Advanced Fraktur Calligraphy Techniques

Welcome to the fourth part of my Fraktur calligraphy mini-course!
If you’re just joining in, I’d encourage you to go back and check out the two previous posts in this series:

I hope you’ve dedicated at least a couple of hours to learning the alphabets. These alphabets, particularly the majuscule, take time to master, so don’t get discouraged if your progress feels slow-going. Keep practicing!
In this final lesson, I’ll cover some advanced techniques to push your skills to the next level as well as other ways you can gain exposure to Fraktur calligraphy.

Letter Variations

The guides I’ve provided act as a baseline for learning the alphabet. However, there are countless letter variations within the Fraktur category of calligraphy. The beauty of calligraphy is each scribe that practices a category eventually begins to build their own unique, signature style. Therefore, there’s no end to the ways you can construct a letterform.
The best way to learn is to familiarize yourself with the alphabet as intimately as possible. And if you’ve been following along, you’ve already done this. Once you’re comfortable with each letterform, you’ll begin to see how you can bend the rules.

Here are a couple examples of various letter variations.

Variations of letter a

Variations of letter “a”

Another trick to help exploring letter variations is to try swapping strokes from one letter with strokes from another. For example, you can create a variation of letter “H” by replacing its intro stroke with the intro stroke from letter “A”.

Variation of letter H

Variation of letter “H”

Study Other Artist’s Work

Beyond studying your own work, seek out the work of others and see how they’ve approached the style. Instagram is a great place to find other calligraphers. Here are some accounts I frequent for inspiration:

Also, if you can manage to get your hands on Fraktur Mon Amour, do so! This book (which is not in print at the time of this writing) is my favorite source of inspiration. The book contains hundreds of blackletter type specimens as well as some great literature.

Fraktur Mon Amour

Fraktur Mon Amour

Stroke Building

I wish stroke building was covered in more tutorials, but I’ve never seen it formally written about. When I discovered this technique, it opened up a whole new world for me.

The idea behind stroke building is to lay smaller “accent” strokes on top of your letter’s original strokes. The result is a series of evolved strokes that give the letterform a nice edgy character:

Stroke building example

As you can see in the image above, two nearly-identical letterforms begin to differ greatly once their strokes are modified. Compare the original on the left with the modified one on the right. To achieve this effect, I added accent strokes to the top left and bottom left ends of my vertical strokes as well as the top left of my horizontal strokes.

Horizontal and vertical strokes are great places to build with accents, but it can be done on any thick stroke when you get the hang of it.

Graves at Sea

Stroke building takes practice, but this is one technique that can make a major difference in your alphabets. However, it can be easy to overdo, so use it tastefully.

Flourishes

Blackletter script has a very rigid uniformity and flourishes are a great way to add visual variety to your compositions.

Beleaguer

There is no golden rule for adding flourishes properly. You’ll need to experiment and find what works best, but here are some good places to start:

Flourishes on the end of majuscules

Add loops to the end of your majuscules.
Flourishes on ascenders.

Add loops to your ascenders.
Flourishes in multiline compositions

Add hairlines to multiline compositions.
Flourishes based on the gestural flow of existing strokes

Play off the gestural aspects of existing strokes.

Keep in mind that although flourishes add life to a composition, they shouldn’t detract from it. Be careful not to over-flourish your work or else it will become distracting and difficult to read.

Tool Diversification

If you’ve been using a Pilot Parallel exclusively in your calligraphy work, now is a great time to branch out and try something new.

Parallels are great, but you could be limiting yourself. For example, try your hand with a flat brush. You’ll be able to create the same letters with the chisel, but the flexible nature of the brush will also enable you to create strokes in a way the Parallel can not.

Check out John Steven’s brush Fraktur video. The way he works the brush is hypnotizing.

You should also give automatic pens a shot. If you’re looking for a place to start, I wrote a thorough introduction to automatic pens a few months back. Automatic pens behave similarly to Parallels, but they have more flex in the nib. This flex enables your to be more expressive and gestural in your strokes.

Automatic pen tip sizes
Automatic pen tip styles

Another benefit of using a brush or an automatic pen is you can work at different scales.

Grab a Copy of my Fraktur Workbook

Practice is the sure-shot way to take your skills to the next level. If you’ve been enjoying the printable worksheets throughout these posts, I encourage you to check out my Fraktur Calligraphy Workbook. This workbook follows the exact same format as the printable worksheets, but is much more extensive and contains additional exercises and materials.

Fraktur Calligraphy Workbook by Jake Rainis

Get your copy today in my online store.

Wrapping Up

I hope you’ve had as much fun learning Fraktur these past few weeks as I have putting these exercises together. I also hope that you continue to practice and create.
If you feel like you’ve gotten something out of this course, let me know! I’m curious to hear what your favorite and least favorite aspects were. I’d love to do more tutorials and courses like this one. Having an understanding of where you’re at helps me create the most relevant and helpful content.
I’d also love to check out your work. Send along some samples or tag me in a picture on Instagram.

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