You’re all geared up and excited about your next tattoo, but you just can’t seem to decide on the cool tattoo font to use. Sounds familiar? Well, you’re not alone – I’ve been there. Even with my knowledge on typography, it was a tough decision.
Being a perfectionist, I would find a perfect tattoo font, but as soon as I’d add my own text, it would seem weird. After downloading a bunch of free tattoo fonts and trying them out, I realized this was going to be though. I wasn’t happy and I’ve likely tried hundreds of them.
I was so pissed off that there wasn’t a single typography resource on this topic to help fellow tattoo lovers. So, I decided to start a blog here on FontEx and answer all the unanswered questions on typography. This is going to be the first of many resource guides to help people choose the perfect typeface for their goal.
The Best Fonts For Tattoos Based On Tattoo Styles
You have a clear vision of your next tattoo, I’m sure, but there are a few important things to consider before choosing a tattoo font. Ask yourself: Is font lettering going to dominate your tattoo? Are the letters going to be a part of a more dominant graphic image? You need to think about the surrounding graphics if the latter, as you don’t want the lettering to blend in. Exercise extreme caution when choosing a tattoo font, as it can have a massive visual impact on your tattoo.
Okay so let’s get started and find the ideal free font for you to download. First things first, what is the tattoo style you’re after? If your tattoo features a medieval theme, you’re not going to choose a modern font for sure. In a similar fashion, if you’re getting a hardcore tattoo, you’ll want to get a tattoo font for men, not a girly one. So let’s have a look at a few different popular tattoo styles for men and women. I will choose my favorite free font which you can download and send to your tattoo artist:
American Traditional (Old School)
This tattoo style originates from the artist Sailor Jerry (born Norman Collins) from Honolulu. He combined vivid colors and daring iconography. He was the first western artist who learned from the great Japanese tattoo masters. Common symbols of the style for example are: swallow, anchor, shark eagle, etc.
Perfect free fonts to use in combination with American Traditional tattoos are cartoonish-looking uppercase fonts. These fonts usually fall within the Display category, just in case you want to Google up more options. My personal favorite free tattoo font to download for this style is Bebas Neue (click above to download this font for free).
New School Tattoo
The birth of the new school tattoo style dates back to the early 1970s in the United States. The style integrates elements from the irezumi and old school tattoo traditions. Interesting thing about this style is the often exaggerated subject of the tattoo. New school tattoo is also a transition towards the sharing of tattooing techniques. Featuring an animated style of tattooing, I found fonts like the one above to be the best fit for New School fans – Oswald Font.
This tattoo style was created by Simone Piaff and Volko Merschky at Buena Vista Tattoo Club in Germany. It is important to consider the style’s origins when choosing an appropriate tattoo font. Based on Volko’s description, Trash Polka is:
“realism and trash; the nature and the abstract; technology and humanity; past, present and future; opposites that they are trying to urge into a creative dance to harmony and rhyme in tune with the body.”
The main characteristic of the style seems to be contrast. A mixture of naturalistic and photo-realistic elements, geometric graphics and lettering. This tattoo style is for those who prefer large scale images, since – due to it’s chaotic nature – it requires a bigger “canvas”. I find this style to be quite creative, which is why I’ve chosen the following free font to pair it with hugely popular Lobster Two font.
The name itself pretty much defines the style. The patterns, images and designs are created by only using black ink, unlike other styles. Mandalas are common images created with this particular method.
I wouldn’t be pairing this style with any characters unless needed. If you decide to add textual contents to this tattoo however, you would be best off with a simple font. Maybe even a modern font with proper kerning. If I had to pick a free font to go with this style, I’d go with Raleway font.
This tattoo style uses nothing but dots. Depth and shading is achieved using various distances between each dot. The dotwork technique is mainly used for geometric, religious and spiritual tattoos. No other technique gives the kind of shading this method delivers. Dotwork uses mostly black or grey and rarely red ink.
I would say this tattoo style has a perfect match. That match is a free font Quicksand, since it uses nothing but dots in it’s own design. On another note, I would also experiment with condensed uppercase sans serif fonts with a tattoo like this one. Here’s my choice of a tattoo lettering font for the Dotwork style – Quicksand Font.
Geometric tattoos relies only on basic geometric rules. This style usually uses geometric shapes and lines to create the desired tattoo. Tattoos of this style often include dotworking, which is why the previously mentioned Quicksand font can be a good option here as well. One branch of the style is sacred geometry, which has become increasingly popular in the recent years. It refers to the perfect shapes and patterns of nature.
You should be looking for symmetric and clean, sans-serif tattoo fonts to pair with this style. I would completely avoid any cursive, handwritten or similar font styles with these tattoos and choose the simpler tattoo fonts. Above is a good example of a suitable free tattoo font for the Geometric style – Source Sans Pro font.
For those who prefer an “unfinished” style. This style integrates unclear outlines and semi-colored areas. Resembling sketches in an artist’s sketchbook. This tattoo style is for the people valuing the process of creation more than the actual result.
I like this particular style and when choosing a font to pair it with, I would go with the tattoo font that looks exactly the same, following the “sketch” pattern. Cabinsketch font is a great example of a freely downloadable tattoo font that features this look.
Surrealism style has been influenced by the work of Salvador Dali. Surrealistic art is based upon revealing the unconscious in dream images, the irrational and the fantastic. Not only it requires the tattoo artist to have quite some skill, this style also requires great amounts of creativity. Without a doubt this is one of the strangest and the most impressive tattoo styles. As for tattoo fonts go, I would choose thin, cursive, handwritten font styles with an artsy touch to it. A great example of such a free tattoo font to download is well known Pacifico font.
Even More Cool Tattoo Fonts
Some of my inked friends don’t like choosing a font based on the tattoo style or even ink technique. They just want to be presented with a list of the best tattoo fonts so they can choose the one they like. This is especially true for those with a background in graphic design and creative arts. I will list some of the best tattoo fonts that I have received good feedback from my creative friends who were choosing a font for their new tattoo.
Here are some of the best free fonts that you can download for free. Keep in mind that, based on my personal experience, there are only a handful of typography styles that would look good on your skin. The most popular font style seems to be script or cursive. This is why I will include a handful of cursive tattoo fonts in this list.
“These are cool tattoo fonts, but I’m still not sure!”
Choosing a tattoo font is no easy task, I agree. There are thousands of free fonts to choose from, but the trick is to choose the one which you feel makes sense for you. My advice is to listen to your gut feeling. Also, make sure to consult with the tattoo artist after picking your favorites from this list. They will love your proactiveness and will go the extra mile to make your next tattoo the best it can be. Good luck and hope this article helped you choose a tattoo font, cheers!