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Wording Tattoo Ideas & Tips: Text, Lettering, Script & Quotes

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Peony is a tattooed tattoo enthusiast who loves studying and discussing tattoo history and meanings. Japanese themes are her favorite.

This tattoo design incorporates text and images seamlessly.

This tattoo design incorporates text and images seamlessly.

Ask First!

Before you get a text tattoo, find out if your chosen tattoo artist does lettering well. When in doubt, inquire. You'd be surprised that some tattooists don't do text tattoos, and perfecting this skill takes time and talent.

  • Handwriting: Windsong, Honey Script, Dear Joe
  • Script: ILS Script, Nina Script, Piel Script
  • New Age: Titillium Text, Monoment, Greenbeans
  • Old School: Tattoo, High On Fire, Tattoo Sailor
  • Gothic: Dearest, Headline Text, Blackletter

To browse more tattoos, you can visit free font websites such as where you can type in the desired word and see it in any font. You can even download these fonts onto your computer and have them printed out and shown to your tattoo artist!

Research a variety of fonts before making a choice.

Research a variety of fonts before making a choice.

Great Quotes for Tattoos

Below are just some sick quotes (which I'm pretty fond of myself) for the little Zen master in you. Updated as and when I come across good ones that I've just got to share, feel free to comment and add on!

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
– Plato

"The doer alone learneth."
– Friedrich Nietzsche

"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts."

"Fall down seven times, get up eight."
– Japanese

"Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you."
– Maori Proverb

"Show me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Not all those who wander are lost."
– J.R.R. Tolkien

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
– Lao Tzu

"Some may never live, but the crazy never die."
– Hunter S. Thompson

Ambigram Tattoos

A unique way to word your text is ambigram. Ambigrams are essentially a play on word(s); they’re cleverly designed in a way that appears to have different readings when read from different perspectives.

Take the extreme right image above as an example—it shows the word ‘Father’ when read upright as well as upside-down. The image below is trickier; it shows the word ‘Saint’ when upright and ‘Sinner’ when rotated.

Some popular ambigram types are:

  • Mirror
  • Rotational
  • Natural
Massive essay tattoo. TL;DR

Massive essay tattoo. TL;DR

Quote Tattoo Tips

You might want to get inked with a quote that you strongly believe in—they could be your motto in life, and a representation of your ideals or principles you adhere to.

Instead of tattooing a wall of texts, keep it short and sweet. While you may really like Nietzsche’s Twilight of The Idols, you probably shouldn’t get a couple of pages from it permanently inked on your body.

Pick out your desired excerpt and highlight the genius of it. Simply put, choose your favorite line. For example, if I liked this piece:

" The laws that keep us safe, these same laws condemn us to boredom. Without access to true chaos, we'll never have true peace. Unless everything can get worse, it won't get any better. "
– Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

For my tattoo, I would probably single out the sentence “Without access to true chaos, we'll never have true peace.”

Below are some examples that do not over-quote and are aesthetically pleasing:

The script in these tattoos is elegantly rendered and not over-long.

The script in these tattoos is elegantly rendered and not over-long.

A Note About Spelling

Please, please, spell-check before anything. You may have snorted to that, but seriously, ladies and gents. Nothing can be more upsetting than having mom’s name spelled wrong.

Most often, the client and tattooist share equal blame for misspelled tattoos. A tattoo artist should be as accurate as possible—after all, being meticulous is part of their forte. As a client, you should make sure to check yourself in the mirror to see if it’s the correct representation of what you’d imagined before the needle hits your skin.

Tone of Your Tattoo

The kind of attitude you would like your tattoo to express is as important as spellchecking it. If you’re getting an endearing quote to remember your dearly departed grandma by, please do not go for a font like Dead Bitch (yes, it's a real font—the irony).

Choose a font for the feel you are going for; prowl sites like dafont to have a good look at the countless font styles available. Type the desired text(s) and preview them in a couple of fonts you like, then narrow them down to that perfect one.

Foreign Language Tattoos . . . or Gibberish?

If you’re thinking of getting words or phrases in another language, please do some research. As exotic as they look, they could be an embarrassment to wear around as well.

Do not get it generated from online translation programs. Half the time, it doesn’t make much sense. Bear in mind that most words have double entendre, and you could be unlucky—getting the one that makes the least sense and the most mockery out of you.

Hanzi Smatter is an excellent place for verifying your Asian character tattoo. (It also goes to show how many people don’t actually know the meaning of what’s on their skin.)

Not all English phrases have an (exact) equivalent in Mandarin, Japanese or Korean, etc. To translate them directly would sometimes warp the original meaning of the intended phrase or sentence.

The best solution is to actually ask someone who is a native speaker. Relax, if you don't know anyone. There’s always the internet. Get on forums dedicated to learning Thai or Sanskrit for example. Post a polite request asking for the correct translation and writing (this is important) of the word, phrase, or sentence that you have in mind. Most forums in these message boards are usually friendly and extremely helpful; remember to say “Thank you”!

Tip: Blow up the text that you have so as to give your tattooist a clear idea of the character layout. This is especially important if your tattoo artist is unfamiliar (i.e. does not read or write in that particular language) with the language.

© 2012 Peony


Peony (author) on May 21, 2014:

Vvitta - Thank you! And good luck with your hub (:

Kalaichelvi Panchalingam from PETALING JAYA on May 20, 2014:

Am just working on a piece on a similar subject. Hope it is as great as yours. Love your article. found it very informative.