Not sure how to describe what you're looking for? No worries! Below I've described the two types of custom lettering that I provide, including some of the terms that are commonly used when discussing them. If you have any questions that aren't answered on this page, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The terms in bold are included in a glossary at the bottom of this page.
Hand Drawn Lettering
This type of lettering is created just how you'd think: it's drawn. Unlike calligraphic styles (see below), each letter is drawn as a shape. Often the benefit of this type of lettering is that it can be designed to fill a specific area; it's also very easy to make changes throughout the process. There are endless styles of hand drawn lettering.
The first two pieces above are examples of hand drawn lettering that has been designed within a shape. The granola recipe piece uses several different styles of hand drawn lettering (you can click on the image above to view a larger version). The Don't Be A Jerk piece draws inspiration from vintage serif lettering styles.
Hand lettering can also imitate and build upon calligraphic styles, and I often draw upon my knowledge of calligraphy and brush lettering to inform my hand drawn pieces. The Oregon Coast piece is hand-drawn, but the flourishes, stroke weights, and script style are influenced by calligraphy.
Hand drawn lettering is more similar to drawing than it is to writing.
Calligraphic lettering is created with single strokes. Imagine writing with a pen or a brush: each letter is formed by single lines, while the thickness of each line is dependent on the tool, the pressure applied, the technique of the writer, etc. Calligraphic styles rely on a different type of muscle training than hand drawn lettering.
Calligraphy is often applied to projects where many words need to be written beautifully, such as addresses on envelopes for an event, but the same techniques can be applied to individual pieces like those shown here. For these, I will often write them 20 times or more, in order to perfect the letter shapes and composition.
The first piece on the left was done with a brush and ink on paper, then scanned; the gold color and underlying photo was added digitally. The You Chose This piece was similarly created with a brush on paper, then vectorized using Illustrator. The third piece is uses a consistent stroke weight: it was done with a pen on paper, then scanned and vectorized. The lettering in the final piece was done with a brush pen on paper, then scanned and added to the illustration digitally.
Calligraphic lettering is more similar to writing than it is to drawing.
Does it matter if I use the wrong term?
Not really - all of this falls under the category of custom lettering. However, if you say you need typography (see below), and what you have in mind is a single phrase written in a calligraphic script, it will just take us a little longer to get onto the same page. But don't be afraid to contact me! Regardless of how familiar you are with the terminology, I'm happy to work with you to find the best custom lettering solution for your needs.
The easier it is for us to communicate about what you need, the faster I can get to work for you!
Flourish / Swash
Serif / Sans Serif
Stroke Weight / Monoweight, Monoline
Typeface / Typography / Font
Vector / Vectorizing
A flourish is a decorative element. Sometimes they accompany lettering, as with the pale green swirls surrounding the Pamplemousse lettering above. They can also be extensions of the letters themselves, such as above and below the Oregon Coast lettering. In that case they are called swashes, a type of flourish.
A serif is a small line or shape extending from the ends of the strokes that make up a letter. There are a variety of styles of serifs. A lettering style without serifs is called sans serif.
Script lettering is characterized by flowing curves and connected letters. Cursive is a handwriting script. Script lettering can range from casual to formal.
Stroke weight refers to the thickness of the lines that make up letters. Stroke weight can vary, changing from thick to thin within each letter, or it can remain a consistent width, which is called monoweight or monoline.
These terms are in a third category (alongside lettering and calligraphy) that are often thrown about when discussing the art of text. I am not a typographer or a type designer, so you may want to look these terms up yourself, but generally: a typeface is a designed alphabet used digitally or in print; typography is the art of choosing and arranging type (this may also include designing type, but don't quote me on that); a font is a set of characters including the design (typeface), size, pitch (italic, bold, etc.), and spacing.
Without going into too much technical detail, vectors are created (most often) by using the program Adobe Illustrator. They are not based in pixels, as for example Photoshop images are, so vector images can be scaled without losing image quality. This is especially useful for things like logos, where they'll be used at lot of different sizes. Vectorizing is the process of turning a non-vector image into a vector image; there are a number of ways to do it, and it's possibly not a real word (but it's useful!)