Creating Flourishes In Calligraphy

Flourishing is the act of adding decorative strokes and embellishments to calligraphy writing to make it more ornate and beautiful. As defined by Loveleigh Loops, flourishing involves “adding sweeping, decorative strokes to your writing so it becomes more impressive” (

The main purpose of flourishing in calligraphy is to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the writing. Flourishes add visual interest, texture, and whimsy to letters and words. According to Lettering Daily, flourishing “can make a word look more fancy, decorative, and noticeable” (

There are many different types of flourishes used in calligraphy, including swirls, banners, loops, scrolls, leaves, vines, feathers, and other ornate strokes. Flourishing can be done as an integral part of individual letters, attached to letters, or as standalone decorative elements surrounding text.

Tools and Materials for Flourishing

Flourishing calligraphy requires some specialized tools and materials to achieve those elegant decorative strokes. Here are some of the key supplies you’ll need:

Nibs – Pointed pen nibs with flexible tines are essential for creating the thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes in flourishing. Popular options include Nikko G, Zebra G, and Tachikawa G nibs (Source).

Ink – Calligraphy ink designed for pointed pens works best. This ink is formulated to flow smoothly and has properties that facilitate nib flexibility. Some quality ink brands to try are Sumi, Winsor & Newton, and Dr. Ph. Martin’s (Source).

Paper – Use smooth paper that can handle the ink without bleeding or feathering. Rhodia pads and Strathmore Writing pads are excellent choices.

Other supplies – A nib holder, blotter paper, a straightedge, and a light pad or lightbox will also come in handy for flourishing practice.

Basic Strokes and Techniques

Learning the basic strokes and how they combine will help you build a foundation for flourishing. The two main strokes in calligraphy flourishing are the downstroke and the upstroke.

The downstroke starts on top and sweeps down and to the right in a slight curve. This is usually a thicker stroke and forms the base of many flourishes. Mastering a smooth, consistent downstroke takes practice.

The upstroke starts at the base and curves up and to the right in the opposite direction of the downstroke. Upstrokes are typically thinner and more delicate.

It’s important to practice both strokes and learn how they naturally flow into each other. For example, you can do a downstroke that leads into an upstroke, forming a nice swooping curve. Chaining multiple strokes together creates longer, more elaborate flourishes.

Aim for consistency in the shape, thickness, and slant of your strokes. Being mindful of the angle, pressure, and speed will help improve control. Mastering the basic downstroke and upstroke is the first step in developing beautiful flourishing.

Common Flourish Designs

There are many classic flourish designs that calligraphers use to embellish their work. Three of the most popular styles are swirls, banners, and bows.

Swirls involve looping strokes that curl around or swirl off letters and words. They create a sense of movement and add energy to calligraphy pieces. Swirls can vary from tight spirals nestled into letters to wide, sweeping curls decorating borders and edges (source).

Banners feature elongated downstrokes that extend below the baseline. Banners are often finished with curls or flicks at the ends. They add a regal, prestigious touch and were historically used to decorate royal decrees. Banners balance out large capital letters and suit highly formal scripts like Spencerian (source).

Bows include crossing strokes that tie together to form small bow shapes. They were traditionally used in flourished scripts like Copperplate and can be placed within letters or as stand-alone embellishments. Bows introduces a delicate, feminine flair to calligraphy pieces (source).

Incorporating Flourishes into Letters

One of the main ways to incorporate flourishing into calligraphy is to add embellishments to the ascenders and descenders of letters. The ascenders are the upper parts of letters that rise above the x-height, like the tops of lowercase b, d, f, h, k, l, and t. The descenders are the parts of letters that drop below the baseline, like the bottoms of g, j, p, q, and y.

There are many ways to flourish ascenders and descenders. Some common techniques include adding swirls, loops, spikes, banners, and other decorative elements. For ascenders, flourishes can flow upwards from the top of the letter or cascade downwards from above. For descenders, flourishes often swoop below and curl back upwards. The key is to let the flourish extend the natural direction of motion of the letter stroke.

Flourishes can also connect letters together in stylish ways. For example, you can embellish the junction between letter pairs like ll, ee, and tt. Extend a flourish from the first letter into the second for a flowing, connected look. You can also add triangular banners between letters or fancy swooping connectors above letter pairs. Just take care not to overdo connections between too many letters, which can make phrases harder to read.

When first starting out with flourishing, focus on adding simple swirls and loops to ascenders and descenders. As you gain more experience, you can try more elaborate banner shapes, braided patterns, and unique flourishes tailored to your personal style. The creative possibilities are endless for making letters shine with decorative details!

Check out this guide for some examples of flourished letters and practice sheets to try:

Flourishing Words and Phrases

When starting out with flourishing in calligraphy, it’s best to focus on embellishing individual words or short phrases rather than full sentences. This allows you to give attention to the details of each flourish. Some good words to practice flourishing include:

– Your name
– Short, positive words like “hope,” “love,” “dream,” etc.
– Months or seasons (“October,” “Spring”)
– Holiday greetings (“Happy Birthday,” “Merry Christmas”)

When flourishing words, first write out the word itself normally in your calligraphy style. Pay attention to the natural rhythm of the letters and how they fit together. Then go back and add embellishments in the negative space around and between the letters. Some flourishing techniques to try with words include:

  • Adding swirls, spirals, leaves, flowers or other shapes coming off letters
  • Connecting letters with sweeping curved lines
  • Filling in spaces between letters with dots, triangle shapes, etc.
  • Extending the ascenders and descenders with curving lines and loops

Start on simpler words first before moving to phrases. Avoid over-flourishing or cramming too many elements together. Remember to balance the flourishes with legibility. Refer to for more tips on effectively embellishing words.

Practicing Flourishing

When first starting out with flourishing, it’s important to begin simply and focus on drilling the basic strokes. According to Lettering Daily, some key beginning flourishes to practice include basic curls, loops, leaves, banners, and ovals. These motifs can then be combined into more elaborate flourished designs.

Using practice sheets is an excellent way to drill flourishing techniques. Printable practice sheets allow you to trace example flourishes repeatedly to build muscle memory. Flourish practice sheets can provide sample alphabets with embellishments to copy. For more ideas, see the flourishing practice sheets available from Loveleigh Loops.

As your skills develop, intentionally practice connecting basic flourish designs into letters and words. Try embellishing individual letters, then your own signature and short words. With daily repetition, flourishing will start to feel more natural. Just take care not to over-flourish at first – simple and legible is better for beginners.

Developing Your Personal Flourishing Style

Once you’ve practiced the basic flourishing techniques and designs, you can start focusing on developing your own unique flourishing style. Combining different flourish designs in new ways is a great way to make your flourishing stand out. For example, you could combine a swash with a ribbon flourish for an elegant, flowing look. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new flourish shapes and placements to find designs that you love.

It’s important when developing your personal style to not just copy other calligraphers’ flourishing exactly. While taking inspiration from others is fine, make the flourishing your own by tweaking and modifying it. Over time, your preferences for certain flourish shapes, sizes, and placements will emerge. Let this guide your ongoing flourishing experiments.

Keep practicing flourishes in your daily hand lettering and calligraphy. The more you flourish, the more natural and personalized it will become. Pay attention to which flourishes you are drawn to and how they fit with your individual lettering style. Soon you will have a library of custom flourishes to pull from for any project.

Some additional tips for making flourishing your own include:

  • Use flourishes to emphasize certain letters based on their shapes
  • Flourish letters in your name or signature
  • Incorporate flourishes into meaningful words or phrases
  • Let the spacing and layout complement the flourishes

The wonderful thing about flourishing is that you can constantly expand and evolve your personal style. Continuing to study calligraphy flourishing while also developing your own designs will ensure your work always reflects your unique creative vision. For more examples and ideas, check out this guide:

Using Flourishing in Projects

Flourishing can add an elegant, artistic touch to all kinds of calligraphy projects. When deciding where to incorporate flourishing into your work, consider the overall style and purpose of the piece. For more formal invitations or professional lettering, a minimal amount of flourishing is often best. For artistic pieces, cards, or headings, you may want to showcase more elaborate flourishes.

Some great beginner projects for practicing flourishing include:

  • Handmade cards – Birthday, holiday, or greeting cards are perfect for adding flourished lettering.
  • Headers – Flourish the first letter of section headers in journals, books, or note pages.
  • Invitations – Subtly flourish names, dates, or key words on wedding, party, or event invites.
  • Certificates – Embellish awards, diplomas, or certificates with flourished titles, names, or dates.
  • Gift tags – Jazz up homemade gift tags with a flourished greeting, name, or holiday wish.

When flourishing an existing text, carefully choose 1-3 key words or letters to flourish in each section. Avoid over-embellishing or letting the flourishes overwhelm the original words. Aim for flourishing to complement and enhance the overall look and message of each unique project.

With practice, you’ll develop an intuitive sense for when and where to tastefully incorporate flourishes to create elegant, artistic calligraphy projects.


Continuing Your Flourishing Journey

As with any skill, flourishing requires ongoing practice and dedication to improve over time. Be patient with yourself as you work to refine your technique. Look for inspiration in flourishing examples, paying attention to the shapes, spacing, and composition of flourishes.

Expanding your flourishing repertoire takes commitment. Challenge yourself to add new flourishes by studying historical scripts, calligraphy books, and examples from other calligraphers. By analyzing a flourish’s construction, you can break it down into individual strokes to practice and recreate it yourself.

Finding inspiration will fuel your flourishing journey. Look through calligraphy books and online galleries, saving flourishes that stand out to you. When you feel stuck in a rut, revisiting these inspirational examples can reinvigorate your practice sessions.

Joining a calligraphy guild or taking classes can accelerate your skills. Learning from experienced calligraphers provides valuable feedback and exposes you to new techniques. Peers in calligraphy groups also share advice, critiques, and encouragement to help you refine your flourishing style.

No matter your experience level, there are always new flourishing designs to learn and skills to hone. Setting milestones, analyzing exemplars, and staying inspired will keep you making steady progress. With regular, mindful practice, your flourishing abilities will blossom over time.

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