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Originally, tattoos were lettered in the tattooist's handwriting. Eventually this evolved into using formal typefaces and common symbols. Blackletter typefaces are the most classic style used, being ornate-looking fonts with thick-and-thin, highly angular serifs. As tattooing became further refined and spread amongst different classes of society such as circus folk, a wider variety of fonts were used, including highly simplified, deconstructed forms of blackletter fonts. In modern times, tribal and faux-tribal fonts are a popular way to express both power and sensitivity through tattoo lettering.
If you're planning a tattoo or simply need a font that looks like tattoo lettering, check out these 22 fonts. Six of them are dingbat fonts that contain dozens of pieces of tattoo-appropriate artwork, such as hearts, skulls, animals like dragons and scorpions, fantasy art, and tribal and Celtic symbols. The other 16 fonts include traditional, script, tribal and grunge faces appropriate for tattoos.
Note: All fonts are free for personal use. If you'd like to use any of them commercially, contact the font's designer for licensing options. All fonts are available at Fontspace.
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Traditional Tattoo Lettering Styles
Tattoo Ink by Ryan Splint, created in 2003. 52 capital and "lower case" characters (the lower case is just a smooth version of upper case).
Blackletter by Dieter Steffmann, was created in 2001. It comes in two faces: extra bold and shadow, and makes a great classic tattoo font.
VTC-FreehandTattooOne by Vigilante TypeFace Corporation, created in 2010. It's got a complete set of punctuation and accents as well, and has a hand-drawn feel because it is: the designer drew it freehand in Illustrator CS4.
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Grunge and Tribal Tattoo Fonts
VTC-BadEnglischOne by Vigilante TypeFace Corporation: a humorous deconstruction/bastardization of old English or blackletter fonts, twisted into tattoo sensibility.
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Script Tattoo Fonts
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Try these tattoo dingbat fonts as an easy reference resource when looking for simple artwork to go along with tattoo lettering. The ones we've chosen here run the gamut from ancient symbols to animals, hearts and skulls, and fantasy art.
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The history of tattoo lettering fonts is a long one, and we benefit today from technological advances and skilled tattoo artists making font and art choices for tattoos virtually limitless — nearly any request can be met. You can feel comfortable choosing one of these fonts for your lettering and know that it will be faithfully reproduced.
Got Ink? 22 Great Fonts for Tattoo-Themed Projects
Need an unusual or artistic font? The Free Display Fonts series covers dozens of fonts that look like monograms, handwriting, bubble fonts, and more. When you need a font that looks like a pirate wrote it or like a tattoo, this is the place to look.