What are Calligraphy Styles or Fonts?

Calligraphy styles are called “hands”, in computer language they’re called “fonts”. I love using the “italic” calligraphy style  because of its versatility. I can adapt it by making it more tailored looking, or more flourished. But the most important thing is, you need to be able to read the text- unless you are just doing an abstract piece of art that uses calligraphy as part of the design.


2 styles of calligraphy in one art piece

Copperplate and Flourished Italic

You can see an example of two different calligraphy styles (fonts) in the picture of the book. The left side is “copperplate” calligraphy. It’s similar to the style of writing used in the Declaration of Independence. That’s why I chose it for that text. It cannot be written very large because the thick parts of the letters come from putting pressure on the nib (the part of the pen where the ink touches the page). Copperplate nibs don’t come in large sizes.

The  right side of the book is written in flourished italic. When you don’t have too much text, I can put wide spacing in between the lines and have space to put in flourishing that doesn’t make it hard to read. Many people love the swirls and flourishes that makes calligraphy look like someone wrote it by hand! But other people like a more tailored and simple look to the calligraphy style. When you order, make sure to let me know your preference, or what you think the person you are giving the gift of calligraphy will like better.

calligraphy fonts, known as "hands"

What Calligraphy Style Do you Prefer?

Whatever calligraphy style or font you prefer, a well trained professional calligrapher can come up with a solution. My calligraphy services are not just writing out text, but coming up with the perfect design, layout and printing (framing) of your calligraphy poem or text for any occasion.  I can also help with spell check and editing of your text to make sure there are no permanent mistakes once the calligraphy is completed.

Calligraphy Styles - Font Samples

Calligraphy Styles – Computer Calligraphy “Fonts”

The definition of “calligraphy” is beautiful handwriting whether you call it fancy writing, pretty handwriting, or anything else. There are many fonts with different names that copy calligraphy styles such as:

  • Old English (which was really old German!)
  • Gothic Black letter*
  • Uncial/Celtic
  • Lucida (some people mistakenly call it Lucinda)
  • Edwardian Script
  • Spencerian Script
  • Italic – cursive
  • Legend

the calligraphy style called Uncial or Celtic



example of gothicized italic calligraphy

gothic black letter calligraphy styleWhen you choose “Italic” on your computer fonts it means the style that is slanted to the right. You can italicize any font on your computer by choosing the variation “italic”. But the real origin in calligraphy terms, is  that “italic” comes from the “Italian” originator of the hand, Ludivico degli Arrighi. The present style of italic calligraphy is copied from Arrighi’s letter forms.

How Do You Write the Letters in Calligraphy?

The italic style of lettering is made with a square cut nib, is based upon an oval shape and leans slightly to the right. Italic is truly my favorite hands, and one you will see all through my examples of calligraphy. When you use a square cut nib, the most important aspect is holding the pen consistently at a 35-45º angle. When you do that, parts of the letters will be very thin (hairlines) and the other parts will become thicker as the pen moves around to shape the letters. The most important aspect of quality calligraphy is consistency.

square cut nib used for calligraphy style of lettering the angle the nib touches the paper

BTW: Black letter* is a misnomer. This name was given to the style of calligraphy that had an appearance of the page being covered with letters, and from a distance is looked black. In actuality, there was no paper at the time, and scribes wrote on parchment, which is animal skin! Because preparing parchment or vellum (skin from an unborn calf) was very time consuming, the scribes came up with a style of writing that would fit the most text possible on each piece of parchment. That’s how the name “black letter” came about.

About Copperplate Style of Calligraphy

Copperplate calligraphy is written with a pointed pen. Thick and thin parts of the letter are created by putting slight pressure on the nib as you draw the letter. Upstrokes will be thin, also called hairlines; downstrokes will be thicker, because that’s the time when you can apply pressure on the nib. If you study the letters, you can see the direction of the stroke. There should be consistency in how wide the thick part of the letters are when done by an excellent calligrapher! This is NOT easy to do and takes many years of practice!


This is the calligraphy style called copperplate chosen by a new father for a letter he wrote for his newborn baby boy.

Text like “The Hobbit” is perfect for the Celtic or Uncial style of calligraphy.
If you look, you’ll realize that this style of calligraphy is written in “capital” letters only.

Gothicized Italic style of calligraphy was designed to make the arches look like church window design.
It is a beautiful, flowing style of calligraphy that can fit perfectly with many types of texts, including Biblical passages.

Legend is a calligraphy style that was created to look like Middle Eastern writing.

Whatever calligraphy style you prefer, ask your calligrapher to make sure it goes with the text you are using. Remember, it’s then message of the words that you want to be able to read, no matter what calligraphy style you ultimately choose! Click on any of the photos to get started on your calligraphy art.

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