Flourish like a pro! - What is a flourish and how can you get better at them?

We have been talking about lettering recently, so I thought it would be interesting to study one of the most characteristic parts in a lettering piece: flourishes/swashes.

As we have discussed before, Lettering is "...the creation of hand-drawn letters to apply to an object or surface" (You can read about the difference between Lettering, Calligraphy, and Type Design here), and a swash is a "typographical flourish, such as an exaggerated serif, terminal, tail, entry stroke, etc., on a glyph". It is important to mention that a swash is not an exclusive feature for lettering pieces, there are many typefaces that include a swash style within their fonts, but I think lettering, more specifically script lettering, really allows you to give your work an extra spark of personality by adding them with a bit more freedom, take a look at the following examples:

 The words on the left are set with Hoefler Text, and the ones on the right with Hoefler Titling, the display-size counterpart to Hoefler Text – https://www.typography.com/fonts/hoefler-titling/overview/

The words on the left are set with Hoefler Text, and the ones on the right with Hoefler Titling, the display-size counterpart to Hoefler Text – https://www.typography.com/fonts/hoefler-titling/overview/

 Custom lettering piece drawn by Veronica Grow.

Custom lettering piece drawn by Veronica Grow.

a swash is not an exclusive feature for lettering pieces

Now, just because you are drawing a lettering piece doesn't mean you can go crazy with swashes and add them all over the place, you still have to be smart about it and really observe your piece to locate the best possible position for a flourish, and there are also a couple rules you need to consider so you get better are drawing them.

Here is my Top 5 of swash rules I learned at the Ken Barber "Script Lettering" workshop.

1 -  Downstrokes and ogee curves are usually weighted.
2 -  Shaded segments of the same flourish should be opposite one another.
3 -  Shaded segments of a flourish should never ever intersect each other.
4-  The counter forms created by a swash should be evenly balanced. 
5 -  Think of real reasons of why you are adding a flourish. 
 Image via Veronica Grow

Image via Veronica Grow

Swashes are usually placed on ascenders, descenders, or on entry or exit strokes, but among all these options which is the absolute best spot to place them? Don't panic! Veronica Grow from Old School New School is here to help us out: 


The Hot Spot

Finding the best place to flourish in many ways has much in common with page design and layout. I like to think of the word as one element or shape and the flourish as another element that needs to bear a relationship to the word itself. If we take the definition of the word Flourish, a flourish is a bold or extravagant gesture used to highlight a word, so the flourish should not over power the word itself, nor distract. It should actually help to emphasize the word itself. 

the flourish should not over power the word itself, nor distract. It should actually help to emphasize the word itself. 

The letterforms themselves provide the clue as to from where to flourish. It is usually the easiest to find a central letter from which to flourish, though this is not always possible. You can also flourish into an entry stroke, such as flourishing into an e or an o. You can flourish your exit strokes of n m r and s. And of course the descenders of p, y and g. The lettering will feel like part of the lettering piece if it follows similar design principles to the letterforms themselves. Keep the curves as widely open and curved as possible, and avoid flourishes that wander aimlessly. Make sure that the end of the flourish integrates back into the flourish, and think about the relationship between the size of the flourish and the size of the word, proportionally, this relationship of scale needs to be visually pleasing.

If you want to learn more about flourishing, OSNS has a mini master class called: "Grammar of the Flourish" coming up on September, or you can also check out their journal, which includes some great posts such as this: A great flourish need not be difficult once you know how !