimate Blackletter Guide Sheets

Now that we’re comfortable with the four(ish) lines, let’s review a few terms that I’ll be referring to on the guide sheets as we walk through the tutorial. I’ve labeled them here:

 

 

  •  Baseline
  •  Waistline
  •  Pivot line (dashed line)
  •  Descender area
  •  Ascender Area
  •  x-height
  •  Lane
  •  Letter box

 

 

Step 3: Constructing a Letter

To get ready for making our “Animals” design, let’s build one letter in detail: the letter “n”.

 

 

We’ll write this letter by following these steps:

1. In the first lane of the letter box, starting with the upper right corner of your pen touching the waistline in the leftmost lane of the box, make a vertical line until the bottom left corner meets the dashed pivot line. 

 

 

2. Next, from the pivot line, make a diagonal line until the bottom left corner of the pen meets the baseline. 

 

 

3. Beginning in the next lane, make a small, thin diagonal line until the top right corner of the nib touches the waistline.

 

 

4. Make a thick diagonal line until the top right corner of the pen meets the right edge of the letter box.

 

 

5. Make a thick vertical line downwards until the pivot line is reached.

 

 

6. Make a thick diagonal line until the pen reaches the baseline. 

 

 

That’s it! All of the letters in the design are made using this basic approach, with minor variances. The letter “s” involves one additional change (the exception that I mentioned earlier) – a thin horizontal line made using just the corner of the pen.

 

 

Step 3: Write the Word

Ok, let’s start building our design now. To start, add one additional guideline. Using the pencil and ruler, draw a line below the baseline. 

 

 

Next, follow the sequences below to construct each of the letters, remembering the basic steps we used to write the letter “n” from the previous section. To add the unique variation in color within each of the letters, periodically dip the nib into the small jar with a few drops of yellow ink.

1. The capital “A”:

 

 

2. Lowercase “n”:

 

 

3. Lowercase “i”:

 

 

4. Lowercase “m”:

 

 

5. Lowercase “a”:

 

 

6. Lowercase “l”:

 

 

7. Lowercase “s”:

 

 

To finish the letters “A” and “s” we’ll add horizontal strokes that align with the pencil guideline we drew at the start.

 

 

And finally, we’ll add the cross bar to the “A” and the dot on top of the “i.”

 

 

 

Step 4: Add an Outline

Congratulations! You’ve now created the base lettering piece for this design. 

Now, let’s to add the stylized outline around each of the letters, which will give them a fuzzy and scraggly look. The beautiful part of this process is that you don’t need to worry about making straight lines – as you work your way around each letter, use a jittery motion to give the indication of some furry roughness and occasionally pull out a longer line to indicate the longer strands. You can enhance the effect further by adding tufts of fur within each of the letters until you have a finished look that you’re happy with.

 

 

 

Step 5: Add Highlights

Finally, to add the indication of extra illumination to the piece, we’ll add some highlights. First, decide where your light source is originating from – in this case, I opted for a light source coming from the top right corner of the page. This would result in some highlights along the upper and right-hand edges of the letters. 

 

 

Work your way around the piece adding these highlight accents aaaaand… Voila! You did it! We have our finished, furry blackletter masterpiece  

 

 

A massive thanks again to Peggy and The Pigeon Letters team for inviting me to share this; and thank YOU for following along with this workshop. I sincerely hope you had fun and found this style of lettering to be more approachable than you may have expected. There are so may to play with this fun style of calligraphy.

If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you and am always thrilled to help! In the meantime, thank you for Blackelttering with me, and have a fantastic day! 

 


 

 

I’m a professional calligraphy artist and instructor, specializing in Blackletter and gothic calligraphy styles, including modern interpretations and abstracts designs. I’m based in Houston, Texas, and my goal is to encourage people of all ages and skill levels to pursue their creative dreams and learn the rewarding art of Blackletter calligraphy.

I’ve been featured on television, by online calligraphy and design organizations, and my work has been internationally published and shown at art exhibitions.

I’m also a superhero, sci-fi, and fantasy superfan, productivity geek, photographer, and love all things chocolate. I use a positive, fun, and supportive teaching style that encourages and motivates students while learning, and inspires them to find joy and pride in their creative abilities.

 

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