Lettering refers to the creation of hand-drawn letters to apply to an object or surface. Lettering includes calligraphy and lettering for purposes such as blueprints and comic books, as well as decorative lettering such as sign painting and creating custom lettering graphics, for instance on posters, for a letterhead or business wordmark, lettering in stone or graffiti.  lettering may be drawn or applied using stencils.

In the past, almost all decorative lettering other than that on paper was created as custom or hand-painted lettering; the use of fonts in place of lettering has increased due to new printing methods and phototypesetting and digital typesetting, which allow fonts to be printed at any desired size.

Letter cutting is a form of inscriptional architectural lettering closely related to monumental masonry and stone carving, often practiced by artists, sculptors, and typeface designers. Rather than traditional stone carving, where images and symbols are the dominant features, in letter cutting it is the beauty of the stone carver’s calligraphy that is the focus.


Calligraphy (from Ancient Greekκάλλος kallos“beauty” + γραφή graphẽ “writing”) is a type ofvisual art related to writing. It is the design andexecution of lettering with a broad tip instrument orbrush in one stroke (as opposed to built up lettering,in which the letters are drawn.) (Mediavilla 1996: 17).A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is”the art of giving form to signs in an expressive,harmonious and skillful manner” (Mediavilla 1996: 18).The story of writing is one of aesthetic evolutionframed within the technical skills, transmissionspeed(s) and material limitations of a person, timeand place (Diringer 1968: 441). A style of writing isdescribed as a script, hand or alphabet (Fraser andKwiatkowski 2006; Johnston 1909: Plate 6).

Modern calligraphy ranges from functional hand-lettered inscriptions and designs to fine-art pieceswhere the abstract expression of the handwrittenmark may or may not compromise the legibility of theletters (Mediavilla 1996). Classical calligraphy differsfrom typography and non-classical hand-lettering,though a calligrapher may create all of these;characters are historically disciplined yet fluid andspontaneous, at the moment of writing (Pott 2006 and2005; Zapf 2007 and 2006).

Calligraphy continues to flourish in the forms of wedding and event invitations, fontdesign/typography, original hand-lettered logo design, religious art, announcements/graphic design/commissioned calligraphic art, cut stone inscriptions and memorial documents. It is alsoused for props and moving images for film and television, testimonialsbirth and death certificates,maps, and other works involving writing (see for example Letter Arts Review; Propfe 2005; Geddesand Dion 2004). Some of the finest works of modern calligraphy are charters and letters patentissued by monarchs and officers of state in various countries.

Western calligraphy

Latin alphabet

Modern Western calligraphy

Tools and techniques


A calligraphic pen head, with parts names.

The principal tools for a calligrapher are the pen, which may be flat-balled or round-nibbed, and the brush (Reaves and Schulte 2006; Child 1985; Lamb1956). For some decorative purposes, multi-nibbed pens—steel brushes—can be used. However, work shave also been made with felt-tip and ballpoint pens, although these works do not employ angled lines. Ink for writing is usually water-based and much less viscous than the oil-based inks used in printing. High quality paper, which has good consistency of porosity, will enable cleaner lines,[citation needed]although parchment or vellum is often used, as a knife can be used to erase work on them and a light box is not needed to allow lines to pass through it. In addition, light boxes and templates are used to achieve straight lines without pencil markings detracting from the work. Ruled paper, either for alight box or direct use, is most often ruled every quarter or half inch, although inch spaces are occasionally used, such as with litterea unciales (hence the name), and college ruled paper acts as a guideline often as well.

See also






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