9 Important Things To Know About Hand Lettering


Are you interested in hand lettering? Or maybe just have some questions about it?

Here are nine important things you should know about hand lettering, whether you’re a beginner or are just curious about it.

a pencil sketch in a notebook of hand lettering in a moon shape

What exactly is hand lettering?

It might not be what you first thought.

Hand lettering is the art of drawing letters using any tool.

It can be in any style you can imagine!

Hand lettering is a very creative, freeform kind of lettering with endless possibilities.

It involves lots of sketching and drawing and refining.

There are no strict rules to follow. You can explore your own styles and ideas and use any writing or drawing tool you want.

It can be very simple or it can be very detailed and complex.

Many artists incorporate illustrations into their hand lettering which makes it even more unique.

(Want to learn hand lettering? Here’s my simple beginner’s guide that shows you how so you can start today!)

examples of lots of different lettering styles drawn in black
Lots of different styles of lettering are possible, as you can see.

Difference between hand lettering and lettering

The only difference between “hand lettering” and “lettering” is that hand lettering is a more specific category of lettering.

I know it’s confusing. It’s kind of funny how these “lettering” terms get used in all different ways, probably because most don’t know the differences.

Maybe I can clear it up for you. This is how I’ve come to see it:

Lettering is a general term that includes any kind of letters; printed, typed, written, painted, hand-drawn, etc. It’s defined as “written or printed words.”

Hand lettering is specifically lettering that is drawn by hand.

Is hand lettering the same as calligraphy?

Hand lettering is not the same as calligraphy. The way the letters are created is different for each.

For hand lettering, you draw the letters with any tool.

For calligraphy, you write the letters using a pressure-sensitive tool (like a brush pen or pointed dip pen) to get thick and thin lines.

Calligraphy is also known as “beautiful writing.”

Basically, different methods are used for hand lettering and calligraphy, even though the end result sometimes looks similar.

example of the difference between calligraphy and hand lettering
“Calligraphy” was written using a flexible brush pen. “Hand lettering” was drawn and filled in with a drawing pen.

Did you think “hand lettering” was actually calligraphy?

That’s understandable, because many people just call calligraphy “hand lettering.” I used to do it, too.

Here’s a post I wrote that explains the differences between hand lettering and calligraphy more.

Hand lettering vs handwriting

Hand lettering is drawing letters. Handwriting is writing letters.

Hand lettering is much more than everyday handwriting. It’s a specialized skill and art form.

Hand lettering typically involves a lot more planning, sketching, revising, and perfecting than regular handwriting does.

Handwriting can definitely be an art form of its own, though!

You might also be interested in Handwriting vs Calligraphy: What’s the Difference?

In the end, all the names don’t matter that much, and the definitions get a little unclear.

But if you’re going to be a lettering artist, you should know the basic differences!

Example of handwriting vs hand lettering vs calligraphy
Picture showing the difference between my handwriting, hand lettering, and modern calligraphy.

Hand lettering vs fonts

What’s the difference between hand lettering and fonts?

A font is a set of type in a specific style, made up of digital characters.

In contrast, hand lettering is made up of letters hand-drawn by someone. It’s much more unique and isn’t limited to a set of typed letters from a computer.

Of course, some take their hand lettering, digitize it, and turn it into a font. So there are “hand lettering fonts” too.

Can anyone learn hand lettering?

Yes! Anyone can learn hand lettering, even with no previous experience.

There are no special tools, skills, or knowledge necessary to start learning hand lettering. You can start with just a pencil and paper.

Hand lettering is just drawing letters, and you can keep it simple or learn how to do more complex things with it (like 3D effects).

There are no real rules, and you can start anywhere and any way you want to.

That’s why hand lettering is the easiest form of lettering to start with!

simple hand drawn block letters that say "today is the day"
A very simple style of hand lettering.

What’s the best way to learn hand lettering?

I can’t tell you exactly what the best way to learn hand lettering is. You know how you learn best!

You can learn hand lettering by watching YouTube videos, reading blog posts (like this one), using worksheets, studying and tracing letters, or taking a class.

Hand lettering basics can be learned pretty quickly, but practicing over time is what will really help you master it!

Fastest way to learn

If you want to learn hand lettering fast, the best way to learn would be to take a course.

You can shortcut past years of trial and error by learning from an expert!

Here’s a comprehensive, online hand lettering course taught by Stefan Kunz. (He’s one of the most well-known lettering artists in the world.)

The course will take you from the basics of building letters to designing impressive compositions.

Use the coupon code HEIDI25 for 25% off the Ultimate Lettering Course.

Easiest way to learn

In my opinion, the easiest way to learn hand lettering is simply to trace letters.

You can trace fonts, use worksheets, or trace any kind of letters you see around you.

Start by learning the structure and basics of drawing letters, and you’ll be ready to start drawing them on your own.

For the purposes of learning, you can even try replicating another artist’s work.

A pencil and tracing paper will be your best friends for this!

(Here are 6 ways you can use tracing paper for lettering.)

a hand lettering composition sketch done in pencil
Lettering composition sketch done with pencil on tracing paper.

How can I teach myself hand lettering?

A lot of lettering artists are self-taught, and they developed their skills over years of learning and practice.

You can totally teach yourself hand lettering for free, too!

To do this, here are some steps I recommend taking:

  • Study letters. Look for letters everywhere. Take time to study them, learn their structure, and figure out how you could draw them.
  • Trace letters. Trace letters with a pencil or pen to get familiar with how to draw them.
  • Sketch letters. Do lots of drawing and sketching with a pencil to practice drawing your own letters.
  • Use guidelines. To help you draw neat and consistent letters, use guidelines or even just lined paper.
  • Take advantage of free information. There are lots of videos, articles, and books out there that you can learn from for free.

Here’s a simple and complete beginner’s guide to get you started with hand lettering.

What is the easiest lettering style?

Probably the easiest lettering style to get started with is sans serif.

Out of the basic lettering styles (serif, sans serif, and script), sans serif is the simplest to start with because you don’t have to know where to put serifs or connect letters.

Below are some examples of sans serif styles. (It can be even simpler than these.)

For more ideas, you can look at different sans serif fonts.

sans serif lettering style examples drawn in black

A basic, sans serif print alphabet is an easy letter style to master before moving on to other styles.

The letters can be all one consistent width, or you can add thickness only to the strokes going in a downward direction.

(Want to do hand lettering just using your handwriting? Here’s an easy lettering style tutorial that shows you how!)

How can I be good at lettering?

To be good at any kind of lettering, you really need to be willing to practice.

There’s no way around it: practice is the key to getting good at a new art skill!

Keep sketching, practicing, and trying new things. Look for inspiration and figure out how you can replicate the things you like.

Don’t know exactly how to practice?

Here’s a post I wrote about how to practice and improve your hand lettering. (It’s full of tips!)

Did I answer a question you had about hand lettering? Let me know in the comments below!

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