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How to Choose the Right Tattoo

I love my tattoo and I hope you end up loving yours, too! Please take the time to learn about tattoos before going out and getting one.

How to get a tattoo you won't regret.

How to get a tattoo you won't regret.

How to Choose a Tattoo You'll Love Forever

Choosing a tattoo can be stressful because it's so permanent, and making the wrong decision can be painful, costly, and inconvenient. There are many factors to consider before making your final decision, including size, color, design, meaning, style, and placement, as well as which artist to choose to get exactly the tattoo you want.

The bottom line is to take your time and do all your research before choosing.

Here you'll find a list of steps to follow when choosing your tattoo design and helpful tips for making your decision. Here's everything I learned from my tattoo-choosing experience and what I've heard from other people, as well.

I love my tattoo, and I hope you love yours too!

10 Tips for Getting a Tattoo You Love

  1. Refine Your Ideas. After you find an idea you like, you can change or alter any design you find to suit your personal taste. For example, you might find a picture of a tattoo you really like, only you might only want a part of it, or you might want to change the colors.
  2. Design Your Own. If you want something completely original, a good tattoo artist is available to design one for you if you want . . . don't be afraid to ask for help creating your unique design.
  3. Use Your Imagination. Your imagination is the limit! Spend some time brainstorming creatively. Don't settle on your first impulse.
  4. Consider Others. Consider how your tattoo might be perceived across cultures. Will it offend anyone? Does its symbolism mean something negative to anyone?
  5. Do Your Research. Of course, if you want something written in Asian characters (in hanzi, kanji, or hanja, for example), choose very carefully and double-check your design. Not only might your idea of what that character means be completely wrong, there might also be a double meaning or some other aspect to it you haven't considered. Do your research first; don't trust the interpretations on the shop walls.
  6. See the Future. Think about the kind of tattoo or design you would have gotten 10 years ago and ask yourself if you'd like that now. If not, then take this fact into serious consideration. Can you avoid changing your mind about your design later? How can you anticipate your future tastes? It might turn out that you're too changeable or finicky to choose a design you'll like forever.
  7. Forget the Names. Aside from homemade tattoos, the number one tattoo type that people usually want to be removed or covered up is names. Unless the name belongs to your child or a dead loved one, avoid having any name tattooed on your skin!
  8. Friends or Family. You might want to get a tattoo with another family member (friends might be too temporary to chance) that matches or go together. You might also want a tattoo of a family symbol, such as a crest or last name.
  9. You Do You. Your tattoo doesn't have to have a deep meaning. Don't be afraid to get a cartoon character if you really love it!
  10. Maintenance Issues. Keep in mind that it costs more to get foot, hand, and face tattoos because they need more touch-ups and require more time and attention to heal. Some artists may also refuse to do these types of tattoos, especially if you don't already have tattoos in more visible areas.

If you feel hesitant at all for whatever reason, don't go through with it!

How to Decide Which Tattoo to Get

1. Ask yourself why you want a tattoo in the first place.

Are you doing it for someone else? Are you following a trend? Are you just exercising your freedom to finally get a tattoo without parental permission? Are you getting a discount? Think about your reasons before you proceed.

2. Consider the tattoo's effect in the workplace or other scenarios.

A tattoo is not worth losing a job over. Also, check if there are rules against tattoos in other organizations you participate in, such as sports or volunteering.

3. Choose your design carefully.

  • Make sure the design has personal meaning and that it is a reflection of yourself. The design should represent something that you love, enjoy, or are attached to. It may be in honor of another. Ask yourself why these things are meaningful to you.
  • Approach tattoos with writing even more carefully. Make sure you know and understand the meanings of the words, their origins, and every possible interpretation. If you're choosing a quote, make sure it represents you completely. And don't forget to pick the perfect font (or make your own) . . . typefaces create moods and feelings.
  • Look at other tattoos and designs that exist already, but don't restrict yourself to what's already out there. Check books, posters, stationery, stickers, and anything else out there, not just the designs on the tattoo studio walls.

4. Think about where you want it.

  • The placement of your tattoo on your body is very important. Do you want it to show up every day or do you want it covered up most of the time? Think about the clothes you wear, how you style your hair, and the activities you participate in.
  • Try printing up the design you are considering to see how it will look. Most artists will also print up the design and put it on your skin to check placement and use it as a guide.
  • Try getting a henna tattoo of the design you're thinking of before you get the real thing; henna is temporary (lasting at least a week and up to a month) and, though you won't be able to get the colors and exact detail of what you want, you can get an idea of how it feels in a certain place at a certain size.

5. Choose your tattoo's color(s) wisely.

Do you want your tattoo in black or gray? Do you want a full-color tattoo? White? Will the color fade faster in certain places on your body? Consider the pigment of your skin and how well the color goes with it. Consider how colors will inevitably fade.

6. Create your own design.

  • Be creative. Sometimes it just takes a little practice to draw your own design.
  • You don't have to create the design yourself; you can ask your tattoo artist to do it. Most are artists who can interpret any idea or picture you choose. They can also redesign any drawing you do and put it onto your skin temporarily.
  • Consider size. Think about where it's going and if you want it to show.
  • Consider cost. How expensive will it be? Sleeves can cost up to $300!

7. Choose an artist.

  • After you've decided what style of tattoo you like best, find a tattoo artist who specializes in that style. Even though most artists can achieve a wide range of looks, they usually have specialties. There are natural, Asian, black-and-white, comical, and other types of styles to consider.
  • Recommendations can really help! Make sure that the artist you go to gets good props from former and/or current customers, and be sure to look at all their previous work; don't just go to the nearest parlor. Consider prices. Get a quote before you start.
  • Consider the artists' experience. It doesn't hurt to ask.

8. Don't be afraid to take your time.

The most important thing is that you are happy with the finished product. Take as much time as possible! This is something I stress.

I'd wanted a tattoo since I was 10, but I knew I had to wait. I always thought I wanted my name in Korean characters, but as the time approached for me to go and get it, I started to change my mind. I talked to others and looked at a lot of tattoos before I found a new, better design. By the time I was 19 and in the parlor, I had completely changed my mind. It had taken me more than eight years to make up my mind, but I'm glad I took my time.

This is the tattoo I chose. This is a photo of my own tattoo-getting experience.

This is the tattoo I chose. This is a photo of my own tattoo-getting experience.

General Tattoo Risks

  • Be sure to choose a design you like so you don't have to resort to removing your tattoo. Laser tattoo removal is very expensive, painful, and time-consuming . . . and it might not even work completely. Remember: don't be afraid to take your time in choosing a tattoo design so you won't regret it later!
  • A tattoo cover-up is cheaper than removal, but make sure you find an artist who specializes in it.
  • As tattoos can become infected, make sure that you take special care and listen to what the tattoo artist says regarding care. Oftentimes they may offer a page of instructions for your reference.
  • As you grow older, tattoos may lose color or quality and may require touch-ups, often after 10–30 years, though it depends on the area. Certain parts of the body show tattoo wear faster than others. Using sunscreen or skin moisturizers can help keep your tattoo looking fresh.

© 2007 glassvisage


glassvisage (author) from Northern California on November 01, 2019:

Great advice Edward! Thank you for your comments!

Edward J. Palumbo on October 31, 2019:

I got a simple tattoo on my right forearm, "U.S. Marine Corps", in August 1965, just before my deployment to South Viet Nam. I've never regretted it, but time has smeared that tattoo so that it's barely legible now. I would caution others considering a tattoo to avoid cartoons or product logos. Don't choose anything you wouldn't die for or with which you would be lastingly identified (e.g., airborne wings, military insignia, religious signs, etc.). I agree with you, choose carefully because it's going to be there for a long, long time. Briefly, what do want to tell others about you?

Easton Memmott on November 26, 2018:

I like the tip that you gave to choose a tattoo color that works with the pigmentation of your skin. My wife and I want to get matching tattoos for our anniversary this weekend, and it is important for us to get a color that will work for our skin color. I will be sure to look for a color that will show up well with the pigmentation of my skin, so it can look as good as possible.

Jasper Whiteside on October 12, 2016:

I like your advice to check with your workplace before you get a tattoo. While it may be your business what tattoo you get and where, you represent your organization. If you employer thinks that your tattoo does not work with the image he wants to have, he may find reason to let you go. This is perfectly legal in some states. The simple solution is to check with your employer before you get it. Odds are they will respect you more because you asked.

Gloriane on January 10, 2015:

This piece was a liajcfeket that saved me from drowning.

Terrence on January 01, 2015:

I LOVE it.I have seriously weantd this tattoo sooooooo badly. The brutal division, yet subtle accentuation of the human form is simply breathtaking. We'll see if I ever actually get the guts to permanently ink myself...xx, Claire

Catherine Taylor from Canada on September 17, 2012:

This is a very thorough and well written hub. A good read for anyone thinking of getting a tattoo.

aanarosey on July 09, 2012:

Any kind of accessories express the personality of a person and the tattoo is one of the finest accessories so while getting a tattoo we have to think much so that it can explore our thoughts along the beauty. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

petealex on April 14, 2012:

I got a tatoo when I was 20 years old. The artist tried to delegate my color choices. I'm glad my best friend was with me to help me remember that I had a plan before I got there, so you are right about picking a tatoo artist. I also changed the location I initailly wanted my tatoo because it seemed because it made more sense to be on my shoulder inside of my hip. I didn't want eyes where they shouldn't be.

Dillan on February 07, 2012:

Hey thanks a lot for the info! I've been considering a tattoo for two years now, but unsure just because I want the right one. This has definitely helped calm the nerves and made me think clearer. Greatly appreciated.

glassvisage (author) from Northern California on September 05, 2011:

Thanks for sharing the link, and congratulations on choosing a design!

Linda Oxford on September 05, 2011:

Very helpful!! Thank you for such a useful hub!! i have finally decided to have my tatto done.i chose the design from tatto me now. It was difficult to choose since they have more than 4 500 tatoo designs! but i got mine!!:) here is the link of my tatto design

if there are more websites with many tatto designs kindly post.

Best wishes!

Nick on July 02, 2011:

Hey guys, just looking at getting a koi half sleeve. Have been looking over the net and getting a lot of inspirations on designs/colours and shadings. I have heard a lot of good reviews from a particular tattoo shop and have seen some of their work in which i was impressed. I have looked through their galleries but haven't been a fan of their koi designs. My question is... Do i go with an artist who i know does produce good work or an artist where i like their koi designs more. Any feedback would be appreciated

rayy from on April 05, 2011:

Very informative and useful hub.

iriegirl from Jamaica on January 06, 2011:

How easy is it to remove a tattoo especially those with many colors.

Ben Jenkins on November 20, 2010:

Yeah i like to see someone get a full sleeve for $300. i'd have sleeves on both arms if that were true

FEAR on September 26, 2010:

I finally decided what tattoo to get... and i'm going to be getting it in about two weeks... finally got the nerves to make the appointment... I'm certain about everything... just hate needles... I will be getting a peacock on my ankle... any tips as to get over the fear of needles?

trip on September 23, 2010:

i am uncertain and im still thinking about getting a tattoo i just dont know where to start looking, i am a picky person and i dont want to make the wrong decision. IT IS VERY STRESSFUL,

butterfly Tattoo from Dallas Texas on September 22, 2010:

Would definitely recommend this article for anybody considering getting a tattoo. Even with Laser surgry there is no guarantee that the skin will return to looking normal.

rated this article Awesome and will be reading the rest of your articles soon.

Drood on September 15, 2010:

after reading your hub, mine seemed a little, y'know, shallow. so, i retooled and put a new one: tattoo: sacred skin. you could look at it an let me know what you think, maybe? also, i tried to link to your hub, but can't figure out how.

Drood on September 13, 2010:

this is a great hub! i'm kinda new and i am wowed by this content. you're gonna be my role model. thanks.

dumb 8yr olds on August 19, 2010:

y u even asking about what tattoo u whant at 8yrs old, if i even asked for 1 at that age i would'ov got a beat down from ma dad mate.

glassvisage (author) from Northern California on May 02, 2010:

A tribal one sounds very nice! I remember planning mine when I was 10, and by the time I was 20, I changed my mind :)

Youdontneedtono on April 30, 2010:

I'm 8, would a should I get a tribal wristband on my right muscle or choose something smaller. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna like it wen I'm older caus my brother still likes his and he's 17.

blabak on December 16, 2009:

this is so.. true.. had my back piece done 9years back.. had a prob with it the day it healed.. the ink didn't stay inside the skin (good design, good artist, bad machine and ink).. now i had this big cross leaning on my back with a blank spot of the jesus on it.. my frens said i'm the devil's son.. lol.. nice hub though.. think more than 2x before you do one.. lol..

glassvisage (author) from Northern California on July 23, 2009:

Thanks everyone! Winston, great quote :)

winston churchil on July 21, 2009:

"If your body is a temple, why wouldn't you want to decorate the walls?"

Steve W on May 29, 2009:

Love this HUB. Lots of valuable information and advise!

qual7868 from Canada on May 08, 2009:

Great job on the HUB...lots of good advice...I have one similar but not as detailed with the videos!

Dale G. Holmes from Brentwood, CA on March 06, 2008:

People wanting a tattoo should read this twice and take the advice - that way they're sure to decide on something they'll be happy with!

Whitney from Georgia on November 28, 2007:

Great info! This is bound to help those who are iffy about getting tattoos.