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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Letter of the Law: Laws for Lettering and Tattoos

I'm taking the time to blog about all text tattoos due to the overwhelming amount of lettering we're doing. We often turn down requests for massive amounts of type & I wanted to spell out our very concrete reason as to why that is. This isn't to discourage anyone from getting tattooed, but rather to look at the broad picture & to help make better tattoo choices.

I realize its a current fad to get scads of text, we see it all the time. And it drives us crazy. Below are bullet points of why.

• TEXT TATTOOS DESTROY THE ART OF TYPOGRAPHY: Just like every other art form, typography has its own rules & limitations. Before computers loaded with hundreds of fonts downloaded for free, typography was a specialized profession, & typographers were very proud crafters of type. Good type is readable because of weight, form, size, leading, tracking, & kerning. Its designed to be read on flat surfaces, with maximum contrast between very dark lettering & very light grounds. 

You, dear tattoo client, are not flat white paper. You're a series of interlocking muscle bands, & you're covered with skin that is anything but white. You are cylindrical, almost every part of you body is long & rounded. But its not rounded evenly, like a pole, each surface is tapered, being much wider at some points & narrower at others. You're also topographical, with some points rising & dipping dramatically. On top of all that, you're also flexible, so unless you've been stuffed by an expert taxidermist, the minute you move, you will morph into even more elastic contorted shapes. When you try to apply text to this living organic medium, the lines waver, the letter size changes, the spacing inside the letter closes up, the spacing between the letters & between the words run together. It looks like crap. And Guttenberg spins in his grave. 

This is why no one has invented billboards for telephone poles or railings, because no one could read it. 

• TEXT TATTOOS FIGHT ANATOMY: The best tattoos, as the Japanese knew hundreds of years ago, work with the body, not fight against it. That's why they would design full sleeves & body suits with total saturation, & to flow with the muscle groups. This is also why some Asian art may seem two dimensional on paper, but the same art on a body springs to life. Your flesh adds the missing third dimension, & its graphic nature is powerful enough to be seen from across the room. Strong. Powerful. Classic. 

Text does the opposite of this. It needs negative space in order to be legible, & since it's read in lines left to right, it needs to be straight, slicing up all that flowing anatomy into ribbons, graphically speaking. It becomes a visual road block, destroying your natural curves. This is why you don't see straight lines or geometric shapes in tattoo flash, every flat surface gets twisted, corkscrewed, & warped. That's not because of all the acid we did in college, its to conform our art with the flow of your physique. If type is snaked along the lines with the muscles, it trashes the leading, & it quickly becomes illegible, & defeats the whole point of getting text. 

• TEXT TATTOOS FIGHT GOOD TATTOOING: Good tattoos use a lot of graphic tricks to fight the fact that tattoos are on a curvy stretchy colored surface that will age for up to sixty to eighty years. Good placement (filling up the spot on the body the right way), design (using symbols & graphic tools to maximize an illustrated message), layout (using the given space to its fullest potential), full contrast (going from 100% black to 100% white), color theory (using a full chroma range & complimenting colors for maximum effects) , & elaborate textures are used to create readable, powerful forms the eye instantly recognizes. Text has none of these tools, it takes every one of these tools out of the hands of the artist. 

At the end of the day, type, no matter how cool the font, is really just skinny tribal, & look how cool all those 80's tribal armbands turned out to be. 

I had a recent client request map coordinates in his chosen font, which I was happy to do, but before his appointment, he complained that the art was 'lacking dimension' & that I should 'work my magic' to prevent this. Well, the fact that I was expelled from Hogwarts has nothing to do with the fact that there is no magic to be worked. Map coordinates are basically a lost algebra problem, its simply a series of numbers & letters, & there isn't anything that's going to change its static, flat, lifeless nature.

• TEXT TATTOOS EAT UP A LOT OF SKIN: A simple phrase or saying of three or four sentences needs a lot of room to fit on you, & be large enough for us to tattoo properly. In order to read something like that, you need to use up an entire pec, or a quarter of your back. That's some serious real estate, tattoo-wise. This is the kind of skin that could be used for the kind of award winning masterpieces that collectors wish they still had open skin for. Instead its now filled up with an old grocery list. Large body surfaces look best with large imagery that fills up every pore of skin, not piled up with dozens of tiny words that leaves the skin 90% empty. 

• TEXT TATTOOS COCK BLOCK OTHER TATTOOS: Well done, well placed tattoos lend themselves to be added on to at later times easily & artistically. Text tattoos do not. This will drive you crazy when you're getting this amazing sleeve done by a master, & then it has to end because years before you wrapped your stereo instructions around the best part of your arm. Trust us, every day we're trying to help people get new tattoos, & have used all the prime cut spots for initials & names, & man, they are not happy. 

• THERE'S NO GALLERY OPENINGS FOR FONTS: No one flies to Paris to visit the amazing lettering exhibit at the Louvre. No one buys an Ozzy t shirt because its a whole shirt full of Helvetica. No one covers their bedroom with liner notes. No one buys an album because of the great spelling on the cover. No one ever got wasted, turned on the black lights, & screamed, 'Damn! Nice kerning!' No one ever laid back looking at clouds in the sky & said, 'Palatino Bold Italic!' The attraction here is art. Art hangs in museums, covers chapel ceilings, jumps off a car or a bus, screams at you from roadside billboards, backs up bands at concerts, sells albums, books, cars, &, well, everything, & is itself sold for millions, collected by rich slobs, & is stolen in famous art heists.

If art screams, text mumbles.

We tell people this all the time. One of the things we used to do was design for the music industry, posters, shirts, album covers,... often we would read the lyrics & listen to the sounds, & create art based on what they were saying, meant, or made us feel. Do the same & you'll be far happier than if you spelled those lyrics out. Unless your mother is the Amazon rain forest & your father is a paper mill. 

No one ever heard of a famous bumper sticker robbery. Which would you rather be, a Picasso, or a post it note? 

• ART IS SUBJECTIVE, TEXT IS NOT: One of the magical things about a good tattoo is that its timeless. 

I know I'm going to sound like a crotchety old fuck for this one, but I am, & kids, you're going to change. As you get older, you will change a lot. And just when you get used to that new person, you'll do it again. This is a good thing. I hope that your life is full & adventurous, & challenges in ways that melts you down & re-crafts you into a strong kickass person the way a master swordmaker folds steel into a katana. No matter who you are at whichever point in time you're currently residing, your tattoo that once meant one thing to you when you got it, now can offer a different interpretation. The same goes for any number of people viewing your tattoo, they will each see something different. A good tattoo will grow with you. 

Text is just about the opposite of this. Words, by their very existence, define. Its why we invented them. Text will lock you in & be far less mercurial than art. There is little to no room for you to play the part of interpreter. Or, if a phrase does offer a number of different meanings, it usually is some gimmicky terrible word play or badly written inspirational saying that belongs on a doily knitted by your grandma, not engraved on your skin. And that definite meaning is not going to travel with you into the future, not the same way fine art does. 

• NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOU: There's been hundreds of times I've seen tattoos that blew my mind, either by how well they were applied, or because of the incredible idea, or both. And I've been sideswiped with that terrible feeling of, man, I wish that was on me, or I wish I had thought of that. (Stealing other people's incredibly well thought out tattoos is criminal, a topic for another blog,...) Never once have I ever read a tattoo that had anywhere near that level of impact. Think about how many people refuse to watch foreign films because they "don't want to READ a movie!" I hate that,... but, in a way, they're right,... reading the dialogue that is also being spoken takes you out of the moment & fights the medium its in. So does trying to read a person, especially as you try to follow along the curves & bends & decipher small letters hiding away in folds & hollows,... it can be a lot of work, & if the payoff is only some trite bumper sticker verbage, then you have some serious tattoo fail.

• YOU FAILED ENGLISH: A lot of people begin their tattoo consultation with, 'Well, I'm no artist, but,...'. And then they bow to our expertise in taking their ideas to levels they didn't think were possible. Not one person ever came in & said, 'Well, I'm no writer,...'. Why not? A vast majority of the requests we get are things written so badly you'd be held back in the third grade for ten years if it was homework instead of a tattoo. Terrible grammar, broken sentences, redundant word usage,... things that should never be on paper, let alone your body. There are plenty of things we will not tattoo, like all white ink tattoos, UV tattoos, or amateur scribblings. It only makes sense that we'd apply the same ethics to screwed up language. Don't ask us to make your English teacher cry. 

Example: I had a girl come in who wanted Lil Wayne lyrics. Now, his writing style is perfect,... for Lil Wayne. Its meant to be shouted from stage at high volumes by him, with everything he represents, backed by his music, in context. And that's great. But as far as grammar is concerned? Its not just a crime, its a homicide.  C'mon now!

• REMEMBER 'A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS'?: Why pay $500 for fifty words when you can get a THOUSAND for the same price? Its just smart economics! 

This would be a good time to talk about adding text to designs. Keep in mind, you're not a t shirt. If the design is praying hands, in front of a cross, with a crown of thorns, wrapped in rosary beads, that also have another cross, with a dove with an olive branch, & a halo, & shining strata & nimbus,... do you REALLY need to add the word 'Faith' to that? You're kinda already beating that point to death there with that Bible bookstore cluster already. Its about as helpful as adding the word 'Tattoo'. Art speaks louder than words, friends. Only add text to a design if it adds, enhances, or totally changes the meaning. Otherwise get out of the way of the art! 

• AMBIGRAMS: SEE ALL THE ABOVE: Ambigrams are words drawn in such a way that they are words even when flipped upside down, sometimes the same word, sometimes another word. People feel they are terribly clever when the two words are antonyms, like the wide spread ambigram that reads LIFE one way, & DEATH when inverted. But graphically speaking, they're the worst of everything I've just been explaining compounded into one big typographical nightmare. So much liberty has to be taken in order to morph the letters into other letters, they're rarely if ever legible at all. And nothing says bad art louder than a visual that needs you to stop & explain what people are looking at & can't read. 

• WE KNOW, ITS CHEAPER: Of course it's cheaper, it's only squiggly lines. But I wouldn't tattoo just lines on you, I would explain that without shading & color, it will look weak, incomplete, an empty coloring book. And that's what we see with a text based tattoo. A budget is a terrible reason to dictate weak tattoo art. Our tattoos are going to be around for a lot longer than your current income level, trust us. Especially when you quit drinking & smoking, & not in a career that  requires name tags. 

• TATTOOING IS OLDER THAN WRITING: This point is a petty matter of pride, but archaeologically speaking, its true. Tattoos are pre-historic. Older than written languages. It could easily be argued that art is a more immediate & powerful communicator than text. Which is why, for thousands of years & hundreds of cultures, tattoos have always centered around visual imagery, not lettering. Or, maybe it's just that tattoo artists in 2900 BC couldn't spell "Bashanhavothjair". Either way,... 

In conclusion,... 

• WE'RE NOT HATING ON TEXT: This is not an attack against lettering. Its an attack against an Internet filled with really really bad tattoos, tattoos that try to make their way into our reputable studio. I would've been a lousy poster artist if not for text, posters are supposed to explain who, when & where. But I never created a poster for any band that was ONLY text. There are plenty of tattoos that have text attached to them that are killer,... Sailor Jerry's famous 'Love Thy Neighbor', 'Poison', 'Man's Ruin', or 'Stewed, Screwed & Tattooed'. Text is fine in brief, powerful bursts, like Born To Lose, Bad Luck, F.T.W. or F.S.S.F. Or on knuckle tattoos, in an eight letter combo. Text tattoos like this work because they fit into what makes good tattoos, they fit on the body part, & are strong ideas that make their point fast & quick. Your English teacher's advice of K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple, Stupid, speaks volumes here. 

The preamble to the US Constitution is NOT a good choice. And we get requests like this every day. If you're tattoo idea is falling into a number of the above criteria, we're going to refuse to do it. We will explain why, of course. And we're happy to try to guide you into taking your idea & translating it into a graphic visual, or a visual graphic. We can do some amazing things with tattooing, but there are still some limits. 

Below, I'm including a series of photos that illustrate my points. I would give credit to the artists, but sadly none was given in the various corners of the Internets© that I found them. 

Great curves, nicely tattooed,... & I still can't read half of it. Imagine how strong this would have been if she had just gone with the images,... 

Like a business card printed on a billboard,...

The 'Wicked' tattoo totally lives up to its name, but with all this fine art on a really fine canvas, why the full menu on the thigh? 

The last place my eye travels to on this photo is the largest part of her body, dead center in the middle of her back. Almost any image at that size would have blown you away,... 

A full forearm, & I still can't read it! (Yes, it's in Italian,... but if I have to ask 'Is that an N or a W?' more than once, I'm out!)

Good idea,... on paper. But you can see what I mean, we're not paper,... the body makes this design even harder to read than it needs to be. Plus imagine this much skin in the hands of a master artist,...

Oh good Lord. Never mind about the worst use of negative space ever. Look how his muscles twist those lines like a Dr. Seuss drawing,... Apologies, Mr. Ashton,... 

Not a lot of type, & still, the letters run together, are different heights, & slope right off the arm. And, is strangely justified to the left margin, which she doesn't have! 

Weird paradox,... as the well done 'Fear God' is strong on the clavicles, but although tattooed clean, the rest is again strangely laid out with bizarre sentence breaks. And curves away from being readable as its sucked into the armpit. And kills a whole pec on lettering small enough to make me fetch my reading glasses. 

Great work, great flow, fun looking stuff, on an even better looking girl, & then bam, right off the road into a railing of static text on her curvy calf. Look how much nicer the other leg is. 

This artist is clearly decent, but even still, under this kind of onslaught, we still have issues with the letters bouncing around at different heights, letters stretching & squashing, strange sentence layouts, & lines flowing in & out of defined abs. Note how little you notice it happening to the IMAGE right next to it, even though the image is doing the exact same thing,... its just so much less noticeable.

Cleanly tattooed, but again, look how the entire thing folds up. And look at the acres of skin it took to get there,... 

Ditto times 1000. God's perfect curves, lanced by strangely justified sentences, tiny fonts,  & rows of skin cutting lines,... she could have been the Birth of Venus, now's she a Chinese take out menu. *sigh*

Again, all photos used for educational purposes. 

Cut & paste this article as you see fit.

Here's to great tattooing! 


  1. Daily I tell clients, "I got into the industry to be an artist, not an author!". Thank you for this blog. It has been posted and shared.

  2. thanks for that. changed my out look on text. much rather get a peace(s) of art then cover my body with a few words that are unreadable.. and in my opinion look like shit, (no offence to the grate artiest who try n make it work)...

    1. It's probably best that you never get a tattoo with wording if this is how you write... btw, its "piece," "offense," and "great artist."

    2. The first two aren't wrong since the "peace(s)" was a play on words and offence is as correct as offense. One is British and one is American, dunno which is which. And cmon, don't be a douche.

    3. Thank you! Your reasons perfectly highlight why people should not get fonts on them. thumbs up for making this article.

  3. Everyone wonders why I complain about font tattoos! Thank you! I was a visual arts major in college not an English major and I got into being a tattoo artist to continue being a VISUAL artist. I love to write. But not on skin. I agree. Too much beautiful canvas there to cover with words.

  4. Look, if you don't like doing good text tattoos, just say that instead of lining up a shitload of bullshit reasoning behind you not doing it then saying "we aren't hating on text tattoos" after ranting that very point. I find it interesting that you don't include any photos of lettering by Jack Rudy, Katie Sellergren, or Big Sleeps that would basically show how wrong your argument is, but just go to a "here are shitty tattoos" webpage and show stuff from that. This thread tries to make points (and there are a few in there) but fails terribly due to pre-conceived bias.

    1. I fail to see your point.


      Big Sleeps

    2. Then I guess you need to see an optometrist.

    3. Wow, are these photos supposed to prove that lettring can be nice ? They are all fucking ugly, and even worst than those depicted in the post. lol.

    4. No magalolematelot, you missed my comment. They are by the people that Doug Hardy claimed should be looked at as examples of good work. You're seeing what I'm seeing in them. Maybe we can go to the same optometrist. :)

  5. amazing i wish all my clients could read this before they get here

  6. If you want to do your art your way all the time, then don't be a tattoo artist. Not to say you can't guide people, but putting this many words into how much you hate words is just absurd. I'm sick of tattoo artists acting like prima donna rock stars. You get paid over $100.00 an hour or more, enough with the complaining, it's pathetic. I once had an artist tell me he wouldn't do two different flowers in the same piece because in real life "they don't grow near each other". Crazy much? Get over yourselves, you're one of the few people in the world that actually get to do what you love for a living, so doing a few tattoos you don't like sometimes doesn't need a term paper written about it. Some people can never just appreciate what they have.

    1. We're trying tp save you from an irreversible bad decision
      We are the experts, you are the client. You wouldn't tell your doctor or your mechanic how to do their job, would you? So why would you not listen to the advice of an expert tsttoo artist? We are well paid because we know what we're doing and have experience that you, as the client do not. You don't have to take our advice. I'm sure you can find someone who will happily take your money for writing a book on your skin if that's really what you want. Just let it be known that we, as professionals, think it's a bad idea.

    2. can i ask for an opinion then? i want the woddie guthrie slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists", your suggestion is then to incorperate it into an image but i do not like overly detailed work, any suggestions?

  7. text tattoos do not look good

  8. I happen to have a text tattoo that I love! its two simple lines on my wrist. just because I want a text tattoo doesnt give anyone the right to judge it! its my tattoo and to be a snobbish artist about doing them is ridiculous. i understand having a book on your skin is dumb but do not judge everyone's text tattoos!

    1. He is not judging everyone's tattoos. Your not getting the point we as tattoo artist are here to put the best possible art work we can on you. The japanese have been doing this for 100s of years. Fitting 2D imagery to a body/body part (3D form). The flow of your art work is determined by the part of the body being tattooed. When the flow is disrupted and or not there as text tattoos do. the form being tattooed is broken and becomes static and hard to read as one cohesive piece. We just want to you to have the best looking work you can get. and all he is saying is text has a place and on paper/"flat surface" is that place. because thats were it looks and works best. I dont get from this post that he is hating on all of everyone's text tattoos. read the caption under the pic of dudes chest. "FEAR GOD" is strong on the cervical's. that is text.

  9. hahaha.. upsidedowngirl says "don't judge my tattoo" then goes on to say having a book on your skin is dumb. So it's OK to judge someone else's huh?

    The point here is that there are TECHNICAL reasons to avoid text tattoos, especially small and wordy ones. There are also aesthetic reasons. You can ignore one or both of these reasons and still get them, but you really should consider the advice of the people who tattoo for a living. If you choose to ignore it, I guess that's your business. But you can't fault them for trying to give people the best tattoo possible. More coverup work for them later I guess.

  10. *waves*

    Thanks for using and altering a picture of mine without even asking.


  11. This is an amazing article. Great examples to understand and pass the point.
    I agree with the writer 100%
    and no need to get offended if you only have a couple simple and blunt words. to quote
    "Text is fine in brief, powerful bursts, like Born To Lose, Bad Luck, F.T.W. or F.S.S.F. "

  12. You may be the experts on the skill of tattooing, but you are certainly not an expert on what someone else considers a meaningful piece of text.

    Most of these are bad lettering, not bad tattoos. I'm surprised you don't know the difference.

    I know several skilled artists who don't mind doing text. Why? Because they're good at it, and it's not their job to tell someone "you shouldn't get that because I think text tattoos are a waste."

    What a ridiculous article.

    1. I could not agree more! People see art in so many different ways. So many tattoo artists are just ignorant assholes and lazy these days. It's not about you. It is about us...the client and what we want. Yes, your professional opinion is welcome, but in the end it is our decision. Music is art. Lyrics are art. Why hate on people who want lyric tattoos when that could be something that saved their life, got them through a hard time etc. Your job is to tattoo. Period.

  13. The tattoo with the laziest critique belongs to a friend of mine and its left justified because she wants it that way, and she loves it, "sloping" or not.

  14. Why is there no mention in this article of the importance behind a client choosing to have something tattooed on themselves that's personal and meaningful to them, whether that's through text or an image? I would hope that as tattoo artists you would get a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you've been a part of a very important and sometimes emotional process for someone, whether you like their choice of tattoo or not.

    As I'm sure you're aware, people get tattooed for different reasons. For some, a tremendous amount of thought goes into finding something that's important to them, and for some, it's simply a matter of finding something that's visually appealing to them. Both reasons make complete sense.

    It's shocking to hear anyone imply that words are not as powerful as images and that they have no potential to be subjective or for their meaning to change over time. Words have every potential to be as timeless as images. How can anyone confidently state that a particular passage, phrase, or lyrics that have value to someone be no more valid than trendy skinny tribal? I agree entirely that they're not as visually stimulating, but so what? If the meaning behind the words are important to someone, then why is that not the key factor in what makes it a worthwhile tattoo for you to do?

    Who cares if it's not easy for people to read them because our skin folds, and who cares if they won't be admired by a ton of people? The motive behind getting tattooed isn't always to get that sort of attention from other people. So what if they take up a lot of space? Not everyone cares to get full sleeves done.

    This entire article is opinion based and has little to no regard for the needs of the people that you're actually serving. Laura hit the nail on the head by mentioning that while I'm sure you're excellent at the skill of tattooing, your opinion on what you consider to be worthwhile for an individual to tattoo on themselves means nothing.

    While I'm sure that you're an expert at what you do, you can't compare your expertise to those of a doctor or a mechanic because those industries are not subjective in nature in the way that art is. Words are just as beautiful and just as much art as images are, especially to those that they're being tattooed on, which are the only people that it should matter to.

    1. I too began my career as an artist doing band posters and album art, then sign painting and murals, and finally entered my current profession as tattoo artist in 1998. I absolutely LOVE making beautiful hand drawn lettering. I take great pride in doing fanciful and bold lettering tattoos that fit with the body part I'm working on. The point I think many are missing here is that while the information being conveyed by the words in a design are important, the form is most important. Line after line of text looks like hell. An elegant rocker of text, well balanced and designed for the individual (as in the "Wicked" tattoo pictured above) looks great! How cool would a "Metalica" shirt look if instead of their bold logo atop a killer illustration, it was line after line of boring type face describing the band members, their instruments and influences, their hopes and dreams and fears? Who would wear it? Who would bother to read it? No one would, because even though it describes "Metalica" perfectly it looks like crap. I don't think it was this posters intention to offend, but rather to inform. As a tattoo artist who's been in the industry for quite a long time, I agree with every word.

    2. If I were to go in with a passage of words and ask to have it put on my body permanently, I would hope that the person doing it would say "look, this is too small. In 3 years you aren't going to be able to read it." Maybe it would make me change my mind, maybe not. But they definitely have the right to tell me - and they have the right to tell me it will look terrible. I don't have to take their advice, but I would want to know. What if I went in with some words, and I had spelled one wrong? Would I expect them to correct it? I guess it depends on how you look at tattoo artists - as people who are there providing a service to give you exactly what you ask for, or as artists and professionals whose opinions matter. (or perhaps it a little of both)

      When I got my ink, I went in with an idea of what I wanted. We talked about it. He came back with a gorgeous outline of it. I was so excited and got it... then when he colored it - which was done in another session and I had no idea what it would look like - I was floored. That was 11 years ago, and my tattoo still looks gret today. If he had advised that what I wanted wouldn't last, I would have rethought it.

      I guess it depends on who you go to, and how much you value your skin and their opinion.

    3. Agreed on your thoughts of words having full ability to be subjective. Anyone that thinks otherwise must not read poetry.

      There are people with visual processing learning disabilities that find visual art overstimulating and ugly most of the time. Not all brains work the same. Tattoo artist comparing himself to useful careers like a mechanic or doctor is pure egotism.

      His words come off harsh and unrefined. I find people who slam the humanities and English suck at them.

  15. I agree and disagree! Some of those are nice,at least from a client stand point. Some cluttered and illegible!

    Not all tattoos are to show off some picture, they have meaning. They are meant to be seen by someone close and personal. Text can be an ode to someone when a picture is not suitable.

    On the other hand, I think people need to be more picky about where and what kind of text they choose. I could see how a tattoo artist would not want to tattoo a bunch of boring text. No challenge there for sure!

    1. A tattoo with "meaning" needs to be visually compelling EVEN MORE than one without. Because it's important, right?

      "meaning" is no excuse for "ugly". The more it means to you, the more attractive it should be visually, the better planned artistically, the bigger, the more elaborate and bold it ought to be.

      When people tell me something is deeply meaningful to them but want ten ideas packed into a square inch of skin, it sounds like they're lying. If it was so important and meaningful, surely they would put more time, space, and effort into it than that, and give each concept plenty of space to stand on its own?

    2. Just because an image is deeply meaningful doesn't mean that it needs to be large, bold, eye-catching, or obvious. I have a very meaningful tattoo that I imagined and my sister designed, but it is small, discreet, and in soft color. I deliberately designed it and placed it so that no one would see it unless I wanted them to. People have to be close enough to me emotionally for me to share this physical thing. It means a lot to me, but it is definitely not to be noticed or seen by everyone.

  16. Dummmunkee, Bovine University, and Lizzardskills - I agree with you entirely.

    Text tattoos should still have the same level of care put into them with regards to making them aesthetically pleasing through design and composition(while still taking into consideration the vision of the client). And from a technical perspective, I would TOTALLY want to know if in a few years down the road, all the letters were going to bleed into each other, or the tattoo may not look exactly like it does on paper, etc. These are things that the general public wouldn't know and for things like that (along with their artistic skills of course), the expertise of the artist is extremely valuable.

    On the very long list of reasons why they mention that they're turning down a bunch of tattoo requests, were also a ton of reasons that were personal and opinion based. Where I disagreed was with comments about how text is not subjective in the way that images are and how they don't have the same potential to be timeless and to change with the person over time. Lizzardskills, just as you mention, not everyone is going to care if other people are going to take the time to read/look at it because the tattoo may not have been meant for other people, or maybe just a select few. If it was meant to be personal, then the client wanting to read it is the only thing that matters. And not everyone is going to care about the fact that they take up a lot of space and that they may or may not interfere with future tattoos. These are all completely personal choices, and I would hate to think that people would get turned away from getting a text tattoo that was important to them by an artist who's work they really like because of reasons that go way beyond the technical aspect of it.

    While I can agree that text tattoos might not be as exciting and challenging for a tattoo artist to do, I would hope that they got into an industry that's still customer service based because they care about the experience that they're providing for their clients, and I think that part of that is learning the reason behind the tattoo. Through being tattooed and talking to artists and through having friends who are tattoo artists, I hear that they often get to hear some amazing stories from their clients through talking about their tattoos.

    1. I hear what you are saying, but the tattoo artist also has the right to their opinion too. It's no different than if they don't do flash, or hate doing roses, or anything else. I see it as their right to choose *IF* they want to do the tattoo. They don't HAVE to do what the client wants. The guy who did mine only did custom work, and he had a small shop in the art district of Chicago. It was on the 2nd floor, so you had to know where to find it. When he was coloring mine in, a couple of young dudes strolled in... they asked "how long is the wait?" and he replied without looking up "two months". They kind of shuffled out. He wasn't exaggerating either - he only did work by appointment and he had plenty of work to do. I hope he's still doing that well and can be as picky about his clients as he wants to be. But I understand it might not be like that for all artists. Sometimes I guess you have to pay the bills.

    2. thing is, too- it's not "a few years down the road". It's the instant it's on skin it will NOT look like it does on paper.

      it's an immediate thing. clients are accustomed to thinking in 2D, tattoo artists (worth their salt) grow accustomed to thinking in 3D, and about the engineering of the body and its effect on design.

      You go to a professional to get professional advice and work. Not to hire out a photocopier to xerox some shit onto you on demand. I hope.

  17. I find my ethics with the tattoos I do varies with how broke I am at the time.

  18. You nailed it, simply nailed it. and for the naysayers on here....give all that lettering a few years and let's see just how 'cool' it is then. Just like the tribal bands of the 90's....Taz of the 80's....much less the artistic problems Johnny talks about here.

  19. try doing comic books for 1/4 the $ and 10x more time and see how that works for ya. you guys are lucky that tattoos are really hot right now and you have clients.

  20. your work is awesome by the way.

  21. What many of you fail to consider (and what respectable tattoo artists can't help but consider) is that the artist has a portfolio and a reputation to think about. If he agrees to do your tattoo even though he knows it will look terrible in a few years (if it doesn't look terrible immediately for the reasons clearly enumerated by the author) but you think it looks amazing, odds are you're going to show it off, and someone is going to ask who inked you. Now his name is attached to that piece forever, whether he wants it there or not. There are surgeons who refuse to do procedures because there is too much risk involved and it will reflect poorly on them to have made such a bad judgment call when they knew going into it what the likely outcome was; generally, a patient's insistence will not change the surgeon's mind. This is no different. A visual artist who works professionally does so knowing that others will judge him or her by the quality of their work, not the desires of the "canvas".

    1. Actually, it's pretty different. Tattoo artist and surgeon. Seriously.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Not so different, actually. Plastic surgery is only semi-reversible--probably even less reversible than tattoos.

      If you're requesting a look that the professional doesn't want to be associated with, then it's their right to refuse.

      Take Michael Jackson for example. Every time he got another nose job the risk of complications and an undesirable result went up. He was informed and willing to risk his nose collapsing, but not every surgeon would be willing to risk their reputation on it. In fact, I doubt that anyone would have if he hadn't had the money to pay handsomely and the fame for people to realize it wasn't surgeon error. Same with tattoos the artist doesn't think will widely appeal.

      For example, my hubby is just getting to the point of tattooing people, and the first tattoo he was asked to do will probably risk his career if people just look at the photo and don't know that the client ASKED him to make it look that way. Shaky lines, varying letter size, everything people fear that apprentices will do. But the client wanted it to look like something done with a homemade machine in unskilled hands, they just wanted it safely. He did the tattoo, but the photo isn't in his portfolio.

    4. Good point, Grace. Well put, thanks.

  22. Thank you! I wasn't sure it was going to be worth it at first. The ext ra work I had to put into it was insane but I am loving the finished product. I'm happy everyone else seems to love it too.
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  23. Beauty and art are subjective, yet people continue on through the ages claiming they know best as 'experts'. Foolhardy and regrettable, indeed.

  24. "No one buys an Ozzy t shirt because its a whole shirt full of Helvetica."

    It's funny that you would specifically mention Helvetica. People absolutely buy leggings for that exact reason!

  25. Thank you for this article. Text tattoos look so stupid (especially when it's a huge honking paragraph).

  26. i agree with all of your points. i do have a text tattoo though, a memorial. my friend's signature off her gravestone. no regrets, it looks great, and the meaning is so important to me. my artist was very helpful and honest in his consultation

  27. Many of your arguments would also apply against any figurative/illustrative imagery at all being applied as a tattoo...Obviously good tattooists know how to make images sit best, move well, fit the body perfectly - same can apply to typographical pieces too. E.g. If you disagree that this piece is successful, it's your own taste, not any of the typographical principals you described being ignored or broken. All imagery compromises to some degree when applied to skin, not just type. You could just as easily argue that flags are a poor way to display something, cause they blow in the wind and aren't clear enough, and they fade in the sun and get shit on by seagulls.
    The movement of the type on skin is only negative in -your- opinion.
    I think large scale, black, no shading, no colours, is the BEST thing if we're talking longevity and clarity. All these nikko photo reproductions are gonna be blobs when (ugh) tribals and large type is still clear.
    Not disagreeing that 'just breathe...' on girls ribs is a fucking blight, of course.

  28. Fucking emo rib poetry bullshit.

    Great post.

    If it's more than two lines of text, it belongs on paper. Or it's a DESCRIPTION of the tattoo you actually want.

  29. Hey Guys, can anybody of you tell me the full text of the "Fear God Tattoo"? Or give me a hint where can I find it ;-) thx

  30. From someone in the final design stages of four text tattoos, thank you for writing such a well-connected article. Without the photos to accompany them, many of your points would have been lost.

    After reading I still plan on getting all four, and with such great "what not to do" pictures I've chosen a different font for the two (on my arms) I want legible at a distance in order to tie into the back piece they'll accompany. As for the other two, I feel no need to ask anyone else to read them.

    I agree that having to stop and read somebody's attempt at expression is annoying, especially when typography, body shape and poor use of negative space get in the way. Everything else equal, that Italian tattoo would be legible if the letters were filled in!

    The man with the wall of text under "Fear God" clearly doesn't intend people to read his pecs as he jogs by. There's a lot of thought and artistic skill in all his ink! Strangers get to read "Fear God." If they're truly interested they can ask to step closer and read more, after all. That font and placement is perfect for his lover to read laying next to him, and there's nothing wrong with that.

    You're too quick to indict all text tattoos in the concern over "sidewalk" legibility--we all know more factors go into good tattoos.

  31. I think you raise many interesting points, but as someone who both studies and teaches literature for a living, I'm going to have to fundamentally disagree with your entire "ART IS SUBJECTIVE, TEXT IS NOT" section. I mean, honestly, the written word's subjectivity, its proclivity to interpretation, its malleability-- that's why we still make people study words in school; why we ask people to read Homer and Shakespeare and Woolf; why scores of fourteen-year-olds scratch their private agonies onto paper or into the keyboard as both pictures and words, doodles and "emo poetry;" why audiences can be equally enthralled by a novel and a jazz concert, museum collection, or slam poetry reading. To privilege visual art over verbal is to put all forms of artistic expression into some kind of completely unwarrranted Gladiator-style competition, while ignoring the fact that many kinds of art can all serve the same expressive need. Funny that you should remember so many pieces of your English teachers' advice yet forget the essence of the written word.
    Having said that, I'm in no way defending the textual atrocities I see all too often. My favorite is a forearm tattoo that reads "What doesn't kill you make's you stronger." I show it to my students and remind them that grammar, spelling, and punctuation do matter, not just in essays but to ensure that they don't end up as a joke in an English classroom.

  32. As a typographer, I can tell you Helevetica is consideres old-fashioned and out of voque. Text can be used to create stunning visuals, but again it is being done on flat surface or packaging not people. I like small amounts of text. I have a "Sew or Die" tattoo, Brass knuckles with Bitches Get Stitches and a girly skull and cross bones with "Bad to the Bone." I, however, do not desire to put paragraphs on myself. If I am going to endure hours of needle pin pricks, I want an amazing image. While I don't agree with everything the author says here, I do think he has a valid point.

  33. Wow, really well said. Thanks for sharing this!

  34. Not everyone that gets a tattoo wants it to display artwork. I've seen tattoos of a drawing/sentence that someone's kid wrote and is it terrible artwork? Yeah, a three-year-old drew it. But to me, that's a hundred times more meaningful than the skull you have tattooed on your arm that is the perfect example of a talented artist and a well-done drawing. Each tattoo is personal and for ANYONE to say that a tattoo is ugly/not worth it just because it's a lot of text is ridiculous. If you have legitimate concerns as an artist, such as the lettering is too small, then bring that up.

    As a graphic designer, I know that text can look fantastic, no matter what you put it on. The fact that you claim that text is meant to go on a flat surface, blah blah blah, is ridiculous. Have you picked up a BOTTLE of anything lately? That's a curved surface and those are some of the most memorable logos that exist. And text/quotes/words can have fluid meaning. Sure, the dictionary definition will always be the same, but what those words mean to YOU can very easily change.

    I have a text tattoo on my ribs. It's two simple words, but it looks fantastic and the meaning is constantly evolving to me. I didn't get my tattoos, and won't get any future ones, to show off. They're not for people to ogle and be inspired by, they're for me. They have a personal meaning, and they're not meant to leave room for expansion because I am not a fan of larger tattoos on myself. If you want to get them, kudos to you. If you get tattoos to show off to people and to brag about your artwork/designs, good for you. But that's not MY personal choice and your opinion on text tattoos doesn't mean a damn thing to me because there's not a lot of professionalism in it. So get off your high horse and stop judging people for wanting text on their bodies. Just because you wouldn't do it doesn't make you the be all, end all of opinions.

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  36. "[Type is] designed to be read... with maximum contrast between very dark lettering & very light grounds."

    Then why, pray tell, is your blog white text on black?

  37. While I see your point...the inside of my right arm is tattooed from the wrist to the armpit with a quote i love. and 4 years later it is still my favorite tattoo ans I don't have another tattoo on that arm. I KNOW I wouldnt like full sleeves on me so I don't believe I will suddenly wake up one day and miss all that fine looking space...I love tattoos...BIG tattoos...but that doesnt mean that we all are looking for the same look with those tattoos. And I assume all my tattoos and loves them, even if other people don't like them

  38. A beautiful font is art in and of itself.

    "But I never created a poster for any band that was ONLY text."

    Then maybe you should expand your creativity!

    This is awesome.

    And this is a classic and iconic for a reason.

    Since you've expanded the conversation beyond font tattoos to font and the written word as art in general, I'm going to defend it. Because, dude, by dismissing all of it, you're missing out! Challenge yourself!

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  40. Tattoos make you stand out of crowd.. Thanks for this nice pictures on Sun Tattoos. I really appreciate your work, keep it up.

  41. does anyone have any more examples of great lettering tattoos? i really want to ink a quote, but i always hated how words look on the body. now i know why. thanks for the great post.

  42. Totally get what you are saying about readability. Well thought out and well said. Speaking of which, I am not a tattoo artist, but I am trained in paper layout and design including Websites. Black background with white text is the number one "no-no" for readability on the Web. Please rethink that element of your blog. Great content. Just going to go wipe the blood from my eyes now.

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  46. "we're the experts your the client"

    But please tell me, who lives with my tattoo for the rest of my life? You or me? So who is the expert on me? You? Don't think so.
    Now getting an entire paragraph is a little much, but that's still none of your "expert" business. I have a quote that was *made* for my half sleeve, in a banner, and a word on each wrist. And ya know what? I had my 1/2 sleeve halfway removed because of a-holes like yourself that tattoo police because it isn't something THEY WOULD DO, and then went back and re-did it and added to it because I love it~ And my favorite part is the text.

    Half of your points are so not valid. And I take insult to the fact you think that typography isn't an art in itself and that it "mumbles". Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me? Maybe because I practice written typography and caligraphy I find that it's a pretty detailed fucking ART but that's just me.
    And like another person said, you all get paid so MUCH for what you do. Suck it up. I have to clean other people's shit and sex sheets every day, I could ask people NOT to shit all over the toilet seat because it's not something I prefer doing but hey they pay us $200 a fucking night so they can shit where ever they please.
    Also some of the ones in your post look good. Cry about it omg

  47. What a great blog! These are some great works of art and they have some great detail. I’m thinking of going to a tattoo school to become an artist and this gave me some great inspiration to move forward. Thanks for posting!
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  48. i just spend my time reading is not something u do to look cool, is something for u, if u feel, if it means something to u then u do it and its right, even if it means to cover your hole body with text. and i realy feel sorry for people doing tattoo because they are trying to be ''somebody'' just beacause the way the look

  49. "Just like every other art form, typography has its own rules & limitations. Before computers loaded with hundreds of fonts downloaded for free, typography was a specialized profession, & typographers were very proud crafters of type. Good type is readable because of weight, form, size, leading, tracking, & kerning. Its designed to be read on flat surfaces, with maximum contrast between very dark lettering & very light grounds."

    Seriously? Seriously, seriously?? The same applies precisely to "painting" and "tatooing".

    Painting (excuse the pun) this as a black and white issue is nonsense. I even dare to pose the hypothesis that the percentage of shitty text-tattoos is not much, if at all, higher than that of crap picture-based tattoos. And by bad I'm not refering to "pretty/not pretty" but merely the objectively measurable craftsmanship.

    Be it text, Kanji/Hanzi, runes, tribal patterns, barb wire, anchors, whathaveyou - none of these are bad per se, it just always depends on the why, when, where and how it was done.

    It's the dose that makes the poison, not the substance.

    1. I agree with everyone that has said that is is simply a matter of personal taste. I personally don't like large, detailed and shaded pictures as tattoos. I like black ink, symbols, fonts, black and white images with clean lines, some tribals. If I am in the minority with that, thats okay. I don't get tattoos for others. They are for me. I also think sentences can be just as symmetrical as an image depending on placement. I don't see the difference between a warped image on a curved body vs. a piece of text. Text can be so meaningful to people, that is why I am planning to get two lines on my underarm. Many have a favorite quote or poem, and I happen to have identified with one passage of the anglo saxon rune poem for years. It has been my motto for surviving disease and I can not express the same with an image.

  50. You could just admit you're a shit tattoo artist instead of dissing text tattoos.

    Although decent lettering i admit is rare.

  51. whoever wrote this blog is a failure of a tattoo artist and quite possibly the the biggest WANKER ever to write about tattooing.

    oh no i get it - wait - its a trolling article, he's not serious, surely a working tattoo 'artist' wouldn't humiliate himself so fully, so public like.

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  53. great article....well said and a lot of truth to it......nevermind the sensitive folks chirping at you here..... ;)

  54. The funny thing is, most of the text tattoos in the pictures look good to me.
    Taste is a very personal thing...

  55. I got "Scripto Ergo Sum" (I write therefore I am) being written by a feather pen tattooed on my left upper arm because of a promise I made to myself 10 years earlier that, one day, writing would pay all my bills.

    Now it does, and my tattoo serves as a permanent reminder of how, after working my ass off to put myself through school and a host of other hurdles, I am what I wanted to be when I grow up.

    I can understand your disdain for lettering tattoos as a visual artist, but not everyone is visually based. Some are language lovers, and believe it or not, that does in fact include a love of typography and font. There's opinion, judgement and elitism. I generally disregard the latter two.

  56. Haha, you stepped on some people's pride here...

    I completely agree with everything you wrote. There are amazing artists, like Henry Lewis, Big Meas, Norm WillRise that do fantastic calligraphy and lettering tattoos, tho, but are all visually striking and just nice to look at - not twenty rows of small letters.

    It still amazes me how you give your sincere opinion, you take time to write all this stuff down because you CARE and you see a lot of bad tattoo decisions everyday... Not because you have nothing better to do. But still there are people saying that your opinion sux, because well, why not. It's their tattoo. Their decision. Their skin. ... and your job to cover up that bad tattoo in few years. :))

  57. I could be wrong, but that "my name is Kelly" one seems to be so whoever she is having sex with will remember her name. One for when they're behind, one for when she's giving head.
    And the female sex never got classier than that.

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  61. This article is weird. As a writer and enjoyer of typography, I find a lot of your points about text (content and style) to be off-base. Just to name a couple: text is plenty subjective (there are entire fields devoted to interpreting texts?). And someone could just as easily say, "ink artwork was made for paper." If you're an artist, can you not make typography on skin your medium just like you would visual art on skin?

    I think that's the point: maybe YOU can't. Maybe YOU don't like to. Maybe that's not YOUR thing. But I bet some artists are happy to integrate text and curve, text and muscle. It's another medium. Just like some visual artists choose sidewalk chalk and others choose to carve landscapes out of books. I guess I'm saying this is a really weird way of narrowing the field by saying, "Text isn't MEANT FOR skin." I know plenty of people who would say that about images.

    Those are just a few issues I have with your strange reasoning. I think what your argument probably really boils down to is that there are a lot of text tattoos you think look stupid and you don't like to do them. So okay. But I think it's weird to act like it's, in general, a horrible idea that no one should attempt.

  62. This comment has been removed by the author.

  63. I don't think that the person who got the tattoo cares if you think it looks like crap as long as they love it. I don't get tattoos to impress other people so their opinion on this issue means nothing to me in all honesty.

    I don't have text tattoos, but I'm not opposed to getting one at some point if I find an artist who I believe can pull it off and I find words I want permanently affixed to my body. I agree with another commenter that words can be incredibly subjective.

    I don't think people shouldn't get text tattoos, I just think that they should find tattoo artists who can do it well despite all of the curvature of bodies. Just because most people can't do it well doesn't mean no one can. And in the end - your opinion (or mine) of tattoos other than your (my) own doesn't matter.

    I think that you are assuming something that for a large section of the tattooed population isn't true - that they care what other people think of what they choose to put on their bodies.

  64. are you leonard from the movie "memento"? didn't think so. don't get paragraphs of tattoos plastered all over you.

  65. This comment has been removed by the author.

  66. I think many of you are missing the point of this post.

    As a letterpress printer I agree that there is a beauty in typography that is lost now that everyone has a computer and can use 15 different and not that well designed fonts to print their garage sale flyer. There are good fonts and ugly fonts and yes this opinion of good and bad varies from person to person but there are some general guidelines to what make a font "good".

    Many of you have said that a good tattoo artist should be able to make a text tattoo look good but I think as the author pointed out, no matter how good you are you are dealing with uneven curves and an uneven surface that will move. The human body is not static. Someone who mentioned type looking good on wine bottles has forgotten this, a wine body has regular curves that don't move.

    As for the whole notion that tattoo artist should just take their cash and shut up I think that is a terrible idea. If I'm going to get a tattoo which will obviously be on my body for life I would want someone to say hey you know this part won't really work out and give me a reason as to why and possibly how to fix it rather than keep their mouth shut and give me a lousy tattoo.

    Related to this don't you want your artist to be skilled and enthusiastic about the artwork you bring in? Think of it this way if you wanted wedding photos done would you hire anyone with a camera? No. Would you hire the photographer who does amazing
    landscape photography? No. You hire the person who enjoys taking taking photos of weddings and does a good job photographing people. Duh!

    If you go to a tattoo artist and want some pirate ship tattoo and the guy talks about how he hates ships, thinks they are boring etc. maybe go somewhere else. Instead go to the guy who is totally interested in pirates, maybe knows all about Black beard and has a couple of pirate tattoos himself. Both artist may be equally talented on a technical level but only one is enthusiastic about the artwork you are bringing in.

    It is kind of like shopping at Wal Mart versus a locally owned shop. You may find some of the same items to buy but at one place you are much more likely to have a positive experience. Just seems to be common sense. You can take the attitude that the artist should tattoo whatever you want because they are getting paid but don't complain about the results when you've obviously hired someone who obviously thinks you and/or your tattoo sucks. There are plenty of talented tattoo artist out there find someone who is good and someone you like.

  67. First of all respect due to your craft if you are an artist. Having an artist like Grime or Chris O'donnell have totall freedom might sound good to some but personally having a skull or demon with flames coming out of its head might not appeal to others. Taking 3 hours to do a some lettering that doesn't have meaning to you matters none. Just as someone tattooing a their ideas on you wouldn't be erroneous as well. Clients pay your bills. The testament to being indifferent on your opinion is what matters most to your craft. Client satisfaction should be imperative. How about a butterfly tattoo to go with the hours spent on your egocentric post?

  68. If the author substituted the word "lettering" for "tigers" or "babies" or any one of the common subjects of tattoos this angst piece would still read the same. My mind is made up that tattooing for the author is a lot like "work" and not much fun... too bad for him.

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  70. I read this article with an open mind, as someone who has always had my eye drawn to text tattoos - and someone who has had plans for many through their life. I myself am an artist, I work with pen & ink and I'm also a painter. I have thought to become a tattoo artist for many many years, but trying to find an apprenticeship is nearly impossible, as i'm sure you know. Anyhow, I am an artist - and I am also a writer. For years upon years, I have filled journals and canvases with text that looks like art and art that looks like text. I loved the points you made and I agree with every single one of them. Yes, text looks a lot different on the curves and shapes of a human body. Yes, these words are defined and they can not be changed with the years like an image can. However, from another viewpoint - I have always viewed blocks of text as an art piece themselves. Growing up I would write all over my body in class, following the curves and playing with the word placement. I think that there can be something very aesthetically pleasing about a block of text on someone's body, especially when it's surrounded by images. So what if it's not perfectly straight. It's taking something that was born and created to be perfectly straight and lined and controlled, and throwing it into another element - something that grows and changes and curves and is never the same. I think there's an artistic beauty in that. I also am a musician, there are a lot of songs I've written over the years that I still sing today. There are plenty of them that don't mean the same thing they did when I wrote them, but I find new meaning to sing them with every time. Words can be just as much of an art as images, it's all in perspective.

  71. And another 2 reasons to avoid text tattoos.

    1. Nobody should aspire to look like a walking post-it note.

    2. I don't care how much that song lyric means to you: What I've learned the hard way is that you WILL get so tired of people asking you what your text means. You can get the most literal phrase and people will still ask you what it means. You will dread every poor reader in your neighborhood holding your skin and reading the phrase out loud. You might have a Miami Ink-worthy sob story when you first get the tattoo, but you will shorten it considerably after only a year or so. Getting a text tattoo takes all the joy out of the text.

    1. I read this article because I have been planning on getting a long text tattoo and I was curious what it had to say, and out of the entire article itself and all the comments, your second point is the most damning. (Ironically this is the last comment so the last thing I read)

      I think this article rubs so many people the wrong way because it's mostly from the artist's point of view... And yeah the artist is the expert and knows what they're talking about, but people don't like being told what they can and can't put on their body, and also probably a lot of people who would be offended by this article probably have something very meaningful to them in mind for a text tattoo so its understandable that having that compared to a "grocery list" or "chinese takeout menu" as this article so often does is a bit agitating.

      But I think this point is the best at establishing why text tattoos are a poor choice for the person being tattooed, not just an annoyance to the artist...

      Maybe this is a little weird but for the month leading up to when I'm planning up to getting a tattoo, I've been writing it out where I want it with a sharpie, just to make sure I like that placement or just like it in general, and I already have experienced so much of what this point is getting at... People holding up my arm and squinting as they read it aloud and asking what it means or what the context is, and it's already gotten pretty annoying, and I know the words by heart already from having it there and I feel like that would over time really dull the feelings they gave me when I read them for the first time...

      Also the original author's point about text being impossible to work into its surroundings is very good, since I've thought about future tattoos and the possibility of starting a sleeve and I really can't think of a way to work a paragraph-like chunk of text into an art sleeve without it looking awful and out of place.

      I really think text tattoos are valid, if they're artistically lettered or short and sweet or used to add to art or have massive significance, like tattoos in the handwriting of lost loved ones, but I'm definitely getting the point about long uninteresting scrolls of text or things that seem important at first but will lose meaning and interest after a while of being on your skin...

      I don't lack independent thinking to the point of changing my mind about something I wanted just from reading one article, but like I said I've been doing a little practice run by writing it on myself to test it out first and I've already experienced some things I don't like about it and this article and the comments are definitely adding in a few very solid points that are making me lean toward rethinking it...

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  82. A tattoo snob I am, and I agree on all points about text. Hate it.
    But I'm also a grammar snob- lose the ampersands. They're best for proper business names. I mean what are you sparing yourself, two labor intensive characters?

  83. I was never interested in giant text tattoos, but after reading this, I know now that I will never be! Thanks for the heads up.

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  89. Is it possible to tattoo an image under text that already exists? Such as a faded liberty bell under a sentence from the Declaration of Independence and 1776 in Roman numerals on the shoulder

  90. Custom Writing I Can Trust Tattoos are amazing works of art if done in the right way and by an expert. I have a small tattoo of my mum because she is my hero. It's the only tattoo that I have. Great post!
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  92. why do you care what other people want on their bodies? It is their bodies, their decision, and they are the ones who have it for the rest of their lives. If you don't like doing text, then don't, you are not the only artist around.

    Bitching and complaining about what other people like, is not your job. Your job is to make art FOR people, art that is supposed to make THEM happy.

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  94. You've convinced me to leave out the text on my next tat (I don't have text already but I do already have ink), I was kinda waffling about it anyway but you make some good points. The image can stand alone without explanation.

  95. Very well written! There are several points in here that I've never even thought of.. Thank you!

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  97. As a lawyer (another service industry) I understand the desire to want to consult clients and tell them what you think is best, but at the end of the day, it's their life. They have to live with the consequences of the decision and you are there to help them.

    Bad text tattoos will not affect your reputation for doing imagery. If you don't feel competent, that's another story.

    But for tattoo artists to be sanctimonious about what deserves to be put on skin is a shame. I've never been artistic, or particularly interested in static visual media. To me, there is nothing more powerful than the written word, and no images can do certain sentiments justice.

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  101. After mulling it over for many years, I was FINALLY set to have the first line of a Rilke poem tattooed at the top of my thigh for my 52nd birthday. I've been a writer all my life and this would be meaningful to me. Was looking for in on how large the font should be, and found this. Apparently I'm just going to have to let go of the idea of a tattoo.

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