Script tattoos, or tattoos that are composed completely or primarily of letters or words, are one of the most popular types of tattoos. Words were a major focus of many classic tattoos from decades past, and they continue to reign in the modern world.
Getting inked with a meaningful quote or phrase might seem like the perfect idea for your first–or next–tattoo. Script tattoos have proven themselves to be virtually timeless as they’ve remained in style for several decades, albeit with a few shifts in popular fonts and lettering. It’s also easier for most people to communicate the meaning they want their tattoo to have through words rather than pictures. That being said, script tattoos are also one of the easiest types of tattoos to go terribly wrong. Inking your skin with script that is well-placed, aesthetically pleasing, and doesn’t warp or fade significantly over the years is extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible. Before you head to your local tattoo parlor with your favorite quote of the day, make sure you are well informed about the dangers of script tattoos and how to avoid them.
1. Don’t Go Tiny
Tiny, minimalist tattoos are a huge trend right now. These tattoos are classy, elegant, and easy to hide when needed. However, getting a tiny tattoo means taking a big risk. Because these tattoos are so small, the lines of ink are very fine and very close together. This combination is a perfect recipe for major blurring, fading, and distortion over time.
All tiny tattoos are risky, but small script tattoos are an absolute no-no. It might not be too noticeable if the outline of the petals on a tiny flower tattoo start to melt together. But any amount of ink movement in a small script tattoo will blur the letters and create an unreadable blob within ten years or less. The best way to keep your script ink clear and sharp is to size it as large as possible so that the lines of ink can be thick and far enough apart from one another that natural blurring over time won’t be obvious.
2. Make it Meaningful
You can probably come up with five different words, phrases, or quotes that mean a lot to you right now. But before you turn those words into permanent ink, think about what those words might–or might not–mean to you five–or twenty–years from now.
People’s beliefs, relationships, and values naturally change over time. A slogan that’s extremely meaningful to you right now will likely not resonate with you the same way in a decade or two. While this is true for any tattoo, the personal meanings of your image-based tattoos are much easier to change as you change.
3. Check and Double Check
Accuracy is another area in which script tattoos are much more unforgiving than wordless ink. Most image-based tattoos are not exact copies of another design. Even if you’re trying to mimic the style of an existing design, it’s perfectly acceptable and even expected for your ink graphic to have its own unique style.
When it comes to script tattoos, however, many people choose to copy exact quotes from another source. In these cases, spelling and phrasing is extremely important. If you’re going to get someone else’s words inked permanently into your skin, make sure they’re exactly the right words.
4. Don’t Switch Languages
No matter how cool and mysterious it might seem to get a tattoo written in a foreign language, never ever do it. It’s way too easy to unintentionally get inaccurate ink, whether you mess up the spelling, forget an accent mark, or don’t really grasp the understanding of a foreign phrase as well as you think you do.
The next time you’re considering a script tattoo in a second language, remember that even Rihanna managed to mess up the order of the words in her French tattoo. Unless you truly have a rich background in more than one language, get your script ink written in the language you speak.
5. Leave People Out of It
Your body is yours and yours alone. That means you shouldn’t brand your skin with anyone’s–really, anyone’s–name. That rule rings true always. It doesn’t matter if it’s the name of your boyfriend, sister, cousin, or absolutely anyone else in your life.
Everyone wants to believe that their marriage will last forever or that their closest friendships will never fade. However, everyone also knows from life experience that this is not always the case. No relationship is certain, ever. If you feel like you absolutely must get inked in honor of someone else, at least choose a wordless–and nameless–graphic. That way, you can pretend you got the tattoo for a different reason if your relationship changes.
6. Remember Placement Matters
Placement is important for every tattoo, but it’s especially essential for the longevity of script tattoos.
Get inked on a large, flat area of your skin for maximum readability and cohesiveness. Your stomach, back, rib cage, and arms (written lengthwise) are good choices. Avoid curved places, like your thighs, waist, or arms (written widthwise). Script tattoos in these places often end up looking like a jumbled mess of letters.
7. Think About Your Future Ink
Script tattoos take up a lot of space. Or, they should if you get them inked large enough to age well. Word-based tattoos rely heavily on negative space and require a huge surface area of skin for very little actual ink.
If you’re someone who has multiple tattoos planned for the future, think long and hard before you take up tons of valuable space with one or two lines of a quote.
Tattoo regret is a real–and terrible–thing. That’s why laser tattoo removal companies stay in business. It’s also why artists who specialize in tattoo cover-ups are constantly in high demand. The fear of regretting your tattoo shouldn’t keep you from getting the ink you want. However, it should motivate you to make sure you understand the permanence and risks associate with your tattoo–especially one as complex as a script tattoo–and how to plan your ink well now to stave off regret in the future.