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  • Serena Kramer

Hand Lettering vs. Calligraphy: What's the Difference?

Calligraphy is like hand lettering's fancy older sister. It's like they decided to go to the same high school and Calligraphy showed up every day with makeup and high heels while hand lettering was like "hey what's up, I'm in my pajamas."

Have you ever seen "hand lettering" and "calligraphy" used interchangeably on social media or in art stores? Despite the fact that both art forms create beautiful and stylized lettering, they differ quite a bit. In this article, we'll explore the key differences between hand lettering and calligraphy.

Example of Hand Lettering

What is Hand Lettering?

The art of hand lettering involves drawing letters by hand with a pencil, marker, or pen. This involves creating custom letterforms and combining them to form words, phrases, and designs. It is a versatile art form that can be used for everything from signs to logos to personal artwork.

Artists who specialize in hand lettering use a range of styles, including simple block letters. As an artist, you can express your individual style and creativity through hand lettering. There are no strict rules or guidelines to follow, which means the possibilities are endless.

With hand lettering, the only limit is your imagination - so go ahead and create something truly unique - or at least something that your handwriting teacher won't yell at you for.

What is Calligraphy?

Calligraphy is a specific style of writing that has a long history dating back to ancient times. It involves using a pen or brush to create stylized and decorative letters, typically in a specific script such as Copperplate, Italic, or Gothic. Calligraphy is often used for formal writing, such as wedding invitations, certificates, and other official documents. Unlike hand lettering, calligraphy follows strict rules and guidelines for each script. The strokes and shapes of each letter are carefully crafted to create a cohesive and harmonious design. Calligraphers often spend years perfecting their craft, mastering the different scripts, and developing their own unique style. For example, the Italic script requires many of the letters to be written with a slight slant and the strokes to be blended together seamlessly, while the Gothic script requires a more angular style with clear distinctions between each letter. The skilled art of calligraphy is not just a craft of writing, but an act of creating beautiful pieces of art with each letter.

Key Differences



Hand Lettering

Method of creation

follows specific rules and letter forms

more freeform


accurate and beautiful writing style

creative and expressive lettering

Tools used

precise tools and techniques required with nibs, pens, inks

​pencils, pens, markers, other drawing tools

Learning difficulty

challenging to learn and

takes practice

easier to learn

To Sum It Up...

Calligraphy is more concerned with accuracy and follows set rules, whereas hand lettering is more freeform. Hand lettering is a versatile and creative art form that allows for greater flexibility, while calligraphy is a traditional and elegant form of writing that requires precision and dedication. Both art forms have their own benefits and challenges and can be a rewarding pursuit for anyone interested in lettering and design!

Blackletter / Gothic Calligraphy Script

"Calligraphy is a tradition. Hand lettering is a rebellion." - Louise Fili


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