For many people, tattoos are a means of self-expression – and there is no more direct way to express yourself than through words. Quote tattoos can highlight the person’s attitude and nature, serve as a reminder of values that guide them, or hold personal sentimental importance.
Significance of quote tattoos
Quote tattoos are some of the most personal, individualized designs out there. While a tattoo with a symbolic imagery can stand for certain values and meanings, a well-chosen quotation can become the most unique way to express the intended values and sentiments.
Quotes can be used in tattoos to stand for just about any meaning and significance. Popular uses for quotes include:
- Inspirational quotes – these are usually meant to serve as reminders of what the person finds important in life, meant to serve as guidance in accordance with personal values. They can also be considered motivational or uplifting. ‘Wishing is not enough, we must do’ (Goethe) is one example of an inspirational quote. Others include sayings such as ‘Failure builds character’ (anonymous), or ‘Today’s accomplishments were yesterday’s impossibilities’ (Schuller) – you get the idea. Whatever sentence hits home and holds particular meaning to you could be a good choice for an inspirational quote tattoo.
- Religious tattoos – quotations from religious texts are a common choice of tattoo for those wishing to underline their faith.
- Quotations from books, poems, movies, and songs – sometimes, a phrase from literature, a movie or a song just hits home. Maybe it helps to express your values or opinions in a concise way, maybe it’s amusing, or maybe it holds some special, personal meaning to you. We all have cultural-reference quotes that we identify with. Having a tattoo with this type of quote will also be a worthy homage to the author.
- Personal quotes – a tattoo quote doesn’t necessarily have to be an actual quotation from something! It can be a phrase of your own creation, such as a saying that you have or simply a text that you write specifically for the tattoo. There’s hardly a more unique tattoo design than a quote of your own invention.
Choosing a font
If you’ve decided on the words to include in your quote tattoo, the next step is figuring out how the design is going to look. While the actual words constitute the meaning of your tattoo, the font you choose will determine the style of the finished piece.
Popular choices of font for tattoos include cursive/handwriting and gothic-style lettering. Broadly speaking, the first one is a top choice for women, while the second one appears most often in men’s quote tattoos. Typewriter fonts are also a good choice – they look great and are easy to read.
If your quote has deep personal meaning, you could opt for using your own handwriting, or that of a loved one. This option makes for an extra-special and unique tattoo. If this ends up being your choice, make sure to check with your tattoo artist whether they’re able to create an appropriate stencil.
Assuming you don’t already have a font style in mind, a good way to find one is by using a text editor such as Word. Type in your chosen phrase and see how it looks in different fonts – something’s sure to catch your eye! At the very least, this should give you some idea of the style of font to look for.
Another option for finding a font is browsing through an online font library, preferably one that shows you samples based on your phrase. For example, 1001 Fonts allows users to type in their phrase and see it displayed in thousands of different text styles.
Whatever font you end up choosing, make sure that it’s readable and well-suited for the tattoo size you’re aiming for. Decorative, intricate fonts will be difficult to read if the letters are too small.
Other things to consider when getting a quote tattoo
Besides the text and the lettering style, there are a few more things to consider when deciding on your quote tattoo design. Most importantly:
- Color – there’s no denying that the vast majority of quote tattoos are done in black. This helps the text stand out clearly against your skin – meaning the quote is easier to see and to read. Still, this is not the only option – color quote tattoos can look great, too. You don’t have to settle for a single color, either. For instance, bold lettering can have a black outline and a colorful fill. Colors and shades can also be blended, so for example, your quote could start off red and gradually blend into orange. This could affect how readable the quote is, though, and not all colors will look good together. Experiment with different ideas on paper and see what strikes your fancy!
- Language – think about whether you’d like your quote tattoo to be written in your native language, or a different one. There are a number of reasons why people opt for foreign languages for their tattoos. For instance, the language could hold particular personal significance, or could be the native language of the author of the quote (say you’re using a quote from a book written by an Italian author – why not have it in the original Italian?). If you don’t want the meaning of your quote to be instantly understandable to everyone around you, choosing a foreign language is the best way to make it more private. You could even choose a different alphabet, for example by translating the phrase into Greek. If you don’t speak your chosen foreign language yourself, just make sure to get the final wording checked by someone who does. Google translate can’t always be trusted!
- Design – are there any other elements that could be added to your tattoo to underline its meaning and make the design more appealing to you? Writing looks awesome in tattoos on its own, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be combined with other images. Animals, symbols, and floral imagery are all popular choices.
- Permanence – never forget that the tattoo will stay on your skin forever. This is an important consideration with any tattoo, but particularly so where it comes to writing. Before getting a quote tattooed, think about whether it’s likely to still be relevant and important to you five, ten, or twenty years from now.
- Spelling – check, double-check, and check again the spelling of the phrase. Remember that the tattoo artist can be the one who makes a mistake, so always pay attention to the stencil and check that everything is correct, before and during the tattooing process. One misspelled word can make your tattoo go from meaningful and inspiring to a bit of an embarrassment, as everyone will assume you’re the one who got it wrong.
Popular design options
Quotes make great stand-alone tattoos, but they can also be used as part of a larger design. Popular choices for combining different elements with writing in tattoos include:
- Feather tattoos with quotes – feathers are a common feature in quote tattoos. They can be added as a separate element next to, above, or below the writing, or they can be worked into the lettering. For the second option, it’s best to use a large, curved font, so that the feather can look natural as part of a letter.
- Quote tattoos with birds – birds appear in tattoos often, owing both to their symbolic meaning of freedom and perspective and to their aesthetic appeal. Adding a bird (or several) to your quote tattoo is a great way to include some color in the design. Hummingbirds in particular are a great choice for quote tattoos, especially common among women.
- Quote tattoos with symbols – symbols such as arrows, hearts, anchors, the infinity sign, and countless others can be worked into the design for deeper meaning. Word tattoos for guys in particular often include anchors, though of course this is not a rule.
- Quotes on paper or in books – longer quotes can be used as part of a design intended to look like a page from a book. This could either mean a single page, a scroll, or a book laying open. This makes for a more complex and larger design.
- Quotes with cultural reference images – for quotes that come from popular books or movies, it’s an interesting choice to add symbolic imagery from the original to the design. For example, Harry Potter quote tattoos often include the lightning symbol (for Harry’s scar) or the Deathly Hallows symbol, synonymous with the franchise and instantly recognizable.
Popular design examples
The placement of quotes tattoo is, like all other tattoo designs, largely dependent upon its size. Larger tattoos look good on large areas such as the back, stomach, arms, ribs, chest, thighs, legs, and hips. Smaller ones are ideally done on ankles, wrists, back of the neck, behind the ear and even on fingers.
As we’ve already seen, the length of your quote won’t be the only determining factor for the size of the tattoo. Even a short quote may need to be big if you opt for a complex font or large additional elements.
While deciding on where to have your quote tattoo, consider whether you want it to be constantly visible to everyone around you. For deeply personal wording that you want to keep more private, choose an area that you can easily cover up with clothing.
Every tattoo is some kind of statement, and quote tattoos make the boldest statements of all. The particular appeal of word tattoos comes from the clarity of meaning and the potential to be inspiring both to the wearer and to those around them.
Take a look through our gallery below to see what quotes others have chosen for their tattoos – there’s bound to be something here to inspire you to create your own!