Hand Lettering Vs. Brush Lettering: The Ultimate Showdown

hand lettering vs. brush lettering

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Do you like the look of hand lettering but find that brush lettering is a bit more your style? Or maybe you're not sure which one to try! In this blog post, we compare and contrast the two lettering styles and help you set your heart (and hands) on what to explore first. 

Hand Lettering

hand lettering a happy easter sign
Pros Cons
  • You can create unique lettering styles with your own hands.
  • Can be done by any art medium
  • Affordable materials to use
  • Has fewer rules
  • It may look very simple
  • It takes practice to develop your style.


This lettering style is usually done with pens or pencils and is characterized by clean lines and precise strokes. It is all about creating letters by drawing them out freehand. The practice of hand lettering has been around for centuries and is still popular today.

You can see this style almost everywhere, like product packaging, restaurant menus, and even tattoos! Unlike brush lettering or modern calligraphy, there is no specific rule or guideline to follow when hand lettering. This makes it a good option for those just starting and who want to experiment with different styles.

Hand lettering can be broken down into three main styles. The first one is faux calligraphy. This refers to the letters drawn out to look like they were written with a calligraphy pen or markers. The second style is graphic design, where letters are created to form a certain shape or design.

The last style is chalk lettering. It is a fun and popular trend among hand-letterers. Chalk writing frequently incorporates many distinct types into one phrase, including banners, block letters, script, and retro styles. In addition, using chalk allows artists to achieve stunning contrasts and shading that other media may struggle with.

Brush Lettering

brush lettering art
Pros Cons
  • You can create beautiful, flowing letters with a brush pen.
  • It is a great way to add embellishments and flourishes to your work.
  • The result is more consistent lettering.
  • More stylish
  • Limited materials
  • Quite expensive materials to use
  • Requires more attention to detail


This style of lettering is characterized by its more organic look and feel. It has been gaining in popularity in recent years. This lettering style falls on calligraphy style, which can be achieved by using a brush pen with flexible bristles to create strokes of varying widths.

When learning brush calligraphy, you will need to pay attention to the pressure you are applying to the pen, as this will affect the thickness of your strokes. Like with hand lettering, you can also see this style in signage, product packaging, and branding.

Hand Lettering vs. Brush Lettering

Now that you know the pros and cons of both hand lettering and brush lettering, it's time to decide which might work best for you. Let's go deeper and compare each one in more detail according to several factors so you can make an informed decision.

Materials - Hand Lettering

crayola marker (left) and brush pen (right)

When it comes to materials, hand lettering has the upper hand. All you need is a pen and paper. That's it! You can use any pen, from ballpoint to gel pens, markers, etc. And for paper, as long as it's smooth enough for your pen not to snag, you're good to go. This makes hand lettering very budget-friendly and accessible to everyone.

On the other hand, brush lettering requires some specific materials that can be a bit pricey for some people. You'll need a good quality brush pen or pointed pen and nice papers. You’d also want to invest in a pencil and eraser if you want to sketch before you start lettering with a brush pen. Thus, hand lettering is the clear winner when it comes to access to materials.

Style - It’s A Tie!

example of brush lettering (left) and hand lettering (right)

Both hand lettering and brush lettering have their unique styles when it comes to design. Hand lettering is usually more organic and free-flowing, while brush lettering often has a more structured look.

You can use both hand lettering and brush lettering to create beautiful works of art. But at the end of the day, the decision of which one to use comes down to personal preference.

Ease of Application - It’s A Tie!

person writing on a white paper

Person writing on a white paper - Image by: Vivian

When it comes to ease of application, hand lettering and brush lettering are pretty evenly matched. Both require practice to get used to, but they're relatively easy to do once you do. However, we would say that hand-lettering is slightly easier to learn than brush lettering. With hand lettering, you have more control over the thickness of the lines you're creating.

With brush lettering, the size of the brush you're using will determine the thickness of the lines. So if you want to create thin lines, you'll need to use a small brush. But if you want to create thick lines, you'll need to use a large brush. This can be a bit tricky to get the hang of at first. So in terms of ease of use, we would say that hand-lettering is the winner.

Speed - Hand Lettering

ancient pen on calligraphy paper

If you're looking to create beautiful letters quickly, hand lettering is the way. With hand lettering, you can create beautiful letters relatively quickly and easily. On the other hand, Brush lettering can be quite slow, especially if you're just starting. So, hand lettering is the clear winner when it comes to speed.

Process - Hand Lettering

handwriting a calligraphy

The process of hand lettering is relatively simple. You need a pen and paper (or even just a pencil and paper). With brush lettering, you need a few more supplies, including a brush pen, water, and a piece of paper.

On the other hand, brush lettering is more complex. With brush lettering, you have to load your brush with paint or ink, find the right angle, and apply the right pressure. This can be quite challenging, especially if you're just starting. So, hand lettering is the clear winner when it comes to process.

Affordability of Materials - Hand Lettering

cart with markers inside and a dollar sign

One of the best things about hand lettering is using any old pen or pencil lying around your house. On the other hand, Brush lettering requires you to buy a brush pen. These pens can be quite expensive, costing anywhere from $15-$30. So, if you're looking for an inexpensive option, hand lettering is the way to go.

Inexperience - Hand Lettering

woman practicing calligraphy

When it comes to inexperience, hand lettering is the easier of the two. With brush lettering, you have to be careful about the amount of pressure you're putting on the pen and the angle you're holding it. 

Your letters will look messy and uneven if you don't have a light touch. Hand lettering is much more forgiving in this regard. As long as you're using a pen or pencil that you're comfortable with, you should be able to produce nice-looking letters.

Hand Lettering vs. Brush Lettering FAQ

1. Which of the two is popular today?

In terms of popularity, brush lettering has the upper hand. While hand lettering is certainly having a moment, it's nothing compared to the hype surrounding brush lettering. Thanks to social media, there are now thousands of people sharing their unique styles of brush lettering, which has only served to increase its popularity.

2. What's the main difference between the two?

The difference between hand lettering and brush lettering is pretty simple. Hand lettering is done with any pen or pencil, while brush lettering is done with, you guessed it, a brush!

While some people use a regular paintbrush to do brush lettering, most opt for specialty brush pens designed specifically for lettering. These pens have nylon or synthetic bristles that provide a consistent, natural ink flow.

3. So, which one should you choose?

That depends on your style and what you're looking to create. If you want something with a more traditional look, hand lettering is probably the way. If you're looking for something with a more modern or unique look, brush lettering might be your style.

4. Can I use any paper in brush lettering?

Yes! You can use any paper, but we recommend thicker paper so your ink doesn't bleed through.

5. Which is ideal for a beginner?

If you're just starting, we recommend trying both hand lettering and brush lettering to see which one you prefer then; once you've decided on your preferred method, practice, practice, practice!


There you have it! When it comes to hand lettering vs. brush lettering, the hand lettering wins! It's simpler, faster, and less messy. But, that doesn't mean brush lettering is bad. Brush lettering can be quite beautiful. It just takes a little more time and effort to get the hang of it.

So, which one do you prefer? Brush lettering or hand lettering? Both have unique benefits and drawbacks, so it ultimately comes down to what you're most comfortable with and what will work best for the specific project you're working on.

Choose hand lettering if:

  • You want a more personal touch
  • You're looking for something unique
  • You're working on a smaller project
  • You need to get it done quickly
  • You have limited materials to use

Choose brush lettering if:

  • You want something with more of a "polished" look
  • You have a larger project
  • You have more time to devote to it
  • You want to add more dimensionality with shadows and highlights
  • You have a steady hand and patience

We hope this post helped give you a better understanding of each style that now you can decide which style to try! If you have any questions, feel free to reach us, and we'll be happy to help. Happy lettering!

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