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Custom lettering on the spine of a 1960s book

In art, graphic design and typography, lettering refers to the creation of hand-drawn letters to apply to an object or surface.[1][2][3][4] For car enthusiasts, lettering refers to decals attached to the outside paint or tires of their car.

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, lettering for your car to advertise your business, tire lettering to customize your tires, fileteado, graffiti,[5] or on chalkboards.[6] Lettering may be drawn or applied using stencils.[7][8]

Brush lettering practice by artist Emmanuel Sevilla.

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.[9][10][11][4]

More recently, there has been an influx of aspiring calligraphists attempting hand-lettering, namely brush pen cursive calligraphy. Popular styles are Sans serif, Serif, Cursive / Script, Vintage, Gothic – Blackletter calligraphy, Graffiti, Creative lettering.[12]


  1. ^ Leslie Cabarga (15 February 2004). Logo, Font & Lettering Bible. Adams Media. pp. 6–9. ISBN 1-58180-436-9.
  2. ^ Jan Middendorp (2004). Dutch Type. 010 Publishers. pp. 260–272. ISBN 978-90-6450-460-0.
  3. ^ Mosley, James. "English Vernacular". Typefoundry (blog). Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b Shinn, Nick. "The Golden Age of Hand Lettering in American Advertising". Type Culture. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  5. ^ Callingham, James (1871). Sign Writing and Glass Embossing.
  6. ^ Foster, Walter (2014). Creative Lettering and Beyond. Quarto Publishing Group USA.
  7. ^ Pool, Albert-Jan. "FF DIN: Digital Block Letters" (PDF). FontShop. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  8. ^ Mosley, James. "Lettres à jour: public stencil lettering in France". Type Foundry (blog). Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  9. ^ Simonson, Mark. "Not a font". Mark Simonson Studio (blog). Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  10. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Lettering is not type". Type Network.
  11. ^ Johnston, Alastair. "The Misery of Edwin Drood". Booktryst. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  12. ^ "What Are The Different Lettering Styles? (2019)". Lettering Daily. 2018-09-24. Retrieved 2019-06-25.

External links[edit]

Many textbooks on lettering or books of example alphabets were published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.