What is Hand Lettering anyway? Lettering vs Typography vs Calligraphy

Recently I have fallen in love with Hand Lettering. It was a total accident actually, and I only gave it a go because I wanted to try designing a tea towel with words on it. My first attempt wasn’t great… but it did teach me that hand lettering was indeed as challenging as I expected but also whole lot of fun and full of potential. So now I’ve had a few goes and a number of practice sheets I’ve decided to look into it a bit more, and find out what exactly is Hand Lettering anyway? What’s the difference between typography and hand lettering? Is it just another word for Calligraphy? Well, here are a few answers:


Typography is the art of styling and arranging printed matter, from pre-designed letters (or type). In fact, you’re reading it right now (unless you’re just looking at the pictures…). Traditionally it was used for mainly for newspapers, books and magazines but since the explosion of the internet its turned into something much more creative and artistic. In fact, it was a confusing one to learn about as the term typography is often used interchangeably with hand lettering, even though they are not the same thing. One of the main focuses of typography is creating something that makes sense visually, with technical considerations such as the space between the characters (kerning).

Image from Treadawaydesign on Instagram


You’re getting closer to Hand Lettering now. Calligraphy is the art of writing in a very decorative way, using what is called a ‘dip pen’ with a nib and ink. The writer will apply different levels of pressure and change the angle slightly, whilst writing, to create thick and thin lines in a particular way. Several blogs I read say that the whole word in calligraphy will be written in one cleverly applied stroke, however I have seen some calligraphy images online where this has not been the case. If you know more about this then please comment 🙂

Image from bwl calligraphy Instagram

Hand Lettering

This is where I have begun on my wordy journey. Hands lettering is no longer writing letters but drawing letters. You can comfortably throw some rules of typography, and your calligraphy nib and ink, out of the window and focus on making some readable art. This is done by using a number of writing instruments such as sharpie pens, brush pens, gel pens etc.. and using a number of strokes to draw and embellish your words.

Image from Blossoms and Ink

The images on the ‘featured image’ for this post are from The Daily Type, Coffee, Cats and Kinder, and BWL Calligraphy.

Whilst I was writing this and searching for lovely images I discovered loads of fantastic Instagram accounts (it was so hard to decide which images to use!). I’d love to have lots of accounts to follow and gather inspiration from so if you have a lettering, typography or calligraphy Instagram please let me know in a comment 🙂

I may wish to use your images in future blog posts. Please let me know if you don’t want me to do this.Otherwise I’ll assume it’s ok. I will always link to your account if I use your images.

I’m so glad I understand the difference between these now, and I hope you understand it a bit better to. Using terms interchangeably can cause confusion and if it’s something you want to take further it’s a great boost of confidence to really know what you’re talking about (and it stops you looking silly in front of people who know what they’re talking about). I hope you found this post helpful! I’m off to practice my hand lettering ❤️

21 thoughts on “What is Hand Lettering anyway? Lettering vs Typography vs Calligraphy

  1. A really nice post, thank you for sharing. I too recently found handletting earlier this year and have fell in love with it, so much so that I am teaching myself Calligraphy. Please feel free to check out my Instagram (mariebxmastree) and my blog (mariebxmastree.com) for my lettering posts 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s a hardback book I once had called Lettering as Drawing, might be worth looking on Amazon if interested. Beautiful coffee table book with loads of illustrations, typefaces and design.
    I’m a retired typesetter/graphic designer, with a font collection in the tens of thousands, but Arial is my preferred typeface. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhhh thanks I’ll have a look! I only have one book at the moment (just returned from backpacking!) but my Amazon wish list is rapidly growing 😁
      Wow tens of thousands of fonts – that’s quite mind blowing! Amazing!! 😀


  3. Yes when I started out I had no clue but it turns out I love hand lettering. I love the letters you see on Coney Island original signs. I love letters but typography is boring.


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