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PenDance Calligraphy & Engraving

Hand Lettering vs. Computer Calligraphy

by Maureen Vickery
2012 All Rights Reserved.



We are frequently asked what the difference is between hand calligraphy and computer calligraphy. To be accurate, "computer calligraphy" is a misnomer in that calligraphy actually means "hand-rendered" and printing by computer is not hand-rendered. But since this term has become a popular way for brides to describe printed addresses, we'll use the same phrase here.

Below are some of the pros and cons of each method:


Hand Calligraphy - Benefits

Computer Calligraphy - Benefits

  • People love to see their names written in beautiful hand lettering since its so unusual.

  • Letters can be written large and dramatic, if desired. Most computer fonts would look odd to be printed that large on an envelope.

  • Customization of lettering styles is available -- for instance, a calligrapher can easily combine the capitals from one style with the lowercase letters from another, add flourishing to balance to the envelope layout, or use a different style for the names than for the addresses. Each envelope becomes it's own work of art.

  • Calligraphers can write on thick, dark-colored, or unusually-shaped envelopes and even boxes. Surface preparation is sometimes necessary for the ink to adhere, but a professional calligrapher will be able to handle most any paper unless it has lots of fibers in it that can catch the nib or pen.

  • Any color of ink can be used, including white and metallic colors. Several different ink colors can be used on the same envelope, if desired.


  • It's professional looking in that your invitation and envelope fonts can match exactly to create a coordinated ensemble.

  • The turnaround is usually faster than hand lettering. For PenDance, it's 3-5 business days from the time we have your approved address list and envelopes in hand.

  • It's less expensive than hand calligraphy.

  • You usually don't have to schedule the printing way ahead of time.

  • You can proof the address list before the envelopes are printed to ensure no errors appear on the envelopes, since the computer will print exactly what was input.

Things to think about...

  • Since hand lettering is more labor intensive and customizable, it costs more than computer calligraphy.

  • You usually must schedule your calligrapher several months in advance to ensure a place on his/her schedule.

  • Turnaround time is generally longer than computer calligraphy for envelope addressing. (For place cards, it's about the same.)

  • Proofing is recommended after the envelopes or place cards are delivered. Most calligraphers catch and correct their mistakes ahead of time, or have a proofreader check everything before it goes to their clients. However, it's still a good idea to recheck your items in a timely fashion so that the calligrapher can correct them (at no extra charge).

  • Some inks may require waterproofing with sprays or wax, especially for envelopes going overseas. Generally, the United States Postal Service is good about protecting envelopes from the elements.

  • It lacks the charm and personal touch of hand-rendered lettering.

  • Most printers can't print light-colored inks on dark envelopes.

    NOTE: Some printers own ALPS printers which can print light inks on dark paper, but these printers can only handle smooth, thin, square-flapped envelopes. ALPS printers are no longer manufactured, but companies who have them can still order the inks for them.

  • Some papers don't work well with printer inks, especially metallic-coated stock. The inks can appear faded if the paper is absorbent, or the ink can smear. Linen-textured envelopes can also pose a problem.

  • Sometimes thick or unusually-shaped envelopes and boxes can't be accommodated.

  • Some place cards or escort envelopes are too small to go through a printer.

    NOTE: Inscribe machines can accommodate large, thick envelopes, as well as small cards and envelopes, but Inscribe machines aren't as fast as conventional printing so their services may have to be booked in advance like hand calligraphers. Inscribe also can't print light inks on dark papers like hand calligraphers can.

    Inscribe stationers claim that their machines are faster than hand calligraphers, but that's not necessarily true and the lettering still looks machine-done, sometimes with awkward spacing depending on the font used.


Please see our other articles and resources.

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PenDance Calligraphy & Engraving retains all rights to the content of this web site, as well as all calligraphy and engraving artwork we produce on behalf of our clients. Our artwork and designs may only be used for each specific job we created them for. The client, stationer, and printer agree that our artwork will not be copied, re-engineered, re-purposed, edited to create derivative works, resold, reprinted, given away, or re-used in any way that would violate our copyright.


PenDance Calligraphy & Engraving, L.L.C.

14027 Memorial Drive #198 (this is our UPS store address, NOT our home studio address)

Houston, TX  77079

(281) 558-7856  toll free (866) 476-6788