Difference Between Calligraphy | Hand Lettering | Typography

Difference Between Calligraphy | Hand Lettering | Typography


Do you always get confused by the difference between calligraphy, hand lettering, and typography?

Then don't worry. You are not alone.

Often all three terms are used in place of each other, which creates confusion.

You may come across various definitions for these terms given by calligraphers, type designers, and lettering artists.

But, today, I am going to share my simplified definitions with visual examples.

It will help you to understand and remember the difference easily.


What Is Calligraphy?


what is calligraphy


Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing.

Specific calligraphic writing instrument like a flat or chisel nib marker or a dip pen and ink is used to write the letters.

You create thick and thin lines in one single stroke.

The upstrokes are thin, and the downstrokes are thick.

While doing calligraphy, a set of rules have to be followed like pen angle, pen pressure, guidelines, type of paper to be used, and so on.


Types Of Calligraphy

The art of calligraphy developed in many parts of the world at different times, with differing styles and tools. These can be classified as:

  • Western 
  • East Asian
  • South Asian
  • Arabic


Western Calligraphy

Western calligraphy evolved from the 10th century and is still the most accepted form of calligraphy.

A flat or round tip pen or brush, water-based ink, and high-quality paper are a few tools used for doing calligraphy.

Styles of Western Calligraphy

  • Italics (Chancery or Chancery Cursive)
  • Blackletter (Gothic or Old English)
  • Romans
  • Bookhand (Manuscript)
  • Uncial
  • Copperplate (Engraver’s script)


East Asian Calligraphy

It includes the calligraphy styles of China, Japan, and Korea.

The Four Treasures or the Four Friends of Chinese calligraphy:

  • Ink brushes
  • Chinese ink
  • Paper
  • Inkstone


South Asian Calligraphy

Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan calligraphy falls under this category.

Calligraphy was done using a reed pen (an instrument made by cutting and shaping a single length of bamboo).


Arabic Calligraphy

Arabic calligraphy, also known as "Islamic calligraphy," had a significant role in Islamic culture.

The best example is engravings and writings on the walls of a mosque.


Applications Of Calligraphy

  • Poster design
  • Hand-lettered logo design
  • Fine art pieces
  • Invitations
  • Memos
  • Certificates / Degrees / Diplomas
  • Manuscripts
  • Quotations
  • Book covers
  • Table numbers
  • Thank you cards / Gift tags
  • Monogram


Calligraphy Tools

  • Flat or chisel tip marker pens
  • Wooden or metallic dip pens
  • Fountain pens
  • Brush Pens
  • Brushes
  • Flex Nib
  • Sketch pad
  • An HB pencil, Erasure, Scale
  • Paints
  • Colour palette
  • Lightbox (optional)
  • Calligraphy inks (water-soluble)
  • A high-quality paper


What Is Hand-Lettering?


what is handlettering


Hand-Lettering is the art of drawing alphabets with the hand as opposed to calligraphy in which they are written in a continuous stroke.

You create letters either:

  • By hand on a non-digital medium like paper
  • By a stylus in a digital program
  • With a mouse in a vector-based digital program like Illustrator

It is possible to create a unique style for each project with this technique.

A variety of mediums like pens, paints, ink, chalk are used in creating a hand-lettered piece of design.

A few hand letterers use “faux calligraphy” in their work, while some create more decorative and flourished letters.

Hand lettering gives you maximum freedom to explore your creative side.

The letters drawn can be from simple plain block letters to decorative alphabets with intricate patterns.

Like other forms of drawing, it also follows a few sets of principles like readability, balance, composition, etc.


Applications Of Handlettering

With each hand-lettered piece, you can add a personal touch to your design.

The applications range from invitations, monograms, table numbers, and place cards for weddings, logos & posters for businesses to a one of its kind piece of art for your home.

The list of applications is endless.


Handlettering Tools

  • Sketch pad
  • Mechanical pencil, Erasure, Scale
  • Lightbox (optional)
  • Fine tip pen
  • A high-quality paper


What is Typography?


what is typography


Typography is the art of using letters. It comprises typefaces and fonts.

For example, every 's' in this post is the same as all the other 's.'

In typography, designers mainly focus on creating a type in which, irrespective of layout, the formation of letters remains the same.

Type designers create typography that you or graphic designers can use in the form of downloadable font files.

Hence, typography can be defined as the appearance, arrangement, and style of printed text.

It is not the specific style of creating letters or words but how those letters appear together in a system.

The letter formations remain the same irrespective of the layout.

For example, Times New Roman and all the other fonts you download to create a printed text.


Applications of Typography

Typography finds its use in a wide range of graphic designing projects like brochure and logo design, invitations, book publishing, memos, visiting cards, book cover, etc.


Typography Tools

Designing software like Illustrator or Photoshop


I hope you find this post helpful, and by now, you have a better understanding of the difference between calligraphy, hand lettering, and typography.


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