Calligraphy flourishing

What is flourishing

As you can see from the definitions below “flourishing” is another word used in describing the embellishment of letters, words and scripts, through the use of a few added curves and loops that gives them a more elegant and ornamental appearance. define flourishing as 

“An ornamental flowing curve in handwriting or scrollworks”.  

While defines it as

“to decorate or embellish (writing, a page or script etc) with sweeping or fanciful curves or lines”.

Best spots to flourish

There are locations in a word that are better for flourishing than others, but adding a flourish will extend a letter or words width past where it would normally end, so you will want to make sure that they do not take away from the letter or words legibility.

Listed below are five recommended locations where to add flourishing to your lettering with links to other websites that give good basic instructions on how to make the particular type of flourish.

Upper loops        Ascender flourishing worksheet

Lower loops        Desender flourishing worksheet and Underline flourishing worksheet

T-crossbars         Crossing your t’s worksheet

End of the word  Basic flourishing worksheets

Under the word   Under the word swoops video by lindsay Bugbee

The addition of flourishes to the five locations above will assist you in making sure the words remain legible and it is possible that you may find yourself favouring a couple of these spots, but there is no hard and fast rule that you have to use them. In fact, a word might not even have a loop or t-crossbar which would take away that opportunity. But if stuck, think about these as possible starting points.

Flourishes can range from simple to complex. With simple ones being formed by the use of basic curves and loops, while complex flourishes include curves that cross over themselves multiple times and can include having small loops inside the larger ones. You can use flourishing on a single word or an entire layout that will join the words together and they will also add style to the letters while filling up the space around the word.

The basics of flourishing

All of the lines are smoothly curved and based on an oval shape. The use of oval-based shapes makes the flourishes appear graceful and consistent rather than rough, uneven, or odd. You can fit small ovals within the loops and curves: And there are also larger, overarching oval shapes.

Note: The trick is to think about tracing, or “wrapping around”, an oval as you make a flourish. If you master this, flourishing will seem more achievable.

Flourishing drills

Before you start to flourish a letter, some practice (drills) is recommended. The first set of drills will get you used to creating oval shapes from all directions and orientations.

Note: Use a pencil and do them as many times as you can till you feel comfortable. 

In addition to complete ovals, the c-shape and s-shape are also very commonly found in flourishing. In fact they are just half of an oval with the s-shape being formed by two ovals next to each other. These drills will get you comfortable making the c and s-shapes.

Once you are able to make smooth, consistent ovals, c-shapes, and s-shapes on their own, you will feel more comfortable using them in your flourishes.

Free flourishing practice handbook  

Top 3 flourishing tips video 

Flourishing rules

There are three important things to keep in mind when creating fourishes.

They are based on ovals.

Lines should cross at approximately a 90 degree angle.

Do not cross two thick lines, you can cross thin-thin and thin-thick

Note: If you keep your flourishes based on the oval shape, cross at 90 degrees, and avoid crossing two thick lines, you’re setting yourself up for successful flourishing!


There are endless ways to create new flourishes by changing up the shapes of these examples. Some things you can change are

The loop size and angle

Size of the “tail”

Number of intersections


Addition of inner loops


An additional way to add flourishing to your word is through the use of entry and exit swaches. This will work best when you have a single word or a short phrase centered on the page with room on either side. These can also be added to a plain, non-flourished word which will add extra embellishment, or added to a simple flourished phrase.

Some tips to better your flourishing

  1. When doing large letters use your arm or shoulder to form the flourish movements while holding the pen in a relaxed grip.
  2. Flourishes sometimes will look smoother when done in a quick and loose manner, so do not go slow
  3. As always the more you practice the better you will get, so do some practice drills
  4. Start practicing flourishes using a small brush pen, nib, or even a pencil or ball point pen as you are wanting to create muscle memory so do not worry about the actual strokes yet.
  5. Make sure your flourishes don’t look like other letters.
  6. Don’t add thick downstrokes to your flourishes as it will take away from the main letter and it could also could get confused with the start of another letter.

Flourishing video  by LoveLeigh Loops

How to do calligraphy flourishes by Paul Antonio