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How to Create Calligraphy Swirls and Decorative Borders

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Read Time: 6 mins
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to add swirls and borders to your calligraphic pieces. Calligraphy borders and swirls are a way to embellish and decorate your calligraphic pieces, whether that be an invitation, a menu, or an addressed envelope. Calligraphy swashes, swirls, borders and ornaments will really take your work up a notch.

Looking to add calligraphy borders and swirls to your digital creations? Head on over to Envato Elements where you can find several calligraphy-inspired resources, such as this calligraphy ornaments pack.

Blue Angel OrnamentsBlue Angel OrnamentsBlue Angel Ornaments
Blue Angel Ornaments is available on Envato Elements

What You'll Need


Before you get into the fun stuff that is this tutorial, you will need:

  • Plain paper
  • Guide sheet
  • Tracing paper
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Brush pen
  • Pencil
  • Sharpener
  • Eraser

1. Warm-Up Exercises for Calligraphy Borders and Swirls

Step 1 

To warm up, we will be practising the basic strokes of modern calligraphy. Go ahead and practice these for a couple of lines. We learnt these strokes in the "Making Your Own Font" tutorial and the "Intro to Modern Calligraphy" tutorial.

Basic strokesBasic strokesBasic strokes

Step 2

To loosen up, we are going to make some big loops. Start from the dashed line, arc up to the top line, and then continue over into a slightly curved downstroke looping to the left and up to the top line. Without lifting your pen, repeat the stroke.

Big downstroke loopBig downstroke loopBig downstroke loop

Step 3

Starting at the bottom line, make a slightly slanted upstroke toward the dashed line and loop over to the left. Then without lifting your pen, make an upstroke to the top line and come back down to the bottom line. Play around with the sizing of your loops. This helps with your flow.

Big upstroke loopBig upstroke loopBig upstroke loop

Step 4

Starting below the dashed line, make a downstroke and go up and over, round in an oval shape, and then cross your lines, ending at the dashed line. Repeat this a few times, slightly changing the shape.

Oval FlourishOval FlourishOval Flourish

2. How to Add Calligraphy Borders to a Menu

Step 1

To help with sketching out a calligraphy border swirl for a piece you are designing, you can measure out the height and width you would like for it to fit the space it will be occupying. 

Border measurementsBorder measurementsBorder measurements

Step 2

Tracing paper comes in really handy for designing and sketching calligraphy swirls and borders. Take a sheet of tracing paper and put it over your final piece to which you want to add a decorative calligraphy border. Then play around with a calligraphy swash that you like. I am going with the one I've measured out. 

Step 3

Before you draw your swirl border on your project, you can sketch it out in pencil first, and then trace over the pencil lines with your brush pen. Remember to play with heavy and light strokes to get some variety in your design. Wait a few minutes for the ink to dry, and then erase the pencil markings.


Menu With swirlsMenu With swirlsMenu With swirls

3. How to Add Decorative Calligraphy Embellishments to an Envelope

Step 1

Here's an example of how to embellish an otherwise plain addressed envelope. The recipient's address is over on the right, the sender's address is in the top left corner, and the stamp is in the top right corner. That leaves us with a big gap in the bottom left.

Taking a piece of tracing paper, play around, have fun and sketch out a design to fill the gap. Use what you have already learnt in this tutorial.

This design is a lot more elaborate than the menu example.

Envelope tracing paperEnvelope tracing paperEnvelope tracing paper

Step 2

Then sketch out your design in pencil onto your envelope. See how it fits and amend any mistakes or parts you aren't too keen on. I've decided that I need more heavy, pressured strokes in my design, so the final piece is a little different to the tracing paper design. But that's what is so great about using tracing paper; you don't have to commit to a design you're not fond of!

Once you're happy with your pencil sketch, trace over with your brush pen. I've decided to leave out a few lines from my initial design on the tracing paper. This embellishment is a little more elaborate than that of the menu because we're working with a larger gap and shape.

Envelope swirlEnvelope swirlEnvelope swirl

Now You Know How to Add Decoration to Your Work

It may seem a little intimidating trying to add calligraphy swashes, borders and ornaments to your work, but it's quite simple once you understand how to approach it.

Assess the space your embellishment will be going in, and play around with how you can fill it. I have a flourishing tutorial coming out soon that may help with this, so check it out.

What you have learntWhat you have learntWhat you have learnt

5 Cool and Elegant Calligraphy Embellishment Fonts From Envato Elements

Now that you know where to start with your calligraphy embellishing, borders, and swirls, it'd be a good idea to check out the fun and beautiful fonts that you'll find on Envato Elements.

1. Lunchbox Ornaments (OTF)

Lunchbox fontLunchbox fontLunchbox font

Lunchbox is a hand-drawn typeface with many customizations available. There are over 1,500 different characters, making it perfect for all your lettering needs.

2. Advertis Ornaments  (TTF, OTF)

Advertis OrnamentsAdvertis OrnamentsAdvertis Ornaments

Want to add some extra charm to your calligraphy letters? Try Advertis, a beautiful font that's full of flourishes and swirls. It's perfect for invitations, wedding stationery, cards, and more. It also includes a PDF guide to help you along the way. 

3. Khatija Calligraphy

Khatija CalligraphyKhatija CalligraphyKhatija Calligraphy

Khatija is an elegant modern calligraphy/copperplate hybrid font. There are 2,484 letters to choose from, and an array of floral ornaments. This font supports 27 languages.

4. Zaheera Script & Sans (TTF, OTF, EOT, SVG, WOFF, WOFF2)

Zaheera Scripe & SansZaheera Scripe & SansZaheera Scripe & Sans

Check out this beautiful handmade script and sans serif font. It's perfect for all kinds of projects such as crockery design, logos, and wedding stationery.

5. Blue Angel Ornaments

Blue Angel OrnamentBlue Angel OrnamentBlue Angel Ornament

Blue Angel is a fun typeface complete with three styles and ornaments. This is a great font for design projects, graphic design, posters, and clothing.

More Calligraphy-Related Tutorials

Still looking to broaden your calligraphy writing horizons? Check out the following content:

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