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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Typography

How to Use Swashes in Fonts

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Read Time: 5 mins

Have you ever noticed that twisty curl at the end of a character? That's called a swash. In this quick tip tutorial, we take a look at what they are and how to use swashes in fonts. 

First, we'll define swashes in fonts and look at their origin, and then we'll move on to see how to use swashes in fonts and discover some of the best script fonts with swashes. Let's get started!

What You'll Learn in This Swash Font Tutorial

  • Definition of swashes in fonts
  • The different font swash categories
  • Swash font uses and tips
  • The best script fonts with swashes

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What Are Swashes?

To define swashes in fonts, we need to go back to the 16th century. Swashes first appeared in the first edition of The Prince in Rome in 1532. It features a z-italic ligature that was later extended to a full alphabet. Ludovico degli Arrighi, a scribe, type designer, and printer, extended the swashes into metal type for capital letters.

Swashes were inspired by handwriting and used as decorative elements. They're also known as flourishes or extended strokes, usually at the beginning or end of a character (initial and terminal swashes). You’ll see these extensions typically on serif or script fonts. 

OpenType technology allows type designers to include more characters into a set. Therefore, more and more fonts are designed with multiple swash characters.

La Operina di Ludouvico Vincentino 1524La Operina di Ludouvico Vincentino 1524La Operina di Ludouvico Vincentino 1524
Arrighi, L., Carpi, U., & Masson-Debonnelle, binder. (1524). La operina di Ludouico Vicentino : Da imparare di scriuere littera cancellarescha. Stampata in Roma: Per inuentione di Ludouico Vicentino, scrittore. TypW 525.24.162, Houghton Library, Harvard University

How to Make Swashes in Fonts

Swashes in fonts can range from minimal, like a simple twist, to incredibly dramatic. Swashes are great for making a specific type element the focal point of your design.

  • Swash capitals are used at the beginning of a sentence to create a beautiful drop cap. 
  • Beginning and ending swashes are caps or lowercase characters with swashes that extend horizontally.
  • Stylistic swashes are usually added to ascenders and descenders.  
Swash Fonts CategoriesSwash Fonts CategoriesSwash Fonts Categories

If you're wondering how to make swashes in fonts, you can find them as an OpenType feature. Access them through the Glyphs panel on any of the Adobe programs. In Adobe Photoshop, head over to Window > Glyphs. In Adobe Illustrator, go to Window > Type > Glyphs Panel. Or in InDesignhead over to Window > Type & Tables > Glyphs. 

How to make swashes in fonts the glyphs panelHow to make swashes in fonts the glyphs panelHow to make swashes in fonts the glyphs panel

Swash Fonts: Uses and Tips

Swashes are great for making a specific type element the focal point of your design. Use swashes on logos, wedding invitations, and packaging to create a special typographical effect.

Here are a few things to consider when using swashes in fonts:

  • Try to stay away from swashes in the middle of words as some might not flow as well as they need to.
  • Use swashes sparingly—they're supposed to make your content special.
  • Avoid using all caps and swashes at the same time—it typically becomes illegible.
Things to avoid when using swashesThings to avoid when using swashesThings to avoid when using swashes

Assets: Script Fonts With Swashes

Bordemile Luxury Script

Swash Font Bordemile Luxury ScriptSwash Font Bordemile Luxury ScriptSwash Font Bordemile Luxury Script
Bordemile Luxury Script

Bordemile is a beautiful, elegant script font that's perfectly suited to wedding invitations and tasteful designs. Some of the characters have up to nine alternates, so there are many options for customizing your design! The swashes for this font are swirly but graceful. 

Metinoline Script

Swash Font Metinoline ScriptSwash Font Metinoline ScriptSwash Font Metinoline Script
Metinoline Script

This modern script typeface is inspired by calligraphic brush handwriting. The set includes many alternative characters like font swashes and ligatures. The font also supports many Western languages. 


Swash Fonts MarchellSwash Fonts MarchellSwash Fonts Marchell
Swash Fonts Marchell

The inspiration for this swash font is copperplate calligraphic writing. The font has a vintage and retro feel, with a touch of elegance. The set includes many alternative characters and has multilingual support. Marchell is perfect for display use to make your text even more special. 

Bigshine Script

Swash Font Bigshine ScriptSwash Font Bigshine ScriptSwash Font Bigshine Script
Bigshine Script

If you're looking for a modern twist on calligraphy, Bigshine is a great option. The font combines copperplate and contemporary style calligraphy. The pack includes 132 alternate characters that let you experiment with the look of your design. Swashes for fonts tend to have a very thin line at the end, but Bigshine features a small circular element that adds texture to your design.

The Clastic

Swash Font The ClasticSwash Font The ClasticSwash Font The Clastic
The Clastic

The Clastic font family is a duo of fonts: a swash font and a sans serif. The swash font can also be combined with layer styles to add an inner or drop shadow. Each letter has 5 to 12 alternates, with initial and terminal swashes, so your designs can look as natural as possible.

Now It's Your Turn!

In this article, we showed you how to use swash fonts and some awesome script fonts with swashes that can help on your next project. Swash fonts aren't anything new—they've been around since the 16th century! Having different swashes for specific characters is helpful to make your text special and different from the norm. 

Looking for awesome swash fonts? Be sure to check out Envato Elements and GraphicRiver—their libraries are updated every day. 

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