When Apple announced the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil at the September 2015 keynote, I had one thought on my mind. Calligraphy.
Digital lettering and calligraphy tools weren’t particularly accessible back then. I had gotten my hands on a nice Wacom tablet in the interest of learning to create digital art, but when it came to calligraphy, it just didn’t feel natural.
Calligraphy is a discipline that requires a lot of precision and tact. Looking at a screen instead of my hand to see what I was producing didn’t work for me. And fancy digital touch displays for artists were expensive.
Last October, my friend Nicole Mauloni (who happened to release an incredible iPad Calligraphy course last year) let me try her iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. I was blown away by how precise and sensitive the technology was.
I knew this was going to be a serious game changer for my blackletter work.
Now, after months of trial and error experimentation, I’m confident I can provide some helpful advice for getting started. So if you have an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and you’re looking to create digital blackletter work, this post is for you.
Blackletter in Procreate
Apps come and go just as quickly as technology evolves, but one app that seems to be gaining serious momentum in the creative digital world is Procreate. And for a mere $6… how can you go wrong?
I won’t chew your ear off going on about how cool Procreate is or how to use it because there are plenty of wonderful resources out there to show you the ropes.
But, assuming you’re comfortable and you just want to start laying some bold gothic strokes down… where do you begin?
There Is No Stock Blackletter Brush in Procreate
WTF! I figured I’d be able to crack this app open and select a nice angled chisel to begin writing with… or at least configure one with an interface similar to that of Photoshop’s brush palette. Wrong!
Procreate comes with a plethora of awesome brushes, but they’re more geared towards digital painters and illustrators. Luckily, one of the great things about Procreate is that it allows you to import brushes. Either ones that you create, or ones that others have created. And since there’s a huge Procreate community, there’s no shortage of amazing assets.
However, there aren’t many blackletter brushes out there… So I decided to create them myself. I’ll tell you about my blackletter brush sets shortly. But to get you started, let me give you a free one!
- Using your computer or iPad, download the file and save it in a cloud drive (like iCloud or Dropbox).
- In Procreate, open the brush palette and create a new brush set.
- In the top right of the palette, tap the “+” button and then tap “Import”.
- Import the downloaded brush file into your new set.
NOTE: Depending on how you have your orientation set in Procreate, brushes might import backwards. To correct this:
- Tap the brush, then tap it again to go into its settings.
- Select the “Source” panel.
- Pinch and twist the shape source thumbnail to rotate it to the proper orientation.
These brushes can be used like any other Procreate brush, so feel free to modify them to your heart’s content!
Change the grain source of any of these brushes to achieve cool textures. You can make your own if you’d like, but Procreate’s library is full of great textures. My personal favorite is the “Concrete” grain. It give the brush a weathered, grungy texture.
Add even more texture using Procreate’s built in “Spraypaints” brush set. The “Splatter” brush in this set is a great way to give the strokes a muddled texture.
Use a fine line brush to create flourishes. I recommend trying the “Technical Pen” brush. This can be found under the “Inking” brush set that comes with Procreate.
Premium Blackletter Brushes
As a calligraphy artist who focuses almost exclusively in analog blackletter, I’ve spent hours of time dedicated to creating quality blackletter work in Procreate using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I’ve purchased every set on the market to date and have studied what works and what does not to create my own extensive brush sets.
This advanced set includes a variety of 5 blackletter brushes (each in 3 angles — 35º, 40º, and 45º) as well as guide brush to help you create templates. A total of 16 brushes!
The professional set contains all of the brushes in the advanced set, 5 additional brushes, and a 13 page printable workbook for analog practice.
Here’s a demo of the brushes:
If you’ve delved into creating calligraphy in Procreate, I’m sure you’ve unearthed some unique tricks and techniques. Care to share? I’d love to exchange knowledge!
Likewise, if you’re having trouble getting comfortable, drop me a line. As always, I’m more tha happy to share all I know.