The Difference Between Calligraphy, Hand Lettering, and Typography

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Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably but there is a distinct difference between calligraphy, hand lettering, and typography.

Ipad mockup with example of cursive, calligraphy, hand lettering and typography

In short, here is the breakdown of each art form, but I’ll go into a little more detail below. If you take away something from this post, make sure it is this: Hand lettering is the art of drawing letters, Calligraphy is the art of writing letters, and Typography is the art of arranging letters. Handwriting is what you are taught in school as how to write in general.

What is Hand Lettering?

As I mentioned above, hand lettering involves drawing the letterforms you see in a lettering piece. They can encompass a variety of styles from simple to very ornate! Each letterform is unique, so no two letter A’s will be exactly the same. They are hand-drawn letterforms.

Snow place like home hand lettering on chalkboard
Read Also: Things I Wish I Knew about Brush Lettering

Many times a hand lettering piece will include other types of doodles and drawings such as banners, swashes, or stars to name a few.

At this point my blood type is pinot noir, hand lettering with watercolor

What is Calligraphy?

Calligraphy is a traditional form of writing that typically uses a nib and ink. In modern calligraphy, brush pens or paint brushes are also used. Calligraphy style emphasizes the difference between up and downstrokes, with downstrokes being thicker. This is caused from a pressure sensitive nib or brush. As your hand creates a down stroke, applying pressure creates a thicker line or curve.

Read Also: The 8 Basic Calligraphy Brush Strokes

There are many forms of calligraphy, from the traditional such as blackletter or copperplate, to a looser modern form, like brush calligraphy. The form of calligraphy I focus on mostly is modern brush calligraphy typically with a brush pen or even with watercolor and paintbrush.

Wait, isn’t calligraphy just fancy cursive writing?

No, calligraphy is not the same as cursive writing. Cursive writing is a continuous fluid form of handwriting. With cursive writing, you do not pick up the pen for each letter or stroke. With traditional calligraphy or brush calligraphy, you are picking up the pen after each stroke.

Read Also: Brush Calligraphy Tips for Beginners

What is Typography?

Typography is much different from calligraphy or hand lettering. Rather than letterforms being written or drawn as in calligraphy and hand lettering, typography involves arranging various repeatable letterforms that are created digitally. Generally, these letterforms are referred to as typefaces.

Read Also: My Favorite Google Font Pairings

Typography involves arranging these in a visually appealing way to convey a feeling, attitude, or message. You do this to create visually appealing and legible pieces of text. Typography is used throughout print, websites, and even in art. It is much more involved than just picking a pretty font! You can read more about typography on CareerFoundry.

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Check out my Amazon Storefront where I’ve saved all of the products I use in my projects. These are all supplies that I use and would recommend!

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