Best Tattoo Fonts: 8 Fonts That Stay Legible With Fading

Posted on June 18, 2024 | Updated on June 27, 2024

A request for tattoo art might be one of the more unique commissions a graphic designer gets. Many design for businesses, but some might also have a side hustle where they create art for the general public. Tattoos are fun designs to create, but when running into a request with words, choosing the right typography is critical. The best tattoo fonts are not only readable, but they need to stay that way as the person gets older.

Keen eyes are vital for an eye-catching design that lasts through time. Here are eight fonts that stay legible with fading, plus a few that aren’t the best choices.

What Fonts Don’t Work Well With Tattoos?

To get a better idea of what makes the best tattoo fonts, it’s helpful to start with what can make a font not the best choice. One of the most important aspects to note is the thickness of the letters. Flowy calligraphy styles do look beautiful, but the thin lines will start to blur over time, likely making the ink unreadable. Additionally, if they want smaller art, the words risk becoming an illegible blob faster.

Additionally, blocky letters without the proper kerning could cause problems down the line. Depending on the art size, they, too, could eventually bleed together as the person’s skin grows and changes. The thickness might also cause readability issues at a distance, so it’s vital to print the design and view it from multiple angles to ensure the client’s desired effect.

Here are a few examples of fonts that do not work well for tattoos:

  • Cadogan: While it has thicker lines, the shorter height of the letters and italicization make Cadogan a bit harder to read when inked.
  • P22 Hopper: The thinness and stylization of the letters cause this font to be less legible in a tattoo now and in a few years.
  • Sarina: Sarina’s just a bit too thick of a typography style to remain readable on a person’s skin — the ink will likely bleed into the other letters.
  • Sudestada: Suestada is far too thin to avoid blurring in a tattoo.
  • Shabby Chic: Fonts like Shabby Chic are difficult to read already — they look too much like a line.
  • P22 Zaner: The combination of thick and thin lines makes this font hard to read already as well.

8 of the Best Tattoo Fonts

So, which fonts are good for inking? Here are eight ideas to guide a graphic designer’s inspiration.

1. AZ Sailor Tattoo

For the American traditional tattoo, look no further than AZ Sailor Tattoo. The font is a clear hallmark of the style and is also more likely to stand the test of time. It has few superfluous details and the arrangement of thick and thin lines helps it stay legible. If the client is looking for an older-looking tattoo with bold lettering, AZ Sailor Tattoo is an excellent choice.

2. Tattoo Beast

Tattoo Beast is a beautiful font that draws inspiration from the steampunk aesthetic. While it has a few loops and curls, they stay contained within the letters, helping it avoid blurring into other parts of the tattoo. The only troublesome part might be the flowy crossbar of the uppercase A, but a graphic designer can simply redraw it  if they would like. For some gothic-feeling ink or a bold statement, Tattoo Beast stands up to the task.

3. South Route Font Duo

This font pack holds two of the best tattoo fonts. The script style is a thick enough cursive that it should hold up well to fading, thanks to the even boldness of all the lines. It also doesn’t have a ton of flourishes — just a few to give the typeface some movement. The all-caps version is also easy to read because it’s a bold print with good spacing. Use these fonts alongside each other or separately for an eye-catching tattoo.

4. Modernline

If the client wants a cursive script, they don’t have a lot of options that aren’t prone to fading. Designers and those getting the tattoo often want the writing to look handwritten, which means thin lines and heavy stylization that can be hard to read and prone to fading. Thankfully, Modernline is a fantastic option because its most recent update comes with a bold version. The slight extra thickness should help it offer the effect the commissionee wants and avoid the blurring so common with these fonts.

5. Americal Traditional

Of course, if a designer is illustrating an American traditional tattoo, the American Traditional font is an easy choice. The letters are a bit thinner than AZ Sailor Tattoo, so the artist may want to thicken them a bit to ensure any ink movement doesn’t mask what the ink says. The letters are also completely filled in, making it the more subtle one of the two. When someone wants a vintage tattoo with a touch of flair, American Traditional might be the perfect fit.

6. Silverdale

Silverdale is perfect for those who want a more stylized print font. The style is reminiscent of the handwriting of a time gone by, and the thick lettering is perfect for a tattoo that lasts. This typeface also has a ton of alternative characters and swashes to give it even more appeal. Someone who wants ink that looks like it was written by Shakespeare himself might find luck choosing Silverdale as their font and playing around with all they can add to their design.

7. PEARL

A client who wants a more modern feel in their tattoo might love the PEARL font — specifically the one by Tan Type. The sleek letters have just a touch of style to them, making the typeface legible yet still unique enough to give off a bit of flair. PEARL would be a great choice for a tattoo that’s entirely made up of lettering, like a favorite song verse or quote. It may work less well with art, but feel free to mess around with it.

8. Cristone

Got a client that loves the classic biker tattoo? Most fonts in this category have a bunch of ligatures and details that make them hard to read and could cause blurring issues in the future. Instead, go with Cristone — a striking blackletter font that’s bold enough to last and thin enough to remain legible. Those who want the classic look will love how this typeface evokes painted skulls, roses and a strong gothic feel.

Play Around With the Best Tattoo Fonts

Not every font is optimal for a tattoo. In fact, many of them don’t suit the art style at all. The unique medium the art goes on means artists have to account for a canvas that will blur the ink and stretch as the person it’s on changes with time. That’s why it’s essential to take inspiration from the best tattoo fonts to determine what will look good with a design and remain legible.

These are by no means the only fonts a designer can use in a tattoo, but they provide a good basis for what elements work. Just remember to avoid typefaces that are too detailed or thin. Those have a much more significant chance of fading into a blurry mess, especially if the design is too small. Play around with the options out there or create a font unique to the person the tattoo is on.

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About The Author

Coraline (Cora) Steiner is the Senior Editor of Designerly Magazine, as well as a freelance developer. Coraline particularly enjoys discussing the tech side of design, including IoT and web hosting topics. In her free time, Coraline enjoys creating digital art and is an amateur photographer.

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