How Do I Pick a Tattoo?
It’s advised to come to the studio twice. The first time to choose the tattoo, and get professional advice, and only after you’ve gotten ideas or found your tattoo and “slept on it” – set up an appointment and do it.
It’s very important that you choose the tattoo by yourself. You can get recommendations from your friends, family or your tattoo artist, but you have to make the final decision yourselves!
Most likely, other people will recommend the choices they like. It would be hard for them to be objective, and after all, you are the ones who are going to live with the tattoo forever. If you bring friends along to help you with your choice, you might get even more confused. Remember: if you ask ten people – you’ll get ten opinions!
There are a number of factors that come into consideration before choosing a tattoo.
Generally, you can tattoo anything you can imagine. You can choose your tattoo from samples exhibited in the studio, books, internet sites, or from photos someone else took. You can also design your own tattoo of course, and paint it or get someone else to paint it for you.
If you’ve decided to look for your tattoo on the internet, it’s important to know it’s recommended to search image sites, and not tattoo artists‘ sites (in a Google search, don’t add the word “tattoo” to the search), for two reasons: first of all, a professional artist would refuse to copy an existing tattoo. To remain unique and original, and especially because it’s a plain stealing. And anyway, the tattoos you’ll find on the internet are already tattooed on other people. Do you really want to copy off someone else?
It is accustomed to divide the types of tattoos into three main groups: paintings, graphics, or a combination of the two. Graphics include everything that isn’t realistic, such as Tribals, Celts, captions, symbols, and such. We can, of course, transform a graphic design into a painting by doing it in a realistic way and incorporating 3D.
The greatest advantage of paintings over graphics is that paintings preserve much better over the years, even after the aging of the skin. Graphic tattoos have the tendency of losing their sharpness over the years. And another thing, graphic tattoos are technically much harder to do, because of the high level of precision they require, and so not every tattoo artist will be able to do them perfectly. If you’ve made the wrong choice of a tattoo artist, and only found out after the fact – take into consideration that even for the most professional tattoo artist, it won’t be so easy to fix…
After narrowing down the options, try narrowing them down further and further, focusing only on your choice, without confusing yourselves. That is, if for instance, you’ve decided that you want a painting, try envisioning what you want in it. Is it going to be a painting of an animal? Of a person? Or of a flower maybe? If it’s an animal – what kind of animal? Have you decided it’s going to be a cat? Only look at cat paintings. Don’t confuse yourselves! Use the elimination method, that is, narrow the possibilities down further and further, until you end up with one painting.
There are a number of styles used to fill-in the tattoo. Some of them are not for your consideration; they are determined by the type and size of the tattoo:
Lines only, which means without the fill-in – suitable for different kinds of graphic designs, including captions, symbols and decorative paintings such as caricatures.
Regular paintings won’t get the volume and 3D effect without the fill-in, and might end up looking “unfinished”. The disadvantages of using only lines are that they have to be made only by the most professional and precise tattoo artists! Any digression of the line, or changes in its thickness might be visible afterwards, and the tattoo artist won’t have any option of disguising them by filling them in. in addition, take under your consideration the fact that through the years, the lines will thicken and lose their sharpness, and this will be more noticeable in tattoos made of only lines.
Full color – suitable for all types of tattoos. Very small tattoos can only be colored using the same color as the lines (usually black).
Disadvantages: the realistic level you can achieve using full coloration, is limited.
Only in relatively larger tattoos, can the tattoo artist play with the shades of color and create a perfect 3D effect, yet, it almost end up looking a bit like a sticker…
In addition, full coloration tattoos have a tendency of aging faster than other tattoos. As years go by, the colors might fade or change in tone. This is even more apparent with tribal type of tattoos, that is, full black coloration. The skin cells won’t be able to renew themselves uniformly, and over time you’ll see “holes” in your tattoo. Another disadvantage is that in order to color a tattoo perfectly, the tattoo artist must be very professional, and successfully fill-in the tattoo, inch by inch, evenly and in the right tone of color. In a lot of full coloration tattoos, especially tribal tattoos, you’ll be able to notice “holes”, or uneven coloring. This is not always the tattoo artist’s fault. The results of this type of tattoos, is greatly affected by many things, such as your skin type, how much you’ve bled during the procedure, and the quality of the tattoo’s recovery.
It’s important to point out that color tattoos are not suitable in any way for people with dark skin. On them, the colors will seem faded, and unnoticeable. The reason for that is simple: the color is penetrated into the skin. If your skin is light – it means it’s transparent, allowing the color to be perfectly visible. If you have dark skin – your natural skin color will be stronger than the tattoo colors and it will appear as if you’re looking at your tattoo through a pair of sun-glasses…
Shading – suitable for all types of tattoos, except very small ones. Shading is in fact a method for giving the painting a more realistic look, by playing with the shades of a certain color (usually black). The tattoo artist will create the illusion of light falling on the painted object from a certain angle, changing the density level according to the curves of the tattoo, playing with light and shade. That’s how the tattoo will achieve a 3D look to the point of photography level! Graphic designs of any type can also achieve this effect by transforming them from two dimensional to 3D by adding depth.
Shaded tattoos preserve better through the years, because they wound less, during the procedure in comparison to full-colored tattoos. This is due to the fact that in order to fill-in a full tattoo, you have to penetrate deeper into the skin.
Disadvantage: a tattoo artist that does not possess a painting talent will have a hard time creating the effect of realism perfectly, due to lack of 3D vision that every painter has.
Comment: if you combine several tattoo styles into one tattoo, you’d be able, of course, to paint each one of them differently (for example, if you combine a drawing of a character with a tribal around it – you can shade the character, and do the tribal in full color). It would be less recommended to change coloring styles in a one style tattoo (for example, an image that is totally shaded, with only its clothes in full color).
Size of the tattoo
You have to take into consideration, that both smaller and bigger tattoos have advantages and disadvantages.
A large tattoo would be more noticeable and more difficult to hide, and if you’re living in a conservative country such as Israel, or you fear the reaction of your family and society in general – you’d best think about it before hand… plus, a large tattoo takes a long time to do, and sometimes doesn’t end in one session. If it’s your first tattoo, you should know that getting tattooed might be unpleasant and even painful.
So if you know yourselves to be of a low pain threshold – you might be better off starting with a small tattoo and see how you handle it. Another thing, a large tattoo can be significantly more expensive than a small tattoo, and if you’re on a low budget – this might be a problem.
Then again, most tattoos won’t be able to be done too small. A drawing with a lot of details – must be tattooed in a size that would allow incorporating them in.
There are, of course, insignificant details that can be taken out, without damaging the quality of the result. For example, in a tattoo of a character – we can take out the folds of the clothes, or eyelashes. But no self-respecting tattoo artist would ever take out the facial features or fingers. If you insist, he would rather give up on the whole tattoo, and not do it!
You must consider the fact that the tattoo will change along the years. A detailed tattoo that has been made too small – would cause the thickening lines, in time, to connect, at the expense of the small gap between them, ending up as a black stain!
Anyway, a large tattoo will always look more impressive, since the tattoo artist has more “playground space” to experiment with different shades (of shading or of color).
The level of realism will always be higher because the change of color shades will be less sharp and more gradual. In addition, in a bigger tattoo – there’s more space to add more small details, that would upgrade the tattoo realism a lot.
Certain tattoos, such as portraits, must be made much larger than similar tattoos, to allow a normal digression (of millimeter particles) that would not be visible in other tattoos.
Placement on the body
Technically, you can tattoo every millimeter of your body. Certain places on your body, such as the inner side of your feet and palms, are made of totally different type of skin. The rejuvenation of the skin in these parts is quicker, and “holds” the ink badly.
A professional tattoo artist will not agree to do a tattoo in those locations, even if you insist. Other locations, such as the eyelids, might be dangerous and must only be done by a most professional and experienced tattoo artist!
When choosing a location on the body you want to tattoo, take a few things under consideration: firstly, certain locations are more exposed, others are more concealed.
If the tattoo is in a location that is too exposed – it will be difficult to conceal.
In certain circumstances in the future, there is the possibility that you might find the tattoo causing you problems, say, with your grandma, job interviews etc. if you get a neck tattoo, for example, you can forget about ever becoming a bank manager…
On the other hand, an overly concealed tattoo might turn out to be a truly “secret tattoo”, and even when you do want to show it, you might find out it’s not such an easy task…
The ideal locations for you – if you’re not sure what’s gonna happen tomorrow, or the day after that – are locations such as the shoulder and the ankle. You can expose them easily, by wearing a tank-top or short pants, as well as concealing them, by wearing a regular shirt or long trousers.
Secondly, in certain locations on the body, the tattoo will preserve longer.
The skin in areas of the body that are not exposed to sun-light most of the time – rejuvenates slower. And a tattoo on such areas, will age slower.
In locations such as the belt-area, top side of the foot etc, due to the constant friction with clothes, there is a more frequent rejuvenation of the skin. It is important to point out that another disadvantage of such areas is that the recovery of a tattoo in such areas is much harder, since it is less ventilated.
A lot of people ask me about the changes of the tattoos due to aging, body building, gaining\losing weight, or pregnancy. The main principle is this: an unsymmetrical tattoo – won’t change at all, in the condition there won’t be any stretch-marks left on the location (these might be caused by a drastically uncontrolled weight loss\gain). On the opposite side, a graphic and\or symmetrical tattoo might get damaged if the skin on one part of the tattoo is stretched (or shrunk) significantly more than the other, due to the change in weight.
Thirdly, certain areas of the body are more sensitive than others (for more details, refer to the article “Does it hurt?”). If this is your first tattoo, and you’re planning to get a large one, it would be best not to start with a very sensitive area. Check first to see how you handle a smaller tattoo, or in a less sensitive area.
A few words about hairy locations: If you’re not extremely hairy, and you’re not planning to get a tattoo with a lot of little details – have no fear. The tattoo will be clearly visible, even through the hair.
And another comment on body hair: It can’t be helped, if you’re hairy on the location the tattoo is supposed to be situated on, even if it’s a thin plumage, the tattoo artist will have to shave it before tattooing you. After all, you want him to tattoo your skin – not the hair… But let me destroy a little urban legend: after a one-time shave, the hair will grow exactly the way it used to; not thicker, not longer and not darker!
One final thing, very important: The tattoo must fit harmonically on the place it is going to decorate. For example, elongated tattoos would fit better on elongated organs like the leg or the arm. Smaller tattoos might look like they don’t belong on a large area suck as the back, and would fit better on a smaller area like on the ankle or wrist.
While choosing, also consider the curves of the body (like the frame of the shoulder or that of the waist), and try to match them up.
Use a lot of good judgment and good taste, and don’t hesitate using the tattoo artist to help you with that!