IRAN ART EXHIBITION: ALL ABOUT CALLIGRAPHY AND HAND-LETTERING IS HERE!
Are you confused about the difference between hand lettering and calligraphy?
Perhaps you didn’t even know that a difference existed between the two.
Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we will take a closer look at how exactly hand lettering differs from calligraphy.
Don’t worry, by the end of this post, you will have a clear understanding of the difference between these two art forms (and more).
Let’s dive right in!
The difference between hand lettering and calligraphy is –
Although both hand lettering and calligraphy are visual art forms related to letters, their main difference is the method used to create the letters. Hand lettering focuses on drawing and illustrating the letters. Calligraphy, on the other hand, is the art of beautiful writing.
These terms are often used interchangeably. However, as you can see, they are quite different from each other.
In other words, the difference between hand lettering and calligraphy lies in the process and not the end result.
Note – it’s quite understandable that if you are a complete beginner, you will struggle to spot the difference on a final piece (without seeing the actual process of creation). With time you will start developing your eye to notice these differences effortlessly.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: Let’s have a closer look at these art forms to better understand the whole story.
What is calligraphy?
Calligraphy is a visual art form primarily focused on beautiful writing. Calligraphy is commonly created using specific tools such as a pointed nib, a broad-edged nib, a brush, etc. The emphasis here is on the writing aspect, meaning that the letterforms are usually executed in a single motion.
When we say calligraphy, we have to think of it as an umbrella term that contains many different styles of writing.
First of all, calligraphy can be divided based on worldwide cultures such as –
• Western calligraphy (the Latin alphabet)
• Chinese calligraphy
• Japanese calligraphy
• Arabic calligraphy
• Indian calligraphy
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: For now, I solely focus on Western calligraphy.
With that in mind, let’s have a quick overview of the different styles of Western calligraphy.
With Western calligraphy we should consider two major groups – Traditional and modern calligraphy.
Traditional calligraphy –
Includes the calligraphy styles developed throughout the history of the Latin alphabet, which dates approximately since 600 BC.
To name a few traditional calligraphy styles –
• Roman capitals
• Insular minuscule
• Blackletter (gothic) styles
• The italic script
• Copperplate calligraphy
Quick note – When we talk about different calligraphy styles, we don’t refer to them as calligraphy fonts.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: We refer to them as calligraphy styles or scripts. In today’s digital age, fonts are what computers use to write.
Modern calligraphy –
The easiest way to explain what modern calligraphy is – any calligraphy style that doesn’t follow the strict rules of traditional calligraphy.
Another way that calligraphy differs from hand lettering is by using specific tools for writing.
You can use a pointed nib, a broad-edged nib, fountain pens, brushes, etc.
That all depends on the calligraphy style, you are working with.
Ok, now that you have a general overview of what calligraphy is, let’s proceed.
What is hand lettering?
Hand lettering is a visual art form that primarily focuses on drawing and illustrating letterforms by hand (hence the name). Unlike calligraphy, where we write the letters, with hand lettering, we are drawing the individual letterforms.
In hand lettering, the letters are most commonly drawn or sketched with a pencil and then outlined with various pens and markers.
In contrast to calligraphy, for hand lettering, you don’t really need a specific tool.
In fact, you can do hand lettering with pretty much any writing tool that you have. Hand lettering is based on certain rules we use in both calligraphy and typography. However, there are so many different ways you can stylize your letters.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: If you want to learn and improve your hand lettering skills, you will, without a doubt, benefit tremendously by having even just a rudimentary understanding of typography and calligraphy.
What is Typography?
Typography is a visual art form that arranges letters (fonts) in a clear, legible, and visually appealing manner. It involves selecting typefaces, sizes, line lengths, letter spacing, kerning, and more.
Typography using moveable type can be dated all the way back to the 11th century.
However, a defining historical moment was the invention of the mechanical printing press machine by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439.
In the current digital era, typographers mostly work with premade computer fonts. Like the one you are reading right now (which is called Nunito btw.).
It’s also essential to distinguish type designers, which are the ones creating these insanely precise letterforms.
Interestingly enough, these letterforms are initially sketched on paper and then later digitized and polished to perfection.
Not only individually but also in combination with different letterforms, etc.
This is an extremely elaborate process that can take months or even years to complete.
Fun fact – The creation of one of the most popular and used typefaces in the 20th century – ‘’Futura’’ took three years to complete!
Understanding other terms (brush lettering, faux calligraphy, etc.)
Since this is an article about the different terminology, I figured it would be an excellent opportunity to shed some light on other commonly used terms.
Brush lettering –
This is a popularly adopted term that, in most cases, refers to calligraphy created with a brush pen.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: To be 100% entirely correct, this would actually be brush calligraphy since you are actually writing the letters and not drawing them.
Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s necessary to take it that far, and it’s totally fine to call it to brush lettering.
Faux (fake) calligraphy –
This one can be a bit tricky. I would say that it’s a combination of the two.
On one hand, you are technically drawing the letters, but you are doing so to imitate the look of calligraphy (hence the name).
Sign Painting –
Sign painting is an art form that combines both calligraphy and hand lettering in its own unique way along with specific tools and techniques.
It’s an art form that picked up its popularity in the early last century to place advertisements on buildings, billboards, signboards, etc. (hence the name).
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: With the rise of the computer and digitalization (80’s), sign painting faced a steep decline in interest.
However, with the internet and social media era, sign painting, just like calligraphy, is seeing a significant comeback worldwide.
Chalk lettering –
Chalk lettering is pretty straight forward. It’s hand lettering done with chalk. Most commonly on a chalkboard or wall.
Why does all this matter?
It matters because then we can go around and police people when they use the wrong term.
The answer to this question is subjective and depends from person to person. As a hand lettering and calligraphy artist, I believe that understanding the terminology and the different art forms is of high importance.
These art forms are complex in their own way and they take years of studying and practice to master. Understanding the basic terminology is kinda like ground 0, and I truly believe that you can only benefit from understanding it.
Perhaps someone who isn’t that invested in this whole world won’t really care that much about the different terms and simply call everything fonts. And you would be surprised to see how often that happens.
Summing it all up – final words.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: Ok, so let’s recap everything we just talked about once again.
Hand lettering is an art form that focuses on drawing/illustrating the letters.
Calligraphy is an art form that focuses on the beautiful writing of letters.
Typography is an art form that arranges letters (fonts) in a clear, readable, and visually appealing manner.
Remember – the difference is in the process, not the end result.
With time you’ll train your eye to spot these different art forms with ease.