What is the difference between “type” and “lettering”?


Do you have a passion for lettering? This skill has enabled some enthusiastic designers to be on top in their field. It is possible to turn your passion into a career. With this skill, some designers are able to make unique greeting cards or cake toppers for birthdays or weddings. It all starts in your simple journey with having an interest. Once you have developed a passion for calligraphy, the next move is to get the right tools and knowledge on how to get started.

Since the 90s, there has been an increasing evolution in the world of typography. A good number of designers have been able to make their careers meaningful through custom lettering. There, is however, a need to understand some concepts used within this field. Type and hand lettering in this case are not the same as people have always thought.

What exactly is typography?

This is basically the manner in which letters usually interact on the surface in relation to how the type has to be set. In simple facts, it is the appearance and can be closely related to typesetting, for that matter. Our modern world is digitally motivated and this means designers have to work with fonts for a long time.  A good number of designers also view letterpress as a passion since it also involves some use of typesetting. Lettering is therefore not the same as typography; every designer should work and talk with professionalism to clients as it is also another way of working in an excellent way.


When certain letterforms have been configured for similar use, then this aspect is known as lettering. This is usually done with the use of pens or brushes although there are some designers who prefer to do lettering with the use of Adobe. Lettering and typography are not the same much as they both deal with letters, the fact remains there is a difference in their mode of application. They do not have the same connotations either. The main differences between lettering and type lies in the rules applied and letter spacing, among other factors.


The spacing

When you have not given enough attention to spacing, then everything can turn out messy. When it’s on a type platform, then spacing between is known as ‘kerning’ while on other platforms, the same term cannot be used. Instead, spacing in lettering is always referred to as tightening up. There are many applications in which typography can be used, such as body text; otherwise, lettering is more of a display text. This explains why calligraphy is commonly used when it comes to longer texts since it is typically a penmanship medium. Take a look at some calligraphy fonts from Defont to see a variety of styles.

(check out some helpful tips on this video about lettering)

Type and lettering are not the same

Type usually consists of letters that are already prefabricated and can be used for a long time depending on the manner of the project, while lettering constitutes of one letter at a time and can only be used once for a single piece. They are typically used for a specific purpose. A good example of type is the fonts which are commonly used for a long time.  In fact writing in itself has been viewed as a way of lettering in its simplest form.  In the same manner that lettering and type differs, so do typefaces and fonts. Much as they can sound the same, there is a thin margin that separates the two. A typeface is basically the design used for a given set of letters while a font is the medium used. In simple terms, the font acts more like a delivery mechanism and this could be in the form of wood pieces. The type face reveals the way in which things actually look while font is a style, it is simply what the designer has to use. Nowadays there are many professionals in this field, and lettering is no doubt one of the easiest and creative freelancing jobs that one can come across. There are many useful resources and tutorials online that can get you started. You can do it as a pastime hobby, or take it to the next level and develop an entire career out of it depending on your time and inner drive!