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choosing the right tattoo for you | Tattoo hubTattoo

choosing the right tattoo for you

philosophy on tattoo selection

tiny, crystal

Most tattoo collectors, especially the ones new to tattoo collecting, often struggle with making a decision on what image or images to choose.  A very common statement I hear from non-tattooed people is “I would like to get tattooed, but I can’t think of anything that I would want on my body forever”.  Another common statement is “I change my mind so often I’m afraid I would get tired of my tattoo or regret the design I chose”.  These concerns are understandable, however from a more experienced perspective, they are largely unfounded.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, everyone needs to understand that you don’t HAVE to get a tattoo, and secondly that you do not NEED a tattoo.  Tattoos are more popular than ever before in history, but you need to discern between wanting a tattoo because everyone else is doing it and feeling you have to get one to fit in, and wanting a tattoo because you actually have your OWN internal drive to get one.

Chances are that if you have been craving a tattoo, you could enjoy having one.  Now all you have to do is “pick it and stick it”, right?  Most newbie tattoo collectors make several mistakes which are EASILY avoided, if one simply takes a little friendly advice based on years of experience.  You must understand that although you may feel as though you are a unique individual, all of us are more similar than dissimilar and years of observation and tattoo collection will offer your tattoo artist a legitimate perspective on what you are likely to experience from getting a tattoo.

 10 common mistakes first time tattoo collectors make:

* getting a very small tattoo just to “see if you like it”

*convincing themselves they will only get one tattoo

*placing the tattoo inappropriately, just so that it can be hidden

*placing a small tattoo on a large body area (small shoulder-, bikini-line tattoos, etc)

*choosing your tattoo design from images you’ve seen on Google or Pintrest

*choosing a tattoo design you saw on someone else

*designing (or having a friend design) your own tattoo

*selecting a tattoo shop because your friends go there, without doing your own research

*going to a “walk-in” shop so you don’t have to make an appointment

*refusing to consider the advice and suggestions of a competent tattooer


Understandably, there is a certain amount of trepidation and anxiety when choosing tattoos, especially if it is your first tattoo.  Don’t let this negatively affect your willingness to consider good advice from an experienced industry professional.  A good tattooer will offer you advice based on many years of experience, and testimonials from thousands of clients which can offer insight into what outcomes your tattoo choices may lead to.

People generally only regret a few types of tattoos, some of these are:

*poor quality tattoos

*tattoos that are too small

*tattoos they got on a whim, on vacation, or while drunk


*tattoos on the face, abdomen, bikini-line, or on the wrist and ankle in the callous or compression wrinkle areas.

It is also worth mentioning tattoos that “wrap”.  It is a common request to have images wrap around the body, such as a snake or dragon that wraps around the arm, leg, or torso.  While this is, in theory a really interesting idea, the result is often a tattoo that from many angles can only be seen as a band of scales and is difficult to understand.  Avoid wrapping tattoos around the body if it will be difficult or impossible to identify the subject matter from various points of view.  Try to make every conceivable angle of viewing the tattoo equally interesting, easy to understand and identify, and flattering to the body.   If you must wrap the subject matter around a body part, seek to transition the subject from foreground to mid/background as it wraps, and introduce a new main subject matter into the design so that every angle of view is equally compelling.

Virtually nobody gets just ONE tattoo.  Getting and having tattoos is FUN.  Quality tattoos positively affect self esteem, so once you have one, and love it, you will naturally want to repeat the experience.  This is why tattoos are said to be “addictive”.  Tattoos are of course NOT addictive, however a positive tattoo experience is so rewarding that it is only human nature to want to experience it repeatedly.  This is something that those with no tattoos find nearly impossible to grasp, vehemently denying that this line of reason will apply to them.  Just ask your friends with tattoos- most of us at one time or another tried to convince ourselves that we’d only get one, or maybe two, or three, or four…  Personally, when I hear someone say they will only ever have one tattoo, it sounds like a 15 year old boy telling me “I want to have sex, but only once”.

*  The more tattoos you get, the more tattoos you will want

*The bigger your tattoos are, the bigger you will want them to be

*Collectors almost universally transition from smaller tattoos, to larger tattoos, eventually finding it difficult or impossible to unify their tattoos into sleeves and back-pieces in a way that looks as good as it COULD have looked if they had just gotten large, flowing tattoos in the first place.

*all tattoos BLUR and FADE over time, and need to be designed to last.

Many small and highly detailed tattoos that look great when they are new, do not age well.  As time passes, your tattoos will BLUR, fine lines become thicker, crisp edges become softer, darker colors flow into and over-power lighter colors.  Your tattoos will also FADE, meaning that black gets less dark, mid tone colors become less vibrant and more pale, and very light colors such as white, or any color mixed with a lot of white or yellow, may eventually fade away almost entirely.  It is for this reason that small, highly detailed tattoos, as well as many photo-realistic tattoos  are a poor choice.  Imagine how you will feel when the beautiful, small script tattoo reading “patience” that you just had placed on your wrist begins to blur, and all of the tiny areas of skin in the letters “p”, “a”, and “e” disappear because the black ink has spread out and swallowed them up.  Thinking of having your tattoo done in white ink instead? Imagine how you will feel when it disappears entirely, or worse yet, when it fades just enough to reveal a brownish colored scar in the shape of your tattoo.  Imagine how you will feel when that artsy abstract water color and ink splatter tattoo you got that looked so vibrant and nice the day you got it, has faded so badly that all of your color looks dull, some of the lightest colors are gone completely, and now it just looks like a child’s crayon drawing.  Imagine how you will feel after that amazingly realistic tattoo of a beautiful vampire girl with blood glistening on her lips and teeth has faded and blurred until all of those tiny white highlights that made it look so good have all been swallowed up by the dark red and black.  If you don’t understand that last one, imagine a monarch butterfly with no white dots.  Traditional american and traditional Japanese tattoos look the way they do for a REASON.  As we say in the business, “If it’s bold, it’ll hold”.  Tattoos need to be BOLD, high contrast images that will not be ruined by a little blurring and fading.  Detail work is great, however it needs to be woven into the tattoo design in such a way so as to play a “supporting role” to the overall tattoo design, and not as the foundation of the design.  Many tattooers either don’t know this, don’t care, or are in so desperate a need for income that they will not caution you against asking them to make this mistake on you.  Many other tattooers are more concerned about the photo they will get of a raw, fresh tattoo, than they are about the long term satisfaction of each client and so they do not design with these facts in mind.


Firstly, heed the cautions and consider the advice above.  Once you know what NOT to do, its easy.  Wether your tattoo will be large or small, imagine a tattoo that you would get if it were going to be VERY LARGE.  For example, if you want a small tattoo on your wrist, first pretend that you are going to get a full sleeve, what would it be?  Once you have an idea how you’d want your full sleeve to look (if you ever go so far), take whichever small element of the full sleeve would go on the wrist, and you have your tattoo picked out.  If the small tattoo you were originally planning, doesn’t fit neatly into your ideas about the sort of large tattoo you would get (IF you ever got one) don’t do it!

KEEP IT SIMPLE!  Don’t add too many things to a tattoo.  The smaller the tattoo, the simpler it needs to be.  A good recipe for any tattoo, large or small is:

*One main subject

*One secondary subject

*One back-ground element

Examples of this could be a moon, with a couple of stars and a whisp of smoke.  Or perhaps a skull with a couple of flowers and some flames.  Possibly a Bird with a few dragonflies and some clouds, or a goldfish with a few maple leaves and some water.  In other words avoid trying to cram every idea you’ve ever had into your tattoo, no matter how large it is, your tattoos will look better and age more gracefully if they are essentially SIMPLE in their design.

Choose designs that are images you like, colors you like, in a style you like.  It can be anything.  In fact for most tattoo collectors it doesn’t even matter WHAT they choose, if the tattoo is done well, they love it.  The point is, don’t over-think it.  Just have fun and select an image or a concept that you’re confident you won’t outgrow, such as political, or pop-culture references.  You can never go wrong with archetype images such as Flowers, animals, religious, occult, or spiritual imagery, skulls, and elemental back-ground elements like water, clouds, and fire.  Get your tattoo designed and placed (by a tattooer who knows how to do this) in such a way that it will compliment your body and look as though it belongs there.  It’s a good idea to get your tattoo so that you feel as though you look better with it than without it, and design it with your NAKED body in mind, not how it will look in your favorite tank top. Work with a tattooer who is skilled in the style and subject matter that you choose, and who is excited to work with you on it.  Give the artist you’ve chosen some artistic freedom to get the most out of your tattoo, and go for it.  If you think of something else later on… you can always get another tattoo.

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