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Ambigram Tattoo Ideas

I have 13 tattoos as well as several piercings, and I think they're all pretty cool.

What Is an Ambigram?

An ambigram is a typographical design where a word or phrase has a meaning, whether it's viewed right-side-up or upside down. It can be the same word read either way, or it may be one word right-side-up and a totally different word upside down. There are many different types of ambigrams (rotational, three-dimensional, perceptual shift, and even multi-lingual, which can be read one way in one language and another way in a different language).

Exactly how ambigrams are created is way beyond my comprehension. I'm sure it involves brilliance and/or some computer program. All I really know is that they look awesome and have become a very popular tattoo design over recent years. I also know that rapper Talib Kweli mentions the concept in one of his songs where he sings "Turn the game upside down like an ambigram." You really shouldn't need any proof of their awesomeness beyond that!

Mirror-image ambigram tattoo reading "Father"

Mirror-image ambigram tattoo reading "Father"

How to Make an Ambigram Tattoo

Getting an ambigram design is easy—there are a ton of websites catering to such needs. The key is finding a good, solid tattoo artist (I stress the word artist) who can execute it. Spacing and size are key to making sure the tattoo reads perfectly and is easy on the eyes when viewed in either direction. I came across a lot of ambigram tattoos while researching info for this article, and many of them made my eyeballs burn. I definitely encourage you to put effort into finding someone who can create a tattoo people can actually read.

Ambigram Generator

A super helpful website I've found is makeabigrams.com. This site generates free ambigrams in a variety of different styles and fonts. They also have tips about how to draw your own ambigrams, as well as a paid service for custom designs.

Ambigram Reddit

Another good resource is r/ambigrams on Reddit. This community is full of people who like to play around with ambigram designs, discuss tattoo ideas, and share their own work. If you have an idea for a design but don't know how to execute it, this forum is a great place to ask questions.

Mirror-image ambigram reading "I Love You"

Mirror-image ambigram reading "I Love You"

Mirror-Image Ambigrams: The Same Word Read Both Ways

Mirror-image ambigrams are designs that can be read when reflected in a mirror—they read as the same word or phrase any way you look at it.

If you were to hold the above image next to a mirror, you would see that you could read its message clearly. The key to these ambigrams is the shape of the letters themselves; once you find a common, symmetrical letter shape, you're set (note the curve of the y and v in "love" and "you").

A glass door ambigram reading "Real/Fake"

A glass door ambigram reading "Real/Fake"

Glass Door Ambigrams: Different Words Different Ways

A variation of mirror images is "glass door" ambigrams, designs that form different words or phrases depending on which direction they're viewed. They are given this term because they can be printed on a glass door to be read differently when entering or exiting.

In the photo above, you can see how the word "real" is read initially, but when the word is flipped upside down, the word "fake" becomes clear.

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Read More from Tatring

Chain ambigram reading "Nouvel an" (New Year in French)

Chain ambigram reading "Nouvel an" (New Year in French)

Chain Ambigrams

A chain ambigram is a design where the words are interlinked, usually in the form of a circle. Letters are often overlapped, so one word will start partway through the other word. I've seen this type of tattoo mostly done with people's names, though it does exist other ways as well (see the example above). Symmetry is essential when getting a chain ambigram tattoo.

A Note On Symmetry

In order to make ambigrams clear and decipherable, artists must understand different types of symmetry. Some letters, like H, I, C, E, O, K, D, and B, have horizontal symmetry, meaning if you folded them in half horizontally, their edges would match up. Other letters, like Y, M, W, and A, have vertical symmetry.

The letter X is symmetrical both horizontally and vertically, making it a very convenient letter to include in an ambigram. Take a look at this "Texas/Sexy" ambigram tattoo below.

Ambigrams Elsewhere

When I first read Angels & Demons by Dan Brown, I was amazed at the artistic talent used to design the several ambigrams displayed throughout the book. At the end, when an ambigram for "earth, air, water, fire" is revealed, I was blown away.

Comments

Elisha on August 10, 2011:

I have a "love-hate" ambigram tattoo on my foot & have gotten many compliments on it... Just another idea.

tattoo wow on April 30, 2011:

this is so eye opening i love it. i saw the same thing on my url thing. cool

Tattolover on April 19, 2011:

http://www.greattattoos.net/

diogenes from UK and Mexico on March 30, 2011:

By, Google loves you! I wasn't even on hubpages and they picked you quickly in Latin phrases.

Here's one "Ubi bene ibi patria" "Where one feels good, there is one's country"

Bob I think I'll follow you as I found your site so serendipitously.

Cathy Nerujen from Edge of Reality and Known Space on March 15, 2011:

What an amazing tattoo optical illusion. That is awesome. Thank you.

TattoGuy on March 04, 2011:

It definitely was awesome for sure Jaclyn, it's always worth the wait on one of your tattoo hubs. Cheers for another beauty, enjoy your weekend !

Tiffany from Springbrook, AB on March 03, 2011:

This was awesome! I have actually never thought of getting an ambigram tattoo. I think I will definitely have to make one of my next one's one. :)

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