In recent years, hand lettering has taken off in a huge way. Whereas typography is the art of arranging type in appealing ways, hand lettering is a painstaking but rewarding process where each nuance of the letters is drawn manually. In some cases, hand-drawn designs are later digitized, and there are even some instances of artists drawing letters on top of photographs.
If you pay attention, you’ll probably notice hand-drawn lettering almost everywhere. From product packaging to album covers, inspirational hand lettering is capturing attention and giving artists the recognition they deserve.
Although hand lettering requires a lot of patience, it’s relatively easy to learn. That’s largely due to the fact that some leading artists publish online tutorials and explain each phase of their creative process. Some also include videos so you can fully appreciate the planning and attention artists put forth to make the eventual outcome.
In terms of your own art, there is a huge amount of freedom with the styles and approaches you could take.
The gorgeous hand lettering examples below offer just a small sampling of the breadth of personality and style that’s possible. Even better, these examples should inspire you with not just how they look, but with what they say as well:
1. Mark van Leeuwen
This beautiful hand-lettered script has a touch of calligraphic style to it. The bold strokes make it suitable for signs or invitations.
2. Jen Roffe
Roffe’s work is best described as modern calligraphy. While it has the serifs and swirls of yesteryear, the bold, block-like letters are more modern in nature.
3. Ricardo Gonzalez
Ricardo Gonzalez takes letters and turns them into beautiful patterns that are art in and of themselves. This meshing of patterns and letters is quite unique.
4. Rob Draper
Draper’s style is more of a three-dimensional illustration of letters. His hand lettering allows him to combine 3-D elements with straight outlined script, creating a textured look perfect for T-shirts and other designs.
5. Ash Schweitzer
Schweitzer’s hand lettering has a Victorian edge to it. The letters are reminiscent of what one might have seen on a poster advertising a theater production or a circus.
6. Sean McCabe
McCabe combines standard text in serif with a script-style font. By hand lettering, he has the ability to take the swirls of the script and loop them around the standard letters above and below. The result is a cohesive and interesting look.
7. Biljana Kroll
Kroll mixes different techniques to come up with truly unique hand-lettered pieces that are works of art worthy of hanging in a commercial space. In any of his pieces, you might find a mix of scanned pencil, watercolor drawings and digital art.
8. Brad Almond
Almond’s designs are interesting in that he creates a story with the actual lettering of his words. Note how he takes the word tall and stretches the height of the type to make the word itself tall.
9. Tobias Saul
Saul’s hand-drawn type creates a three-dimensional look with some added artistic elements, such as embellishments and flourishes within the letter backgrounds.
10. Maarten Deckers
Deckers is a Belgian artist whose hand lettering is placed overtop modern artwork. The letters seem to rise out of the background art.
11. Lucia Mullerova
Mullerova adds action to her words. Look at the word shore and how it comes alive as though it is meeting the ocean and seeing splashes from the waves.
12. Juliana Cardoso
Cardosa’s hand lettering has the look of watercolor, making it whimsical. She creates the above piece in all lowercase script.
13. Justin Verkest
The style of Justin Verkest is bold, modern and blocky. The overall effect is one of masculinity and strength.
14. Joshua Redmond
If you’re seeking something a bit less formal, this hand-lettered piece by Joshua Redmond is an interesting choice. He combines art with ribbons wrapping around a serpent and then hand letters in a simple uppercase text.
15. Abby Sy
Abbey Sy creates gorgeous, hand-lettered art. Her creations aren’t just script, but script with art inside and around the letters.
16. Jenna Bresnahan
Jenna Bresnahan takes a quote and creates beautifully drawn script in all lowercase letters. She then embellishes the text with swirls and designs that draw the attention to the fact that the quote is a whole.
17. Tom Fallick
Note the way Tom Fallick takes an image and then hand draws text on top of it. This creates a surreal effect that puts the attention on the letters but also creates a mood with the background.
18. Dan Lee
Similar to the previous example, Lee takes a photo and then adds a saying in hand lettering over top of it. He adds another element by embellishing and creating a look almost of graffiti.
19. Pete Adams
Adams’s hand lettering has an almost stenciled look to it. He uses a variety of font styles and add-ons to create a truly unique poster. Emphasis is placed on specific words by making them bigger and bolder than others.
20. Noah Kingston
Kingston attributes his inspiration to artists such as Martin Schmetzer, Joachim Vu and Joshua Bullock. He creates an artistic shape and then fits the hand lettering within it. The unusual shading adds to the overall effect.
21. Jaclyn Le
Using graphite on a sketchbook, Jaclyn Le creates a hand-lettered work of art. Note how some of the letters are blockier and some are modern script. This creates a modern look while bringing in a touch of the past.
22. Chrystal Elizabeth
Using brush calligraphy, Chrystal Elizabeth creates a whimsical hand-lettered piece that utilizes bold serif fonts alongside script. The letters shift from standard to script, yet all interlock and mesh with one another.
23. Jessica Elliott
Elliot creates a beautiful background in bold, bright colors. It’s either watercolor or pastel. She then adds a simple script overtop in bold black letters.
24. The Lettering Supply Co
Using negative space allows you to get really creative with logos or artwork. In the above example, the artist uses negative space to create letters by cutting them out of the black background.
25. Risa Rodil
What a fun, whimsical style Risa Rodil has with her typography. The above design is a nod to “Finding Nemo,” even utilizing colors from the ocean and clownfish.
26. Nate Williams
Nate Williams adds a lot of interest to this saying by using different typography throughout. While traditional wisdom states not to mix different types of typography in one piece, it works well for this particular saying.
27. Tammy Ann Tan
This hand-lettered quote started with a pencil sketch. The block letters were laid out and then script and flourishes added all around. It was then overlaid on a blue background and the letters created negative space on the page.
28. Julia Henze
Henze describes herself as a lettering artist and her work highlights that claim. Her hand-drawn letters offer illustrations in bright colors and with a three-dimensional look.
29. Kaitlyn Bender
Offering her designs on Etsy, Bender creates beautiful hand-lettered works of art such as the one pictured above. Note the perfect mix of typographic styles and the emphasis on certain words by making them larger than the ones surrounding.
30. Melissa Kartler
Kartler utilizes different stroke weight to create an impact with her hand-lettered work above. Instead of making words she wishes to emphasize darker, she makes them taller and uses standard capital letters and script on the other words.
31. Evan Iuzzolino
Iuzzolino’s designs have a bold, masculine look to them, which works well for liquor companies or brands targeting men as their primary demographic. The gorgeous hand lettering on this product speaks to a well-established brand that isn’t afraid to speak outside the box. The font recalls traditional serifs but adds some little details to make it unique, and colors and bold strokes add masculinity to the designs. This style works well for any project that requires a look of tradition and history.
32. Chris Yoon
Chris Yoon is best known as an illustrator and letterer. His designs are edgy and customized to each project he works on. You can see from the example above that his style is very much in the tradition of beautiful, hand-written calligraphy. The design is artwork all on its own and doesn’t need any other embellishments or illustrations to make a statement.
33. Todd Klein
Todd Klein is a fairly famous letterer. Even if you didn’t know who was behind the design, you’ve likely seen his work on DC comic books. His achievements span from the mid-1900s to today. You’ll find examples of logo designs, column headings for comic books, book cover typography and even comic book covers.
Klein’s designs inspire designers looking for a fun, otherworldly edge to their lettering. Spend some time poking around his site, and you’ll notice how the style of his lettering changes by the project. For example, some of his book designs use more traditional lettering than his comic book covers.
34. Jacqui Oakley
As an illustrator and hand-letterer, Jacqui Oakley offers artists a wide array of inspiring designs. The hand lettering perfectly matches the mood of each illustration, setting a tone for each piece. She’s worked for major publications such as the New York Times, National Geographic and Rolling Stone and has illustrated and lettered for Penguin Books.
35. Danielle Evans
Evans does some interesting hand lettering work, making her type appear dimensional. You’ll find examples of puffy letters that don’t rely on ink or paint to achieve their dimension. In the instance above, she uses fettucini noodles to spell out the words. According to the description on her Behance page, it took her three days to get the lettering just right because the noodles kept drying out. The result is a unique type that’s unlike anything most people have seen before.
As Evans proves, you shouldn’t be afraid to let your inner artist out. Part of hand lettering is trying out different mediums and seeing what works best for your project.
36. Nicolas Fredrickson
Frederickson has several projects displayed on his website in which he takes a shape and creates lettering within it. For example, his Camp Cali lettering inside the outline of a slice of tree stump sets an outdoor tone. The design was created for a spread in Los Angeles magazine and perfectly mirrors the image of a couple camping in the great outdoors. His letters have a definite decorative look, with swirls and serifs in most of his designs. You’ll find his lettering work in logos and magazine headers and on various products.
37. Linzie Hunter
Hunter’s work has a unique and fun look, which is perfect for pet-lover websites, sites for children or anywhere that demands a modern, youthful edge. Since she studied illustration, it isn’t surprising her designs have an illustrative look to them and are often combined with images. Some of her clients include Apple, Time magazine and Hallmark.
Note the survey lettering above. She adds gorgeous design elements to her hand lettering, such as dots inside the header type.
Inspirational Hand Lettering Examples
As you can see from this collection, the options are endless when you explore hand lettering. These lettering examples are just a fraction of the inspirational designs available to all levels of design. The styles — and what you want to say — are completely up to you, the artist.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.
Great collection of inspirational hand lettering! I love these styles Melissa Kartler, Mark van Leeuwen, Kaitlyn Bender and Jacqui Oakley. I will bookmark this blog. Thank you for sharing!