Pen, INK and paper
For this exercise I’ve used a Handwritmic Brody Neuenschwander Ruling Pen because of its quality, it allows you to control the sharpness of your strokes and it also has two different broad edge sizes which will help you to write in different weights more practically. You can also use any ruling pen as long as it has a broad edge ending or you can even create one.
The ink I like to use with this kind of exercise is a homemade iron gall ink because of its texture, color, and fixation to the paper when it dries, it is nicely liquid which is perfect for gestural calligraphy. If you can’t get the iron gal ink or create it, you can perfectly use any other, but keep in mind that it has to be waterbased and that every ink works different on the paper, I recommend you to use Higgins eternal ink, walnut ink, liquid watercolors, gouache (properly prepared), Sumi ink or fountain pen inks (like Parker), all of them are not aggressive with your pen and they nicely flow.
What paper do I need? This is such a difficult question because it depends on the ink you are going to use, for example with the iron gall ink Strathmore sketch works delightfully, but if you use Higgins eternal you’ll have a little bleeding which if it’s not desired, it’s annoying, so you’ll need a bleed proof paper to be sure that most of the inks are going to work, some examples are Canson Bleedproof or Fabriano Academia.
Handwritmic pen
Handwritmic pen
Iron gall ink
Iron gall ink
Strathmore sketch paper
Strathmore sketch paper
This is a recommended distribution of your writing environment.
1 - Ruling pen
2 - Pen rest (you can do it with a piece of wood)
3 - Ink
4 - Water for cleaning the ink from the tool (if you have a water source near you it’s better)
5 - Paper towel in case the ink falls or the pen drops
6 - Fabric cloth
7 - Writing paper (if the grid doesn’t pass through this paper you can use a light table)* 
8 - Protection paper (to avoid touching your writing surface)
9 - Grid
10 - A bunch of paper sheets to have a cushion between the rigid surface and the pen.
*If you are not doing a slanted hand it’s better to work without turning your sheet.
To define your line you should use the width of your pen, for this hand we will have three lines, the baseline which is the origin of our letters, the x-height which is the size of our lowercase letters without ascenders and it’s four widths of pen height, the ascender line which is two widths of the pen above the x-height and the descender line one and a half pen widths below the baseline.
I’ve written a Python program that works with the DrawBot App to generate a grid for your practice. You only have to change the size of your pen and your paper, run it and you will have a PDF ready to print.
Feel free to copy it and use it.
The script will give you the next grid if you use the default settings (7 mm pen size and Tabloid Landscape paper).
As I said before, the model we will use for the following exercises is based on Rudolf Koch’s Deutschen Schrift (German Script) which is mostly a Textura Blackletter with a few differences from the ancient models. I also gave the letters an extra twist which is the angle variation which I’ve learned from the amazing Luca Barcellona, this consists of a twist between 30° to 45° (it can change a little more depending on the context of your letters inside a text) with a systematical application which is mostly on the following way: 30° to vertical strokes and 45° to the horizontal ones (avoid mathematical rigidity, judge by the eye).
The main advantage and difference between practicing with a ruling pen and with a common broad-edged nib is the direction of your strokes, you can go up or down (more like a brush) to do the same stroke depending on what’s your objective, you can go up with a vigorous movement to splash or just go up because you have an accidental drop of ink you like and that’s the only way to continue your writing (feel free to rotate your paper at any moment).
For your practice, it is a good idea to have a model near to watch it when you forget a letter, even though I’m giving you a model you can use the model that you want. A good order to practice before using words is the following one, this is because in this order the letters share common strokes and it’s gradual learning:
i n m u a
o v w
c e r t
l f h b d 
j q g y p
s k x z
When you feel comfortable with the lowercase letters you can try the uppercase ones, following the same logic of common strokes this could be a good order:
After practicing just the letters you can start to practice the rhythm of the words which consist of balancing the white space between every letter.
There’s a perfect word to start this assignment and it’s the word “minimum” so practice this a few times until you notice you’re improving that balance.
After a few months of practicing just the letters and “minimum”… I’m joking, when you feel sure about your practice, you can start to make words, for me is better to start just with lowercase letters but if you did it well with the uppercase in the previous practice you can go straight to it. Some resources for type design could help you in this stage, for example, if you want to practice specific letters you can make words with adhesion text, if you like to make pangrams (sentences with every letter on the alphabet) you can use the list of pangrams from Clagnut, and if you are practicing sentences Kern King could save you from finding words.

Pangram from Clagnut’s website.

After some words just with lowercase, we can start playing with capital letters. A good exercise is to make a word with each letter of the alphabet using sentence case (just the initial in uppercase).
Having the letters’ construction on your mind is the key for experimentation, so if you want a different challenge after a lot of practice you can start experimenting with variables of your black letter, like weight, width, number of strokes, the side of the pen you are using, you can go just with the tip and do it like if you were doodling, etc.
The bigger size of the pen
The bigger size of the pen
Double stroke and fast execution
Double stroke and fast execution
When you have most of the previous concepts already on mind and you’ve practiced enough (it’s never enough you’ll notice) you can start to make several “final” pieces with a better paper and maybe add colors, gilding or any other artistic approach you might want to achieve with calligraphy, it could be as big as a mural or small as a greeting card, the possibilities are infinite and you’ll discover your path along the way, just be patient and never be afraid of making some mistakes, they make us grow with the proper doses of criticism.
Rough Sketching
The first step is to make a session of rough sketches with a pencil to define a way to go, it is important to keep in mind the limitations of the tool you will use and you should start to add significant meaning to every word.
In my example, I’ve chosen Virgilio’s quote “Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito” (Don't give in to adversity, but face it more boldly). I'm trying to define which words are the most important so I gave them emphasis against the other ones, throughout the sketches I can easily decide what will be the path to follow.
Every sketch allows us to improve some aspects that don’t fit in the composition so keep a keen eye.
I ended with a sketch that I liked, take a look on some of the decisions I’ve taken: CEDE, MALIS, AUDENTIOR, and ITO are bolder and bigger because I think they are the most important. Another thing I want you to notice is that from this stage forward I’m imagining where I’m going to use the pen in a different way to splash.
Refined Sketching
For this stage real size sketching is very important to have a good idea of your final work, sometimes you can do it scaled, especially when the work is bigger than a tabloid page.
Try to start with a close approach to your pencil sketch and the experimentation will give you a road to follow, this is the perfect time to manipulate your tool to achieve the appearance you want to have on your final piece.
Once you’ve got the look you want, you can go to the next step, it is wise to change your mind about your layout or any decisions you’ve made before, even though you’ve made 100 different sketches there will always be something to improve, try to be objective to not get stuck on any stage of the work.
Based on my real size sketches I’ve almost defined the lines for the final piece.
I will be using a 27.9 × 35.6 cm paper so I’ve centered them with a little more space at the bottom margin.
Working on this grid will give us a closer approach the final distribution of the elements

Work with the last grid until you get a layout you like for your final piece, when it’s done construct your final grid.
With the final grid, make some new sketches and when you got a sketch right in the place, scan it and make color proofs. You can add an accent at some words or change the color of your background (colored papers), this is a good practice to show a preview to skeptical clients.
And now, the final piece!
Even though this is the last step in our journey we still have some things to consider, the first one is to choose our special paper, my advice is that in general all of the different papers for watercolor painting work, but if you don't trust it check the composition and pick something with at least 50% cotton like a classic Fabriano, Arches Torchon and Caslon Mix Media are good too you can go for rough grain and you can gain more texture. If you can go for something with color my choice is Tiziano especially when I write white letters on black letters.
The final piece can go slower than sketches but don’t worry it worths every second, you’ll notice that everything works differently on the special paper so you might want to change the design a little at the end, take a look to my final artwork, I’ve added gold gouache the pen splashed more because of the texture of the paper, some black details were necessary and of course any accident can happen and you must take actions about it whether to fix it or start a new piece.
Now there’s just one thing to do.
Enjoy your practice and get a little dark with blackletter!!!
Bain, Peter and Shaw, Paul. La letra gótica. Tipo e identidad nacional. Valencia: Campgràfic, 2001.
Bickham, George. The Universal Penman. London,  Dover Publications, 1941; BN Publishing, 2012.
Castro, Ivan. The ABC of Custom Lettering. London: Korero Press Ltd., 2016.
Grolier ClubThe calligraphy revival : 1906-2016 / The Grolier Club, New York. New York, NY: Grolier Club, 2017.
Johnston, Edward. Writing & Illuminating & Lettering. London, Dover Publications, 2017.
Mediavilla, Claude. Caligrafía. Del signo caligráfico a la pintura abstracta. Valencia: Campgràfic, 2005.
Koch, Rudolf. Cuaderno de escritura. Valencia: Campgràfic, 2001.
Noordzij, Gerrit. El trazo. Teoría de la escritura. Valencia: Campgràfic, 2009.
Waters, Sheila. Foundations of Calligraphy. Greensboro, NC: John Neal Bookseller, 2001.

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