Finding the perfect tattoo

After reaching the decision to have a tattoo at all, the next big decision is what design to choose. Tattoos can look really cool – IF a lot of thought has gone into choosing your design! If not, removal is expensive, painful and not always effective; thus, it’s best to make the right choice from the outset to avoid tears and regrets later.

Hopefully you won’t just wake up and think to yourself, “yeah, let’s get tattooed today.” If you do, then rethink, and fast. The more planning that goes into your design of choice, the more likely that you will enjoy your tattoo now, into the near future and through to much later in your life.

How to find the perfect tattoo

Avoid making any rash decisions

The bad body art comes from making spontaneous decisions to go and have a tattoo done on a spur of the moment. If you’re getting a tattoo because you’re drunk or high, rebellious or your friends are goading you, then you’re getting a tattoo for the wrong reasons. Things you will regret include:

  • A tattoo that looks like genitalia. Think about that, very carefully but not too long because the answer is simple: Just don’t do it.
  • Something misspelled (mostly because you were too drunk or high to notice till later).
  • Anything to do with high school or college (you do realize that it’s over soon, right?)
  • Anything written in a language you’re not fluent in. Those Chinese characters might look badass until a native Chinese speaker tells you what it really means is “object for sale”, “I like mold for breakfast” or “horny goat”
  • Anything with your current love’s name on. It might feel like the two of you will last forever, but you probably won’t. The number one tattoos that artists are asked to cover up are names.
  • Anything trendy right now. A band, TV show, cartoon or comic book character you love today may not be something you want to carry around forever on your skin. It could date you more than your botoxed skin will ever give away…

Consider where you want the tattoo

This will have some influence on the design, especially if it’s an intimate design. Depending on the location, you only have limited space to work with.

  • Consider how likely it is, that you will have to cover the tattoo for more formal events. For example, if you’re a female, will you feel comfortable wearing evening wear such as backless or strapless dresses if you have a back tattoo?
  • Think about your future career. Is a tattoo likely to be an issue or even a liability if it’s showing with the expected work clothing or uniform?

Spend some time refining the design and choosing one that has meaning for you

Do some research first. Head over to a reputable tattoo shop and look through tattoo design books. What sorts of designs are in trend, what is timeless and what would you never get in a million years? Some things to bear in mind:

  • Stay away from the tattoos (known as “flash”) shown in the studios. 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.
  • Are there any particular artists whose style really impresses you? What about their work has such resonance for you and is likely to be a good choice over the years to come?
  • Writing, in any form or language, should be thought over twice as long. Check and recheck the meanings of any words in a language you aren’t fluent in. Choose quotes carefully. If using writing, also be sure to pick a font you like, or create your own.

If you need inspiration, check out Miami Ink for thousands of tattoo designs.

Draw your own representation of the design that you’ve come up with

Even if you cannot draw, a little practice and patience can get you at least a good outline. Or, you can use drawing tools on your computer to help out. Don’t be bothered too much about your lack of drawing skills, as most tattoo artists will help you redraw and redesign a tattoo to a higher standard. This is a sketch and a guidance tool, so you can get your tattoo artist on the same wavelength as you.

Find a tattoo 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. Most artists will do what you want, but specialize in certain themes. Check their portfolios and compare the different styles: old school, new school, naturalistic, Asian, black and white, etc. If you don’t know what style it is you’re looking at, just ask.

Get a printout of the final design

This will help you to see how the design will fit on your skin. Look at it against the mirror during daylight and night lights, so that you can get an impression of how it might look during different times of the day.

Pin the design up somewhere and look at it daily for a week. Do you still love it, or do you get the feeling that it’s not quite right? Follow your instincts – there is still plenty of time before it’s tattooed into place.

Try a test run of the tattoo

Use henna to get a temporary version of the design. You won’t be able to test different colors, but you will be able to judge the feeling of a tattoo. Henna lasts a week to a month, in this time, use the opportunity to see how it looks with your usual clothing and how you feel about it everyday.

If even a henna tattoo is out of your price range, try the Sharpie option. Crude but still effective for knowing how it makes you feel to have a bold design inked onto a part of your body.