The other day, I received a marketing email from a company trying to sell me their electronic envelope addressing services. “Stop hand-addressing invitation envelopes!” it said. “The latest envelope printing technology lets you print handwritten quality envelopes at speeds of up to 5,000 envelopes per hour.” Despite the marketing claim, I don’t think that printed envelopes can truly reach “handwritten quality”. Why? Well, besides the small but appealing imperfections that hand-written calligraphy can produce, there’s flourishing.
Flourishes will add personality to any project, and they can’t successfully be replicated with a computer font. Yes, there are some fonts that try, but the appeal of flourishing lies in its inconsistency. Flourishes are uniquely suited to the word you’re writing and the space you have to write that word in! There’s no specific formula for flourishes — instead, you’ll need to use your imagination and creativity. However, I’m going to do my best to set you up to create gorgeous flourishes by providing you with tips, inspiration photos, and a list of resources!
What is Calligraphy Flourishing?
Calligraphy flourishing occurs when you take what would otherwise be a plain word or phrase, and you add embellishments to it. For example, you can see a Janet Style calligraphy phrase written below:
With a few graceful swoops and loops, the phrase turns into an eye-catching work of art!
Where to Use Calligraphy Flourishing
You can add flourishing anywhere in your calligraphy; be it around letters or connected to letters.
As far as flourishing that is connected to letters, I usually connect flourishes in four different places:
- The end letter of a word
- The beginning letter of a word
- The hanging tail of letters like “g”, “j”, and “y”
- The start, end, or both the start and end of the cross on a “t” or an “A”
Flourishes can also exist as standalone artwork! In that case, the flourishes usually come together to make a shape like the skull below.
There’s no formula for flourishing. It’s completely up to you how you flourish and where! However, it never hurts to get in some practice and have a mental library of flourishes to use. For that reason, I made a free calligraphy flourishing worksheet for you to use. It will walk you through basic calligraphy flourishes and give you plenty of ideas!
There are several resources here on TPK that will help with your calligraphy flourishing! The first resource that pops into my mind is the Flourish Formal Calligraphy Worksheet. In addition to teaching you embellished Flourish Formal style calligraphy, the worksheet discusses several ways you can use flourishes to enhance your letters or words!
Your calligraphy flourishing will also improve by filling out any of the Not Your Average Calligraphy Drills packets. Every packet includes a big flourished project, like the flourished skull I showed you before (in the Spooky Drills) or the fish shown below (Under the Sea Drills)!
There are also several free tutorials here on TPK that you can use to sharpen your skills! They include:
- Springtime Calligraphy Medallion Tutorial
- Flourished Calligraphy Medallion Tutorial
- Free Printable “Flourish by Number” Bunny
- Free Printable Instructions – Flourished Bee Calligraphy Tutorial
- Three Simple Calligraphy Flourishes
Flourishers to Follow
There are some calligraphers out there that make glorious flourishes that go on for miles!
- Phyllis Macaluso – Phyllis makes beautiful botanical flourishes, and seamlessly incorporates watercolor into her work!
- Schin Loong – You’ll be blown away by Schin’s organic, fluid flourishing style.
- Jodean Cooper – I’m in love with Jodean’s flourishes — they never disappoint!
I have to admit that I’m not as savvy as I should be about the great flourishers out there, so I know I’m missing some. Other exceptional flourishers who come to mind include Jake Weidmann, Maureen Vickery, and Kathy Milici! Can you think of someone else? Please contribute their name and a link to their work in the comments section!
A Gallery of Flourishes
If you’d like some calligraphy flourishing inspiration, here is a slideshow of some flourished projects that I’ve created!
Best Flourishing Nibs + Ink
I, personally, like the Brause EF66 and the Brause Rose nibs for flourishing. Both nibs are capable of creating wonderful stroke contrast! As far as ink goes, I prefer to flourish with iron gall or walnut ink if I can. Both of those inks are nice and thin, meaning that they are capable of creating nice, thin upstrokes — great for flourishes! That said, any ink will work. I created the bold envelope below with sumi ink, and I do flourish a lot with white ink, which is quite thick!
Adding Flourish to Block Lettering
The last thing I want to leave you with is the idea that calligraphy flourishing can benefit any lettering! Take this Sans Serif block lettering, for instance:
If you have a word like this, you’ll first want to identify the possible letters you can connect to. What stands out to me the most here is the right side of the “V”, which I’m going to add some curl to.
Next, of course, the tail of the “R” is ripe for flourishing.
The “N” has two opportunities for adding curl: the top and the bottom.
Finally, if you are flourishing a word with some personality to it, you can add graphic elements that communicate an idea. I have drawn in some small pine trees to reinforce Denver’s ties to the outdoors/mountains:
I’m a firm believer in “a little bit of flourish never hurt anyone”. You can add flourishing to anything you are creating calligraphy on, from envelopes to place cards to art prints! Flourishes are wonderful in that they can convey playfulness, elegance, or both.
If you have any questions — or suggestions! — about flourishing, please feel free to comment. It is always great to hear from you! Thanks very much for reading TPK; and I hope you enjoy the free flourishing worksheet!