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Hand calligraphy is the art of using beautiful hand lettering to give what’s written on paper a personalized touch. Hand calligraphy dates back to the time of monks and writers meticulously working with flat pens with sharp nibs to write in books, following precise and exact way of creating letter strokes. Using this form of calligraphy gives the writer the liberty to explore various styles. Since its handwritten, the calligrapher can also experiment with different forms of lettering in a single envelope, capital letters from one style can be combined with lowercase characters from another. The calligraphers have the liberty to use colour as per their discretion, if desired, several colours can be used in the same envelope.

Things to know about hand calligraphy

Hand calligraphy is a laborious job, this makes the form of art expensive compared to computer calligraphy. It is also time-consuming, the calligrapher has to be informed well in advance so that the order can be prepared on time. It is also imperative that the calligrapher and the person placing the order for hand calligraphy go through the contents thoroughly to avoid costly mistakes. Personalization in hand calligraphy also ensures that no two envelopes or no two calligraphers have the same style. Every calligrapher has a unique technique that they can scout as per the whims of their creative spirit.

The calligrapher and the person who wants the design can discuss in detail about what might or might not look good and make an informed decision. The calligrapher, who is sure to have lots of experience, can make personalized suggestions about what would work best for any particular design. People placing the order for hand calligraphy can take advantage of the expertise of the calligrapher at no extra cost. These advantages of customization are what ensures that hand calligraphy has not completely been replaced by digitalized calligraphy.

Digital calligraphy (aka computerized calligraphy)

The evolution of computers, artistic software, high-tech printers, and computerized calligraphy machines have given a pedestal to digital calligraphy. In this fast-paced world, the urgency of people, and their desire to be quick with chores has ensured that people choose computerized calligraphy. Most computer calligraphy designs are ready within 2-3 business days, this allows for people to give urgent orders. The lack of personalization and customization also makes it much cheaper than hand calligraphy.

Things to know about computer calligraphy

Computerized calligraphy gives a uniform look and feels to the design since it is digitalized, human errors can simply be avoided. At times, hand calligraphers might alter designs according to their personal taste, which might not match the expectations of the person placing the order. The margin for such errors in computerized calligraphy can be said to be lesser than it is for hand calligraphy. The uniformity of design also gives computerized calligraphy a professional look. Different colour combinations can be discovered with the help of this method, but it is also common knowledge that some printers cannot print light coloured print on dark coloured envelopes.

It lacks the beauty, charm, and the personal touch of hand calligraphy. Most people prefer not to use computerized calligraphy because there is not much room for any customization. There are also various clauses that need to be considered while choosing computer calligraphy. Not all kinds of printer inks sit well on paper, the ink might look faded if the paper is absorbent or the printer ink might blot and can also smear. All sizes of paper do not fit into the printer, and it also has to be noted that inscribe machines do not accommodate large and thick envelopes.

The very reason that adds desirability to the computer calligraphy also causes its damage. Since its computer printed, digital calligraphy can also have some errors. It obviously looks machine-done for starters, and in some cases, it can also have awkward spacing that kills the beauty of the script.

The big debate – Hand calligraphy or computer calligraphy

Although each of the methods has its pros and cons, it is safe to say that the primary distinction between hand calligraphy and computerized calligraphy is customization. Hand calligraphy offers the added advantage of personal touch and care given by the calligrapher, while computerized calligraphy machines are said to lack this trait. Although, some computer calligraphers have stated that it is unfair to imagine computerized calligraphy as rows and columns, and endless backspacing. They claim that even though computers do follow a rigid set of rules, there is always room for creativity in computerized calligraphy.

When we think about computers, we often imagine a rigorous set of keyboard and fonts, though that is no longer the truth. Various apps have emerged over the years, that allow creativity within the rigorous set of rules within the computer-based programs. Some modern calligraphers also believe that with a certain skill, patience, and right maneuvering, computer calligraphy can work as smoothly as hand calligraphy. The art of calligraphy can also be improved upon with the help of computers.

Some computerized calligraphy software that is commonly used are:

1) Adobe Photoshop

2) Adobe Illustrator

3) Gimp

4) Calligrapher (Android App)


Another point for comparison between hand calligraphy and computer calligraphy is time. Hand calligraphy is a time-consuming process, orders for the same have to be placed months in advance. This is not the case with computer calligraphy, and that makes it quite effective if someone is on tough deadlines to have the calligraphy delivered. The constraint in hand calligraphy also makes lots of people choose computer calligraphy.

Computer calligraphy is pocket friendly since it doesn’t involve physical labour. Hand calligraphy, on the other hand, can be costly and can change depending upon the expertise of the calligrapher. Different calligraphers might demand different rates for their work, and since there is a lot of labour and creativity involved, the rates can be non-negotiable.

Calligraphers who practice hand lettering might sometimes exercise the liberty of their creative spirit to change or alter any given design on impulse. This creative impulse can cause misunderstandings between the calligrapher and the person availing the service. This is not possible with computerized calligraphy because the person placing the order can choose the style, the ink, the colours, the paper, and the other aspects relating to the project. The computer does not break stringent rules, this guarantees that the project is as per the demands of the person placing the order only, and hence none can be blamed.

The future of hand calligraphy and computer calligraphy

In summary, both hand calligraphy and computerized calligraphy have an equal number of advantages. It is foolish to compare both because both forms of art are utterly different from each other. Hand calligraphy has been practised by Chinese masters since the time of the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). Many of the calligraphers who still practice hand lettering believe that computerized calligraphy is killing the spirit of what calligraphy stands for. 

Computerized calligraphy machines follow a set of rules to churn calligraphy and some hand calligraphers find this insulting to the great masters. It is believed that Chinese masters practised the art of calligraphy day and night, and sometimes went blind as a result of their dedication to their art. The values of calligraphy in itself point towards perseverance, dedication, and sacrifice. The Chinese especially, see calligraphy not simply as an art form, but as a way of life, and a philosophy.

Having said that, we must not look down upon computer calligraphy as a cheap imitation of hand lettering. Digital hand-lettering is considered to be the future of calligraphy, digital calligraphy is popping up everywhere. We often see it in social media, we see it as brand logos, in our favourite coffee shops, and even in the coffee mugs we use every morning. Computerized calligraphy machines also require a lot of work to be done, it is not as easy as some believe it to be. The digital calligrapher must also have a proper understanding of the art of calligraphy since the basic principles are the same for both the techniques. A calligrapher who does not understand how to work with the right settings in the printer or does not have attention to detail is eventually going to end up making blunders. 

With software like Adobe coming up for calligraphy, digital calligraphers have more room to explore their creativity. The world of digital calligraphy is not limited to inkjet or laser printers. Nowadays, even amateurs who want to learn the art of calligraphy can use the internet to learn it, there are even android apps available on mobile phones in which calligraphy can be practised.


Apart from all the factors that have been considered in the article, it is up to the person availing the service to choose between hand calligraphy and computer calligraphy. Also, it is believed that the type and size of the envelope is a major contributing factor in making the choice between hand calligraphy and computer calligraphy. It cannot be denied that both techniques of calligraphy are graceful and a wonder to witness.