Tattoo Writings

9 May 2010

scritte tattoo a Tattoo WritingsNames, initials and writings – a look at some of the all-time favourite tattoos.

Tattoos with writings, in fact, are now seen everywhere and their variety knows no end: quotes, mottos, proverbs, song lyrics, patriotic slogans, passages from holy books, sentences in Latin, words such as True Love, Family First or Faith expressing personal values and so on.

The most popular tattoos are undoubtedly ones with names or initials of loved ones: children, spouse, parents, grandparents…

Beautiful writing is almost a thing of the past but thanks to tattoos it’s now making an ‘on-skin’ as opposed to an ‘on-paper’ comeback. Tattoos with writings, in fact, are now seen everywhere and their variety knows no end: poems, quotes, passages from the Bible and other holy books, mottos, proverbs, song lyrics, patriotic slogans, sentences in Latin, mantras in Sanskrit, philosophy, epigrams (often dedicated to the deceased), words such as True Love, Family, Faith or Truth expressing personal values.


The most popular tattoos are undoubtedly ones with names or initials of loved ones: children, spouse, parents, grandparents, close friends.
Moreover tattoo writings are often personalised with a bit of decoration, ribbons that underline or frame the words, patterns or drawings that flank or envelop them.

While tattooed words once acted largely as a form of ID for gangsters and city gangs, the trend is now much further-reaching and has permeated society at every level. Writings in Chicano, the commonest tattooing letter style, was once the calling card of Mexican criminals. Yet Chicano, like Gothic, draws its inspiration from the art of calligraphy.

Up until half a century ago handwriting was actually a school subject. In the 1950s Italian students still had their hour of calligraphy (“calligraphy” literally means “beautiful writing”) and learnt to write in Gothic and Italics (also called Cursive); using a pen-nib inserted into a straw or a stylus (there were various nib types) they outlined letters of varying boldness according to the required style. This technique of writing, in which ink is applied on paper using a pen-nib or a brush, is also called pen and ink.

In the 60s the fountain pen made its appearance in Italian school: handwriting was no longer a subject in itself, but if it was done well it would usually ensure higher marks in all other subjects.

Even in the 60s and 70s it was compulsory for primary school pupils to use lined exercise books with varying inter-line gaps: narrow to set the height of lower-case letters, wide for upper-case letters or to establish the upper/lower limits of lower-case letters like g, o, l s and h. The lined paper is one of the principal tools for a calligrapher also today.

For decades calligraphy was confined to specialist area, such as the lettering in comics.
The term lettering refers to all the written parts of a comic: dialogues between characters, captions, onomatopoeia and titles. While lettering is now largely composed on computers, in the past it was entirely handwritten by professionals called letterers.

Today some Italian editors continue to appreciate this manual art and still publish comics with handwritten lettering: Bonelli, the Dylan Dog publisher, is one of them.

Yet calligraphy doesn’t end with comics. In artistic calligraphy and in graphic design it is used, among other things, to create logos and scripts, or new fonts that are then marketed for use in software.
Then there are the outstanding professionals of the field such as Daniel Reeve, the artist commissioned by movie director Peter Jackson to create the old-style documents and maps seen in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy (look at the Lord of the Rings tattoos)


Angelina Jolie has a tattoo
that says “know your rights» and another with a phrase in Latin: “Quod me Nutrit Me Destruit” (what nourishes me destroys me).
Tattooing Christian names is also popular
with the famous.
Allen Iverson
is as famous for his tattooed writings, which allude to a past in street gangs, as he is for being a world-class basketball player; the names of his wife and children also decorate his skin.

Football stars such as David Beckham, Fabio Cannavaro and Ronaldo have had their children’s name tattooed on their skin.
Fernando Torres
, a footballer on Spain’s national team, has had his name tattooed in the language of the Elves.

by Mary Tiussi
English translation by Stephen Michael Davies


If you’re thinking of going for a lettered tattoo, you’ll want to check out our specials:

Lettering Tattoo contains many examples with names and initials from over 40 different alphabets. You’ll find the most in-vogue styles of the moment such as Chicano, calligraphic and American old style, together with Old and Modern Gothic – not to mention a host of highly imaginative ‘fantasy’ alphabets.

Words & Numbers contains 11 new alphabets, 7 sets of numbers and 273 words, phrases, names and initials. All the flash sets of are by the Italian tattoo artist Ueo Tattoo.


Photo: tattoo work by Cinzia, Vampirya Tattoo (Genoa, Italy)