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A First-Timer’s Guide in Choosing a Tattoo Design

Updated on September 11, 2011

Having a permanent tattoo is not a joke. It is a serious commitment, requiring some serious thought and consideration.

Lots of people have gotten tattoos only to find out later that they regret getting one or they regret the designs they chose. Or they regret where they put the tattoo. For some people, they are hesitant to get one because either they don’t like the pain or they don’t want to regret going through the process later on.

This is a hub about what a first timer should consider when choosing a tattoo design. There are ten things that one should consider and these are found in this hub. Additional things may be considered depending on the personal circumstances of the one getting a tattoo.

This hub this serves a dual purpose for me. One, this is a hub for the Hubmob of the week. And two, I am a person who has always been fascinated with the idea of getting a tattoo and if I ever get around to getting one, this is a sort of checklist for me on what I’ll do when I choose a tattoo design.

First one, decide why you’re getting one. Are you getting one because it is ‘cool’ and everybody you know has one? Or do you just want to express your individuality? Or do you just want to p*ss off somebody (in short, you want to rebel)? Whatever your reasons are, make sure that they will stand the test of time, that is, they are not temporary ones. If they’re just temporary, get a henna tattoo first (see number nine).

Second, decide what you really want. Don’t choose a design just because it is the fad nowadays. Going with trends will just set you up for regret later on because trends fade, your tattoo will not. Do not also go with the first design you will see on the wall of your tattoo artist. Just like a trendy tattoo design, you might get a design other people already have and that you did not really want in the first place.

Third, find a tattoo artist you’re comfortable with. Having a tattoo will make you go up close and personal with your tattoo artist (especially if your tattoo will be on an errrr sensitive spot). So make sure you are at ease and comfortable with your tattoo artist. If you are not comfortable with the tattoo artist, chances are you may end up backing out of getting a tattoo even before you choose the design!

Fourth, look for the design that’s for you. This means poring over your tattoo artist’s book to really find the design that you want. Or going over the internet for hours (there are already lots of designs in here). Or, if your really can’t find one that you like, talk to your artist, tell him what you want and have him design one specifically for you. You may be spending more for this but at least you know that your design is unique and is made especially for you.

Fifth, avoid using names (as much as possible).  I’ve heard of some artists (international and local) who were so deeply in love that they had the name of their loved one tattooed on their body (Johnny Depp anyone?). Later on, when they broke up and the love was lost, they go through all the trouble deleting (I mean erasing) the name. As this process can be quite expensive, they end up re-designing the tattoo to cover up the name.

Sixth, know the meaning of the design that you want. If there are words in the tattoo (of a language you don’t understand), check first their meaning. Or if you choose a design that is culturally inspired, make sure you know what exactly the design means and how that culture views this design. You don’t really want to put a tattoo on your body that will offend some people or worst, people from the same culture, do you?

Seventh, consider where you will place your tattoo. Some would advise not putting the tattoo in a body part that is often seen by people (I don’t know why, maybe to avoid getting a lot of questions?). Others would want the tattoo somewhere where it can be mysterious and sexy at the same time. Choosing your body part that will hold the tattoo is as important as the design itself. Even if you have the right design, if it’s the wrong body part, you will still end up regretting your decision to get that tattoo.

Eighth, visualize it. You know what you want (and where you want it) but will it look good on you? You want a sort of silhouette tattoo (white design, black background) but you have dark skin – will this make your tattoo stand out? You want it in your arms but the design is too big for it. Have a vision in mind of you wearing your tattoo and see if the vision is as equally appealing as you want it to be.

Ninth, test it first. If you really want to be 100% sure that this is the design for you, why not test it first? Get a henna tattoo first of the same design and see how having a tattoo feels on your skin and if it really looks good on you. Plus you’ll get used to having one around as henna tattoos last for a week up to a month.

Tenth, think it over. This is supposed to be the first step but hey, even if you’ve chosen the design and the artist, you can still back out. So think things through. Don’t rush towards your decision to get a tattoo. If you're already convinced of getting one, don't rush into choosing your tattoo design. Think things over, not once, not twice, but a hundred, no even a thousand times. Getting a tattoo is a lifetime commitment (unless you have the money to get one, get rid of it, get another one then get rid of it again). And if you’re in it for the long haul, surely you want to take your sweet time thinking about it?

Okay, these are the tips on how to choose a tattoo design. Do you have a tattoo? How did you choose the design? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below. Cheers and ciao!

Do you want to have a tattoo? Why or why not?

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    • profile image

      A long time tattoo artist-what not to do! 10 months ago

      It's not that hard to figure out what you want. Just don't pick something you found on the Internet, 1,000+ people already have it! Don't draw your own unless you are a tattoo artist. Don't ask friend's advice, it's not their tattoo. Don't put lovers names on you. Don't be scared of how it feels. If it hurts (ever heard of 'lidocaine' cream?) that much, do you think so many people would have them? And, remember, you have a LOT of skin, get several, then you can enjoy them all! Getting a bunch of simple, small tattoos all over yourself looks like you can't make up your mind. Don't bargain shop for a tattoo. Tattoo artists dread speaking to someone when the first thing they ask is "What kind of discount can I get." You should be bragging how much you spent, not how little! Don't get a bunch of lines all over yourself, just to fill up the space. If you have dark skin, go for large, bold, designs that are easier to tell what they are. Remember, what you see on TV is not what the tattoo will look like in 1 yr, 3 yrs, 6 yrs. For some reason you never get to see that on TV. And only dark covers dark. You can't expect light colors to cover up dark or black areas of a tattoo. It is misleading what is shown on TV, many times. Also, you get what you pay for. If you want to broadcast how cheap you are, get cheap looking tattoos. You don't have to say anything, everyone gets it. Your skin is like real estate, save the best real estate for the tattoos you want to be seen the most. Why get a tattoo, if you have to always think of hiding it? Just don't get it. That's easy! Same with piercings. When someone asks how to hide a piercing and they haven't even gotten it yet, I expect trouble. They're going to try to put a clear retainer in it, way before they should. What's more important? Your job or your piercings/tattoo? It should be an easy choice! If you can't follow your tattoo/piercing artist directions, don't get it. They tell you this stuff 'cause it's critical to the service they just did, and your health! And, tip your artist! They perform a service, show you appreciate it. Your artist will remember you! We all appreciate a 20% tip, and we are usually some of the most generous tippers around, because we understand what it is to depend on tips for part of your income. That's all for now. Thanks for reading this!

    • profile image

      floowee 5 years ago

      Nice article.

      I agree with all the conditions mentioned. I have been wanting one for years now. I just finally decided where will I put it, and am currently obsessed to find the perfect design. I will take my time slowly but surely.

    • profile image

      JAC In The Box (Guest) 8 years ago

      I designed my first one so I recommend doing the same. I'd recommend starting with some temporary tattoos alternative also but rules: never get a partners name (you'll understand but dead friend or mentor tributes are fine), never get a symbol brings uncertainty (religious, something terribly offending), never pick a random tattoo (no meaning).

      Hey Emievil even so passing bands or tributes (any kind)pass as just a symbol of times like a photo album. Representing a personal statement is great (a lot of people have hello kitty or pokémon I've seen), as creating personality. I'm pro-trend for that (celebrities have them).

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks janiek.

    • janiek13 profile image

      Mary Krenz 8 years ago from Florida's Space Coast

      I already know what tattoo I would get, but I haven't actually done the deed, yet. Great article!

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks chellebelly. You have two already and I can barely get my first one. :)

    • chellebelly profile image

      chellebelly 8 years ago

      I have two, and i knew what I wanted for about year before my first, and 6 months for my second. I got them at transitional times in my life and hold a lot of significance to me. Love them both!! no regrets. Your article had lots of good tips.

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Wow, you design the tattoos? That's great to know. LOL, same here, never gotten one. Don't know if I'm scared or it's just a no go for me because of certain restrictions. Thanks for the comment waynet :).

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 8 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      A great guide for getting that tattoo, I design the tattoos, but have not got around to actually getting one yet, I'm not scared....honest!!!!!

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Joe for the nice comment. I feel for your friend. I don't know but can he not have it removed?

    • tattoo_design profile image

      tattoo_design 8 years ago

      Really sound advice. I had a friend who didn't think before getting a football (soccer) tattoo, I can't tell you how much trouble it has caused him throughout his life!

      Great hub.



    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Art, really, you have tattoos? How many do you have?

    • profile image

      HealthTip 8 years ago

      I bitterly regret getting my tattoo's, deff I wouldn't do it over again ! Great hug !

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Anath. Me too but I don't think their girlfriend or wife would appreciate seeing another woman's name tattooed on their body =).

    • Anath profile image

      Anath 8 years ago

      Very good tips! I have not had a permanent tattoo yet but I take it as a compliment when a man tattoos himself with my name...

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      You're welcome shanekruger.

    • shanekruger profile image

      shanekruger 8 years ago

      Thanks for very interesting hub.

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks keira and hello.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Interesting to read about all the ins and out. Thanks for your hub.

    • keira7 profile image

      keira7 8 years ago

      Very good hub Emievil. See you soon. Take care.

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Carol. I hope I take my own advice :).

    • Carol the Writer profile image

      Carolyn Blacknall 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very interesting post. I heard of one tattoo place that gives free booze to people watching a friend get a tattoo. Then they talk the boozed up friends into getting one, too. Hope people take your advice.- Carol


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