Many people feel that calligraphy and lettering can be used interchangeably. But technically, it’s not. The designer and word-stickler in me cringe a little bit when someone mixes them up. I don’t think one is better than the other, or takes more skill. I just think it’s important to clear things up a little.
So today, I hope to bring light to what is what and how can you tell the difference.
Calligraphy is beautiful handwriting.
Typically, there are very special tools like nibs and ink or brushes or pens that help you to write words beautifully. Typically, it’s “a single pass of the pen/tool to write as a form of art.”
My favorite styles of calligraphy are with watercolor, brush, and felt-tip pens- which is also known as modern calligraphy. I depend on the tool to create the look I want. I push down heavier for thicker strokes and lighter for thinner strokes. To achieve the dry-brush look, my favorite, I have to write quickly, which means a lot of practice with spacing and kerning. The ultimate pleasure is making a smooth line and immaculate spacing. If you are looking into doing calligraphy with a pointed pen, there are many awesome resources online. One of my favorites is The Postman’s Knock. So if writing beautifully is calligraphy, then what is lettering?
Lettering is illustrating letters.
Sometimes, I draw script letters. Sometimes, I do faux-calligraphy where I draw in the thick and thin parts. Sometimes, I make my letters fat or really skinny. My main tool is a pencil, not only to map out where things might go but have a good idea what the letters will look like. Really great lettering should tell a story.
How can you tell the difference?
I admit this can be difficult. Usually, the easiest way is to see what tools the artist is using. However, if it’s a finished product, typically it’s looking at the letters and seeing if it’s something that can happen in one pass. Learning about different tools and the strokes they make, will help you differentiate the two. Honestly, both ways of letter-making are beautiful and important to appreciate.
So what is it that you do?
In short, I do both. However, I am way, way more interested in lettering. I have an itch to make letters do weird, different, and unique things. The designers I look up to are Jessica Hische, Lauren Hom, Dana Tanamachi, Mary Kate McDevitt, Louise Fili, Martina Flor, etc. (Just noticed these are all women, woop woop!) They may have a style and a look, but each piece of work tells a story.
For more examples as to what the difference is: check out www.letteringvscalligraphy.com and if you have ANY questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.