BLACKLETTER / GOTHIC CALLIGRAPHY FOR BEGINNERS (2020)

Blackletter calligraphy - lettering daily
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Welcome back lettering lovers!

Today we finally have the honor to present you a tutorial that we have been planning for quite some time now.

Blackletter calligraphy is one of many scripts created using a flat nib, and our friend Edgar is going to share the very fundamentals and how to get started step-by-step.

On top of that, Edgar has also prepared FREE practice sheets including both capitals and lower case letters – you can find them at the end of the article!

Before we jump right into it,  we just wanted to thank Edgar for taking the time to sharing his knowledge and contributing to the community!

Hello everybody,

my name is Edgar Villa. A few of you may know me by my social media handle ‘Made by Edgar’ and I am a Mexican calligrapher/artist from Jersey City. I composed this article to help any beginners interested in learning ‘Blackletter’ calligraphy.hy 

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

This blackletter tutorial will teach you these 6 things;

  • Origins of Blackletter
  • The tools needed to begin
  • How to use your tools to get the best results
  • How to use guidelines for perfect letters everytime
  • Understanding basic letterforms
  • Basic flourishing
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Blackletter calligraphy guide for beginners - Lettering Daily

Origins of Blackletter

 

Blackletter also known as ‘Gothic’ was created during the 12th-century at a time when more and more people began to read and write. The demand for books where increasing and they had to be written fast to meet that demand.

 

Blackletter’s condensed written style made it so more words fit in a single page and thus less vellum was used which lowered production costs.

 

In short Blackletter made producing a large amount of books easier and more affordable.


Blackletter has many variations Fraktur, Rotunda and Schwabacher to name a few. Since Blackletter has a wide family of scripts I will narrow it down and help you grasp the basics of a script known as ‘Textura Quadrata’.

Tools needed

 

1.Broad edge nib

 

2.Straight holder

 

3.Paper that doesn’t bleed

 

4.Calligraphy Ink

 

5.Water and paper towel to clean nibs

  • You can also use a cloth/rag, preferably a non-fibrous cloth

 

6.Ruler

  • I use a ‘rolling ruler’ because it helps me make even horizontal and vertical lines with ease
  • A regular ruler will work just as fine

 

7.Pencils

 

8.Eraser

The paper you choose for your calligraphy matters!

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

The paper you choose for your calligraphy matters!

From day one I used Rhodia paper, here are two big reasons why you should too;

  • Ink doesn’t bleed
  • You have the option of getting the paper lined or dotted which makes it easier to create straight lines that are required for Blackletter

For any piece that I will hang on my wall I will use the best paper I can get my hands on

But for practice any low quality paper works.

How to use your calligraphy tools

Like any tool be it in woodworking or sculpting each tool has a purpose and there are ways to maximize the effectiveness of each tool.

Broad Edge Nib

If you are using a broad edge nib there is a good chance you may need to ‘prepare the nib’ before you even use it.

When you purchase a new nib it comes with a protective coating that keeps it from rusting while held in storage. That protective coating, tho important, works against you when you dip the nib in ink.

If you do not prepare your nib for writing the ink will not stick to the nib properly. You will also have ink blob up when you write or you will need to re-dip the nib every few strokes.

Here are 4 ways to ‘Prepare A Nib’:

 

  • Clean the nib with a toothbrush and toothpaste under warm water
  • Stick the nib CAREFULLY into a potato for a few minutes
  • Use a bit your saliva on the nib and clean with some paper towels
  • Put the nib over a light flame
  • Using fire is very dangerous and I am not responsible for any harm brought to you or others. Use caution and be very careful. This method may also ruin your nib if left for too long over the flame. I don’t recommend this for any beginner. Try at your own risk.

There are two ways to load ink into a broad edge nib, you either dip the pen in ink or fill the reservoir using a brush.

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

*Some broad edge nibs do not come with reservoirs and need to be dipped for best results

 

If you dip the nib make sure you let any excess ink on the nib pour back into the ink bottle. If you have too much ink on the nib it will blob when making strokes.

 

Furthermore, a low amount of ink will have you dipping your nib into ink every few strokes.

 

If the ink on the nib begins to dry into goo be sure to clean the nib with water and a rag to remove any dried up ink.


You can also remove the reservoir to give the nib a deeper clean. *remove the reservoir CAREFULLY because it’s VERY FRAGILE, also to avoid breaking the reservoir you can get in hard to reach places with a toothbrush*

Pilot Parallel Pen

 

This pen is ready to use and beginner friendly. The main tip for using this pen is to apply even pressure to get the best results. Too much pressure on the left side will make the right side of the stroke choppy, and vice-versa.

I highly recommend you use Pilot brand cartridges ONLY.

When changing the ink cartridge make sure you clean the pen so the previous ink color doesn’t mix with the new one and give you a color you may not want.

Let’s get started! – Guidelines

 

When I start a new project I will use guidelines even in the sketching phase. The guides help me keep all my letters even and consistent.

Textura Quadrata typically requires 4-5 nib widths for the x-height and 6-7 nib widths for the ascenders and descenders.

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

I rule horizontal lines to keep my letter the same height and rule vertical lines to keep my vertical strokes as straight as possible.

Don’t be afraid to try something new

You don’t have to stick to the 4 and 6 nib width spacing, mix it up and and try different letter weights.

Remember rules are meant to be broken.

Understanding basic letterforms and spacing

 

If you look at any manuscript written in Textura Quadrata you will notice dense and heavy strokes giving it a dark overall feel.

Straight vertical lines and tight spacing is what gives Textura Quadrata it’s unique style.

Set aside some time to focus on practicing your vertical lines and diamond serifs.

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

Practice makes perfect

 

Don’t feel bad if a few of your strokes are not as straight as you would like. Take your time and remember with practice your strokes will improve.

Begin with easy letters: b,c,e,f,h,i,j,l,o,p,q,r,t,u

Then move on to more difficult letters: a,d,g,k,m,n,s,v,w,x,y,z

The angle in which Textura Quadrata is written various from 40-45 degrees.

Letter spacing is IMPORTANT

 

There should be at least one nib width of space between each letter

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

and one nib width of space inside of the letters, also known as the ‘counter’.

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

Word space should have 2 nib widths between.

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

Give your letters style

 

Once you got the hang of the basics you can slowly start giving your letters some style. You can add, what I call, ‘spikes’ to the ascenders. This can be done using the edge of the nib.

You can make the spikes full and heavy

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

Or make hairline spikes, it’s up to you.

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

You can add some flourishes to your ascenders.

Blackletter Calligraphy Guide For Beginners -step-by-step 2018 | Lettering Daily

One step at a time

 

After you learn to construct letters you can start manipulating your letters and extending your flourishes. In time you will create perfect letters and balanced flourishes.

Be VERY careful with that eraser

 

When I am done and the ink is 100% dry I will carefully erase the guidelines. I found that using a kneaded eraser will erase the guidelines with ease.

Always remember when using an eraser that you be very careful around any ink even if looks completely dry.

Remember to clean up when your are done. You don’t want to come back to a nib with dried up ink, so clean it after every use.

Mistakes make you great

 

I can’t tell you how many times I misspelled a word or had too much ink on the nib which left a big blob had to start from the beginning. It happens to the best of us so don’t let that stop you.

Learning from your mistakes will help you grow and be a great calligrapher.

Is Blackletter right for you?

 

If your answer is yes you can continue to improve your skills by downloading my FREE study guide. It will help you with forming basic letterforms for the Blackletter Textura Quadrata script.

 

If your answer is no I would still suggest you download it and give it a try. Maybe it will be a start to a new interesting hobby.

 

Feel free to message me on Instagram if you have any questions. I always try my best to help out and respond to everyone. Also if I don’t have an answer to a question I will try and point you in the right direction.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my Blackletter tutorial and I hope you found it useful.

Drop your email below so we can send you the FREE downloadable practice sheets.

Lettering Crate Optimized

Stay updated with our tutorials and get instant access to the Lettering Crate –

A growing library of free lettering & calligraphy resources that includes – FREE downloadable calligraphy practice sheets, Procreate brushes, the 30-day lettering planner, printables, and more.
The Lettering Crate sample image - free lettering and calligraphy worksheets and resources

Now we want to see you in action!

#learning2gether​

Grab the tools and start practicing your blackletter calligraphy by following this tutorial. Once you are done be sure to post it properly on Instagram (and other social platforms) use the #learning2gether , and tag us on your post so we can give you some feedback on your work 🙂

be sure to check out Edgar's other online platforms !

About Author

42 thoughts on “BLACKLETTER / GOTHIC CALLIGRAPHY FOR BEGINNERS (2020)”

  1. H. Vasfi Gencer

    I am interested in calligraphy and try to improve my skills in Black-Letter. Your practice guide sheets will be very helpful.
    Thank you,
    Vasfi

  2. I think many of your commenters are experiencing what I’m also encountering. I got the passcode and link. Perused your tutorials. I’m currently trying to find the Blackletter worksheets and any printed materials for download. There is a lot of great info here. But I have gotten to the comments section and still am unsure how to navigate to the downloads. I will take a closer look, as I’m sure it is there somewhere. But might I suggest that if so many ppl are finding it difficult to download your practice sheets, perhaps it’s not highlighted in a prominent enough way. I’ll begin looking again … thanks for all the learning materials!

    1. Hello Violet. Thank you for your comment, and i completely agree with you. I will most definitely update the article and improve the structure so it’s easier for people to navigate. Constructive feedback is always super appreciated so feel free to drop your thoughts at any time 🙂

    1. Hey Mary, thank you for your comment 🙂 Love the energy in your words, and if you need any help just let me know 🙂

    1. Hello, Kulpreet. This does not work like this. I can’t use your email address. If you scroll above, you will see a sign up form. Drop your email there and you will get access to the Lettering Crate.

    1. You got to sign up to the newsletter in order to get access to the Lettering Crate – once you do that you will have full access to all the freebies that we offer on the website 🙂

    1. Lettering Daily

      Hello Sam, thank you very much. Right before the end of the post there is a subtitle that says – Drop your email below so we can send you the FREE downloadable practice sheets. After that you just drop your email and we send you the access to the Lettering Crate where you can download all of the practice sheets and other freebies as well (it’s a resource library)

        1. Lettering Daily

          Hey Aaron, we just tested the whole thing and it works without any issues on our side. Once you receive the confirmation email you just need to click on the big red button that says – ”confirm your email” after that you will get a second welcome email that will give you access to all of the practice sheets. In case you are struggling with it, please feel free to reach out via email and we can have a closer look at it.

  3. Juan Alberto Torrero Beyer

    I can believe it!! Just what I needed. I already have all the tools so I will start right away!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  4. hi! recently bought some parallel pens and it’s such great fun using them. learning blackletter and came across your site. it’s so useful! thanks~ been practising the letters, would you be uploading any symbols or numbers of the script? thanks!

    1. Thanks for the kind words! Happy to hear that got started with the parallel pen – excellent choice!
      As for your question i can suggest two things – 1. Send a message to Edgar on Instagram – he is really cool and always replies to the DM’s 2. Try to search on Pinterest for some inspiration.
      Let me know if you have any more questions!

    1. Lettering Daily

      Awesome! be sure to share your work on the forum, or use the #learning2gether to get some additional feedback on your work 🙂
      Cheers!

    1. Lettering Daily

      Hey Saloni,
      Glad you enjoyed the tutorial and im really sorry you couldn’t reach the practice sheets.
      Would you mind describing where are you facing the issue? Perhaps you can take a screenshot and submit it to the forum under the ”other” section
      or send us an email directly to [email protected]

      Looking forward to helping you out!

  5. This is very helpful. I have been looking for an easy to understand Blackletter guide. I appreciate the time and effort taken to make this and thanks for sharing it to the world ??

  6. Beatrice Smith

    WOW!! Thank you so much for sharing this! 😀 It was very helpful, and i can’t wait to start using these practice sheets 🙂

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