Why should medieval monks take all the credit for the art of illumination? Sure countless hours were spent in the abbey's scriptorium inking up a single letter, but let's fast forward to the hipsters of today, sporting full-on body narrative. This painstaking and permanent style of illumination calls for a font to match. We found it in the appropriately named Tattoo Lettering (free), an intriguing font set by Canadian designer Daniel Gauthier.
Mr. Gauthier is a font folklorist, the man who designed Chang Chang (an upbeat font based on takeout typography), and Chinese Watch Shop (a handmade set of characters inspired by local signage in Hamilton, Ontario). Here he is again with Tattoo Lettering, a fully fleshed-out salute to the ticklish art of indelible lettering.
Tattoo Lettering captures the inventive stylings of the legendary Sailor Jerry (aka Norman Collins), the father of modern tattoo culture and mentor of artists Ed Hardy and Mike Malone. This typeface lays down like fresh ink. The line work is true to form with thicks and thins, but no in-betweens. The serifs are single weight flourishes, slightly nervous in appearance; the stems narrow at the foot giving the characters a swagger when they line up. The overall appearance is cartoon-like, matching vintage animations such as Steamboat Willie, Betty Boop, and Krazy Kat.
The Tattoo Lettering download includes two versions: Black is solid, while Open is an outline made to be filled in with color by your favorite application. The format is TrueType, a choice that scales nicely. Although the point size can drop to 20 and still hold some detail, these characters start to really make an impression at 48 and above.
Don't be fooled into thinking this folk art form is unsophisticated. Gauthier provides full sets of numerals, international monetary symbols, diacritics, variations in punctuation, @ signs for addresses, hash marks for tags, and a stunning little star just waiting for its chance to shine. If your dream tattoo features an aside (ironic as that might be) there are several interesting brackets to choose from. There is no lowercase, but since when is tattoo styling a chance to write your memoir? Get real. Use this font to shout your allegiances! From what we hear, Sailor Jerry would salute that action.
In this age of merchandising, we can see Tattoo Lettering adorning everything from custom sneakers to stylized decks, but before you start dreaming big, be advised that Gauthier has licensed this work free for personal use only. Let your creations be as individual as the art form that inspired them, but don't send your items to the market without the designer's permission.
Not planning to ink "Sweetheart" on your bicep any time soon? S'okay. Should the need arise, Tattoo Lettering will be there, patiently waiting to lay down text in a style that illuminates not just your arm, but the brilliance of the inker's art as well.
Note: To use these fonts, unzip the folder and install the ttf. files in the folder C:\Windows\Fonts. Note that the fonts won't appear in your applications until you close and re-open them.