This week we had the pleasure of welcoming back graphic designer, letterer and calligraphy artist Molly Suber Thorpe! She designs custom lettering for brands and individuals and since 2013 has been helping letterers "hone their skills, opening doors to new creative opportunities and careers."

During this session, she taught us all about pairing animal flourishes with lettering in Procreate!


Usage of Animal Flourishes

Historically, there's a long calligraphic tradition of creating illustrations of not just abstract flourishes, but also of animal illustrations, illustrations of banners and small objects. Birds are the most common animal that are created from calligraphy flourishes. 

Set the Canvas

Open a new file and choose a square dimension to begin. Choose the Goose Brush and stamp it on the screen. All the stamps, just like all procreate stamps, adjust their size based on the size of your actual brush. They also change the color based on the chosen color.

Use the Stamps 

To use the stamps, paste down on the canvas and move it around to wherever you would want it to be on your layout. Resize it, move it, and rotate it as needed. Enlarge or resize the stamps to let the calligraphy look soft rather than crisp on the edges.

Create a Border

Create a calligraphic border that incorporates lots of animals. Put each animal on its own layer so that they can easily be moved around later without having to draw selections around each one. Pick the whale stamp and add it to the composition.

Add a bee and a squirrel and set them at a reduced opacity. Understand the movement and the stroke direction, while having fun connecting and integrating them into one continuous design.

Add a horse to the composition. You could also use a unicorn and remove its horn to make it look like a horse.

Pro tip: Make an arrangement with the stamps. They don’t necessarily have to fit well together. Using a calligraphy brush, create organic flourish shapes that fill in the blanks making the whole design look cohesive.

Add a rooster and flip it around making it face the inside. Add a cat stamp and place it in the corner, resizing it. Fill the space at the bottom using a pig stamp.

Adjust the Shapes

Resize the animals accordingly and enlarge them with the nearest neighbor, as opposed to the other two options. Make sure to have crisp edges that match the calligraphy brush. Make sure to add all the animals on their own layers and swipe right on all of them to group them together.

Create a new blank layer on top and pick a contrasting color pencil. Select any pencil brush and create an organic border.

Create Flourishes

Create little flourishes and fill in the negative spaces around the animals. Use the Calligraphy Brushes on streamline to be more precise. Draw branches and abstract florals, filling the space with calligraphy design.

Pro tip: Repositioning or resizing the animals slightly will improve the overall layout.

As soon as it goes in with a calligraphy brush, all of these are going to look like one piece. 

Reduce the opacity of the sketch. Using the Calligraphy Flourishing Brush from the Calligraphy Nibs Pack, pick a red color. Use thin and thick strokes to match the flourished animals.

Zoom in and use the calligraphy pen to refine the actual shape, filling in the same amount of space. You can wish to keep this as simple or add as many flourishes as you like to fade the animals in the flourishes themselves.

Pro tip: The usage of any color impacts how much the animals stand out.

Turning off the sketch layer, recolor the red lines. Create a blank layer above the art layer, tap it once and click on the clipping mask.

Pro tip: A clipping mask essentially means that anything that is drawn on the clipped layer is only going to impact the pixels in the layer it's clipped into. For example, if you draw on layer 12, it will only appear within the pixels that are in layer 11. So, if you choose a new color and pick a pink, tap the clip layer 12 and hit fill layer, then layer 12 will be filled, but will only impact the art on layer 11.

Add Decorations

Add decorations to fill in even more negative spaces between the animals. Pick the MonoLine Brush and use it for creating polka dots. If you have a mono-line brush that doesn't have any pressure sensitivity, no matter how hard you press the stroke never changes in size. Add perfect polka dots looking like abstracted berries around the flourishes.

Change the flourishes to black. Zoom out and notice that the properties of the animals are similar to those of the flourishes that are created. So, if you were to make a single color image, it looks like it's all part and parcel of the exact same composition.

Change the Contrast 

Make a new layer and draw some calligraphy. Switch on the Guides for help and shrink it according to the composition. Write the words, “Animals speak to those who listen”, in between the composition with the help of guides.

Use the Selection Tool and move the composition around, optically centering it, making it look organic. Turn off the Guides. Select the Pencil Sketch and fill the negative spaces on the sides with actual word shapes and flourishes. Adjust and encompass the spacing.

Darken the Text

Use the Flourishing Brush, the same size as before for flourishes and write over the words written with the pencil. Create a new layer for every new line so that it’s easy to move it around later. You could also recolor the different lines separately.

Finally, give it a simplistic modern calligraphy style and change the flourishes color to pink. A cohesive and beautiful composition using animal flourishes with lettering is ready.