Flourishes for Serif LetteringJan 28, 2021
We’ve seen flourished brush lettering, but what about applying the same concept to another style of lettering? Today I’m going to show you a different style of lettering flourishes, one that I am a little (a lot) obsessed with.
I’m Kerry from @theinkybrush and I’ve always loved playing around with type and lettering. I’m going to show you how to apply it to serif letters for this art nouveau-inspired style, and give you some tips on drawing serif letters, but feel free to try it with sans serif too (another style I also love!). I've also included a worksheet of the serif alphabet with flourishes! This is a great way to practice your technique.
Alternatively, you can use Procreate, as I have here. I usually do this by hand but I did this on Procreate to give you clearer images.
Step 1: Create Lettering Guidelines
Draw yourself some evenly spaced lines, including a little gap between them, and do a quick sketch of your quote so you can place your letters properly. Feel free to take mine as a starting point!
Step 2: Draw Serifs
Sketch over your draft and transform them into serifs. Apply a similar concept with thick and thin lines to your letters like you would with brush lettering. Start by thickening your downstrokes and making your draft letters, block letters. If you’re doing this sans serif, make sure you keep all your letters at even width all the way through (and your flourishes later).
Pro Tip: Horizontal lines should be thin (even with a T or Z, super tempting to make them horizontally thicker, the only exception is the number 7 where your top stroke is thick and your down is thin).
Pro Tip: The letter A always has a thicker left stroke. For curves, blend your thicker strokes into your thin strokes (look at the D for an example).
Pro Tip: Also as a general block letter guide, if you like to draw boxes for your letters instead of using a ghost template (like I have in this tutorial), when you have a curve or diagonals (think A, R, K, D, O), the curve and end of your diagonals should go past your box edges, so keep that in mind to give yourself enough space.
There are so many different kinds of serifs, I’ve sketched out a few different ones to give you some inspiration. Mine are bracketed but instead of a sloped edge, I kept mine straight. You can also look at serif fonts to give you some inspiration if you’re not sure how a letter should look. Add these to the ends of your strokes.
Step 3: Experiment with Flourishes
Here are a few of my experiments. They’re in red so you can see. Try changing your horizontals into tilde (~) shapes such as the H or the T crossbar or even with the letter E. Exaggerate shapes and make them bigger (see S and D). I find rounded/circular flourishes work well for this style. Try and keep it balanced, don’t add flourishes only to the one side of your layout, or only at the top or the bottom, if there’s a flourish in the top left, try to add one to the bottom right too, be aware that you want them spaced evenly so you don’t end up with a lopsided layout.
I’ve done a flourished alphabet (see at the end) for some extra inspiration!
Step 4: When your happy, sketch in your flourishes and apply the same thick/thin concept
Don’t worry about composition just yet. I also add a little circle to the end of my flourishes/curves for that art nouveau/ornamental feel; you can make these as big or small as you like if you’ve chosen to add them. Erase the guides after.
Step 5: Trace each word on a different piece
Now that you’re happy with your letters, use tracing paper, trace each word on a different paper. Then you can rearrange them so your spacing and your layout look right, I’ve roughly centralized mine to account for flourishes and bought the word day up so the spacing is similar to seize and the. Once you're happy, you can sketch your final layout. Don’t worry about overlaps, I quite like my flourishes to overlap.
Step 6: Ink it!
You can fill in your letters or leave white space in your thick strokes. Add a drop shadow or ornamental doodles if you'd like. Use whatever medium you’re in the mood for!
And you’re done! Give yourself a high five and tag me on Instagram (@theinkybrush), I’d love to share your lettering. And as promised, here’s my flourished alphabet for you.
These aren’t the only ways to flourish letters but you can take one letter and use it for a different letter, for example, you could take the letter P here and add the flourished top and use it for the letter R, or use the flourish on M for an N.
Flourishes can vary, and it depends on your word and layout so use this as a starting point to develop your own flourish style! Don't forget to grab my worksheet for practice and happy lettering!
Check out my stuff and things!
Hi! I’m Kerry (@theinkybrush on Instagram) and I’m an artist! I started with bullet journaling and brush lettering, now I experiment with hand-drawn type styles, watercolor, ink, and gouache painting (even resin and making gifs). I have formal art training but that was focused on digital skills, so all my current work is self-taught. I love to help and teach people (if I wasn’t so scared of public speaking I might even have been a teacher), and run a Facebook group with my best friend to help people with all things art. I’m also a nurse, a hoarder of books, cat mom, and all things spooky lover.
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