How to Complain About a Tattoo

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 9, 2020
    Last Updated: July 6, 2021

You have spent a lot of money to get the tattoo of your dreams. You had it inked, but something isn’t right, and it’s really bothering you. What to do? Here’s how to complain about a tattoo (the right way).

Mistakes Happen

It’s estimated that up to 14% of customers think their tattoo is of poor quality or had misspelled words. So it’s not like this has never happened before.

The number one thing to do is to stay calm. Slamming doors, screaming or hurling insults can only create a rift between you and your tattooist. Instead, you want to create a bridge of communication so you and the artist can remedy the situation. 

Staying calm and being polite are concrete building blocks on which you can build that bridge. Being diplomatic and level-headed every step of the way are elements that bring you and the artist to a solution. 

Speak Up Early

If you are at the initial stages where the artist has created a sketch of your tattoo, speak up now if you see something you don’t like or that can be improved. This is the best time to let him or her know. Telling them on the day of the inking is too late and will eat into your tattooing time, which may end up costing you more money.

The artist may have spent a great deal of time on the initial sketch, yet don’t let that intimidate you. The artist wants to please you and if s/he is a true professional, they will do what it takes to make sure you are happy. It is super easy to change colors, size, style or a complete design at this stage. 

After the Fact

Let’s imagine that you went home after the artist has inked your tattoo and you realize the tattoo is not what you want. You may have found something that is not right in the placement of the design, the image colors or the execution. 

You may have discovered something was wrong only after you were able to view the design fully when you arrived home and looked in the mirror. Obviously, this is a more difficult situation. 

The best course of action is to be upfront with your complaint. Be vocal but polite about your feelings so the artist knows that you are not happy and that you both need to come to an understanding about how to make it right. 

Details are Important

Be detailed in your vision of how to make it a tattoo that you want and like. Vague statements like “I just don’t like it” or “Something is wrong” makes the artist’s head spin. Not because s/he doesn’t believe you or want to help you but because the artist has too little to go on. 

Tattoo artists are detailed people. They make a living at creating and executing complex and meticulous designs. Therefore, if you provide details about what is wrong with your tattoo, you are speaking a language the artist understands.


Some remedies are relatively straightforward, such as changing a black and white illustration to a color one. It is also somewhat easy for the artist to fill in an area that you feel should have more color. Another relatively easy fix is adding elements to the design. Be prepared to pay for these changes since they are not the artist’s mistakes, but your preferences. 

If your problem with the tattoo is beyond the artist’s capabilities to remedy, you can seek out another artist to help you. The artist whom you initially worked with, may even suggest someone.

Another option is covering up the original tattoo. Getting another tattoo on top of the one that didn’t pan out may not appeal to you, still, in a bad situation, it may work, especially if you decided on the original design in haste or simply made the wrong decision.

The worst-case scenario is removal. This must be the last resort because it is painful and expensive. This is why forethought, planning and working with the artist before any ink is applied is key to avoiding this costly and time-consuming process.

On the Bright Side 

In some respects, you can look at this as a learning experience. You are learning to speak up for yourself and get what you want. The artist has an opportunity to learn from mistakes and make his or her customer happy.

Constructive criticism is extremely valuable to a genuine artist. It allows them to move forward and get better at what they do. Without constructive feedback, they stagnate and stay the same, and in art circles, this is a death knell.

Remember that you are a walking advertisement for your tattoo artist. For the rest of your life, you will be showing off their work. The artist wants it to be right and you want to feel great every time you look at the tattoo. Calmly and diplomatically approaching any problems makes this happen.

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