Calligraphy Embellishments

Dana Hinders
Calligraphy can add a flourish!

Once you master a basic alphabet, learning a few techniques for calligraphy embellishments can help you take your projects to the next level.

About Calligraphy

Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing. The Western calligraphy crafters today are most familiar with can be traced back to the Roman alphabet. However, the Mayans, Indians, Japanese, Chinese, and Persians have also used calligraphy alphabets to enhance the written words in their culture.

Even if you're not terribly too fond of your regular handwriting, you can learn basic calligraphy. There are many books, as well as online tutorials, devoted to teaching a simple calligraphy alphabet. Spend some time practicing the letters on scrap paper, then try adding calligraphy to projects such as handmade greeting cards, personalized gift tags, scrapbook pages, and decorative wall art.

Calligraphy Flourishes

Flourishes are the most common calligraphy embellishments. Flourishes come in many different types, although figure eights, ribbons, and infinity loops are particularly popular. To see examples of calligraphy flourishes, check out some of the resources mentioned in the LoveToKnow Crafts article Free Calligraphy Templates.

Uses of flourishes include:

  • Flourishes at the beginning of a paragraph or document can add impact and a sense of drama.
  • Flourishes can surround a single letter to replicate the look of a monogram.
  • Flourishes can serve a practical purpose by being added at the end of a line to take up space, thus eliminating the need to hyphenate a word.

A flourish can be added to any letter in the alphabet, although serifs are the easiest jumping off point for a flourish. When first learning how to make calligraphy flourishes, however, it's best to practice with capital letters. Calligraphy takes patience; you want to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the details.

A flourish should be a natural extension of the letter, so you need a more flowing hand when using this technique. To get the most natural line shapes, try to move your entire arm through the flourish instead of just your wrist. Ideally, you want your loops, swirls and lines parallel to make sure your design has good balance. If you cut a perfectly formed flourish in half, each piece should be equal in size.

Calligraphy Swashes

A calligraphy swash is a plainer version of the flourish that is mostly used with italic capitals. Some beginners find these calligraphy embellishments easier to master, so you may want to try adding swashes to your projects before you work on practicing flourish techniques. As an added bonus, the swash has less of an effect on the readability of the final piece.

When learning how to make calligraphy swashes, some people like to add these embellishments with a pencil first. Then, they go over the design with a pen, ink, or paint to finish off the piece. Using two black liner pens taped together is one way to make a calligraphic style tip for this type of practice.

Additional Calligraphy Embellishments

Many people think of calligraphy as plain black writing on cream colored paper. However, there are plenty of ways to turn basic calligraphy into eye-catching art. Here are a few ideas you may wish to try:

  • Using colored ink for the writing
  • Using handmade colored paper for the background
  • Painting patterned watercolor backgrounds before adding the calligraphy
  • Pairing calligraphy with small line drawings of flowers, animals, hearts, or geometric shapes
  • Combining calligraphy with other artistic techniques, such as decoupage or collage, in order to reinforce the message of the piece
  • Trying different framing and matting options to showcase a finished poem or quote
Calligraphy Embellishments