For this session, we were excited to welcome a very good friend of ours, Tamer Ghoneim. He's passionate about creating abstract designs through the use of flourishes and calligraphic strokes, which makes his designs all the more powerful. To learn more about how Tamer works with traditional blackletter calligraphy, make sure to give this session a watch!

Understand Usage of Blackletters

Blackletters can be used to write words with flourishes, form designs, build shapes or simply be used as art. The techniques can also be used in Procreate to build blocks. Blackletters can also be used to create portraits and 3D images.

Tamer shares some of his work using black letters. See the images below for reference.

Supplies to Create Blackletter

Use a Pilot Parallel Pen with ink. Grab the guide sheets from the freebie or the treasure trove section. Choose the Strathmore Calligraphy Paper. You can use any paper that you prefer but make sure that it doesn’t bleed. You can also obtain further information regarding tools at blackwatertools.com.

The freebies can be obtained from the treasure trove as shown in the image below.

Pick a Calligraphy Paper

Pick the Strathmore Calligraphy Paper as it doesn't bleed. Pick the Pilot Parallel Pen with an ink cartridge plugged into the back. Grab one of the sheets and use the black letter guide sheets. Place the sheets over the guides to get started.

Understand the Guide Sheets

Each of the vertical rectangles in the guide sheets is the size of a normal letter.

The top block is for the ascender or the part of a letter that extends above the waistline. For example, for the letter D. The X-height, is the height of any one of the standard letters like X, A, B, or C as mentioned on the sheet. The descender is placed down here.

Each of the boxes is intended to give the space you need to write a letter. The dash line gives the spot from which you can pivot and then create the base of the character.

Draw Lines

To create an alphabet, drawing the following four lines are vital. The first line is vertical, The second line is a diagonal line at 45 degrees. The third line is a skinny diagonal line which is to be made with the nib of the pen. The last line is a straight horizontal line.

Pro tip: Mark the set of lines by numbering each of them from 1 to 4.

Make Lowercase Alphabets

Make the lowercase “a” using the vertical lines or the number one group of lines. Start with the bottom left corner of the pen at the dot until the bottom left corner of the pen meets the dash line.

Each one of these character blocks has three columns. Each column is to be shaded by the width of your pen. Using the right angle is evident when both corners of the pen touch the two edges of that column.

To draw ‘a’, draw a diagonal line at an angle until the bottom left corner at the intersection between the black line at the edge and the red dash. Go to the top and repeat that same diagonal line. Connect with just a small diagonal line and close out the loop. Then draw another diagonal line. This will form ‘a’.

Draw “b” by drawing a vertical line. Draw a diagonal line at the bottom stretched to the corner. With the bottom left corner of the pen, pull that line through. Draw a diagonal line up to the top of the box from line two and pull it down until it touches the edge. This will form “b”.

To draw ‘c’, start with the dot. Pull a line one down. Move down with line two and then draw three little diagonal lines. Finish this off with a little line down in the middle, if you want to give it a gothic look. That will form ‘c’.

Pro tip: You can draw thick lines using the broad edge but if you turn the pen to its corner, it will write like a normal pen. So, it’s a versatile tool.

Draw “d” by starting at the top X-height box. Pull a vertical line down to the dash line. Draw a diagonal line down to the corner again. Use the number two diagonal line and draw above the waistline. Pull line number two, diagonally down again until it meets the right edge of the box and then pull a vertical line down to connect it.

For the “e”, start at the dot. Draw vertical lines of the dash line. Draw a diagonal line, like the “c” overshooting in the middle and connect to the middle line. Draw number three up and then line two to the edge. Draw line three in the other direction. This will form “e”.

Draw “f” by starting at the top. Draw the line vertically down. Draw line one again till it reaches the dash line and then draw the diagonal line. Pull in line number four again and go straight across. This will form “f”.

For “g” start at the dot again. Draw a vertical line down. Draw a diagonal line to the corner and a diagonal line to the right edge. Pull the last line or the vertical line all the way down to the end of the bottom. This will form “g”.

For “h” start at the top. Draw a vertical line down to the dash line. Draw a diagonal line down to that first corner. With the bottom left corner of the pin on the dot, draw a diagonal line stretched up. Get to the right edge and then line one back down to the dash line and then the diagonal line. Finally, add a connection on the “h” to bridge it.

Draw “i” by drawing line one. Add a vertical line down to the dash and then a diagonal line down to the corner. To do the dash of the “i”, draw a little diamond or use a very thin line. You can also add a flourish to finish it.

For “j” start at the right hand of the box. The “j” is very similar to “g”. Draw a vertical line down to the bottom of the baseline. Make a diagonal line that connects and draw a dot at the top. This will form “j”.

Pro tip: Use any of the Blackletter Brushes from the Essentials Blackletter Brush Toolkit from the Design Cuts Shop to make such traditional blackletters on Procreate. 

Modify the Letters

There are many ways to modify the letters. Add a hitch in the middle of any letter to make it stand out. Slide over to the right, come back to the left and come back in again. You could also elongate every single letter. You can add graffiti styles where the strokes are a lot looser or broken up. Add interesting flourishes as well as shapes such as diamonds on the letters to make them distinctive.

Use the foundational strokes and vary them slightly. You can change the weights of the letters by adding more emphasis in different spots. You can also add spikes and drops to different spots and areas of the letter to give it a stylized look.

Metallic inks can also be used to create wonderful metallic looks. Tamer shares some of his works. Please see the image below for reference.

Draw Punctuations

Draw commas by simply drawing a diagonal line or adding a wisting effect.

For a question mark, draw a curve and then finish it with a diamond shape. Similarly, draw an exclamation mark by dragging a line from top to bottom and finishing it with a diamond shape.

Pro tip: Add weights in different spots or add curves to make them look distinctive.

Congratulations, you have successfully learned all about traditional blackletter calligraphy.