learn lettering

Does Bad handwriting Equal Bad Hand Lettering?

Between workshops, social media, and just being a generally chatty person about my biz baby, I get asked a LOT of questions about hand lettering and calligraphy. One of the most common questions I get (and one of the most common misconceptions!) is if someone will automatically be bad at hand lettering if they have bad handwriting.

Sound familiar?

If so, this week’s blog post is for you!


The short answer: Hell. No. Having bad handwriting does not mean you’ll be bad at hand lettering!

I talk about this all the time (and more in-depth in this past post), but the quick and dirty version is that handwriting and hand lettering are totally separate things. Many people use them interchangeably, along with calligraphy and typography, but in reality they’re more like cousins than twins. They have to do with letters, and writing to some extent, but that’s where the similarities end.

Handwriting is, well, your handwriting. It’s the writing that comes from your hand, whether that’s cursive, print, or (like me!) a quirky mix of the two. Hand lettering, however, is the art of drawing letters. While we often use the phrase “write” when referring to hand lettering, it’s really “draw.”

Handwriting = you write.

Hand lettering = you draw.

Ok, so now might be the time when you’re thinking, “Well, I suck at drawing too, so I’m out.” Not having good handwriting or being a bad drawer does NOT mean you’ll be bad at hand lettering. People ask me to draw stuff all the time and I always look at them like they’re crazy – I’m really not a very good drawer! And that’s not just me being humble – beyond basic lines and shapes I’m a blithering mess. Eyelashes? With a lot of effort. Houses? Nah. Elephants being held up by balloons? Hell no. (<– all real things people have requested I paint on mugs, btw).

The trick – flex those drawing muscles! I talk all about it here.

If that doesn’t convince you, then think about how what it is you’re trying to achieve with hand lettering. Having “bad handwriting” just means you’ll have a style that’s completely and uniquely YOU. Who knows – maybe that handwriting you hate translates beautifully when thickened up on the downstrokes.

The trick – find tools and styles that you love and run with them! If you can’t perfectly mimic that quote you found on Pinterest, don’t sweat it! As you practice your hand gets more accustomed to drawing shapes and lines, and your lettering eye grows stronger.

If the idea of practicing makes you squirm, then know that you’ll probably never really enjoy lettering. Practice makes perfect, or rather, pretty damn good, and whether you think you have bad handwriting or not, is the only way to improve.

That being said, practice is an especially huge help for those with bad handwriting! Think about it – when was the last time you actually tried to practice your handwriting? The majority of us would answer the same – elementary school. You’re older and wiser, so chances your lettering will continue to improve the more you practice it.

The trick – practice like a fiend. Doodle on all the things. Netflix + letter. However you can fit it in, fit it in!

I hope that this helps you give you the boost you need to shed your bad handwriting persona and try your hand at hand lettering!

And if all else fails, remember that the lowest grade I ever received was a C in handwriting in 5th grade (#stillbitter). Look at me now, Mrs. Steele!