Most 'tattoo' fonts are crap. Check out these 10 that you might actually use.

A quick Google search reveals that there are thousands of tattoo fonts available on the web, but a swift glance reveals that many of these are so poorly designed that even the kind of person who turns up in a 'worst tattoos ever' Buzzfeed post would think twice before using them, so we thought we'd bring together 10 paid-for and free tattoo fonts that are wroth a download.

First a note of a caution. As with script fonts, no tattoo font is going to be as realistic as hand-lettering. Unless you're only using a short phrase, or are using a font with lots of alternates for each letter, your output is always going to look like its been digitally produced. But then for some projects, time-consuming hand-lettering just isn't feasible and digital type is more than good enough. Just remember to set your expectations correctly and you should be fine.

Tattoo font 1: Fearless Script

Fearless Script is a tattoo font created by illustrator Chris Park, best known for producing kick-ass rock illustrations under the moniker of Pale Horse Designs. You can follow how he created his awesome Death Goddess artwork in our Illustrator tutorial.

Chris says that the font is inspired by tattoo lettering and vintage signage. It includes both uppercase and lowercase characters, numerals, most punctuation, alternates and vector swashes.

Fearless Script is an OpenType font and costs $25 (around £15).

Tattoo font 2: Inked Script

Inked Script is another tattoo font created by Chris Park, though this is lighter and more script-like. As with Fearless Script, there's a a full set of both uppercase and lowercase letters, numerals, punctuation, alternates and vectors.

Inked Script is an OpenType font and costs $25 (around £15).

Tattoo font 3: Mardian Pro

Vicky Mardian is a type designer from Bandung in Indonesia who's created four commercial tattoo fonts. We've chosen the one that bears her name.

Mardian Pro isn't a typeface to choose if you want legibility, but if you want a flavour of needled type, it's a winner.

Mardian Pro is available in OpenType and TrueType formats and costs £32.99 – though you can download a fully working 'demo' version for personal use.

Tattoo font 4: True Love

True Love has been created by Italian web designer Davide Cariani. Described as a 'typography experiment', True Love has two weights (Bold and Regular) but only a limited set of glyphs (uppercase letters, period and dash).

But we like the cut of its jib and it's free, so you can't complain too much.

Tattoo font 5: Sailors Tattoo Pro

You can pick up a decent 'sailor-style' tattoo font for free pretty easily, but none have the flexibility or adaptability of Sailors Tattoo Pro.

This typeface by Otto Maurer has five main weights, plus six element fonts that can be quickly combined to create type with black linework and coloured fills. To use it you pick your base weight, which can be pure linework or half-filled (will either the top or bottom half filled), then duplicate your type and change it to one of weights that are comprised of elements to fill in the linework (either with solid colours or gradients). You can then change the colour of the fill or gradient for the effects shown above.

There are also Filled and two Light weights of the main font, which are well formed but don't use the internal elements.

Sailors Tattoo Pro is an OpenType font and costs £60.99.

Tattoo font 6: Fette Fraktur

If you're after some big Gothic-style lettering for tattoo styling, Linotype's Fette Fraktur is your best bet. It has a large contrast between the thick and thin strokes that gives it its near-parody level of 'Gothic-ness', so shouldn't be used small due to legibility issues – but if you want to give a single word (or two short ones) a heavy metal feel, break it out.

Fette Fraktur is an OpenType font and costs £30.

Tattoo font 7: Angilla Tattoo

Most tattoo fonts turn up what they're drawing from their inked heritage to 11, but Angilla Tattoo is more restrained to the point that you might even be able to read a sentence or two cast it it without needing an eye-break. It also makes the font usable in circumstances where you want a flavour of bikers culture rather than the full Harley Davidson.

The font features both upper and lowercase letters, and a selection of calligraphic brushstokes that can be attached to the type or used independently.

Angilla Tattoo is an TrueType font and costs £32.99 – though you can download it for free for personal use.

Tattoo font 8: Bleeding Cowboys

We're a little reticent to recommend Bleeding Cowboys, as this free font has the most potential of any featured here to make your type look like it was created by a 14-year-old who's just got into Bullet For My Valentine – but used with some thought and subtlety, it can give a nice burned-in effect. It's designed to resemble a branding mark, with contact imperfections and bloodmarks that grunge it up, plus looping tails on some of the characters.

Bleeding Cowboys is free for personal use only. To use it commercially, you need to contact the font's designer.

Tattoo font 9: True Man Tattoos

True Man Tattoos is a free icon font that again should be used sparingly, if you need a few quick tattoo symbols to add to a project.

The font is is free for personal use only. To use it commercially, you need to contact the font's designer.

Tattoo font 10: Hustlers

Hustlers isn't a tattoo font, it's a tattoo shop font. It's makers at Decade Type Foundry say that it was "carnival, circus and tattoo signs shop from the late 1800s".

The typeface has two versions of its letters – Rough and Smooth – which exist as upper and lowercase letters within the same font, plus a single set of numbers.

Hustlers costs $30 (around £17).