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How to Get a Good Tattoo

What makes a tattoo good? There are so many factors to think about when getting a tattoo. Placement, color choices, line thickness, aftercare, and design simplicity all factor in to the overall quality of your new ink. There’s a lot of information out there and pictures of tattoos in the internet, but do all of them really look as good as they’re presented and hold up over the years? We hope to shed some light on tattoo practices, and help you to get the best possible tattoo, whether you are an avid collector or looking into tattoos for the first time ever. 

So you’ve found a tattoo artist whose style resonates with you. Or maybe you found the perfect tattoo idea on Pinterest, or drew something up yourself. It’s small and dainty, or maybe it’s bold and colorful, but either way, you’re ready to put it on you forever. Before you call up or walk in to your local tattoo shop, there are a few things you should think about. 

Trends

First, ask yourself if this is a style of tattoo that you would want to be a part of you for the rest of your life. Tattoos, like other forms of style and self-expression, go through trends. Tribal pieces and lower back tattoos have turned into infinity symbols and sternum chandeliers, but there’s always a handful of tattoo styles that are relevant to the trends of the year. Make sure the tattoo you’re getting is something timeless, that you will be proud of even ten years from now, not just something trendy that looked good online. 

Watercolor tattoos can look absolutely stunning immediately after application. They do need a considerable amount of black incorporated into the art to create contrast and help those lighter colors seem bright over the years.

Aging

It’s important to understand the aging process of a tattoo. Over time, tattoos tend to grow and spread slightly, and lighter colors tend to fade. A tiny pink rose tattoo no bigger than a quarter might look great when it’s fresh. This is especially true in an Instagram picture taken with a professional camera under bright studio lighting. Those tiny lines and light pinks may look bright even when they heal, but over the course of the next few years that ink will fade. The rate at which your tattoo will age depends on a few factors. This includes skill level of the artist, your skin type, sun exposure, and the placement of the tattoo. A tattoo placed on the inner arm will fade slower than a tattoo on the outside of the forearm. This is because the inner arm skin is softer and typically sees less sun. 

Sizing 

Another thing to keep in mind when thinking about the aging of your tattoo is sizing. Simple and bigger are always better if you want your tattoo to stay bold and legible. This is especially true of lettering, as small and intricate cursive lettering tattoos are becoming popular. If you put too much detail or use lines that are too close together, you run the risk of the tattoo losing a lot of its detail and legibility as time goes on. It may not even heal well. Look for lines that are at least an eighth of an inch apart to avoid spreading and blurring. Tattoos will spread and fade faster in areas of high friction, such as fingers, hands, feet, and toes. 

We see this all too often in the shop. Your artist is not trying to be mean or contrarian when recommending that text size be larger. We want to create something that will hold up well as long as possible.

Areas of Caution

Certain areas, like your palms, fingers, side and bottom of the feet, genitals, and inside of the mouth, are extremely challenging to tattoo well. Even when tattooed well, they have a tendency to fade. Generally it’s best to avoid these areas altogether. If you must get one of these areas tattooed, seek out an artist with an expansive portfolio of tattoos done in the area. Look for healed photos or even in-person examples if you can.

Lip tattoos are extremely difficult to apply and do not hold. You can expect to lose 70-100% of the tattoo within the first month.
On average, you can expect to lose 50-80% of tattoos applied to the side of the finger. In addition to that, they are extremely painful to have done.

Black or Color?

As the tattoo world grows and expands we are seeing more artists branching out from the traditional norms. All-color tattoos are very popular, but they don’t always last. The black lines in a tattoo act like a barrier, keeping the color from spreading and disappearing into the body. You can find tattoos that are 50-60 years made with bold black lines and heavy colors that still look vibrant and bright. The same couldn’t be said about color-only tattoos. Even in the presence of black, yellow and orange have a tendency to dramatically fade over the years. However, there are always exceptions, and tattoo technology has advanced significantly in the last 50 years. Always defer to your artist’s judgement.

Stenciling

When the artist puts the tattoo stencil on you, or finishes drawing on the line work, be sure to take a good look in the mirror and view your tattoo from all angles. Make sure you love it. A well placed tattoo should flow with the contours of the body and face forward. If you’re getting a lady face tattoo on your arm, her face should be facing the front of your body. When you look down at your arm, you’ll see the face instead of the back of the head. It’s also a good idea to try moving and bending the area that the tattoo is going. That perfect circle on your leg could easily turn into an oval as soon as you bend your knee, so be sure to test your full range of motion when looking at your tattoo placement. 

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Aside from the practical things, a good tattoo has some common sense involved. Don’t get tattooed while drunk or under the influence of drugs. Your perception and judgement work differently when you are inebriated. Drink lots of water, have a meal, and get enough sleep before your tattoo. Don’t get pressured into getting or not getting a tattoo. Don’t be afraid to say no or change your mind. Nothing is permanent until the needle hits your skin. Whether it’s meticulously planned, or a spur of the moment decision, get a tattoo because you want to.