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How to Do Calligraphy Flourishes (Tips + Rules)

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Read Time: 10 mins
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn the first steps on how to beautifully flourish your calligraphy. You will learn how to add flourishes to your calligraphy letters, and a few tips that will help your flourishing journey.

Looking to be inspired by beautiful modern calligraphy fonts? Check out this font and many others over at Envato Elements.

Amalia FontAmalia FontAmalia Font
Amalia Modern Calligraphy Font is available on Envato Elements

What You'll Need


Before we dive into this flourishing tutorial, this is what you'll need:

  • Plain paper
  • Guide sheet
  • Tracing paper
  • Brush pen
  • Pencil
  • Sharpener
  • Eraser

What Is a Calligraphy Flourish?

Flourishing is a tool used by calligraphers and letterers alike to embellish their calligraphy. Flourishing can make the plainest of words look the most extravagant. You just need to know where to put them.

Flourishing is a way to decorate your calligraphy letters and add that extra flair to your calligraphy. 

Flourishing is all about having fun and turning something that may be a little plain into a more elaborate and eye-catching piece. You want to avoid overcrowding your calligraphy words or calligraphy letters. 

"calligraphy" plain"calligraphy" plain"calligraphy" plain
"calligraphy" flourished"calligraphy" flourished"calligraphy" flourished

Calligraphy Flourish Examples

Typically, you would put a flourish above or below a word, at the beginning or the end of the word, on the ascender/descender strokes, and on the crossbar of the letter "t".

Ascender loop flourishAscender loop flourishAscender loop flourish
Ascender Loop Flourish
Descender Loop FlourishDescender Loop FlourishDescender Loop Flourish
Descender Loop Flourish
t Crossbar Flourisht Crossbar Flourisht Crossbar Flourish
t Crossbar Flourish

Calligraphy Flourishing Tips and Tricks

Before we jump into this tutorial, it's best to keep in mind these handy tips and tricks to make your flourishing journey as smooth as possible...

  1. Always warm up before flourishing. You wouldn't run a marathon before warming up, and the same rules apply here. You want to get into the right head space for the task ahead, and you don't want your hand rusty.
  2. Use a pencil first. This way, you can erase any mistakes or lines you are not very fond of.
  3. Use your whole arm to flourish, not just your fingers. If your hand and arm are too stiff, your flourishes will not look as smooth as they could.
  4. Do not go too slow when flourishing; you need a continuous, steady flow.
  5. Flourish singular letters before complete words. It can be a little intimidating trying to flourish a whole word at one time, so by seeing how you can flourish one letter in many ways, eventually it'll be easier to tackle a longer word.
  6. Use a sheet of tracing paper to sketch out your flourish designs. This way, you can see what looks best and what you like most.
  7. Balance your flourishing. You do not want the top, bottom, or side to look too heavy or empty. This draws the eye away from your beautiful writing!
  8. Avoid crossing two thick lines. This makes your flourishing look heavy and unbalanced.
  9. Change the angle of your paper if necessary. There's no point trying to put your hand and wrist in awkward positions to get the perfect swoosh; move the paper around and you'll see how easy flourishing can be.
  10. Have fun and play around!

1. Warm-Up Exercises for Calligraphy Flourishes

Step 1 

To warm up, we will be practising the basic strokes of modern calligraphy. Go ahead and practise these for a couple of lines.

We learnt these strokes in the "Making your own font" tutorial and the "Intro to modern calligraphy" tutorial. Have a look at those if you need a refresher on how to do them. These strokes are important for the foundations of flourishing.

Pay special attention to the oval stroke, as flourishing is typically based on this shape. In the loops and curves, you should be able to fit ovals.

Basic StrokesBasic StrokesBasic Strokes

Step 2

Some more practice... make a continuous compound curve stroke. This is good for control. Try this for a couple lines.

Continuous overturn strokeContinuous overturn strokeContinuous overturn stroke

Step 3

Sometimes, our calligraphy calls for big flourishes. Starting from the dashed line, arc up to the top line and then 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 4

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 5

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

Big oval flourishBig oval flourishBig oval flourish

Step 6

You can practise these monoline shapes with a pencil or pen before moving on to a brush pen. Once you've done that, you can trace over them with a brush pen, perfecting your light and heavy strokes.

Monoline flourishing shapesMonoline flourishing shapesMonoline flourishing shapes

2. Practice Basic Stroke Flourishes

Step 1

Now that we are all warmed up, we can begin to flourish some of the basic strokes of modern calligraphy. Here is a simple flourish: a flourished downstroke. You wouldn't typically flourish a letter that has a downstroke in the middle of a word—use it more for a single lettered word or at the end of a word.

Starting at the dashed line, make a downstroke and, instead of keeping the same heavy pressure all the way to the bottom line, alleviate some of that pressure as you approach the bottom line, surpassing it and then coming back up, above the dashed line with the same light pressure you would need for an upstroke. To finish, continue that line, adding heavy pressure across to the left and finishing with a slight flick (beginning of an upstroke—immediate transfer from heavy to light pressure.)

Downstroke flourishDownstroke flourishDownstroke flourish

Here's an example of this downstroke flourish on the calligraphy letter "a".

"a" flourished"a" flourished"a" flourished

Step 2

This downstroke flourish is like the one we just did. It's just a bit more elaborate. Starting from where we left off in step 5, continue the upstroke and loop up and over to the right, coming down.

Downstroke flourish loopedDownstroke flourish loopedDownstroke flourish looped

Step 3

This too is a downstroke flourish, meaning it begins with a downstroke. Like the other two downstroke flourishes, begin right at the dashed line with your downstroke coming past the bottom line and, as you approach the second solid line, alleviate the pressure, making a line to the right that sits above the solid line. Loop up and over to the left, adding little pressure past the solid line, and loop up and over all the way round.

Downstroke double loop flourishDownstroke double loop flourishDownstroke double loop flourish

Step 4

This can be called an upstroke flourish for now as it starts with an upstroke.

Starting at the bottom line, make a slightly curved upstroke to the right, crossing over the dashed line and looping over to the left, and then with added pressure come down in a relaxed "c" shape, passing the dashed line a little and curving up.

This flourish can be added to the crossbars, ascenders, and descenders of letters.

Upstroke flourish loopUpstroke flourish loopUpstroke flourish loop

Step 5

This is an ascender flourish. Instead of starting like a usual ascender stroke (see the mastering calligraphy series on how to do this stroke), we are going to start just below the top solid line, coming down to the bottom solid line starting with light pressure, and as you get closer to the bottom line, add pressure to your downstroke. Then, where we started our first stroke, curve down with light pressure to make a loop, crossing that downstroke and looping up and in.

Ascender loop flourishAscender loop flourishAscender loop flourish

Step 6

This stroke is similar to the previous one, even though it may look very different. Make a downstroke from the top solid line to the bottom solid line, starting with light pressure and getting heavier as you approach that bottom line. Then, from the top of that stroke, curve down slightly to the dashed line and, with light pressure, loop up and to the right, making a slightly curved line.

Ascender extended loop flourishAscender extended loop flourishAscender extended loop flourish

Here's an example of this ascender flourish on the calligraphy letter "h".

"h" flourished"h" flourished"h" flourished

Step 7

Starting like the previous step, make a downstroke. Then loop down, but instead of closing that gap or crossing over that first stroke, we will be looping up and to the right, making the same upstroke flourish that we did in step 8.

Ascender extended loop flourish extraAscender extended loop flourish extraAscender extended loop flourish extra

Step 8

This flourished descender stroke is just like step 5, just in the opposite direction.

Descender loop flourishDescender loop flourishDescender loop flourish

Here's an example of this descender flourish on the calligraphy letter "y".

"y" flourished"y" flourished"y" flourished

3. Adding Flourishes to Your Calligraphy

Step 1

Here we have the word "Flourish". It has no added flourishes for now. Go ahead and write out a word you would like to add some flourishes to.

"Flourish" plain"Flourish" plain"Flourish" plain

Step 2

With the help of tracing paper, you can sketch out your design and see how it fits with your word. If you are not too keen, you can just try again. If you're happy with it, you can fully commit and use it for your finished piece.

"Flourish" with Tracing paper"Flourish" with Tracing paper"Flourish" with Tracing paper

Step 3

When you are ready, you can do your flourish in pen on your finished piece, as shown below.

"flourish" flourished"flourish" flourished"flourish" flourished

You've Just Learnt How to Flourish Your Calligraphy Letters!

At first, flourishing can seem daunting, but once you break it down, you see that it is quite simple. The key is experimentation and fun!

Now you can add that extra va va voom to your calligraphy, whether that be in a card, an invitation, or a framed quote.

"flourish" flourished"flourish" flourished"flourish" flourished

5 Fun and Beautiful Flourishing Fonts From Envato Elements

Now that you have learnt the basics of flourishing, and you are all set with the tips and tricks of the trade, I leave with you some of the best calligraphy flourishing fonts that Envato Elements has to offer.

1. Romantic Script Font (OTF, TTF)

Romantic Heart fontRomantic Heart fontRomantic Heart font

Romantic is a fun and loving script font. This script font is perfect for display, T-shirt design, craft, quotes, signs, and more. This modern calligraphy font comes with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation, and multilingual characters.

2. Amalia Modern Calligraphy Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF2)

Amalia Modern Calligraphy FontAmalia Modern Calligraphy FontAmalia Modern Calligraphy Font

Amalia is a modern calligraphy font with beautiful flourishes. It is an effortlessly charming font and is perfect for printed cards, invitations, packaging, clothing, and promotions. It comes complete with multilingual and ligature support, and full sets of punctuation and numerals.

3. Stasya Modern Calligraphy Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

Stasya fontStasya fontStasya font

Stasya is a swirly, flourishing decorative script font. It is modern, super elegant, and the perfect font choice for wedding stationery, branding, logos, and more. This decorative font is complete with both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation, symbols, alternates, and ligatures, and it also has multilingual support.

4. Anaya Modern Calligraphy Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

Ayana FontAyana FontAyana Font

A modern, elegant calligraphy font, Ayana is perfect for stylish logos, posters, packaging, and more.

5. Calathea Modern Calligraphy Font (OTF, TTF)

Calathea fontCalathea fontCalathea font

Calathea is an elegant and flowy calligraphy font. This font is the perfect choice for projects such as wedding stationery, crockery design, and many more. This font is complete with lower and uppercase letters, punctuation, numbers, web fonts, ligatures, 584 glyphs, and multilingual support. 

More Calligraphy-Related Tutorials

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

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