How To Pick And Choose A Tattoo

Deciding on a tattoo can be a daunting task. It’s not as simple as choosing a new color to paint your bedroom. The tattoo is going to stay with you for the rest of your life.

It takes care, patience and a little bit of research. This article will lead you through the key areas you should concentrate on. It will result in a tattoo that you will be proud to wear—always.

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How To Pick A Tattoo

Decide If You Really Want a Tattoo (Sleep on It)

In my opinion, this is the most important factor. Deciding on a tattoo starts with the question: do I really want one?

Many people make the decision too quickly and then have to live with the consequences later. I don’t like making sweeping statements, but I’m going to break with tradition and make one now:

Never, ever, get a tattoo when drunk or under the influence of narcotics.

In many U.S. states, such as Texas, this is actually illegal. A good tattooist would never agree to it anyhow, regardless of the law.

Have you ever sent a drunk text on social media then regretted it the following day? That regret lasts a day or two; a tattoo will last much, much longer.

Here are some points I suggest you should consider before getting a tattoo:

  • Do you want a tattoo because it is what you want, or what your friends want?

  • Tattoos are much more socially accepted than they were twenty years ago—but in some work/social environments, they may still carry some stigma.

  • Tattoo removal is a lengthy, painful and expensive process—will you still be happy to have a tattoo in the years ahead?

Think about the above and then sleep on it. Speak with family and friends. Imagine what it would be like wearing the same tattoo for the rest of your life—and then sleep on it some more.

Decide What You Want Your Tattoo to Look Like

Let’s assume that you have now decided getting a tattoo is the right thing for you. The next choice to make is what you want it to look like.

What is ideal for one person may not be suitable for another. Here are my recommendations on what to consider.

Size

If it’s your first tattoo, it might be wise to start with a smaller design. You don’t want to be 15 minutes into the tattooing process and decide it’s much too uncomfortable for you to endure.

Larger tattoos can take hours, and many visits to the tattoo artist. Having an incomplete tattoo may be worse than having no tattoo at all.

Colors

It’s very tempting to go for a tattoo design that involves many vibrant colors. While initially this may look impressive, long term it may not be the right choice. Over time, darker colors may “flow” into lighter colors, and every color will fade. Yellows can almost disappear.

These tattoos can be re-touched in the future to restore the coloration, but is that what you want? A simple two-toned tattoo, for example, requires less attention and looks impressive for longer.

Subject

As your body is basically a canvas, there is no limit to what your tattoo can represent. The body art should be a reflection of you—your loves, outlook, beliefs or personality.

Some types of image are timeless. Flowers, skulls, animals, water, fire and religious symbols have stood the test of time. While the subject of your tattoo is a personal decision, I recommend there are certain areas that you should steer away from:

  • Boyfriend/girlfriend names—they may be the love of your life now, but what about in the future?

  • Celebrities—they can fall out of fashion or from grace; Kevin Spacey may have been fine 10 years ago, today less so.

  • Politics—your left-wing or neoconservative views may change in the years to come.

  • Pop culture—despite loving Game of Thrones today, later in life you may wonder what all the fuss was about.

Choose Where You Want Your Tattoo to Be on Your Body

Consider the important four “P’s”—placement, practicality, popularity and pain. Let me explain.

Placement

You can help choose the placement of your tattoo by making a mock-up. Cut out an actual size printout of your tattoo and try it on different areas of your body.

With a little double-sided tape, you can check how the tattoo appears in front of a mirror. Alternatively, if you are an artistic type, draw the tattoo onto your arm with a non-permanent marker.

Practicality

As already mentioned, tattoos are more socially acceptable in the workplace than at any other time in history.

However, some businesses still may not approve of tattoos or actually disallow them in their place of work. If that’s the case, a tattoo that can be covered up by clothing will be more suitable.

Popularity

Some tattoos are particularly popular on specific areas of the body, such as the elongated tribal lower-back tattoo.

Look online for pictures of other people with a similar design to yours and see where they have it located. You may find some to be inspirational, and others a complete turn-off.

Pain

Some people have higher pain thresholds than others. I have heard the tattooing experience described as anything from a tickle to being stabbed.

While you cannot change your own pain barriers, you can alleviate the situation by having a tattoo in an area which is generally less painful.

The least sensitive areas are usually considered the thighs, calves, and butt. The more painful are the feet, chest and behind the ears.

Research Tattoo Artists and Studios Carefully

Remember, you are putting that important body of yours into someone else’s hands when you get a tattoo. Research is essential.

Safety

Tattooing is a semi-invasive procedure, which, when done properly, carries little to no risk. However, there are a minority of unscrupulous tattoo artists who only care about the dollar and not your health. Here are a few ways to check you are going to be completely safe.

Check Cleanliness

If you have an artist in mind, arrange a time with them to have a look around their studio. A professional will not mind and will happily enjoy giving you a tour. Check how clean the studio is—seeing old needles or bandages lying around is a bad sign.

Also, ask if you can watch someone being tattooed. Look to see if they open a new needle package before commencing.

Check the License

Different states and cities have their own regulations, but most tattoo studios are required to be licensed. Check with the relevant authority that the studio you are considering has a license.

Capability

It’s great discovering that your tattoo artist has high levels of cleanliness, but a nightmare if you find out he or she is an awful artist.

The best way to check their ability is direct from the horse's mouth. Friends and social media are a great way to see the quality of an artist’s work.

Put out a post asking who people recommend and then take a look at their work. Instagram is packed full of incredible tattoo art. You can also check review sites, such as Yelp, for recommendations in your area.

In addition, be bold. If you are walking down the street and see an amazing tattoo on someone, stop them and ask who the artist was. Trust me, you will not be looked at strangely. Anyone with a tattoo will be proud to know you are admiring their body art and will be pleased to share information.

Take Your Time

There is no rush. Spend time checking out studios, artists and their work. In the long run, it will be worth it.

Pick out Some Design Ideas to Show Your Artist

A good tattooist can help you with your design, but they are not mind readers.

As discussed earlier, the tattoo is part of you, not the artist. Expecting a tattooist to choose your design is like getting a complete stranger to select the color scheme for your house.

Always go to your tattoo artist with some ideas. The internet is an invaluable source of images of not just tattoos, but art in general. Remember, a good tattooist is also an artist.

Print out tattoos, artwork, logos, color schemes and images of things that you would like in your tattoo—it doesn’t have to be too specific. Then show them to your tattooist.

For example, you may have found an amazing tattoo of a flower. You adore the technique and bold colors but have no interest in flora. Indicate to your tattooist that this is the style you want, but instead of a flower, you want a skull or a clock.

A real tattoo artist will use their own creativity to create a design you desire.

Listen to Your Artist’s Opinion Carefully - They Are the Professionals

An experienced tattooist will have completed hundreds of tattoos and know what is best for you. That applies to health, care of the tattoo and your actual design.

Just because you think a bright yellow image of a Ferrari on the top of your shoulder would look amazing, the tattooist may have a different opinion. Do not be annoyed if the artist suggests alternative locations, colors or design for the tattoo. S/he is not being awkward—just thinking about what is most beneficial.

For instance, you may want a small tattoo. However, locating it on a large expanse of skin, such as the back, will reduce its impact.

This leaves it looking more like a stain that a piece of art. A tattoo artist may suggest this little tattoo is more suitable for a smaller area, such as the inside of the wrist.

Equally, tattooists understand colors. Not only which ones work well together, but what is best for your skin type. Different color tones appear vastly different on light and dark skin. Your artist will know what is best.

Finally, listen to their aftercare advice. There are many things you should never do immediately after getting a tattoo—such as swimming, going to the sauna or sitting in a hot tub. Your tattooist is not being a killjoy, and is actually looking after you.

Pick the Final Tattoo Design

Once all the above has been completed, you should now be ready to select the final design.

Many tattooists have books of “off-the-shelf” artwork that you can choose. Alternatively, you may have come up with a design in collaboration with your artist. Either way, once it is selected, look at it. Then look at it again. Imagine carrying that art on your body for the rest of your life.

If there is something you are not completely happy with, tell your artist. They will be more than happy to make small adaptations so that your design is exactly what you want. Then, sleep on it.

Summary

Deciding on a tattoo is a serious process, but one that can be thoroughly enjoyable. Following the steps outlined above will not only mean you get a beautiful piece of body art, but one that will bring you pleasure in the future.

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