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Things You May Not Realize When Getting Tattoos for Your Body Shape

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Ashwini understands the importance of having a well-placed tattoo.

The inside forearm is a great spot for arm tattoos.

The inside forearm is a great spot for arm tattoos.

Tattoos fascinate me. They have a depth to them beyond the physical lines sprawling across the body. They are gate holders of stories—from something as silly as a drunken dare or as monumental as the survivor’s badge of honor. So it sounds absurd to think a tattoo should be decided upon based on your body shape. Yet, like the dress that all your friends fall in love with at the same time, certain styles settle differently.

For something permanent etched into your skin, consider all the angles to save yourself from an unwanted realization later on. Whether that truly matters to you is always your prerogative.

Everything and Nothing: The Meaning of Tattoos

The tattoo is not a modern convention. This form of body modification has been around since prehistoric times, documented since Neolithic times where Ötzi the Iceman was recovered in the Alps with 57 carbon tattoos on his body. The simple dots and lines suggest a connection between the markings and healing practices.

The practice of marking the body is cross-cultural and has signaled both the barbaric and European wealth status. The warrior scars of battle and the common man’s tribulations; a tribal female's rite into womanhood and the bond of sorority sisters. The insignia of gangs and the portrait of a lost child. A marking of time of death and birth. They are everything and nothing at the same time—as consequential as their frame of reference.

Sydney Parkinson’s classic illustration of a tattooed Maori from Cook’s first voyage

Sydney Parkinson’s classic illustration of a tattooed Maori from Cook’s first voyage

The Full Sleeve Effect on Muscles

This type is gaining popularity, departing from the previous swirling tribal shapes into more modern pieces of realism. A full sleeve is usually united in theme, with either one large picture or multiple smaller images connected to each other. The effect is one homogenous piece of line and color that can obstruct the curvature of your arms.

Many athletic builds with natural muscled curves and veins on their arms lose this detail. Black ink has a matte effect, making the visual space flatter. Many bodybuilders reflect on the difference, especially if they only have one arm tattooed. The tattooed arm appears smaller than the bare skin.

Full Sleeve Tattoos

Full Sleeve Tattoos

Elements That Make You Appear Taller

At their most basic, tattoos are based on a theory of line and color. Any visual artist will tell you that these elements of design will affect your perception of the piece.

  • Complementary colors of red and green make for high visual interest. The use of black can overwhelm your other colors.
  • The use of lines directs the eye across the page. Tattoos across the upper shoulders with a strong horizontal line can make the body appear wider. This is great if you want to emphasize the width of your shoulders.
  • For people who are on the shorter side, who want to appear taller, lines do the opposite. Like wearing vertical stripes, choose tattoos that make a column up your back.

Body Size

Your body will change as you age.

  • Small text tattoos fade into each other so that they become blotches of words. Make sure to ask your experienced tattoo artist what they recommend.
  • On the other hand, large tattoos across major visible pieces of skin can overwhelm a person’s body. Like wearing an oversized accessory, it can make you look smaller.

Your visual representation of yourself is what often directs external perception. First impressions often dictate the following interactions. Make sure you want it to be associated with your identity before committing to a large piece. Do not hesitate to ask the artist to wear the stencil on for a couple of hours. This is permanent art on your body. You have the right to change your mind about size, color, and placement at any time.

Tattoo Placement Considerations

It is not odd to find a tattooed employee sitting in an office setting. Yet, there are still places that prefer you to be covered.

  • For full sleeve ones, it can be a requirement to always wear long-sleeved shirts. This may not be a bother, but depending on your geography, long-sleeved shirts in the suffocating heat of summer can start to wear thin.
  • Facial and some neck tattoos are still open declarations that you do not desire employment. It is not advisable to put them on a body area that is likely to undergo changes.
  • The stomach during pregnancy stretches, which can either have no effect or blur it when the weight is shed. Stretch marks definitely interrupt the tattoo, making it bumpy and uneven.
  • Any space open to frequent sun exposure will also cause it to fade quicker.

Outside the Box

Tattoos shops have opened on every corner and experimentation has led to new designs. Watercolors, lines, and realism have produced unbelievable pieces of work, credited to great artists in the field. A truly inspired design will let you break all the rules.


Saylor on June 20, 2020:

'Facial and some neck tattoos are still open declarations that you do not desire employment.' - judgemental!

kylie on May 22, 2017:

I'm wanting to get a wrist tattoo and wondering what size or where to place it upon my wrist since my wrist is small and worried about the placement of it.

success on May 25, 2015:

I need to learn how to make tattos