Learning calligraffiti holds a special place in my heart, as I first became aware of calligraphy through graffiti and street art. I was always drawn to the hard to read glyphs and symbols. To properly do calligraffiti it would be really beneficial to be proficient with blackletter calligraphy and understand how each letter is made. I was told this too when I first started learning but looking back it is very true! Calligraffiti in all its forms bends rules that traditional calligraphy holds dear. Without knowing the rules, how can you bend them in the right ways? Even so, I definitely sympathize with those who just want to jump right in and start learning and figure the rest out later. So here we go.
What is Calligraffiti?
Calligraffiti is the elegance and simplicity of calligraphy mixed with the raw expression of street art. It is older than you might think too. Calligraffiti has existed in it’s Arabic form since at least 1925 in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s freedom from strict rules was a point of passion for the graffiti artists of that time and still loved today. Besides letters, calligraffiti has no 100% consistent rules which is a huge contrast to traditional calligraphy.
Tools You Will Need for Calligraffiti:
The tools used for calligraffiti are the same as those that are used for blackletter calligraphy. A broad edge nib is required to get the contrast of the thick and thin strokes within calligraffiti. The 4 tools below will be everything you need to start practicing calligraffiti.
1. A Blackletter Pen
My recommendation is: the Pilot Parallel (6mm). If you want to know exactly why this is, head over to my Review of the Pilot Parallel Pen. There are other tools that can work, like broad edge sharpies and pencils, but they don’t quite produce the same quality of letters that the Pilot Parallel does.
2. Quality Paper
The best paper for blackletter calligraphy is the HP premium 32. If you are using the Pilot Parallel pen, it can bleed on papers that are not as dense (such as regular printer paper). However, if you are learning with pencils, you can obviously use any paper you can find.
3. Ink Refills
If you are practicing a lot, you will need extra ink to keep up with your writing. There are Pilot Parallel refills, but they can be a bit more bleedy than the liquid watercolour above.Of all the inks I have tried this has to be the best ink you can get for blending, mixing and refilling the pilot parallel. If you are in it for the long haul, this is the ink you want to buy to give you infinite colors and basically lasts forever.
Note: Eyedropper not included and I heavily recommend getting one from the dollar store. It makes it really easy to refill.
4. Practice Sheets
5. Tools for Street Art / Murals
The tools required for calligraffiti vastly depends on the surface you are writing on. If you are writing calligraffiti on paper, the 4 tools already mentioned above will be more than sufficient. Concrete, metal and plastic require more permanent options in order to do murals and street art. What you may need:
- Acrylic Paint Markers – 30mm Tip
- For BIG Calligraffiti: Molotow CoversAll Paint Marker – 60mm Tip
Two Ways to Learn Calligraffiti Online
Normally, I have three ways, (like my Copperplate Post), but I do not have a Calligraffiti Video Course available yet. Stay tuned.
1. For the Eager Self-Learner – Practice Sheets
If you are someone who is persistent on learning calligraffiti, and are a self-learner, then practice sheets are for you. These sheets offer structured practice to develop your blackletter skills. While this particular set of practice sheets aren’t for beginners, a very motivated individual can learn and practice the scripts within. I would recommend learning from one of my more beginner friendly blackletter workbooks first, but in the end its up to you. This workbook teaches the following & more!
- Tools you will need
- Introduction to Calligraffiti
- Basic & Advanced Strokes
- The 5 Guidelines of Flourishing
- Abstract Calligraffiti & calligram guides
- These 4 Scripts: Fraktur, Handstyle, Tattoo & Glyph
2. For the Careful Spender – Instructional Tutorial Blogpost
Your First Blackletter Calligraphy Strokes
Great! You made it! And you have your first Pilot Parallel or some such calligraphy tool, and some good paper. Unscrew the grey part off the back of the pen and insert the sealed ink cartridge into the opposite end to the blades (a little force may be necessary). The first thing you will notice when writing is that at different angles you get different line thicknesses. Depending on the direction you go you can get slightly different shapes, as the image below shows.
The thing with blackletter scripts is that you have to keep your pen at approximately a 30-40 degree tilt. If you were to put your tool’s tip onto the top part of the angle below it should be flush with that black line. Making sure to keep the angle consistent, move your pen around to make the shapes below. Once you get these two strokes down you have most of the shapes down that you can make with the pilot parallel. Now it just comes to how you arrange them!
Writing Blackletter Calligraphy Letters
Most blackletter scripts have some guidelines to show you the height of each letter based on the width of the pen nib. As you can see in the above picture, there are a bunch of squares which were made by using your Pilot parallel pen. The x-height is generally 5 pen widths tall, the ascender is 2-3 pen widths tall and the descender height is usually 2-3 pen widths.
- x-height: the size of the body of the letter given in nib widths
- Ascender: The part of the letter that goes up above the x-height
- Descender: The part of the letter that goes down below the x-height
If you hold your pen at 40-45 degrees (like the previous picture) and follow the paths like what you see in the picture above you should get something similar to it. If this isn’t clear, check out the video below.
Learning Blackletter Calligraphy Tutorials
Don’t fret if things don’t look perfect, unless of course that makes you want to keep practicing and get better. That is because that is all it takes to get good at this wonderful hobby.
Calligraphy Alphabet Exemplars
These were done a while ago, but here’s an example of a Gothic alphabet. Give it a shot and once you get the hang of it try the Fraktur alphabet below it. Good luck, and happy practicing!
FREE Gothic Calligraphy Practice Sheets
To download a FREE simple Gothic practice sheet head over to my practice sheet post here: Gothic Practice Sheets
You can download it, print it out on good paper and follow along with the video above. If you think you have got the hang of this video/ alphabet. Check out the other free calligraphy tutorials I have posted to YouTube here.
How to Make Blackletter Calligraphy Flourishes
To be honest, I use the word flourishing to define anything that is a stroke that is not lettering. They can add flavour to any letter, or just fill the white space (which is what I do). They are some of the most fun things to do in calligraphy when you get them right. It can really make or break a piece that you are working on. Too much just looks gimmicky, and too little makes you want more. You will really want to practice these, but unfortunately there is no practice sheet with these. Here is a little bit of inspiration but I believe every calligraphy develops their own style of flourishing. So what I am trying to say here is experiment! Try different shapes, swoops and swirls until you find what you really like. Then practice those!
How to make Calligrams
Some other things you can make that adds to you blackletter calligraphy would be calligrams! They are a method of arranging your letters or strokes into a layout that represents a visual image. I have a full video demonstrating what they are and how to make them!
That’s all folks! Thanks for reading all the way! Hopefully you found this useful, if you did let me know what this helped you with in the comments!
Also, any questions or comments, I promise that I will answer you!
Thanks a lot 🙂