With connections to the earliest forms of human expression, lettering tattoos go deeper than you think. Not only ancient texts, but illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages, hand painted signs from days of old, and even contemporary graffiti culture, lettering tattoos take their curly queue's from many different styles, aesthetics and historical movements. And while they may seem simple, fonts for text are used in digital design, advertising, and so much more...and every single aspect of lettering has particular techniques that you should pay attention to. The spacing, filigree, and every little detail isn't just happenstance; it's a decision to support the art of the alphabet.
Sumerian archaic writing, and Egyptian hieroglyphs are thought to be the earliest forms of human writing, but these particular alphabets weren't based on the language of the people. They were actually ideograms: usually symbols that stand for an idea or word without actually noting the sound for that particular word or idea. So, while alphabets were, sort of, being created, they weren't signifiers of language. Pretty interesting! We kind find these types of texts in Mesoamerica, ancient China, Egypt, India and more...these countries also usually had a history, or ancient culture, that practiced tattooing as well! It's no surprise that all different types and means of expression were being explored! And although these esoteric symbols and ideograms are no longer used in every day writing, we're certain that you've probably seen some lettering tattoos that use the exact symbols, like those of ancient hieroglyphs!
Contemporary lettering tattoos, however, are often more related to the history of hand painting signs and books, than the ancient tribal cultures. As we mentioned medieval calligraphy is definitely an influencer to many text tattoos, as is Gothic, Old English, and other fonts that were created within the past. We can also thank the ancient peoples of the Greek, Roman, and Arabic cultures (as well as a few others) for many of the letters, fonts, and stylistic aesthetics of lettering tattoos that we see today. While not as obvious as say, figurative tattoos depicting portraits, animals, and the like, alphabets are also an art form that was influenced by the many cultures and histories that it came in contact with!
Today's tattoo artists that like to do lettering tattoos will often quote many different ways of writing as inspiration. Delia Vico's work often uses the beautiful black graceful ink calligraphy of the Arabic language to inform her work. Stefano Phen obviously uses techniques to replicate different spray paint caps within his graffiti inspired lettering tattoos. Pierre Bourquin and Celio Macedo have both spoken to Tattoodo about how graffiti is greatly reflected within their work, whether directly through font, or overall design style. But no matter what type of text, font, or calligraphic flair an artist uses, there are so many different aspect to a design that makes it successful. Just looking at these pieces, you can see how important spacing, details, and the right font for the right word makes each and every one of these lettering tattoos totally pop.