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Calligraphy & Hand Lettering: How to Know the Difference

Reading time: 4 min.

Hand lettering styles and calligraphy are my hands-down FAVE way to process words and information, worship, and create.

But what’s the difference between hand lettering and calligraphy?

(… and is there one?)

Yes ma’am! There’s a difference, which I so kindly remembered tucked in Lisa Funk’s hand lettering 101 class at Inspired Retreat the other week. As a dip pen and ink calligrapher, I had to recall what it was like to draw letters with markers!

Today, I invited my friend Lisa of Hand Lettered Design on the blog to tell me her fave things about calligraphy. She’s just launched her newest wave of classes — keep reading to see how you can get 10% her online courses! I mean, just look at how cute she is:

Enjoy the post, and shout out to those of us who had more fun “drawing” our honors chemistry notes in high school than actually processing what the mole was.

‘Cause I still don’t quite get it.

But dangit do I love calligraphy.

So, what’s the difference in calligraphy and hand lettering fonts?

Calligraphy is a classical art using a dip pen and ink to make thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes, using varying degrees of pressure. It’s gotten more modern with time, but is based on ancient principals of writing.

Tools: Nibs, ink, oblique or straight pen holder.

Cred: Laura Barnes

Cred: Laura Barnes

Hand lettering styles take this principle, and add the element of fun brushes and pens! There’s a LOT more control over the letters, since it’s more like drawing!

Tools: Markers, paint brushes, chalk, brush pens — kinda anything.

Q: How do YOU describe what you do?

A | The hand-lettering artist: “To me, hand-lettering is the art of making beautiful letters! I love giving people the freedom to create without rules. There are definitely lots of tips and tricks that help, but then you can really take it and make it your own. You can mix and match different styles, cursive, print … whatever you like and just have fun with it!”

A | The calligrapher: “Calligraphy is Greek for ‘art of beautiful writing,’ and is ornamental penmanship. Calligraphy as we know it today got ramped up in the 1400s, when calligraphers realized italic writing was a little mo’ faster than rigid straight hand. I personally think it’s a little more unforgiving and mechanical than hand lettering, but it’s GORGEOUS — and once you know the rules, you can go crazy breakin’ ’em.”

cred: Laura Barnes

cred: Laura Barnes

Q: What’s your favorite thing to write?

A | The hand-lettering artist: “My favorite thing is to write up inspiring quotes!  Do this with brush pens on paper, doing faux calligraphy on paper, with chalk on chalkboards — you name it! I just love using lettering to be creative & encourage myself and others to live a joyful life.”

Cred: Hand Lettered Design

Cred: Hand Lettered Design

A | The calligrapher: “Addresses. Easily. Something about opening the mailbox and feeling special because someone took the time to paint your name with nib and ink on paper in this digital age carries such weight for me!”

cred: Laura Barnes

cred: Laura Barnes

Q: Fave letter or word … aaaand go!

A | The hand-lettering artist: “My favorite letter would have to be ‘y.’ It’s so fun and can add a ton of personality depending on the way you decide to flourish with it.

A | The calligrapher: “The word ‘Atlanta’ or ‘Montgomery.’ I’m sure the HOURS of practice I’ve had scrawling those two words has nothing to do with it … “

Q: How do you learn?

Yay! I’m so glad you asked. Learning in person rocks, but I’ve taken loads of classes online, too!

Oh, and are you a bride or just in the market for an address etiquette cheat sheet? I got you.

Get your FREE wedding addressing etiquette workbook!

You may also be interested in:

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Hand lettering styles and calligraphy are my hands-down fave way to process words and information, worship, and create. But what’s the difference between hand lettering and calligraphy (or is there one?)?

Keep reading to learn the difference — and find out where to go online to learn!


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