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Tattoos Gone Wrong (and What to Do With a Bad Tattoo)

A list of tattoo mistakes to avoid.

A list of tattoo mistakes to avoid.

What Is a Bad Tattoo?

A tattoo can be considered "bad" for many reasons: bad art, bad ideas, lousy cover-ups, portrait disasters, scarring, and misspellings are just some of the ways a good tattoo can go wrong.

Bad cover-up: Whatever lies under this cover-up fail is still clearly visible.

Bad cover-up: Whatever lies under this cover-up fail is still clearly visible.

1. Bad Cover-Ups

Getting a cover-up of a bad tattoo by a bad tattooist is probably one of the dumbest things I have seen.

It happens time and time again. Once you have had your bad tattoo covered by another bad tattoo, you're probably out of luck and will find it really difficult to rectify.

Moral of the story: you will have paid three times to get one tattoo. Just do the research, find the right artist, and pay the money in the first place.

Regret nothing—except this misspelled tattoo, maybe.

Regret nothing—except this misspelled tattoo, maybe.

2. Misspellings

Misspelled tattoos are unbelievably common and so easily avoided.

Grammar can also be a tattooist's biggest downfall. As the saying goes, it can be the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit.

You're ultimately responsible for the spelling of your tattoo. Your artist should always ask you to check a phrase or quote tattoo before it's inked on the skin. So check, double-check, Google, and check again.

 You see a lot of ugly, hateful, cringeworthy tattoos out there.

You see a lot of ugly, hateful, cringeworthy tattoos out there.

3. Ugly, Hateful, Cringeworthy Tattoos

A good tattooist won't just put any old crap on your body to make a quick buck. If you wanted a pair of glasses tattooed on your face, a decent artist would tell you to go home and think long and hard.

If you're covered in tattoos, chances are you have a few fun or cheeky ones, but it's the job of any decent artist to distinguish between the ridiculous and the relevant.

These examples are pretty extreme, but there are plenty of cringeworthy tattoos out there.

Most people I know regret their first tattoo.

Most people I know regret their first tattoo.

4. Bad Designs

Some tattoos are simply poorly designed—or, as I like to call them, crap!

These are usually regretted and are among the first tattoos a person gets. Most people I know regret their first.

A tattooist will usually design you something if you ask, don't be shy to tell them if you don't like it or want it changed in any way. It's your body!

Also, if you bring a design and your tattoo artist tells you it won't make a good tattoo, take their advice: they are the artist, after all, so they have been doing this for a long time and know what will work (in most cases).

This badly scarred tattoo has had 3 sessions of laser treatment, and will ultimately leave a permanent scar.

This badly scarred tattoo has had 3 sessions of laser treatment, and will ultimately leave a permanent scar.

5. Scarring, Fuzzing, and Fading

Inexperienced or heavy-handed artists can and will leave you with a scarred tattoo. The appearance will be raised, it will take a lot longer to heal, a lot of the color may fall out, and the lines will appear fuzzy.

These are impossible to rectify, cover over, or remove.

Not every tattooist is good at portraits.

Not every tattooist is good at portraits.

6. Portrait Disasters

So you want a portrait of your little angel? A memorial piece of a loved one who's passed away? Whatever the circumstances, portraits must be done to perfection.

You really need to do your research here to find an artist that's up to it, as you might get stuck with something that makes you want to cry, and not in a good way.

Some artists are better at portraits than others. Ask around and always check their work!


How Can I Avoid Getting a Bad Tattoo?

  • Do your research: Every credible tattoo artist will have an online profile or page—Instagram, Twitter accounts, etc.—filled with pictures of the work they have produced. You can see for yourself the type of work they are capable of.
  • Don't be tight: A tattoo is permanent, it's on your body for the rest of your life, so don't try to save money by going to someone cheaper. They're cheaper for a reason.
  • Don't be blinded by reviews: You will often stumble across a Facebook page or website full of 5-star reviews and recommendations, but remember that the page owner has the ability to remove any negative review (which they 100% will). A lot of the reviews will be from family and close friends who are blinded by love or 'sheep' people who have no idea about tattoos, wouldn't know a good one if it punched them in the face, and get their first tattoo and think it's fantastic.
  • Always use a studio: Thankfully the law is finally clamping down on artists who aren't registered and who tattoo from home, which is illegal. Some have never been through an apprenticeship, have no license, and have no knowledge about sanitary practices.
  • Look around: Cleanliness is key, so look around to see if the studio is up to scratch. For example, tattooists should never have pets in a studio. If you see any unhygienic evidence, you should always report it to your local health and safety department. You might just save a life.
  • Ensure they're licensed: All tattoo artists should be licensed to work and a license should be on display, but if it's not, don't be afraid to ask to see it. If anyone offers to tattoo you without a license, report them to the police.
  • Check their background: Have they actually been through an apprenticeship? Would you trust a surgeon that hadn't been through medical school?
  • How long have they been tattooing? The longer the better. Find out if they're still going and not doing deals, giving cheap rates, and offering freebies. The best artists have been doing it for years and charge at least $100 per hour.
  • Know exactly what you want. Don't leave everything up to the artist. It's your responsibility to ensure that the basic idea is good.

Good vs. Bad Tattoos

  • You might see a tattoo on someone's page and think it's brilliant...
  • but, on reflection, when you put it next to a similar tattoo, you start to see its faults.
  • Google is your friend: If you think a particular tattoo is 'epic,' then search on Google to find similar tattoos. Only then will you see it's true 'epicness'.

What Can I Do About My Bad Tattoo?

  • Have it lasered off. This is a costly option that will take time, a tattoo has to be removed in sessions, over a period of time, depending on size and placement. Laser removal is no good for scarred tattoos as the lump will always be there.
  • Go back for touch-ups. If you're not happy, you need to go back to the artist. They will happily rectify any colour that's fallen out (provided it's not due to your negligent aftercare).
  • Refuse to pay. Now I don't say this lightly, but if you're unfortunate enough to have a really bad tattoo, you need to leave, refuse to pay, and seek legal advice.
  • Report them. All tattooists need to be licensed in the state they work in. If they're not, they could face a fine and a jail sentence. If your artist works from a studio and left you with a bad tattoo, report them to the licensing board at your local government office; include photographic evidence.
  • Take them to small claims court. If you're unfortunate to get a really bad tattoo, you could take the artist to small claims court to get your money back and some compensation to try to rectify your tattoo.

Always remember that you must give your artist an opportunity to rectify the problem before you report them. Sometimes, it's negligent aftercare that can lead to issues like colour loss and gaps. Some people pick the scabs and wonder why they look awful once healed.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Money Saving Central


jenny on March 11, 2015:

I went to rebellious addiction tattoo the artists was doing great until his hr late appointment showed up then he startedto rush within 6 days the one color of my tattoo had disappeared all together and now 9 days later I have indented skin on my tattoo all in the areas he did after she showed up I looked at his table and saw a picture kinda hidden behind some jars if I would have seen that first I wouldn't have let him tattoo me it was a naked I mean totally naked picture of the girl who was an hr late for her appointmentI did a lot of research on tattoo artist and according to everything I saw he was going to be a perfect match but I was mislead note I have to go to someone else to get the colors refreshed the green is totally gone that was the worst $120 I have ever spent and mind you this is my tenth tattoo so I am not an amiture on the subject

A and L on December 05, 2014:

We offer a laser tattoo removal service and some of the things that we see are beyond stupid !

Joe Young from Blyth, Northumberland, England on May 26, 2014:

The detail in modern tattoos is amazing, and some I've seen are bordering on works of art. But mistakes happen, and the permanency of tattoos means that errors are magnified. There's no excuse for poorly drawn or mis-spelled work though.

Great post as ever.

Rajeev r on April 21, 2014:

I can't believe the silly things people do these days, just wow! lol

Anyway love your blog, keep up the great work.

Rajeev R.

Luvtoo Write from Chicago, IL on February 20, 2014:

This is a very useful hub, I only wish my daughter had read it before she got her tattoo. She has terrible scarring, and even if she had someone removed the tattoo, it will look like she slashed her wrist. Looking at the bright side, at least the artist could spell.

Harriet tutton on February 20, 2014:

Rite my tattoo is featured above. I am not happy with it I never was. Yes I did complain at the time and no I would not go back to get it fixed as he fucked it up te first time. An yea I give my permission for the photo tht I took I'm my house (private property) to be used by this tattoo blog as it is a shit tattoo and people need to be aware of the risks

Danny jones on February 20, 2014:

Excellent piece Claire very informative keep up the great work :)