All pointed pen creations are beautiful, but add calligraphy swirls to the mix, and your work becomes extraordinary! Paired with casual modern calligraphy, swirls are fun and ironic; and when they appear with more formal calligraphy, they immediately add a regal/important vibe. Part of the reason people love them so much is they look intricate and complicated. After reading the two parts of this series, though, you’ll know the truth: while swirls look amazing, they’re far from impossible to make if you break it down! Today, you’ll learn two techniques for creating swirls, and next week, you’ll learn two more.
Header Calligraphy Swirls
Header calligraphy swirls consist of five loops. The middle loop is always centered, and it’s the tallest loop in the swirl. While I used this swirl concept for a holiday card, you can use it for anything: menu design, gift cards, stationery … whatever! True to its name, the header swirl looks great at the top of any page!
To make it, start by drawing five pencil guidelines. In the example below, my guidelines are spaced 3/16″ (4.75 mm) apart, but you can make your guidelines closer or farther depending on how short/tall you want your calligraphy swirl to be!
Next, draw a guideline in the center of your page. This marks where your tallest loop will appear!
Add two more vertical guidelines. Both of these new guidelines should be equidistant from your center guideline; I opted to make my vertical guidelines 1/2″ (12.7 mm) from the center guideline. These center guidelines signal where the second-tallest loops will appear. Again, the distance is personal preference; if you would prefer your loops to occur closer together, you can put the lines closer together. If you prefer the loops to be more spaced out, you can draw the lines farther apart. It’s up to you!
Now, draw two more vertical guidelines. These new guidelines should also maintain a 1/2″distance (or whatever measurement you decided on) from the previous guidelines you drew.
Finally, draw guidelines near the edge of both sides of the paper. These guidelines denote where your calligraphy swirl will start and end! I opted to make my guidelines 1″ (25.4 mm) from the edge.
From this point on, the directions are still simple … but a bit difficult/impractical to show in photographs! Effectively, I have created a video to tie up the rest of the tutorial, which you can watch below:
When you are finished, you’ll end up with something like this:
And when you erase your guidelines, this will be the lovely result!
I am sure that seeing a calligraphy swirl on a stark piece of practice paper doesn’t do a lot to get your creative juices flowing, so here’s a project suggestion for you! Use a soapstone pencil to draw guidelines on a black A7 card, then create a header swirl using Finetec gold.
Once the Finetec has dried, rotate the card 180 degrees, and draw a second swirl on the opposite end of the card.
Decorate the card with some occasion-appropriate lettering, and you’re finished! I used a mixture of hand-lettering (Roman and Sans Serif styles) and Kaitlin Style calligraphy for the holiday card below.
As you create more and more header swirls, you’ll find that you no longer need to draw guidelines! Remember, too, that you can make calligraphy swirls like these using the faux/”cheating” calligraphy technique. Just thicken the downstrokes as you would with any ordinary calligraphy letter, and you’ll be rewarded with sumptuous swirly results!
Corner Calligraphy Swirls
You can spice up any rectangle or square by adding swirls to the corners! I especially love corner calligraphy swirls for envelope art, but they are also fantastic for invitations, commissioned designs (e.g. magazine covers), postcards, and any other piece of paper you want to make beautiful.
To create this type of calligraphy swirl, draw guidelines in the corner of your piece of paper as shown below. I drew two long guidelines that are 1-3/4″ (44.45 mm) from the corner of my envelope. Then, I made two short guidelines 1-1/2″ (38 mm) from each long guideline. Again, the measurements are a personal preference: guidelines that are closer together will produce a smaller swirl, and guidelines that are farther apart will result in a larger swirl.
Use your soapstone pencil to draw a diagonal “C” shape in the corner of the envelope, as shown below:
Draw loops on both ends of the “C”. Coil them up on the long guidelines you drew.
Next, create a swirl like the one shown below that intersects the left coil.
Repeat the process on the right coil.
Go over the swirl draft you drew with ink (I’m using Winsor & Newton white), taking care to apply pressure on downstrokes and let up pressure on upstrokes. Being conscientious of your pressure will result in lovely contrast between thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes!
I know that the photos of the process may not provide you with all you need to know, so here’s a video tutorial that should prove helpful!:
Once you’re finished making your corner swirl(s), it’s time to add lettering to your piece. I love how beautifully Amy Style calligraphy complements the swirls in the envelope below (and vice-versa)! The curvy Amy letters mimic the curlicues in the swirl, which gives the piece a neat and cohesive yet artistic feel!
If today’s tutorial has inspired you to add swirly embellishment to your next calligraphed piece, then it’s done its job! If you’re not digging either of these calligraphy swirl styles, though, that’s okay! Check back next week for a couple more that just may be perfect for you. 🙂
Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend!