In this Design Cuts Live session, we were joined by the incredibly talented Tamer Ghoneim. Tamer is an artist, instructor, entrepreneur and a Design Cuts friend, and we were super excited to immerse ourselves in his unique style for this live session.

Regardless of whether you're a fan of DC Comics and the Batman stories, this session is no Joke(r) as Tamer demonstrated the fundamental steps involved in creating an abstract calligram in Procreate. We were shown the tools required, the basic setup, and given a brief foundation on Tamer's style of abstract calligraphy and how it can be applied to creating calligrams.

To follow along, make sure to check out the freebies Tamer has offered for this session. You can also download his treasure trove of freebies, which includes amazing tools, resources, and deals!

To begin, have these ready: Procreate, blackletter brushes, the grid image and the joker image. Set the canvas and the illustration. See the images below for reference. 

Set the Canvas

Set the canvas at 4 x 5 ratio. Color the background black and lay down a grid. Choose the white grid for this tutorial. This helps keep lines consistent. 

Illustration Setup

Add a new layer and pull in the reference image on the canvas. Zoom in on the image and place it in the centre. Place the grid on top of the picture by switching the grid layer on the photo layer.

Add the photo palette to the color section and use it as default. To do this, press the small square on the left side panel and long press on the screen to get the exact color from the photo. 

Abstract Construction

Pick the 45 degrees Broad Edge Nib Brush and choose the color white. Draw a C. Then deconstruct the elements by picking the moon shape from the C, horizontal stroke, diamond, the vertical stroke and the diagonal line. See the image below for reference. 

Combine the separated elements together by creating a pattern. 

Pro tip: Eliminate negative spaces and keep the pattern in a flow. See the image below for reference. 

Work on the Composition

Reduce the opacity of the photo and the grids to see the picture as well as the writing on top. Add another layer and look for areas of value difference. This means the areas that should look the same as per the tone. 

For this particular composition, the areas around the forehead, nose and chin are the brighter tone areas. 

Draw Abstract Elements

Use the Calligraphy Brush by sizing it down and start drawing the abstract construction. Fill this space with the pattern as you like. 

Pro tip: Zoom out and check if the pattern is too big or too small and adjust accordingly. The difference in the brush size makes a difference in how detail you want the composition to look. 

Choose the red brush and draw details around the eye of the joker. 

Cross the Patterns

Start crossing the lines of the pattern drawn to fill gaps and spaces. This helps to make the pattern look like a flow. See image below for reference. 

Adjust Color

Once you move to the darker area, choose a darker color brush too. 

Pro tip: Make sure to take some artistic judgment while defining the areas. For some areas, you can leave them as is or use a contrast color on the same.

Pro tip: Add a clipping mask, define the area and then begin to color. 

Add Shading

Select the Spray Paint Brush and shade the edges adding shavings. 

Pro tip: Select all layers, group them together, and then duplicate them to save the work. Use the clipping mask on the final layer to make final adjustments such as a background or color. Lower the opacity for the final look. 

Voila, it’s done. You’ve successfully mastered creating abstract blackletter illustrations.