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Tattoo Lettering Ideas: Deciding What to Get

Here are tattoo lettering ideas from songs, films, and other sources.

Here are tattoo lettering ideas from songs, films, and other sources.

Inspiration for Lettering or Quote Tattoos

Tattoos are a form of self-expression and the human body is an empty canvas. You can paint it, pierce it, brand it, and accentuate it with metal, ink, and a variety of other body modifications. Most people get an idea in their head and then visit a tattoo artist who will help them bring their vision to life on their skin. Others design their own tattoo artwork or lettering. But still others, although eagerly aware of their desire to get a tattoo, actually have no idea what exactly they want to get. This does not quell the desire for ink, however, and you shouldn't let it deter you from your ultimate goal.

Tattoo inspiration can be gleaned in a number of ways to get your ideas flowing. Keep in mind that a tattoo should be something particular to you, something that has meaning to you personally. Don't worry if it won't make a bit of sense to anyone else—you're not adorning your body for anyone else's benefit, so understanding the reasoning behind your choice is not a requisite for acceptance and appreciation.

"The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein

"The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein

Favorite Books

Take a look through all your favorite books over the course of your life. Don't just focus on the adult books you've read recently, but the children's books as well. Keep a notebook on hand, and as you're flipping through jot down quotes or phrases that jump out at you.

If it's a children's book, write down the page number that contains a picture you appreciate. Although they are geared towards kids, there is often merit in children's books that speak to adults as well. Popular volumes like Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and The Lorax by Dr. Seuss all offer universal messages of hope and learning. Check out this article on literary tattoos for more inspiration.

Bjork lyrics

Bjork lyrics

Favorite Songs

Song lyrics make for great lettering tattoos. Everyone has at least one song that follows them everywhere. Think of a tune that has inspired your creativity or played in the background as you went through a difficult time period. Before getting it tattooed, make sure you do a lyrics search just to ensure you've got all the wording right. If you enjoy classical music such as Beethoven or Mozart which has no lyrics, consider getting the corresponding music notes instead. Music staffs look great wrapped around the upper arm, wrist or ankle.

CD albums or record covers are other great places to look for inspiration. Many of them contain amazing works of graphic design varying in size, shape, and simplicity. Band logos or symbols, like the AFI winged bat or H.I.M.'s heartagram are two very popular choices. Click here for more examples of music tattoos.

Quote by Gandalf from "Lord of the Rings" written in Tengwar

Quote by Gandalf from "Lord of the Rings" written in Tengwar

Favorite Movies

Movies are a great source of inspiration because they are full of dialogue and chances are there'll be an amazing quote somewhere in the midst of all that talking. If you can't remember the exact wording off the top of your head, do a Google search for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind quotes" for example, or search for the film on IMDb and check out the memorable quotes section.

If you're lucky, you may be able to do a search and find a complete copy of the movie's screenplay online. You can then scour the script for good excerpts. Some people are dead set on replicating the quote exactly as it is said in the film, whereas others are content with paraphrasing, or leaving out what they consider to be "nonessential" words for the sake of brevity. This is especially true if the area you're looking to tattoo is small. Another option is to just take the most important word from the quote and get that tattooed by itself.

For example, my friend Megan wanted the biblical verse where Jesus counsels Peter to forgive someone who has transgressed him not just seven times, but seventy times seven. However, since the spot where she wanted to get tattooed was on her wrist, she decided to get "70 x 7" in lieu of the entire verse.

© 2007 Jaclyn Popola


bruno_jr on October 18, 2007:

some pretty great ideas here. My best friend and I went and got matching tattoos of and Irish Claddaugh and would eventually like to expand it and I came up with the idea of having the words Love, Loyalty, Friendship tattooed above it in Gealic, but I'm having a hard time finding a reliable translation and an expample of the old style gealic writing to use as a template. So if anyone can help me out, I would really apprieciate it.

GreatTattoosNow from San Jose on October 15, 2007:

Great sources for ideas. I like the Books of course being a wordy type of person!

taylorblue from Canada on October 15, 2007:

Great ideas...thanks!