January 8, 2015

The Differences Between Typography + Calligraphy + Hand Lettering

Since diving into the hand lettering world, I've noticed there's lots of confusion as to the difference between it, calligraphy and typography. It's easy to see where the confusion comes in because when you search on Etsy for typography, you'll see a combination of all three. A lot of people use the terms interchangeably. However, all three are completely different mediums and require their own respective skill set, tools, and execution. 

Here's a quick rundown of the differences and how you can spot them. 


Typography is the art of setting type using mainly pre-made fonts. Typography goes hand-in-hand with graphic design. When I started PaperLark Studio back in the day, this was the only style I used to create prints and cards. I still use it and a prime example would be my SouthMouth cards which you can find in my shop here.


Calligraphy is writing the word. Much of hand lettering work looks like calligraphy, but each has an entirely different style of application and execution. Calligraphy is the art of perfecting a few different style of script. You use these styles over and over, developing a muscle memory for them. Becoming a proficient calligrapher takes years upon years of practice. {Something I wish I had the patience for, but alas I do not.}

An example of calligraphy is this addressed envelope by Mint Tea Calligraphy.


Hand lettering is drawing the word and is most commonly confused with calligraphy. Lettering incorporates all kinds of styles and offers a little more freedom than the perfection of calligraphy or being restricted to a pre-made font like typography. This is probably why it has become my favorite medium. It allows for experimentation and there's no strict rules. {There are some basic guideline you should try to stick to, but that's for another post.}

Here's an example of a hand lettered print you can find in my shop here. I bet you'd never guess that I live in Georgia, huh? Ha!


Besides the freedom and flexibility I talked about above, I love how organic hand lettering feels. Hand lettering is unique to each letterer. You just can't get that warm feel with a pre-made typeface. 

There you have it, folks! Time for a pop quiz. Just kidding! If you're interested in exploring the world of hand lettering, you should stick around because I have a few "How-To" posts in the works. 

Be sure you don't miss a thing and follow along:


Until next time!

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