Tattoo Tales: The ink you want, and the ink you don’t.

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Tattoo Tales

So I’m returning to the whole idea of Tattoo Tales, sharing with you all of the things I’ve learned about the inking process.  To recap, I’ve talked about making wise tattoo decisions, the permanent changes in life that having ink makes and picking a shop that’s right for you.  Today I want to talk about picking and/or designing your tattoo.

I’m pretty serious about my ink.  Yeah, I have some plans for some funny crap I want inked on me, but I don’t make the decision to get tattooed lightly.  People are surprised when I explain my process.  You see, when I have a kick ass idea for a tattoo, I doodle it, I research imagery and ideas and other tattoos, and it goes on a list.  If, in four years I still want it, I’m allowed to get it.  Four years.  To me that speaks of a consistent desire for an image or a symbol to be on my body, something I think should be associated with me.

With that said, not everyone has the same process in mind that I do.  If you’re a spur of the moment person or if you like to plan it all out, there are some things you should stop to consider.


This is a two fold question.  First, do you want to show it off, or do you want to be able to go covert?  It’s currently fashionable to get wrist tattoos.  They aren’t the easiest to cover up though.  This was something I thought a lot about when I got my first.  I chose my back, from my shoulders to my tail bone.  Yeah, not subtle but wearing a t-shirt it’s not obvious.  My arms and shoulders can also be covered up by modest sweaters so I can go covert, office girl.  But some people don’t want to hide their tattoos.  Hands, necks, feet, lower arms – it’s all game – and that’s cool!  This circles back to my first blog post about making wise decisions.  If you’re okay with the preconceived notions of the people who have ink.

Second, some areas hurt more than others.  I’m a weird person.  For me the parts of the tattoos that cross directly over bone, like the spine, ribs and collar bone didn’t hurt.  They tickled.  Seriously!  Several times they had to restrain me because it tickled so much I was squirming.  On the flip side, a lot of people say that the fattier areas like the arm and the back, below the ribs and above the hips.  On me that was agonizing.  Other sensitive areas are the sunder side of the arms, your wrist, the feet and a lot of places around the head or pelvic area.  Think about how well you handle pain, and where you want your tattoo.  Maybe consider changing it if you’re worried about the pain.

The size.

I’m of the opinion that bigger is better.  I’m from Texas where we do things big.  My first tattoo was the first outline work for my back piece.  It was huge, but I also knew what I wanted.  Think about what you want and what size you think it would look good and maybe draw it on the spot you want it.  I will say this, don’t let a friend, an artist or anyone talk you into a bigger tattoo than you want.  I lost that battle once and though I don’t regret the tattoo, I wish the dimensions were different.

Colors. Or lack of it.

When it comes to tattoos, I’m so guilty of trying to talk people into spicing it up with color.  I took my longtime roommate and best friend in college to get her first tattoo.  It was going to be the first character in Kanji she learned.  She hadn’t thought about doing it in anything but black, so when I threw out doing it in red she paused.  See, my friend is Native American and black would have shown up on her skin just fine, but done in red it was different, it complimented her skin tone and it’s not glaringly obvious.

I talk about color a lot because I don’t hold black ink well.  I’m in the minority when it comes to this.  Most people have a problem with the yellows and oranges, but those are the colors I hold the best.

Sometimes you want a black and gray tattoo.  They’re traditional and awesome when done well.

I would suggest looking at pictures of tattoos.  What do you find yourself drawn to?  Color? Black and gray? Traditional style? New stuff?


There’s not a way to really tell you how to pick a tattoo.  You’re going to pick what you like and what you want on you.  What I will suggest as the most important thing possible, is to talk to your artist about the design.  Involving an artist in your tattoo makes it their work as well as yours.  My best tattoo was when I took the idea to the artist and gave him free reign to draw it up how he saw best.

An artist has a wealth of knowledge as far as tattooing, what works, what doesn’t and what is really not an option.  If you pick a good one they aren’t going to steer you wrong.  You’re their walking resume so they want your work to be good.  Word of mouth is their best selling point.

Consulting them about where to get it, the placement, the size and what colors they think is best is one of the biggest suggestions I can make when getting a tattoo.

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