Today I’m going to tell you all about the Different Lettering Types that exist. I will divide them into sections and show you some examples of each one so you can have a better grasp of the different calligraphy and lettering types you can create.
Typography vs Calligraphy and Lettering Types
Before we start, I have two disclaimers:
1st, I will not dive into Oriental types of lettering, like Clerical Script (or Chinese Calligraphy). We will focus on Occident lettering styles for this article.
2nd, I will not go into too much historic detail on this subject, but I’m going to leave here a few useful links on how Calligraphy and Typography became what they are today:
Let’s start with the Basics of lettering. First, what is Lettering? Lettering means to have letters written or typed in something. Lettering Types go all the way from the oldest calligraphy written in Greece to the modern-day fonts. To go a bit further, then, let’s dive into what is calligraphy and typography.
Calligraphy comes from the Greek words kallos, meaning “beauty”, and graphein, meaning “to write”. To create calligraphy we can use pens, ink brushes or any other utensils that allow us to create written words. Most times, people refer to the term calligraphy when describing an artistic form of writing. When the written work creates beautiful art.
Typography comes from the Greek words typos, meaning “impression”, and graphia, meaning “writing”. It is the technique of arranging type(s) to create a legible, readable, and appealing text. It was art created to automate the writing process, thus creating a faster and better way to share the written word.
Lettering Types encompass all sorts of styles from calligraphy to typography. We will mostly focus on calligraphy since the objective is to showcase words and types written by me or you. Nonetheless, typography fonts were once drawn by someone. The same principles apply to all written styles. Let’s dive into some of them!
Lettering Types – Typography
Common Serif vs Sans Serif
Here is the main reason why I wanted to give you a bit of background on typography. Both of these can be considered Lettering Types. Although, what they mean is something that can be transposed into someone’s calligraphy or handwriting. It’s all about how complex or simplified you want your lettering to be. It mostly affects readability. Check this next example:
Here you can see a clear difference in how both look next to each other. Now let’s check some specific fonts and see how these details can be used in various ways. It’s all about how creative you want to be and why are you using one style or the other.
Both styles originated from the Latin Alphabet.
This is, arguably, the most readable and simplest style of fonts you can have. It’s the most used digitally (on websites, social media, operating systems, etc.) and in other media (billboards, logos, digital ads, subtitles, TV programs, etc.). Why? Because of its simplicity. It makes it easier to read when in a hurry (when reading subtitles, for instance) and it is easier on the eyes, especially on smaller screens. You may feel less fatigued after hours of screen time reading a sans serif font. It’s also used with thinner wights, when in longer body texts. It’s considered the most versatile type of font since it works well for most industries.
Here are some of the most popular or creative Sans Serif Fonts:
- Proxima Nova
- Public Sans
- BR Cobane
- Open Sans
Serif fonts appeared way before Sans Serifs did. It’s believed to have originated in ancient Rome, with the Latin Alphabet. Back when words were carved in stones.
Serif Fonts are usually used in more traditional media (like books, magazines, and newspapers). It’s perceived as a more formal type of font, still mostly used by printing means that feature longer blocks of text. And used on more traditional and/or high-end brands (like Tiffany & Co., Prada, Rolex, Gucci, Sony, Time, Marlboro, Canon, Jack Daniels, Vogue, etc.).
Nowadays, it is resurging a bit, especially in logos. It’s a better font type to wow your eyes, giving the subject a more distinct or bold look, in this digital era.
Some of the most popular or creative Serif fonts are:
- Garamond and EB Garamond
- Times New Roman
- Baskerville and Baskerville No. 2
- Bodoni and Bodoni*
Lettering Types – Calligraphy
Now, let’s get into the exciting stuff! As stated above, the calligraphy process is to draw the lettering manually. Sure, we have millions of fonts out there, but being able to do them by hand and have them done perfectly, it’s truly an incredible form of art. The idea with calligraphic lettering types is to draw the letters. Think of them as drawings, instead of thinking about writing.
You can find fonts online in the styles we’ll see below. 1st, because those fonts were drawn by someone before. So why not do fonts and use them digitally too! 2nd, because it’s normal to enhance designs with calligraphic styles. Either on titles, specific purposes (like wedding invitations, medieval parties, or beautiful printable designs to hang on your walls. Obviously, we are here because we believe that handwriting these is 10 times more special than having them written with some fonts, right?
Today I won’t be teaching you how to do them one by one. Instead, I want to open your mind to new calligraphy styles that exist out there that you may be unfamiliar with. We will look into some different styles. Some are more on the medieval side, others more modern. But all special and incredible in their unique way – which you can practice with some of our favourite calligraphy words.
In my humble opinion, there is no better way to start than with the Gothic (or Blackletter) style of calligraphy. I will not go in too deep with its history, as it dates back to 1200BC but learn more here.
There are several styles when it comes to gothic calligraphy. I will show you some below. But before that, it’s important to know that they derive from the same type of tool.
This is the type of pen you can use to draw a Gothic/Blackletter effect. Whether you go for a dip in ink style of calligraphy or go for a more modern feel and versatility of fountain or parallel pen, they are half of your work. The tip is cut, so you end up with a flat nib, which gives you the shape you need to write with.
The trick with this style is to master the tool you’re using, to get the most effective work done with it. I prefer a Pilot Parallel Pen for this style. The ink flows well, and I feel the use of the edge can help us get in some great flourishes. It is also the quickest way to do this. Nonetheless, you can do it by hand with a pencil and fill the work with ink later. It’s a lot more time-consuming and you may have a harder time getting the width of the letters to match, though. Buying the right tool and mastering it is much wiser. Regardless, you have an example here of something hand-made quickly. You don’t need the right tools, but there’s a reason why they exist.
Like I said before, you can do several styles within Gothic. Here are some examples.
There is also a new style that derives from this, called calligraffiti. Check out some:
As you can see there are several ways to get these results. Even a bucket of ink and the right brush can be used for it. It all depends on what you want to do with these works. Is it for a window, for a wall, for paper invitations, or simply to hang on your wall? That will help you decide what tool fits you best. They are awesome for titles, logos, tattoos, and so much more!
This is one of the most searched styles when people look for calligraphy artists. Most people enjoy having handmade invitations to formal events (like weddings, christenings, or other events of the sort). It is nice to master this one, in case you want to do a few of those gigs in the future.
This style shares some things with the gothic style. 1st, you have lots of sub font styles under traditional calligraphy. Some are more readable than others, but that is true with every single calligraphy style in the world. 2nd, with the right tool, you can have them all.
Let’s talk about the tools. With this style, it’s much more common to use dip-in pens with the right nibs than anything else. You just don’t get the same effects with other pens. For beginners, professionals recommend oblique holders, but that’s a bonus. Any straight holder will do, you just have to train your hand with practice and you get the same results eventually. The trick with the ink and the general technique is in the nibs, there are tons to choose from, you can see some here.
Now, let’s take a look at some traditional calligraphy examples.
As you can see, there are several ones to choose from. Pick one you like and practice it to perfection!
As you can read by the name, we are getting into some of the most creative and innovative styles in the last few decades. Modern calligraphy derives from traditional calligraphy but has a more laid-back, fun, and bold look to it.
Whether you use Script, Cursive, or Brush Lettering, the same thing applies here as it did in the styles above. With the right tool and the technique for it, you can do them all. With more or fewer variations.
The right tools for this are calligraphy brushes, calligraphy pens, or dip-in pens with some nibs that may help you with that effect.
Here are some examples of this style:
Other Lettering Types
This may look uninteresting by the title but trust me when I say it is where the most out-there, creative calligraphy lays. We will see various styles from different artists, some other formats out of the paper (some digital, some physical).
I’ve talked about tattoos here before because there are a lot of people using Blackletter, Traditional Calligraphy, and Modern Calligraphy to make awesome calligraphy tattoos. But, in American traditional tattooing, there was already a specific calligraphy type being used. It’s called American Traditional Tattoo Lettering. It’s not a very creative name, I know, but it is literally what it is. You can find some examples of it below.
It’s very easy and plenty of fun. Especially if you want to get into American traditional tattoo illustrations to draw next to your calligraphy.
Now, if you are familiar with our little corner of the internet, you know we have mentioned graffiti lettering before when talking about Bubble Lettering. But Graffiti Lettering is one of the most versatile lettering styles in the world. The number of people coming up with thousands of different styles of calligraphy is quite insane. Have a look at these and correct me if I’m wrong:
Compilations from artists
When looking at some of the most professional calligraphy artists and graphic designers in the world, you can feel the out-of-the-box thinking from miles away. From 80s inspired fonts to circus fonts, to some of the above styles with a twist, there is a bit of everything to get your flow going. Check some of them down and feed your creativity!
Sometimes you need a specific kind of calligraphy for an illustration or something more out there. You might need words made of ropes for your boat logo, or a name made of clouds for your kid’s room. Or to have a quote made of candy for your candy shop. Creativity is there for you to take it. Don’t constraint yourself every time you pick up a pencil to just have fun. Be silly and free. There’s no roof for creativity. Take advantage of that.
I failed to mention before, but all the styles you saw here can be achieved digitally in whatever program you enjoy most. Whether you work professionally in vectorial and create calligraphy straight out of Adobe Illustrator, or you’re a Procreator or Adobe Photoshop person, you can do them all there. It’s fun to use your hands but also to dive into a more forgiving and simpler process once in a while is key to keep you motivated and make you think outside of the box.
Don’t forget, the right tools are important. For every style, you will have different ways to bring out your best work. Just follow the techniques out there and use the right tools to make your work easier.
Above all else, have fun with it. It’s what creativity and calligraphy are all about. Not only to make beautiful works of art but also to enjoy it and elevate your mind.