The Tibetan script is written in two main styles. The dbu can or uchen variant, literally meaning 'with a head', is normally used in Tibetan printed material as well as for writing the Dzongkha language of Bhutan. This style is characterized by upright, block forms which hang from a heavy horizontal baseline, and tapering vertical lines. It is the most commonly-used form of the Tibetan script. Below is an example of the Buddhist mantra om mani padme hum in dbu can writing.

The dbu med or umê variant, literally meaning 'headless', is a more cursive form used for everyday shorthand texts. There are two main types of dbu med writing; bru-tsa, which is used for writing secular documents, and dpe-tshugs, which is a more formal, calligraphic style used for writing scriptures. As indicated by the name, dbu med writing does not contain the heavy horizontal baseline of dbu can. Below is an example of the Buddhist mantra om mani padme hum in dbu med writing.