Gettin inkd
March 2, 2012 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Best way to find the right font for tattoos and general tattoo questions

After a few years of thinking about it, I've decided to take the plunge and get a handful of tatoos. They are all in English and I have the wording down pat, but I need to find the right font (almost equally important in some regards). So a few questions:

Do tattoo artists work with their own font style or can they "stencil" fonts that you present them? I read a prior MeFi tatoo question about fonts, so it seems common fonts can be replicate, but I wanted to focus in on the artist's ability to really nail a font of my choosing.

If you can pick your own font, what resources are available to comb through (visually) large amounts of english fonts?
posted by Hurst to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can pick your own font for sure. If you Google the word "font", I think you'll come up with a TON of resources.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:31 AM on March 2, 2012

When I'm looking for fonts for various projects, Google web fonts is where I start. Most tattoo artists can replicate a specific font if you bring it to them, but may tweak it a little if your desired font won't work well for whatever reason (level of detail or placement, for example).
posted by bedhead at 9:32 AM on March 2, 2012

There are several free font download sites you can browse that have lots of options - dafont, fontsquirrel, urban fonts. You can just do a quick google search to find more. One nice thing about these sites is that you can type in the words you want and see exactly what they would look like, in case certain characters look odd or whatever.

I have two text tattoos - for the first one, which is pretty small, I downloaded a font, typed out the words I wanted, brought it in, and the artist copied it exactly. The second one is much bigger, the entire length of my left arm, and I did the same thing but asked the artist to take a bit more liberty with it since it's a more artistic font. He did a fantastic job and I'm really really happy with it. If you can find the exact font you want online, go for it, but also talk to your artist and ask them what they think. They can probably draft up something you're happy with or adapt a font that's close enough.

Good luck! I love tattoos.
posted by krakenattack at 9:34 AM on March 2, 2012

Just as a general point, tattoos are never perfect especially when it comes to detailed line work. Your artist will probably work with your text design on their computer, then transfer it to a sheet that leaves a faint purple outline on your body. They then trace that. You can go back and forth as much as you want in the design phase at a good shop, but the actual work will just be close.

To answer your question; yes you could work with any font in the world especially if you bring it in as some kind of digital file. Just be aware than minor variances might make your Garamond into a Times New Roman or something.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:34 AM on March 2, 2012

Thanks all, this clarifies a lot of it.

posted by Hurst at 9:48 AM on March 2, 2012

I got to caution you. I have a tattoo that features numbers in the OCR-A font at about 12pt. 15 years after I got it they are now sort of vaguely shaped smudges.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:06 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

You will also probably want to see some examples of the artists work -- some are better at stenciling than others, or have their own styles that may change the font somewhat. Some prefer to draw freehand, for example.They will also be able to tell/show you whether a font with x phrase in x font size will look good (and stay looking good).
posted by sm1tten at 10:21 AM on March 2, 2012

Yes, you can use any font you like! But I completely second 2bucksplus.

I have a word tattooed on me in a serif font (about 20 pt) I carefully picked out. Five years later, it is definitely not perfect. If you're really particular about your tattoo retaining the specific characteristics of the font, I would consider going larger--but your tattoo artist should know best.
posted by inertia at 10:39 AM on March 2, 2012

I would conquer that I would first and foremost find an artist you like and admire. Then work with them on the font. A good artist will be accommodating to what you want!
posted by gpoint at 10:58 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

My advice would be to find an artist who does work that you admire and trust, then work with them on fonts and design. While it is an excellent idea to go in with your own pictures or preferred font, a tattoo artist can give you input as to whether that font is likely or unlikely to age well and how it will transfer from paper to skin, as obviously skin has different properties than a computer screen or paper. If you're in NYC I can give you excellent reference for a brilliant artist who only does custom work, just PM me.
posted by OsoMeaty at 11:31 AM on March 2, 2012

Listen to Ad hominem: Whatever font you choose shouldn't be too tight and it's most likely going to need to be bigger than you anticipate, if you don't want to suffer the smudgies after a few years.

I've got one that I wrote out and had tattooed on my wrist years ago. It USED to read "Eat A Peach" (which everyone thinks is a lesbian reference, but really refers to the Allman Brothers album) and NOW it looks to read "Cat A Peach". Which is stupid as hell. On the other hand (quite literally) I've got the first signature my great-grandfather ever laid to paper when he came here from Germany. My tattoo artist recommended we super size it, which I didn't like at first, but it's still perfect and more than readable.
posted by youandiandaflame at 11:48 AM on March 2, 2012

If you want detail work, you'll want to find someone who's very good at it AND who's been doing it long enough that you can see old work they've done as it looks today.

My 2 oldest tattoos (about 15 years old) were done by different people. Both looked great when I got them. Both are on the same body part and so should have aged similarly. One now looks like shit, and the other looks like it was done last month.

Fortunately, all my other work was done by the guy who did the good one.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:31 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll second coolguymichael, as far as blurring and the tattoo aging it really depends on the artist, even with something simple like text. I have latitude/longitude tattoos (about 20 pt, something I found on DaFont) on the inside of my wrists that has been about 5 years, and aside from some minor fading (which is typical) they both still look pretty perfect even the degree symbols and the decimal point are still clear and haven't blurred together. Just don't get thrifty with the artist :)
posted by Quincy at 4:52 PM on March 2, 2012

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