Learning the Fraktur Uppercase Alphabet (Free Guides)
Welcome to the third part of my Fraktur 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:
Hopefully, you’ve already gotten to work at learning the fundamental minuscule strokes and creating your own Fraktur alphabet. If so, you must be anxious to learn the majuscules. Don’t get me wrong, the lowercase alphabet is cool and all, but the uppercase letters are what makes Fraktur such a distinct style of calligraphy.
Just like the previous lesson, I’d recommend using the same tool. The 3.8MM or 6MM Pilot Parallel pens are staples in any blackletter calligrapher’s tool-belt.
We’ll also be using the same 2:4:2 guide system. A 2:4:2 ratio means each line is comprised of 2 parts descender space, 4 parts x-height space, and 2 parts ascender space. In blackletter, one “part” represents one nib-width of the pen you’re using.
Finally. I have prepared another set of guide sheets for you. These sheets are tailored to the majuscule strokes and letterforms we’ll be focusing on in this post.
Let’s get to work!
Fundamental Majuscule Strokes
Just like the minuscule alphabet we learned in the previous post, we’ll work at a 40º angle. As you experiment further with your calligraphy, you might find yourself deviating from this angle. This is totally okay! Blackletter is typically done between 35º and 45º. But just remember; the angle itself doesn’t matter as much as keeping the angle consistent in each letter.
Rounded strokes start at the top and end at the bottom. To execute the stroke successfully, take it slow and pay close attention to the inside of the stroke. Essentially, you’re creating a half of a circle (even though it’s more of a crescent due to your pen angle).
Start with the individual crescent strokes and when you’re comfortable with both the bottom left crescent and the top right crescent, put them together to form an “O”.
The final stroke to the right in the above sequence is a 2-part stroke that begins with a crescent as the first stroke. To execute the second stroke, place your pen nib at the exact spot in which you started the crescent. Pull the pen down slightly to the left and then round it out, pulling it diagonally down and the the right. As you get towards the end, round it once more, inwards and to the left.
As you can see in the above image, these rounded strokes play important roles in several majuscule letterforms.
Other Miscellaneous Strokes
Abstracting this alphabet is a little more difficult than with the Fraktur minuscules — or even the entire Textura alphabet. The fact is the majority of the majuscule letterforms are comprised of their own unique strokes.
However, here are a couple more common stroke exercises to get you warmed up.
Start from the left of the below image. The first stroke looks a bit odd on it’s own, but you’ll see how it comes together in several different letter shortly. Start with the long vertical (labelled “1”). Position your pen’s nib at a 40º slightly below the ascender line. Move upwards and to the right briefly, but then quickly loop around and bring it down a single unit about the baseline.
The second stroke begins directly to the left (about 1.5 units) of where the first stroke ends. It’s one of those “squiggle” strokes, so move the pen slightly upward at 40º and loop back down, continuing down through where the top of this stroke meets the previous stroke until the bottom of this stroke meets the baseline. Then finish it off with that upward curl at 40º.
The second exercise from the left should look familiar to you. It’s comprised of two of the basic strokes from the minuscule alphabet. You’ll also find this series of strokes throughout the majuscule alphabet as well.
The third and fourth exercises are pretty self explanatory. Begin with a hairline stroke (you can achieve this by using the edge of your nib) moving straight upwards until you get towards the ascender line. Finish off the stroke with the respective horizontal (third exercise) or diagonal (fourth exercise).
The diamond is optional, but it certainly adds to the visual complexity of your letter.
Here are some examples of letters using these miscellaneous strokes. That unique combination from the first exercise is pretty prevalent, right?
Creating the Majuscule Fraktur Alphabet
Alright, you ready!? Print out that guide sheet and get practicing! Note: I’d recommend printing out a couple dozen copies of the final page (the blank guide). You’ll be spending a lot of time with this one.
Here’s how I would recommend practicing:
Step 1: Start by Tracing
Don’t be afraid to trace — it’s not cheating, okay? This is how you learned to write when you were a child. There’s no quicker way to get comfortable with these letters.
I’ve set the guide sheet up in a way that allows you to start by tracing. Like the minuscule guide, each line slowly gradates from black to completely transparent. Begin by tracing and as you start to familiarize yourself with the feel of each letterform, you can rely on the guides less and less.
Step 2: Draw from Reference
When you feel comfortable enough to draw the letters without tracing them, get a fresh practice sheet and use it to draw your own letters. But keep the other guide sheet in front of you. Reference those letters as your draw yours.
You’ll need to draw each letter many times before you’re able to memorize them. Then you’ll need to draw them each many more times to get them perfect.
Step 3. Draw from Memory
When you’ve engrained each letter into memory, print more practice sheets and put the reference guide away. Draw the entire alphabet and then go back and check the guide to see how accurate you were.
At this point, you can start introducing minuscules and writing words and sentences. Here’s a couple sentences that utilize all of the different letters of the alphabet:
- Jaded zombies acted quaintly but kept driving their oxen forward.
- A mad boxer shot a quick, gloved jab to the jaw of his dizzy opponent.
- The job requires extra pluck and zeal from every young wage earner.
- A quart jar of oil mixed with zinc oxide makes a very bright paint.
I hope you’re not as frustrated as I was the first time I tackled Fraktur. Unfortunately, I did it all by eye without guides. It was for this reason I decided to create my own, so hopefully they’re helping you out. If you have any hangups or suggestions, I’m all ears. Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how they’re working for you.
Regardless, you’ll probably hit a few bumps along the way. But don’t be discouraged. Take a break and come back fresh. Like anything, mastering a style of calligraphy takes hours of deliberate practice.
In the next post, we’ll take our learnings even further. I’ll show you a number of tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to bring new life to your letters. Combine these with what you’ve learned so far, and you’ll be well on your way to being a Fraktur master with your own unique style.