Give your typography and illustration projects a personal touch. Try these tips and techniques to develop and inspire your unique hand lettering style.

Hand lettering is enjoying a resurgence across graphic design and illustration, and deservedly so. Illustrated type, whether crafted digitally or drawn by hand, lends a completely unique look to any design. Where calligraphy might feel too formal and digital typography too cookie-cutter, hand lettering comes into its own as a beautiful alternative.

Here we’ll look at 25 jaw dropping examples of hand lettering to inspire your own designs, and suggest some pro tips for perfecting your hand lettering work whether you want to create a tattoo-style logo, a romantic invitation, or a folk-inspired poster.

Psst! Looking for a quick fix? These ready-to-use hand lettered fonts have handcrafted character by the bucketload.

Ready for a creative challenge? Let’s discover how you can make your own hand lettering designs the very best they can be.

1. Map Out Your Design

Before you begin your hand lettering project you should first think about where the hand lettering is going to go. Will you hand draw directly onto the final layout? Or will you bring bits and pieces of your lettering together into a larger artwork on the computer?

If it’s the former, you need to make an erasable draft of your design to avoid having to start from scratch when little things don’t look quite right. It’s more difficult to tweak individual details of your lettering once you’ve committed to the page, so it’s always a good idea to map out your design first using pencil.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Sketch
Image via Adriana Schons.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Process
Image via Adriana Schons.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Lettered Wall
Image via Adriana Schons.

2. Think About Other Elements on Your Design

Some hand lettering exists in isolation which can look fantastic, but some hand lettering styles also benefit from being incorporated into a broader design that may include illustrated images or even photos.
If you want to create something like illustrator Kirstie Shields’ poster below, you may find it easier to create your hand lettered elements first and incorporate these into more detailed illustrated designs on the computer afterwards.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Handcrafted Elements
Image via Kirstie Shields.

3. Create a Frame

All hand lettered designs need some sort of frame, whether it’s as simple as the edge of the page or a more quirky container like the whale silhouette below. Once you’ve established the boundaries of your design, you can focus on filling up the given area with hand lettered loveliness.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Framing

Image via Valentina Gal and other owners.

4. Use a Sharpie!

While professional calligraphers will have specialist pens to create their intricate work, hand lettering aficionados can use any tool they like! The simple slogan design below was created using a gold Sharpie pen, while other lettering artists might opt for ink pens, pencils, chalks, watercolor paints, or other tools to put together their designs. Hand lettering is all about unleashing your creativity, so don’t feel you have to use particular tools or spend all your money on expensive calligraphy pens to create something incredible.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Creative Tools
Image via KJ Campbell.

5. Where to Begin? Start with a Single Letter

Hand lettering is like a more advanced version of the absent-minded doodling we all used to cover our school books with. So if you’re really not sure where to start, try simply sketching a few letters onto a notepad or sheet of paper. You’ll soon get a sense of the shapes and lines you naturally lean towards, which can form the basis of your hand lettering style.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Style
Image via contributor iralu.

6. Perfect the Details

Hand lettering is a detail-centric craft. It’s the small touches and imperfections which give these sorts of type designs character and beauty. With this in mind, once you have the basic structure of your hand lettering design in place, take some time to focus on perfecting small elements of the design. Things like ampersands, apostrophes, serifs, and hyphens will all benefit from a little more creative attention.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Details
Image via contributor s181011.

7. Be Flexible with Base Lines and X-height

As these sketches by Maggie Enterrios for the launch of Procreate 4 demonstrate, hand lettering designs have much more flexible base lines and variable x-heights (the height of lowercase letters) than standard typography. Curved baselines and an x-height that varies across words and phrases actually enhance the look of hand lettered styles and make the design appear more dynamic and handcrafted.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Flexibility
Image via Maggie Enterrios.

8. Let the Text Content Guide You

Setting yourself a word or phrase to work with is much more helpful than deciding to draw any old letter onto the page. A phrase can guide the design and help you to make decisions about style, composition, and color. In this example lettering artist Ruchika Sukumar pulls out a single word, “Inspiration,” in vibrant multicolor, helping to enhance the overall message of the design.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Inspiration
Image via Ruchika Sukumar.

9. Inspiration Can be Anywhere

Almost anything can benefit from the artistic charms of hand lettering. Look around you for old signs, tired-looking walls, or lackluster noticeboards. Perhaps one of these will be the focus for your next hand lettering project. Take a leaf out of designer Rob Zangrillo’s book, who redesigned an underwhelming warning sign and gave it a hand lettered makeover.
Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Project Inspiration

Image via Rob Zangrillo. 

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Redesign

Image via Rob Zangrillo.

10. Introduce 3D Elements

Hand lettered designs often look more lively and bouncy than their typographic counterparts. You can enhance this dynamism even further by incorporating 3D elements into your hand lettering. Adding shadows, folds, and gradients makes designs pop and gives them a particularly contemporary, fresh look.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — 3D Design

Image via Micromove Design.

11. Use Brushstrokes for a Grunge Effect

Hand lettering comes in all shapes and sizes, from elegant calligraphic-inspired styles to pop art designs. For a more casual, grunge-inspired look consider using brushstrokes rather than pen. This gives a choppy look to the letters, which suits artwork that needs a horror-inspired feel such as Halloween flyers or posters.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Brushstrokes

Image via Micromove Design.

12. Use Color to Enhance Your Designs

If you’re designing a logo or font it makes sense to draft your hand lettering as a design that can be easily silhouetted in black, but for other types of hand lettering projects you shouldn’t feel restricted by a monochrome palette. In fact careful application of color can enhance your designs and imbue them with a sense of mood and personality. So pull out your felt tip pens, colored pencils, or watercolors and get creative!
Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Palette

Image via Ana Capree.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Color
Image via Ana Capree.

 13. Illustrate Inside Your Letters

One of the great things about creating letters by hand is that you’re not restricted at all in the way that you would be with conventional typography. You can even view your letters as a frame for filling with a design. This can give letters a very unique character depending on the style of the graphics, ranging from folksy romantic to tattoo-style embellishment.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Illustration

Image via Joshua Krecioch.

14. The Circus is in Town!

One of the most exciting and eccentric venues for 19th Century hand lettering were circuses and fairs. Hand painted signs, tents, and posters showcased colorful type styles which made an eclectic departure from the favored formal serifs of the time.

Now lettering artists are reviving the circus style and creating vintage-inspired designs which are great for event promotions and venue branding. To recreate the style, go for serifs, colorful shadowing, and internal details like dots and lines.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Vintage Style Font

Image via Jade Sturms.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Circus Font
Image via Carmen Jayde Little.

15. Swirl Your Serifs for a Romantic Look

Is there anything more lovely than elegant, swirling serif text? These sorts of hand lettering styles look beautiful on wedding invitations, greetings cards, and menus. Extend the extremities of your letters into sweeping, curling lines to achieve the look.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Romantic Swirls
Image via Amy DeLoach.

16. Go Retro

Every era has enjoyed its own hand lettering styles and talented lettering artists. With Eighties design in particular enjoying a resurgence at the moment, you can translate the neon colors and cartoon graphics of the decade into your own hand lettering designs.

This retro-inspired slogan poster by Viktoria Cichon is a great example of how to make vintage-style hand lettering feel relevant and new, with a simple layout and strong graphic concept.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Retro

Image via Viktoria Cichon.

17. Add Texture

Adding a textured overlay to your hand lettering is an instant way to add more handcrafted character and a vintage feel to your work, even if you’ve drawn the letters digitally.

Try placing one of these texture images over your lettering and set the transparency settings to multiply.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Texture Image via Viktoria Cichon.

18. Let Calligraphy Inspire You

Calligraphy is a different art form to hand lettering. It’s often created using specialist pens or quills and is inspired by more formal and traditional type styles. However, that’s not to say that the two disciplines don’t cross paths. While hand lettering tends to have a more casual feel, you can borrow elements from calligraphic styles to help give your designs a more beautiful, romantic look.

Calligraphic style hand lettering requires a lot of patience and planning, so make sure you draft out the design in pencil before you begin. This will ensure that the swirly script letters and extended serifs work together seamlessly.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Calligraphy
Image via Grace Cronin.

19. Add a Starburst for Vintage Charm

Inspired by doodle art, adding quick surround details to your letters like starbursts, dots, stars, or swirls can embellish your design and frame the text, drawing more attention to the message inside. A starburst design is super simple to apply and adds instant vintage charm.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Embellishment
Image by contributor AkimD.

20. Enhance Your Hand Lettering Digitally

Not all lettering artists complete their designs with ink pens or indeed do their work by hand at all. Some artists prefer the editing freedoms they can enjoy by using illustrating software, like Adobe Illustrator or InkScape. In fact you’ll find that many lettering artists opt for a blend of the two worlds, by drafting a design by hand before scanning their work into a computer for further editing. While a completely handcrafted design is no doubt beautiful, digital editing can add certain effects to your design that would be very difficult to execute by hand.

So if you want to give your letters texture, dramatic lighting, or a 3D look like in the example by designer Emily Slattery, below, don’t be afraid to edit your design further using vector software or Photoshop

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Digital Enhancement
Image via Emily Slattery.

21. Don’t Limit Your Designs to Paper

Many businesses actively look for lettering artists to create signage or decoration for their premises. Whether it’s creating a chalkboard restaurant menu or a hand painted shop sign, you don’t have to commit your hand lettering designs to paper alone.

Commissions like these require experience and confidence in your abilities, and you may have to create your designs in situ. These sorts of large scale projects can be incredibly fun and rewarding and present you with a new challenge. Advertise your services online, or approach local businesses in person to see if you can hone your hand lettering skills in a commercial setting.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Lettering Signs

Image via Vicki Calleja.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Lettering Commission
Image via Joe Jurewicz.

22. Apply Your Lettering to Brand Design

If you’re looking for even more interesting outlets for your newly honed hand lettering skills, brand design is an exciting field in which to tout your trade. With the growing popularity of craft-inspired branding, hand lettering is a perfect fit for brands looking to add homespun style to their products.

These label designs for a craft soft drinks brand by James Lafuente show how versatile hand lettering can be, and how simple pencil sketches can be transformed into a polished brand identity using digital software.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Brand Design
Image via James Lafuente.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Homespun Style

Image via James Lafuente.

23. Or Why not Create a Font?

If you want to share your hand lettering talents with a wider audience, you may want to transform your designs into a downloadable font. There are lots of new font creation apps appearing on the market all the time, allowing you to transform your sketches into a usable digital font in no time at all. Try out Glyphs if you’re a Mac user. FontCreator is a great free alternative for Windows.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Designing Font
Image via Molly Gannon.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Font Creation

Image via Molly Gannon.

24. Go Beyond the Text…

Hand lettering is an art form in itself but it relates to other illustration styles too. If you’re looking for a new challenge, try dipping a toe into creating whole artworks which use hand lettering in new and interesting ways. Graffiti artists and collage artists use hand lettering in a very different way from lettering artists, creating political and often controversial designs which bring together both type and graphics.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Hand Lettered Illustration

Image by contributor 9george.

 25. …and Create Hand Lettered Art

Perhaps more so than typography, hand lettering really does blur the boundaries between graphic design and art. Lettering artists might use some digital tools to create or edit their work, but ultimately what they create is completely unique and handcrafted.

Once you get bitten by the hand lettering bug you’ll find that it’s an incredibly creative discipline, which has the power to give text a truly artistic spirit. Enjoy experimenting with color, styles and concepts in your hand lettering work, and you’ll be sure to create something spectacular.

Hand Lettering Inspiration: 25 Examples to Spark Your Next Project — Hand Lettered Art
Image via Joanna Panek.

So What Are You Waiting For?

Hopefully these 25 tips and inspirational examples have given you some ideas for your own hand lettering projects. Now it’s time to pick up a pencil, pen, or stylus and start committing your hand lettering ideas to paper or screen. It can take some practice at first, but once you’ve found your groove it’s difficult to stop!

Psst! Still not feeling ready to create your own designs by hand, but love the hand lettered look? These lovely hand lettered fonts will bring a craft-inspired look to any design.

Top image by contributor 9george.