The Difference Between Typography, Lettering and Calligraphy


While typography is not the main topic here, it is often associated with the other two concepts and they are often used interchangeably. Although these concepts can overlap, they still have different purposes and disciplines. Smashing Magazine wrote a very informative article about these concepts, but if you’re too lazy to click that link, here’s a gist + my experience with each field:


Typography is the art and technique of arranging type.

A perfect example of typography is this blog entry. Take notice of the way I presented this paragraph; the spacing (kerning) between the letters and between the lines (leading), the alignment, and style of the typeface. This

My Experience: Last year, I tried creating a font, and it was so tedious and requires a lot of work! I learned how to design, vector, and convert each and every single glyph so I could create a font file that contains 26 alphabets, both uppercase and lowercase, 10 numbers and a few commonly-used symbols. The typeface is crap (bad kerning and line spacing!) but the whole experience has led me to understand why fonts are so expensive.

Lettering is “the art of drawing letters.” It’s an art of combining letterforms often created for a purpose.

Letterings are like custom illustrations, but instead of illustrating people, animals or places, I use letters and words. I love the freedom that it entails with lettering, particularly hand-lettering. I believe that some letterings (brush lettering, for example) is a form of calligraphy, but not all calligraphy are letterings.

My Experience: I started doing letterings back in high school, but stopped when I entered college. Lettering was the “in” thing back then because a lot of us were into exchanging letters and who doesn’t want to have their name drawn so creatively? It was also one of those activities to help you get by a 40-minute subject. Hehe.

Calligraphy is the art of forming and arranging beautiful letters and symbols together.
It is the “art of writing letters.”

If you take a look at the works of any talented calligrapher, you will notice that their letters always have this identical and balanced look. Calligraphy focuses on magically making each letter work together to become this beautifully written word or phrase, one that becomes so ideal to use as wedding invites.

My Experience: I think I perform quite well whenever I use a brush pen for my calligraphy. I struggle when I use a dip pen, probably because I’m left-handed, but it’s a challenge I like doing because that’s the only way to learn.

If you’re also interested in learning, you can register for an online class here.


When I was starting my calligraphy and lettering journey last September, I wasn’t expecting to receive positive remarks from both friends and readers. Now, a lot of people are interested and every now and then, I’d get a tweet or comment on the materials I use since the Philippines is not exactly an art material mecca. Figured my blog could be a great medium to share my (and what other people are basically using) ~tools of the trade~ to help anyone kickstart their venture to calligraphy and/or lettering. :)

A word of advice? This hobby or passion will definitely burn your pocket even before you could master it.


  • Artline Calligraphy Pens
  • Marvy Brush Pen – Available at any National Bookstore PHP70/piece
  • Brush Sampler Set – Available at Jet Pens
  • Simple Notebook – Available at Sunday Paper Co, PHP350 for a set of two
  • Urban Papier Noir (for gold and white ink) – Available at Fully Booked
  • Pen Roller – Purchased from FILED, PHP325

For letterings, there are thousands of brush pens to choose from, and it’s just a matter of finding the right brush for you to work with. I happen to like the quality of the pink Sailor brush I got from Anina Rubio‘s friend for only PHP380ish. The ones on my pen roller are from Anna of So-Stellar, which she purchased from Hong Kong. Right now, I’ve got my eyes on the Kuretake Cocoiro and Wink of Luna/Stella.


  • Speedball Oblique Pen Holder or Brause Straight Pen Holder
  • Your choice of nib
  • Calligraphy ink, like J. Herbin and Speedball
  • Muji or Rhodia Dotted Notebook

Calligraphy also has a world of its own when it comes to supplies and it can be overwhelming. But as a beginner, it is best that you indulge and buy a variety of nibs, ink and pen holder, so you can experiment and find the ones you like best. A lot of calligraphers recommend the following nibs: Nikko G, Brause 66Ef and Brause Steno. I love those nibs mentioned, but I think the Esterbrook 355 (nib) is perfect for a leftie like me.

Where To Buy?

You can buy all these from the following online stores: The Craft CentralCraft CarrotCreate by TLFSwirl and StrokesInk and Manuscript Art and LaBellaScrittura. But if you’re impatient like me and want to start immediately, you can buy all these from Scribe Writing Essentials.

UPDATE: Good news! The Craft Central and Anina Rubio has recently released their own calligraphy and brush lettering starter kit respectively! The cost of the starter kit is around PHP1600-1900, which I think is considerably cheap already (versus the availability and accessibility of the item, shipping fees, etc.). It’s also a perfect gift this Christmas season!

Graphics used on this entry are scanned images from the book “Hand-Lettering Ledger” by illustrator and letterer, Mary-Kate McDeVitt.
All copyrights belong to their respective owners.

DesignKisty MeaComment