Typography, calligraphy and lettering

Lettering, Calligraphy, and Typography: Do You Know the Differences?

These three concepts all refer to disciplines involving letters, which is perhaps the only thing they really have in common

Creating letters is a whole world, and it is not surprising that people who are not fully familiar with this field have some doubts. In this blog post, we take a look at what exactly is lettering, calligraphy, and typography, and the differences between them. We describe the characteristics of each discipline and show examples to help you recognize which is which. Hopefully, after reading this post, you will be able to avoid any of the confusion that novice designers, or those specializing in other areas, often feel.


Lettering, Calligraphy, and Typography: Do You Know the Differences? 1

This discipline consists of writing letters while paying attention to how the strokes or elements that form the letters are created, examining speed, direction, and sequence. Calligraphy is always done by hand, usually with pens, markers, or brushes. Digital media (for example, a tablet) can be used as well, as long as the letter is hand-drawn. Each key part of a letter must be created using a single stroke. Making corrections is not permitted. This means that each letter is unique. The author of a calligraphy is the person who has drawn it.

Expert Ricardo Rousselot Schmidt shares the secrets of calligraphy in his course, Calligraphy for an Ex Libris, explaining how to compose letters in a harmonious way.


Lettering, Calligraphy, and Typography: Do You Know the Differences? 3

Unlike calligraphy, lettering consists of drawing letters or words, not writing them, and the author is allowed to make corrections. Another thing that makes lettering different from calligraphy is that the letters can either be created by hand or using vectors or other digital methods. This means that not every letter will necessarily be the same, but they can be copied to give the whole set a more uniform appearance. The author of a lettering project will be the person who has drawn the letters, which is not the case when it comes to typography.

In the course The Golden Secrets of Lettering, Martina Flor shares their process for creating a lettering project, from the first sketch to digitalization.


Lettering, Calligraphy, and Typography: Do You Know the Differences? 5

Typeface designers do not create unique letters or glyphs like calligraphers, nor do they draw words like lettering artists. A typeface is a unique set of characters that are united by stylistic choices. Not only does a type designer design the letters, they also program them and establish a series of key parameters that are systematically repeated across that set of characters.

Juanjo Lopez is a graphic designer, typographer, and sign designer. In his course Design a Digital Font from A to Z, he shares his process for creating fonts, starting with the initial sketch, moving on to digitization, and later to installing and using your font in a design program.

These differences may seem simple when laid out on paper, but learning them can become a real headache and cause a lot of confusion. If you are interested in learning more, check out our courses on lettering, calligraphy, and typography across different fields, such as design, logos, posters, craft, etc.

You may also like:

Ed Benguiat: Stranger Things, Esquire and the 600 Creations of a Unique Typographer
Bullet Journal Tutorial: Ideas To Improve Your Hand-Lettered Fonts
15 Free Typographic Resources


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