How to Design Filigree Borders

By Jennifer Meyer

Things Needed

  • Bristol board
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Flexible curve tool
  • Artist's pens
  • White India ink
Consider using natural objects as inspiration for your design.

Designing intricate filigree borders requires an eye for positive and negative space. In art, positive space is the space occupied by an object or design, whereas negative space is the space in between. Achieving an aesthetic balance between these two spaces has a lot to do with skill and experience. Still, there are several techniques that you can use to ease into the process and achieve the best result.

Determine the dimensions of your border and how thick you want it to be. Use a ruler to measure out the extremities of your border on a piece of Bristol board, which is a kind of card stock that artists use for illustration because it accepts very fine detail, especially the smoother kinds of Bristol board.

Use a pencil to draw in the outer and inner edges of your borders as though it were a picture frame. Draw a light line in the middle of each side of the frame that will help you balance your design.

Sketch in your filigree lightly; there is no need to be accurate for this step. Focus on the general outline of your design. Balance the negative space with the positive so that if there is more positive space in one part of your design you have an equal measure of negative space in another part of your design.

Go back over your design and carefully draw each part in detail. Use a flexible curve tool, found at many art stores, to accurately draw any curves in your filigree. Use your ruler to draw straight parts.

Use a variety of artist’s pens to trace over your pencil drawing. Use the ruler and curve as guides to create an accurate picture. Cover any mistakes with white India ink.

About the Author

Jennifer Meyer received her B.A. in anthropology, specializing in archeology, in 2004 from Beloit College. She then earned her master's degree in museum studies at Indiana University in 2007 after being awarded a university fellowship. She started writing in 2005, contributing podcast scripts, procedural guides and exhibit copy to museums in the Indianapolis metro area.