Subject: Spencerian Flourish – Butterfly Cards
Recommended Time: 1 Hour

Materials You Will Need:

  • Pen and/or pencil
  • Plain paper, card stock or watercolor paper
  • Watercolor paints and a paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • Straw
  • Newspaper or plastic to protect table surface
  • Handwriting Warm-up Exercise Worksheet (Click here to download)
  • Spencerian ​Guide Sheets (Click here to download)


Flourished handwriting​ owes much to ​Platt Rogers Spencer​. Spencer loved to study nature. He observed the consistency of its beauty, which he came to define as ​movement, curvature, variety, and contrast​. These principles formed the basis of his handwriting system, Spencerian Script. Spencer believed that if nature, created by God, so beautifully expressed itself then could people, created in the image of God, also do the same?

Unlike constrained English script of the time, Spencer developed a handwriting system that allowed for harmonious variance. Observing the frequency of the oval in nature, he used this shape to form the basis of his letters. Soon handwriting came to be appreciated as a thing of beauty. The use of curves opened the door to artistic flourish and individual expression, ushering in the era of the master penman. 150 years later, Spencerian remains a beautiful handwriting discipline practiced by students and professionals today.

Words To Know:

Master Penman –​ Expert in penmanship; recognized as a master among peers.
Movement​ – Slant of the letters reflecting forward movement.
Curvature​ – Curve of the lines based on an oval shape.
Variety​ – Size of the letters.
Contrast​ – Striking differences in letter formation and design.
Flourish​ – Curves and lines reflecting individual or artistic expression.


Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5


Make your own butterfly cards using the techniques demonstrated in the above videos. Click here for written examples of flourished capital letters. To see these letters being written, you may watch the following videos:

Letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G

Letters H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O

Letters P, Q, R, S, T, U, V

Letters W, X, Y, Z

For more examples of beautiful handwriting and decorative flourish:

For more on the history of Spencerian Script in America, please read The Story of Spencerian Script.

The greeting card instructions in this lesson are a variation on a project from the book Calligraphy Styling ​by Veronica Halim.


  • Take time to observe the individual expression of handwriting styles in your family.
  • Consider Spencer’s observations of beauty reflected in nature. How do we see these same principles applied to his writing system?
  • What do you find beautiful about decorative flourish? Why is it meaningful to show personal expression in handwriting?
  • Who in your life would be blessed by a gift of this handwork?