Font Families for Hand Lettering
When you first begin hand lettering, you might find yourself only ever doing beautiful cursive brush lettering. That is the starting point of lots of lettering artists — and for good reason! Brush lettering is gorgeous and trendy. But there is more to hand lettering than just pretty script. There are whole families of fonts that, when used creatively, make for some absolutely stellar pieces of lettering art. Today I want to walk you through the four basic types of lettering fonts so you can identify them and use them in your work for maximum effect.
Types of Lettering Fonts
The world of design is gigantic, and I can’t possibly begin to parse it all out here. So in this post, I want to introduce you to the four font families that you’ll see the most.
Serif is a font that features small lines added to each letter. Those extra lines are called “serifs”. Serif fonts also tend to have a variation in line width, with some parts of the letter being thick and some thin.
This family of fonts is a great option when you want to letter something old fashioned or stately. You can also use them for large clusters of words or paragraphs, as they are typically quite easy to read, even when printed small.
Sans serif fonts are fonts that do not feature the serif lines and usually have no variation in line thickness. This results in a more sleek and modern looking letter. Just like serif fonts, though, sans serif is an excellent option for the body of a message. In fact, many websites use sans serif fonts for the body of text in posts (this website included!).
That’s not to say sans serif isn’t great for titles or larger text. I love using this lettering font when I’m working on a hand lettering piece. I especially enjoy utilizing sans serif with my brush lettering for a nice style juxtaposition.
Script is a type of lettering font that you are probably the most familiar with. This is because script is modeled after handwriting. The trademark signs of a script font is that the lines vary in thickness and the letters tend to connect to one another. You’ll also notice script fonts often slant one direction or the other — just like handwriting. These lettering fonts are rarely used in the body of a message. Instead, you’ll likely find them in the larger elements of design, like titles.
When you have a font that is wacky and wild, it is probably in the decorative font family. The decorative font family is where all the crazy fonts get categorized. Oftentimes, decorative fonts have a basis in one of the other three families but they take an element to the next level. Like the script family, decorative fonts are almost always used in titles or other large text, but never as the body font. Decorative fonts can be hard to read in large amounts, so you want to use them thoughtfully.
Mix Them Up
Now that you can identify the four types of lettering fonts, I want you to try to spot them in the wild. Pay attention to commercials, brand logos, billboards, and websites. Once you figure out the differences between these font families, you’ll see that design is all around you all the time. With a more trained design eye, you’ll start getting inspiration and ideas for ways to mix up fonts for funky new styles. Don’t be shy about making new combinations and adding new lettering fonts to your repertoire. You never know what will become your new favorite lettering font!