Lettering tattoo

Everything You Need To Know Before Getting A Lettering Tattoo

An homage to beautiful words and people

Lettering Tattoos

Lettering tattoos are possibly the trickiest to get right and the most rewarding when they’re done properly.

Because they literally spell out whatever it is you are making reference to, they can be a bold move because anyone who sees them can read them.

Lettering tattoos are a favorite among celebrities, with inspirational reminders scrawled out across some of our most famous pop stars’ wrists and shoulder blades.

Sometimes you come across a quote that resonates with you so strongly that you’d like to carry it with you forever.

Sometimes an event causes you to want a person’s name or even their own writing transferred onto your skin.

It’s a beautiful thing when done well, but there are a few things you’ll want to consider before letting that tattoo needle anywhere near you.

Let’s chat about lettering tattoos: who has them, why do people get them, how can you make sure they’re done properly, and what looks good?

The History of Lettering Tattoos

With connections to the earliest form of human expression, lettering tattoos have a long history.

Lettering tattoos take their queue from many different styles of signage, aesthetics, and historical movements.

While lettering may seem simple enough, there is a world of design that goes into any lettering tattoo.

Every single aspect of lettering uses very particular techniques that should be paid much attention to.

From filigree to spacing, every decision made by an artist is made with intention.

While Sumerian archaic writing and Egyptian hieroglyphics are presumed to be the earliest forms of human writing, these symbols were ideograms rather than being based on the language of the people.

Usually, these symbols stood for an idea or word without actually conveying sound for that particular word or idea.

These forms of text are found in Egypt, India, ancient China, and Mesoamerica where tattooing was also considered an ancient art!

Although these esoteric designs are no longer used in our everyday writing, it is highly likely that you’ve seen tattoos at one time or another that use the symbols associated with ancient hieroglyphics.

The contemporary tattoos of today, however, are most closely associated with hand painting signs and books found in ancient tribal cultures.

Many lettering tattoos of today are directly influenced by medieval calligraphy found in Old English, Gothic, and other fonts from the distant past.

The Greek, Roman, and Arabic cultures are also to thank for many of the lettering tattoos we see today with aesthetics, fonts, and style-finding influence in these cultures.

While these influences are not as obvious as, say, more figurative tattoos featuring portraits or animals, lettering tattoos are an art form influenced by various ancient cultures around the world, and these designs are still used all over the world today!

Cross your Ts and dot your Is

Spelling and grammar are paramount with a lettering tattoo.

You may not care about the nitty-gritty details of punctuation and grammar in your day-to-day, and that’s fine.

The problem is when something is on you forever and it’s spelled wrong, or has a misplaced apostrophe, it can distract from the original intention of the tattoo.

People stop seeing a beautiful quote and start seeing a permanent mistake on your body, which can become a bit of a joke.

You don’t want your fresh ink to be a source of embarrassment, so check and triple check and have a third party check that tattoo stencil before it’s too late!

Also, remember that when looking in the mirror you will see your design backward.

You’re likely aware of this, but there have been cases where people think they have a botched tattoo, only to realize later they were seeing it wrong in the mirror!

Lettering Tattoo Fonts

The font is something to consider in a lettering tattoo because it changes the “mood” of your ink.

You wouldn’t send a professional email in comic sans, so don’t get a memorial tattoo in a silly-looking font.

Unless you’re memorializing someone very silly, of course.

You’ll also want to look at how close together your lettering is.

When letters are drawn in a decorative way, sometimes they can bleed together.

This can be a really beautiful effect, but it can also make some words look like others.

Make sure the “A” in Aunt doesn’t look like a “C”, for example. It has happened!

Old English Lettering Tattoos

The Old English font, also known as the Gothic or blackletter font, was popular around the 16th century in Europe and therefore can definitely be considered vintage.

This script tattoo stands out with its fancy and elaborate lettering and is for anyone who wants class alongside unbridled decadence.

There’s also a touch of goth here⁠— a kind of creepy-cool that comes along with the Old English lettering tattoo. 

Old English Lettering Tattoo
Old English Lettering Tattoo

Cursive Lettering Tattoos

These tattoos are delicate and elegant⁠— able to procure a sense of style for anyone who chooses this style of tattoo.

This style of lettering tattoo is great for both single words and long quotes.

This delicate choice makes any word tattoo, phrase, or sentence incredibly meaningful. 

Cursive Lettering Tattoo
Cursive Lettering Tattoo

Gothic Lettering Tattoos

Unlike Old English lettering tattoos, Gothic lettering tattoos are dark and completely linked to the Gothic style.

Now, this doesn’t mean you necessarily are a “quote on quote” Goth.

However, this sort of lettering tattoo is definitely for someone who wears a lot of blacks and has an alternative style.

Its meaning is associated with mysterious themes such as death, anarchy, and gloom. 

Gothic Lettering Tattoo
Gothic Lettering Tattoo

Chicano Lettering Tattoos

The Chicano identity is one that is extremely important in Mexican-American culture and can be expressed by getting a Chicano lettering tattoo.

The style is blocky and in-yorur-face accompanied by highly stylized tattoo designs.

The tattoo style means that you are proud of your heritage and want to shout to the world that you love being a Mexican-American. 

Chicano Lettering Tattoo
Chicano Lettering Tattoo

Lettering Tattoo Styles

There is no such thing as one type of lettering tattoo.

Not only are there various designs, but many lettering tattoos fall into a specific category of style.

We use these style categories to further distinguish the lettering tattoos and give them a deeper meaning.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite lettering tattoo styles! 

American Traditional Lettering Tattoos

The classic American traditional tattoo style, when applied to lettering, usually sticks the lettering in a banner that is wrapped around a traditional symbol or portrait.

This item of display typically provides a clue as to what the words are trying to say.

The meaning of these tattoos can be anything from morbid to comical.

No matter what, these tattoos are intriguing and hard to miss. 

American Traditional Lettering Tattoo
American Traditional Lettering Tattoo

Negative Space Lettering Tattoos

Negative space tattoos are highly creative and have a unique way of capturing meaning.

The white space in between the black allows the tattoo artist and the client to create new ways of expressing a word or phrase.

This lettering tattoo style means that you like to think outside the box. 

Negative Space Lettering Tattoo

Trash Polka Lettering Tattoos

Talk about a unique style of lettering tattoos!

This tattoo style looks like a collage of ripped-up magazines and newspapers.

It almost has a Dada element to it⁠— the style is helter-skelter and rough around the edges.

The person who chooses this style of lettering tattoo is a creative one with a touch of rebellion. 

Trash Polka Lettering Tattoo

Black-work Lettering Tattoos

Blackwork tattoo style is something that you would find on a trendy Pinterest page.

There’s nothing wrong with being hip and choosing a style of lettering tattoo that has the power in fact to peak anyone’s interest.

This fun tattoo style captures the imagination and means that you appreciate style and taste in ways that others pine for. 

Black-work Lettering Tattoo
Black-work Lettering Tattoo
Black-work Lettering Tattoo

Graffiti Lettering Tattoos

Would you consider yourself a rebel against the system?

If so, this style of lettering tattoo is made for you.

Skateboarders, graffiti artists, those who consider themselves on the outside of society, and the like can all enjoy the fantastic designs that come with the graffiti lettering tattoo style.

This style essentially means that you consider yourself different from everyone else⁠— and you are proud of that fact. 

Graffiti Lettering Tattoo
Graffiti Lettering Tattoo
Graffiti Lettering Tattoo

Consider Size

Everyone loves a delicate, wispy quote running along the collarbone of a pretty person.

It’s a huge trend in the tattoo world and definitely has aesthetic appeal.

But what looks crisp today is going to start looking like a blob as time goes on.

Delicate lines with longevity can be accomplished in tattooing, but you’ll have to consult with an artist on how your words flow together.

If they’re too tight, they’ll be illegible one day.

If It’s a Quote from Something

Quotes from beautiful scenes in movies and books are popular tattoo choices.

Words can have a special resonance with us, especially when they come from a character or universe we’ve grown to love.

Is it the Right Quotation?

Sometimes a quote from a treasured piece of pop culture becomes so popular, it becomes a part of our oral history.

The trouble with that is so many quotes get changed or miscredited in the process.

Make sure your quote tattoo is correct, or you could regret it for the rest of your life.

You don’t want a portrait of Marilyn Monroe with a quote from a vicious dictator underneath it.

Or maybe you do, but choose it consciously.

Who Said It?

Pop culture loves to quote other pop culture.

So often we end up quoting something from say, The Simpsons, without realizing it’s actually a quote from a classic movie or musical.

It’s fine if you want to use a quote in a way that has personal meaning to you, but you should know the source material first.

If it’s in Another Language

Have your design checked over several times by native speakers of the language.

There are many colloquialisms to account for, and you’ll be glad you asked around when you have a properly spelled tattoo to show off on your travels!

Japanese Lettering Tattoos

Again, be sure to check these quotes over with a Japanese speaker before committing to some words.

After you do that, be glad you chose Japanese lettering tattoos because the Japanese language looks beautiful both on paper and in ink.

There’s nothing wrong with having an affinity with this Asian culture.

In fact, these tattoo designs prove that you are either embracing your own heritage or that you are worldly and highly cultured. 

Japanese Lettering Tattoo

Hebrew Lettering Tattoos

One of the many reasons why the Hebrew language is so cool is the way it is written.

Having your ink tattooed downwards allows for a unique style that catches the eye.

Plus, this kind of tattoo is a great conversation tattoo piece. 

Hebrew Lettering Tattoo

Chinese Lettering Tattoos

You can have a Chinese lettering tattoo with just one symbol!

There is so much to say in Chinese with such little ink, making this a great language to make a tiny tattoo.

However, there should be nothing stopping you from making this a bold tattoo piece that you can show off to everyone you meet. 

Chinese Lettering Tattoo
Chinese Lettering Tattoo

Rune Tattoos

What’s more unique than having a dead language tattooed on your body!

Runes may no longer be used day-to-day, but runes tattoos have a powerful message of linkage to an ancient heritage or a love for history.

Not to mention, there’s no better language to ink a secret word or phrase tattoo that no one will be able to understand unless you tell them what it means.

It’s like a special secret between you and the ink. 

Rune Tattoo
Rune Tattoo
Rune Tattoo

Sanskrit Tattoos

Sanskrit is a wonderful script because it’s loose and flowing allowing for creative typography that will blow people away.

This kind of lettering tattoo is great for small words or long sentences that flow easily along the body and create a meaningful work of tattoo art. 

Sanskrit Tattoo
Sanskrit Tattoo

Thai Lettering Tattoos

Thai is yet another language that flows beautifully and creates a tattoo that you can be proud of.

Whether you speak the language or not, this is a great kind of tattoo to get if you appreciate beauty and elegance in the highest regard. 

Thai Lettering Tattoo
Thai Lettering Tattoo

How to Choose the Best Lettering Tattoo Design

Lettering tattoos are as unique as the people that wear them.

While many lettering tattoo designs feature similar elements, each is unique, and selecting the best lettering tattoo for you should involve some serious thought.

From taking your artist’s personal style, spacing, font, positioning, and skin type into account, there is much to think about before finalizing your design.

Here are a few things that you should consider when choosing the best lettering tattoo for you:

  • Font
  • Typeface style
  • Serif (letters with little flourishes throughout) or sans serif (more simple lettering)?
  • Body placement (how will the lettering flow with your body?)
  • Kerning (placing the design based on spacing between the letters to affect readability as well as the artist’s personal style)
  • Do you want the lettering outlined or shadowed for a bit of extra pop?
  • Solid, shadowing, or shaded coloring for your lettering?
  • Will you use other forms of visual imagery to convey meaning and emphasis?
  • Your artist’s personal style
  • Cultural references in terms of lettering style

If you take each of these factors into account, you’ll be able to choose a lettering tattoo design that conveys exactly what you want to say, both literally and figuratively!

Work collaboratively with your chosen artist as their expertise will be paramount when coming up with the perfect lettering tattoo design.

This is the best way to craft a lettering tattoo design that you will be proud to wear for the rest of your life.

Lettering Tattoo Ideas

Words speak to us in a way abstract images can’t.

With enough care and consideration, your lettering tattoo is likely to be your favorite.

Still mulling it over? Check out our library of lettering tattoos for some inspiration!

Lettering Tattoo Sleeves

Have a lot to say? Put it in a sleeve!

Lettering tattoo sleeves are for people who want a large body of tet to be displayed and remembered⁠— forever.

Sometimes there’s a phrase, such as a part of a religious text or a quote from a favorite celebrity or icon, that needs remembering.

This type of lettering tattoo is a symbol of pride in those words because they are an aspiration or motivation for you. 

Lettering Tattoo Sleeve
Lettering Tattoo Sleeve
Lettering Tattoo Sleeve

Red Lettering Tattoos

Sometimes with lettering tattoos, people want to do something different that will be powerful and stand out on their bodies.

If this sounds like you, a great choice is a red lettering tattoo.

There’s something special about red lettering tattoos that makes them more trendy and one-of-a-kind. 

Red Lettering Tattoo

Scroll Tattoos

Scroll lettering tattoos is an old-fashioned way of bringing a new-age style in ink.

Scroll tattoos allow for the chosen lettering to be framed and stand out in a way that other lettering tattoos don’t.

They mean that you are presenting a phrase or even sentences that are important not only to the person but to be shared. 

Scroll Tattoo
Scroll Tattoo

White Ink Lettering Tattoos

The white ink lettering tattoo’s meaning is very much dependent on the color of the person’s skin.

For example, those with darker skin may choose a white ink lettering tattoo because they really want that phrase or word to stand out.

On the other hand, someone with lighter skin may choose white ink tattoos because they want their words to be incognito. 

White Ink Lettering Tattoo

Stone Lettering Tattoos

This lettering tattoo style is no joke.

If you really want to imprint a message in ink that will both last a lifetime and send a message, a stone lettering tattoo is the one for you. 

Stone Lettering Tattoo
Stone Lettering Tattoo

Lettering Tattoo Placement

It’s all about tattoo placement!

Choosing the right spot for a special word can be tricky, however, we are here to help with some ideas and meanings behind the placement of various lettering tattoos.

Below are some of the most popular placements for lettering tattoos. 

Lettering Tattoos on Fingers

Got ten letters?

The most popular tattoo to get on the fingers is by far lettering tattoos.

These finger tattoos can be intimidating and send a message (basically, don’t mess with me), or simply be an interesting way to display artwork on your body.  

Lettering Tattoo on Finger
Lettering Tattoo on Fingers

Lettering Tattoos on Chest

There are a wide variety of types of lettering tattoos on the chest that each has a unique style and personality.

There’s the large blocky lettering style for men, for example, where the lettering tattoo takes up most of the top half of the chest.

There’s also the small phrase that takes up a small amount of the space by the collar bone.

What they have in common is they are quite progressive and stylish. 

Lettering Tattoo on Chest

Lettering Tattoos on Forearm

Lettering tattoos on the forearm can be great tattoos for both delicate styles and a bold look.

The forearm is a great placement for letterings tattoos because there is plenty of space to go up and down, the wrap-around, or even a circular writing style.

Forearm lettering tattoos are an excellent way to express a word a phrase, or even a sentence. 

Lettering Tattoo on Forearm
Lettering Tattoo on Forearm
Lettering Tattoo on Forearm

Lettering Tattoos on Hand

Lettering hand tattoos are a bold choice because whether it be a handshake or a high-five, everyone is going to see that tattoo.

Now, the choice of a letting tattoo on the hand is somewhat unusual.

The special part about it is you can look down each day and see that message and so if it’s something really important it will count. 

Lettering Tattoo on Hand
Lettering Tattoo on Hand

Lettering Tattoos on Shoulder

The shoulder is a classic spot for a lettering tattoo. 

It’s a great way to have a tattoo peaking out from underneath a T-shirt or to be shown off while wearing a tank-top or swimsuit.

This kind of lettering tattoo is something you can’t see yourself unless you are looking in the mirror.

It’s both for fashion and for incredibly meaningful quotes or words that you want to stick with you. 

Lettering Tattoo on Shoulder

Lettering Tattoos on Sternum

This is a highly stylish placement.

This type of tattoo is something that most of the time you get for fashion more than for meaning.

There’s nothing wrong with getting a tattoo because it looks good.

In fact, the body is an artwork and why not fill in between the lines. 

Under-breast Lettering Tattoos

Under-breast lettering tattoos are a sexy choice that is highly decorative in its very nature.

It can follow the shape of the body in a way that is one-of-a-kind.

An under-breast lettering tattoo is also highly expressive.

The kind of person who chooses this kind of tattoo usually is proud of their body. 

Lettering Tattoos on Wrist

This is perhaps the most classic placement of all lettering tattoos.

The placement on the wrist is a key spot for anyone who wears tattoos.

This is prime real estate for a lettering tattoo.

This tattoo placement also tends to mean that this word or phrase is really special to you and has a significant meaning. 

Lettering Tattoo on Wrist
Lettering Tattoo on Wrist
Lettering Tattoo on Wrist
Lettering Tattoo on Wrist

Lettering Tattoos on Ankle

You gotta’ love a tiny ankle tattoo.

Why not a lettering ankle tattoo?

The ankle is a perfect spot to place a word, often alongside a symbol defining its meaning.

This kind of tattoo peaks out from under a pant leg and compliments a shoe perfectly.

At the end of the day, a lettering ankle tattoo is a perfect touch for anyone. 

Lettering Tattoo on Ankle
Lettering Tattoo on Ankle

Lettering Tattoos on Neck

Lettering neck tattoos are a bold move and are certainly not for everyone.

However, if you really want to say something out loud and mean it, this kind of tattoo is for you.

When choosing this kind of neck tattoo, you want to think out carefully what words you want to choose based on what you want to express to the world.  

Lettering Tattoo on Neck
Lettering Tattoo on Neck
Lettering Tattoo on Neck

Lettering Thigh Tattoos

Lettering thigh tattoo is a great idea!

Not only it’s meaningful but it looks super cool.

The interesting part about thigh tattoos is you have the option to connect the two legs in one continuous phrase.

Or, you can leave a single word in a defining and intriguing lettering tattoo. 

Lettering Tattoos on Back

There certainly is a lot of space on the back.

It is a wide-open space ready for a fantastic tattoo!

With lettering tattoos on the back, there is a great opportunity for a sentence or even a paragraph.

Also, the typography could be large and bold.

This is a great tattoo for someone who has a big idea.

Lettering Tattoo on Back
Lettering Tattoo on Back
Lettering Tattoo on Back

Lettering Tattoos on Spine

There’s nothing more beautiful than a well-crafted lettering spine tattoo.

These tattoos are simply wonderful⁠— elegant and charming.

When the lettering goes from the bottom of the neck all the way down to the hips it is really a special thing.

There’s so much creativity that goes into these tattoos! 

Lettering Tattoo on Spine

Celebrities with Lettering Tattoos

Many of our favorite celebrities are starting to warm up to tattoos when they used to be unheard of for people who need to shape-shift with each role.

With more options for tattoo covering makeup and digital effects, celebrities are starting to show off some ink.

Lettering tattoos seems to be a well-loved choice in tinsel town.

  • Lady Gaga

Known for trying to keep her tats to one side of her body, Lady Gaga has a bit of a “sticker book” effect going on with her many random tattoos, a collection she adds to with each milestone.

A tattoo on one of her limbs is a quote from a German book, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. The text is scrawled out in ornate writing and translates to:

Lady Gaga's lettering tattoo

“Confess to yourself in the deepest hour of the night whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

Dig deep into your heart, where the answer spreads its roots in your being, and ask yourself solemnly, Must I write?”

  • Cara Delevingne

This model, actor, and fashion icon is a big fan of scripted ink. She has “silence” in script on her wrist, “breathe deep” in white ink on her upper limb, and “bacon…” on the bottom of her foot.

Cara Delevingne's lettering tattoo

Delevingne has joked that her foot tattoo is also scented. Feet can be a discreet place for more “fun” tattoos because they’re often covered up in public.

  • Hayden Panettiere

Hayden is, unfortunately, a great example of what NOT to do.

Hayden Panettiere's lettering tattoo

The star had to have her tattoo removed after she got “live without regrets” in Italian on her torso, only to realize it was misspelled!


Words are powerful.

To have word tattoos on your body has a special meaning that proves a deep connection to mind body and spirit.

Some people get lettering tattoos to share with others, while some people get them only for themselves as a secret message to remember.

Whatever the reason to get a lettering tattoo, pick a word or phrase and choose from the many types of styles and placements and commit! 

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