Gallery of lettering style tattoos that can be filtered by subject, body part and size.read more
“Lettering” refers to any stylized letters, words, characters or quotes, with or without accompanying imagery.
Lettering, as a category, includes a range of cultural and historical script tattoo styles, as well as modern calligraphy, handwriting, custom font design and digital typography. Common lettering styles include, but are not limited to:
Traditional - Blocky letters made with thick black lines that originated during the Sailor Jerry era of tattooing. Words, in traditional tattoos, are sometimes placed on banners and ribbons, or they may sit outside the design as a header or footnote.
Blackletter - This bold font, also called “Old English” and “Gothic,” dates back to Medieval Europe and remains popular in both hand-written calligraphy and digital typography. Blackletter uses thick and straight black lines with consistent curvature around the serifs.
“West Coast” or “Chicano” - Ornate black and grey lettering, often with an outline and drop-shadow; a more expressive and dramatic version of Blackletter. This was popularized in 20th century Mexican-American cultures in the Western United States, especially California.
Calligraphy - Before printing machines could mass-produce text, special ink pens and brushes were used to control the legibility and consistency of handwriting. Each font’s stylized aesthetic depends on the type of tool used to achieve it, whether of Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern or European origin. Tattoo machines can now mimic almost any type of calligraphy tool.
Handwriting - As the name implies, custom handwriting is created by the human hand, and is uniquely identifiable to person creating it. Asking a tattooer to mimic another person’s handwriting requires attention to detail about the angle, proportionality, inconsistencies, kerning (space between the letters) and the overall speed with which the original sample was written.
Graffiti - The street art approach to tattoo lettering aims to resemble freehand tags, as if written with spray paint. The letters vary by artist, and are arguably a form of handwriting. Common traits include bold and bubbly curves with sharp lines and theatrical serifs.
Digital Typography - This includes any and all fonts that are standardized by a machine, whether analog or digital. Since the human hand is currently the only way to tattoo these fonts, it requires incredible precision from the tattooer.