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  • Writer's picturesee_mahimkar

The beauty of ligatures.

Ligatures are an integral part of lettering and typography. They are connections in letterforms which make your compositions unique and compact. Simplest of lettering compositions start to look extraordinary, as a result of well-balanced ligatures.

I have been deeply in love with them. The rhythmic ligature is an element which I thoroughly enjoy creating.

Ligatures highlighted on the right hand side.

Ligatures help to create compact compositions. Photography by Nitin Sapkale.

Image by Hannes Wolf

Let’s go back a few hundred years when ligatures were used to speed up the writing process as a means of combining letters. In the metal type printing era, ligature was a single glyph, which means that two or more letters were not joined physically, as they were designed to be one character.

Image by Max Anderson

Did you know that the ampersand was developed from a ligature of e and t which is ‘et’, it means ‘and’ in Latin. The desktop computer decreased the use of ligatures in the last century. Many modern typefaces ignored this beautiful expression, although they did have it as an option. Which then became an obvious reason for its decreasing usage.

The ingenuity that comes along with a ligature is simply beautiful to watch. Typeface designers obviously know that and have been working extra hard to develop them in their typesetting systems lately.

Work in progress of my typeface, along with few ligatures.

Range of beautiful ligatures in the Charoe typeface by Tobias Saul.

They are not just a connection between two or more letters, but one character entering into the other character's negative space is also a ligature as shown above. On the one hand ligatures create tight compositions and on the other hand an increase in the internal spacing of letters (kerning) can actually ruin that design. This happens as a result of ligature being a single glyph and its spacing won’t change.

Ligature adds tremendous value in branding and lettering projects. It makes a word or a brand name become more attractive. It is also an important tool to create a compact design, which means that the extra space around a letter can be easily manipulated. A ligature can give clever twist to a simple wordmark, or an entire sentence or paragraph can become a piece of design.

My identity design for Saba Gaziyani's production company.

Logo design that I created for a holding company in F&B business.

Poster design for my studio space.

I certainly believe that a combination of creativity and craftsmanship is the key to create stunning ligatures.

Refining your lettering skills by practising regularly can do wonders to your skill set. Forcing a ligature in your design for the sake of it never works. One needs to first understand the basic structure of each letterform and later experimentation through sketching helps to add ligatures in your lettering. They only work if the end result looks effortless and balanced. Desired weightage and colour will further help to add depth and a unique touch to your composition.

To practice and refine your lettering skills checkout the brilliant tutorials by top artists on

My process involves working on tracing paper.

Lettering artists & typeface designers have been using their creativity to come up with well-balanced ligatures. Whether they are classical, contextual or experimental, what really matters is how this beautiful tradition is actually inspiring a whole generation of type lovers, designers and artists. Lettering definitely needs ligatures!!

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