Sunday, April 14, 2013

Intro to Fraktur - A Guest Post by Alice Jenkins

Intro to Fraktur

A while back I decided to learn how to write using Blackletter script, and found myself looking through lots of examples of Gothic and later Germanic scripts. The most commonly (and recently) used Blackletter form was Fraktur, which was the script commonly used throughout Germany and the former reaches of the Holy Roman Empire. It was a whole class of typefaces that was used in everyday printed works, and was used in a less ornate or cursive form for everyday written communication.

What It Looks Like

Image Source:

Fraktur, as the name might imply, is “fractured” in the sense that letters are not formed in a continuous line as they are in Antiqua typefaces, but instead are formed by a number of discontinuous strokes that give Fraktur its characteristic blocky look.

How to Get Started

The first thing that I did when I decided to learn to write this type of script was to go to Yale’s page on Fraktur and attempt to copy down all of the letters. To save yourself some from of the difficulties that I ran into here are a few tips…

-         -  Put your paper on an angled surface. It doesn't have to be much, and you don’t need to buy special equipment; even just the 20-30 degree incline that you get from putting piece of paper on a clipboard and raising the end on a thick book will make a world of difference to encourage good posture and technique.

-          - Use an appropriate pen. You want something with a relatively flexible nib. You can obviously practice with anything you want, even a pencil or a ballpoint pen, but using a pen that will vary in thickness depending on your pressure and movements will provide instant feedback on whether you’re placing each stroke in the correct way, because you won’t be able to get the varying line thickness to match if you’re doing it wrong.

-          - Lift your elbow. If you’re like me and you've had your own way of doing things because it worked for you in the part then it’s time to bend to ancient wisdom. You want your shoulder muscles to be engaged in the writing process. Doing so will make your writing look more uniform, even if it feels awkward at first (also you’ll get some sore muscles).

Once you feel comfortable with the letters to the point that you can remember how to write each one without going back to look it up it’s time to practice in earnest. The only way to master it is to write, and to write a lot. I sat down and wrote a page or two of whatever came into my head every day, which was mostly total nonsense, but if you don’t like having to sit down every day to practice with no practical purpose you can hone your skills by shifting some of your everyday writing tasks to your new lettering styles, from grocery lists to writing notes for friends, family, or roommates.

Alice Jenkins is a writer, graphic designer and marketer. When Alice isn't nitpicking her own logo designs, she writes about social media, small business branding and fashion design. Alice's internet writing adventures are funded by Pensxpress, a business that specializes in personalized, imprinted pens.


  1. Very helpful! Your second tip seems to make a huge difference in what I am doing. Thank you!

  2. You suggest using a flexible nib--which pens have you found work best? Looks like you'd need a flex italic for this style? Thanks for posting this!

  3. Very generous help. I'm more apt to try it now. Thank you.

  4. Good job with the post. I am so glad that I came across the same.

  5. That image looks a lot more like a standard blackletter, slightly flourished, not fraktur.