Choose a Tattoo Design - wikiHow

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Choose a Tattoo Design - wikiHow

How to Choose a Tattoo Design

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Choosing a tattoo should be a thorough process. They are intended to be forever, and removal is expensive. The more planning that goes into your design of choice, the more likely that you will enjoy your tattoo later in life.


  1. Be happy with what design you have on your body. As long as you like it, that's the most important thing. That being said, there are factors that can make you love or hate your tattoo.
  2. Find a design that has meaning for you. Even if you cannot draw, a little practice and patience can get you a good outline, at least. Most tattoo artists will help you redraw and redesign a tattoo.
  3. Stay away from the art (known as "flash") shown in the studios except as inspiration. It is better to go with a unique and original design than a mass market design - "flash" is designed by excellent artists then sold to tattoo artists around the country and around the world.
  4. Find an artist or designer and ask them to make a custom design for you. Many tattoo artists are also conventional artists, or can at least reproduce a traditional drawing, sketch or painting onto your skin.
  5. Find a style that you especially like, and an artist that works in that style. Most artists will do what you want, but also excel in certain "looks." Check portfolios, and compare the different styles: old school, new school, naturalistic, Asian, black and white, etc.
  6. Writing, in any form or language, should be thought over twice as long. Check and recheck the meanings of any words or idiograms of a language you aren't fluent in. Choose quotes carefully. Search for a font you like, or create your own.
  7. Consider carefully what body part you want your tattoo on. Some places you'll look at it every day, some almost never. Consider how likely it will be that you will need to cover it with clothing or otherwise at some point.
  8. Try to get a printout of the design, and see how the design will fit against your skin.
  9. Use henna to get a temporary version of the design. You won't be able to see different colors, or certain looks, but you will be able to judge the feeling of a tattoo. Henna lasts a week to a month.
  10. Think about it a lot. When you are certain, wait some more just to make sure.



  • Think back to 10 years ago. If you had gotten a tattoo back then, what would it most likely have been? If you don't like the idea of having that on your body, don't get a tattoo now. Chances are, in 10 years, you'll regret getting it.
  • Think forward, as well. Is your tattoo going to look good even when you're old and wrinkled? Chances are, a tribal dragon or Hello Kitty won't.
  • The number one tattoos that artists are asked to cover up, after homemade tattoos, are names. If the person is not dead, or your child, names are usually not the best idea.
  • Asian characters are a popular choice, as it is a way to get a meaning in a design. The tattoo studio walls are not the place to trust when looking for a character. Many have double meanings, nuances, things that may give an impression that wasn't intended.
  • Often members of a family will get matching or complimentary tattoos. Often, younger generations will incorporate elements of older family members tattoos in their own designs.
  • A band, TV show, or comic book character you love today may not be something you want to carry around forever on your skin. If you're thinking about getting a tattoo such, think about how big of an impact it had on you. If you've fallen in and out with others like this, then wait a few years before you decide to get it. But, if it made you have hope in a rough time in your life, helped you find out who you were or something along those lines, then it would be better.
  • Don't be afraid to get a tattoo that doesn't have a deep meaning if you love the design. If you love Winnie the Pooh enough to look at him forever, get that Pooh Bear.
  • The darker and more filled-in a tattoo is, the longer it takes to remove. Which means more money, more pain, and more time. Multicoloured tattoos will take longer to remove as they will require multiple treatments with different wavelength lasers for each pigment type. Completely black ink however, is easiest to remove by laser as it absorbs the beam on all wavelengths, breaking up the pigment easier.
  • Feet, hands, and faces need more touch-ups, and more attention to heal properly. Expect to pay more for these areas. Some artists refuse to do facial or hand tattoos on a person that doesn't already have visible tattoos.
  • If you feel hesitant, either about the design or the artist, don't go through with it.
  • Go temporary before going for the permanent.


  • Some people are against cultural appropriation, where someone takes a meaningful aspect of another's culture and uses it for fashionable reasons. If you are getting a tattoo of a traditional symbol, you should know the meaning and history of that symbol.
  • Laser tattoo removal is very expensive, painful, and time-consuming - in fact, much more expensive and more painful than any tattoo. In most cases it can completely remove tattoos. Tattoo cover-ups are cheaper, but find an artist that specializes in them. It's best to be certain about your design. Think about it. Dwell on it.
  • Tattoos can get infected, and should be washed and treated as wounds. Follow your artists aftercare instructions.
  • Most tattoos will need touch-ups through your life. Using sunscreen and moisturising daily will help your tattoo look new for years. After 10-30 years, expect to need touch-ups to combat blurring.
  • Be extremely careful when getting Kanji characters as tattoos if you've found the design on the internet or tattoo parlour wall. You may think it means "Peace, love, harmony" but for all you know the characters could be straight off a soy sauce packet, or worse.
  • Think before getting a tattoo. Will you like the design in the future? What will you do when it fades? Are you sure you want it where you put it? What will people think at a job interview? These are all things to consider before you get a tattoo. A tattoo is a big commitment and you should be prepared for the outcome, may it be good or bad.
  • Don't forget that if you chose to get someone's name, that person might not be around for ever. They could leave and you would have their name on your body.

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