Have you ever seen a font with “tails” in the design? Fonts with tails are more common than you think, and those extra glyphs really help to jazz up the fonts! The tails on a font are called swashes, and they are extra glyphs in the font.
What Font Styles Usually Have Swashes?
Swashes and flourished characters can be found in any type of font, including Script and Serif fonts. Swashes can sometimes be found on select characters, while some fonts have tails coming off of every letter, both in front of and at the terminus of a character!
There are many fonts that incorporate swashes! Styles of fonts can include script fonts, cursive fonts, serif fonts, and more. The fancy tails on those fonts are awesome for taking your logo or site to the next level!
Check out my font Palm Desert, which has beginning and ending swashes on each lowercase letter.
Script Fonts, and Cursive Fonts, and Serif Fonts, Oh My!
Script fonts usually have swashes worked into the font! These swashes flow smoothly with the script and often include curls, heart tails, and soft curves. Swashes are especially popular on fonts that have a dancing baseline, as they look closer to handwritten words. Script fonts with swashes are massively popular with designs such as wedding stationery, wedding invitations, greeting cards, delicate craft projects, and beautiful feminine logos!
Another type of font that can include swashes, or flourished characters, are serif fonts! It’s not as common to see that kind of font with swashes, but those that are closer to a display style may include swashes. These fonts are usually a cleaner, upscale type of font, and usually include many more glyph options! Take for instance my font Conquistador, pictured below.
Swashes are a great way to add a little extra flair to your display font! They’re almost like the icing on the cake. The swashes will help make your fonts more unique and allow you to really use them in all different types of projects.
So, what exactly is a swash?
A swash is a single glyph that is an embellishment or decoration to add to a letter. But keep in mind that swashes work best when they have been programmed into specific characters rather than being a separate option for every character from lowercase to uppercase.
While many people tend to think of swashes as ornamental flourishes found mostly in script fonts, not all script fonts have swashes. In fact, a point that I want to emphasize here is that while swashes can be used in any type of font, they should be used in specific situations, and should be used carefully within a design.
How many swashes should I use?
The number of swashes that you should use all depends on what you need them for and how significant or ornamental you want your text to be. Generally, the fewer swashes you have, the better. If you use too many swashes and extra tails in text it can become difficult to read, an issue that can easily be avoided.
How would I go about using them?
It all depends on what font you are using or if you want to create a custom typeface for your project.
If you purchase fonts from a professional font designer, these special characters will be programmed in to the Private Use Area of the font. This allows a professional designer to access them easily in industry standard software (like Adobe products), as well as the hobby designer in a variety of programs, like Design Space, by using the Character Map feature to copy/paste in characters.
Should I use free fonts with tails or use premium fonts?
While there are free fonts that feature swashes, the best fonts aren’t typically going to be free. If you’re planning something more important, such as branding materials, designing wedding invitations, or creating a vinyl cutting to display in your home, you may want to invest in a premium font.
Don’t forget licensing!
But, make sure that you purchase the proper licensing! If you plan to only use the font for personal use and not distribute anything that uses the font, you won’t need to worry about purchasing additional licensing. If you’re planning on using the font for commercial use, you will likely need to purchase a commercial license. Check the licensing information on the font that you intend to use!
And do I need any special software?
You don’t necessarily need anything apart from your normal design software, such as Photoshop/Illustrator or Silhouette Studio and Cricut Design Space.
Is access to the character map needed? Yes! Make sure that the software that you’re using is compatible with using glyphs so that you’re able to choose alternate versions of a letter! More professional software options, like those mentioned above, provide easy glyph access through simply highlighting a character to see all options available.
Using Your Swashes
In the end, it’s all about what will look good with your project! Swashes can be difficult to navigate at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can use those beautiful fonts that you’ve been eyeing or have purchased to their full potential!
If you’re in the market for fonts with swashes, flourishes, and a ton of extra goodies, make sure you check out my Handlettered Font Bundle. I love fonts packed full of features, and there’s no shortage of those features here!