Leg Lettering Styles for Tattoos

Written by benna crawford
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Leg Lettering Styles for Tattoos
Leg graffiti often uses elegant script in designs that complement tattooed images. (girl with tattoo image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com)

Some people who go in for leg tattoos go far beyond the ankle ladybug or the big toe star. Their ink may take up an entire calf with a passage from a favourite piece of literature, a meaningful quote or beautiful calligraphy. You can weave a graceful font through a picture design or limit it to a single word that signifies a name or valued characteristic.


Celtic tattoo lettering is really a hybrid, strongly influenced by the ancient Celtic culture but interpreted by Christian monks in the artwork found in the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. The lettering, knot work and illuminated drawings reflected frequent incursions of Vikings into the peaceful monasteries—the Vikings kept elements of Celtic culture alive even after the Celts had been defeated, marginalised and absorbed into the Roman Empire. Celtic lettering is popular in leg tattoos where it combines with graphics such as the triskele and the Celtic knot. The words can take the form of a cross or a butterfly or wrap around those images. Your tattoo artists can ink words in black but may weave them into a design that has inlay sections or braids of colour. Celtic lettering may spell out words in English or Gaelic.


Kanji are the Japanese symbols or ideograms for the Chinese characters that are part of written Japanese. There are anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 characters, although only about 2,000 are commonly used. Each character represents a complete thought or concept, so a single character may carry an entire message, or you can combine two or more characters for a different meaning. Ink Kanji in black—it frequently indicates a quality such as “courage” or “love.” One new use of Kanji that fits on a canvas as large as a leg is a haiku tattoo. You can combine Kanji with a traditional pictorial symbol like a Koi in a full calf design.


Tengwar is a script created by J.R.R. Tolkien—it is the one of his alphabets found most often in his stories. Tengwar looks something like written Tibetan; it is a flowing, non-italic script—slightly medieval in form—and uses diacritical marks to indicate pronunciation. The marks become part of the graceful and clean design when Tengwar Elvish is part of a tattoo. You can use it to write words in English, Welsh, Scottish, Swedish, Polish, Gaelic and other languages. Elfish tattoos may borrow quotes from the works of Tolkien for phrases like “not all those who wander are lost” or “never laugh at live dragons.” Elvish is also popular for one word qualities like “strength” and “dream” or translations of a name, either from the Ring trilogy or of the tattooed person’s name. Elfish tattoos wind around the ankle or go down the back or side of a calf, and they usually use black ink.

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