Planning a tattoo?
Here's everything you need to know.
It can be daunting trying to decide on one thing to have on your body forever, so let's break it down a bit to help simplify the process.
Really all you need to consider are these 5 points:
Imagery - Style - Size - Placement - Layout
Imagery is what your tattoo will be of. A tattoo can literally be of anything, but really all you need to know is:
Go for what you like.
Need a starting point?
Common themes include family, interests, hobbies, nature, sports, work (if you like your job) or travel.
From there it comes down to how literal you want it to be or if you'd prefer to let a picture say 1000 words.
Let's say you're going down the family route and it's for your mum who's a writer, loves roses and you play tennis together. The literal route you could just get the classic MUM in a banner over a heart, or to dig a little deeper you could get a tennis racket with a rose, wrapped up together with a banner with a short quote from something she's written.
Don't worry too much about how to put the image/s together, composition is our specialty but having some ideas as a starting point is great to help us get on the same page!
For specifically planning an Anime / Gaming or Japanese tattoo click for full guides.
Once you know what you want the tattoo to be of, you'll need to know how you want it to look.
Getting a tattoo drawn up is just like getting an art commission from your favourite artist, so of course it's important to find an artist whos work you love! Most artists specialise in one or two styles so learning some of the main ones can help you narrow down who will be best for what you're after.
There's two rules to sizing up a tattoo: Bigger is better, and size it to fit.
Bigger is better might sound like an upsell, but a lot of the time there's little to no extra work involved in scaling up a tattoo a bit, we just use bigger liners and shaders. The only time there's extra work involved is if we've made it bigger to accomodate the level of detail you want, because detailed tattoos DO require space.
Don't believe the micro-tattoo hype. As tattoos age, lines spread a little so a ton of tiny details right next to each other will blur into a mess. Tiny eyes will become egg shaped blobs, tiny lettering will become unreadable. It's important to consider the life of your tattoo and allow room for it to spread and grow a little as it ages.
Sizing it to fit basically just means fill the area you're going for. If you're putting a tattoo on the top of your thigh, treat that whole panel of your thigh as the canvas. While some people might just put a single dot in the middle of a canvas and call it done, most would consider it a waste of space. It also makes it very hard to extend later since the dot is right in the middle, so anything else you place around there needs to work around it. Keep small tattoos to small areas (wrist, ankle, behind the ear etc), keep bigger pieces to bigger areas, thigh, inner forearm, half sleeve etc. Doing a calf tattoo? fill the calf muscle 80-100%, not a small stamp in the middle of it.
The main thing to remember here is there is no wrong place to get a tattoo. However some imagery suits certain spots better than others so here's a few general rules.
Place symmetrical imagery on symmetrical areas.
Technically nowhere on the human body is symmetrical but areas like chest, stomach, top of thigh, back suit best for symmetry.
Avoid straight lines on high movement areas.
A lighthouse or sword works fine on a thigh or sternum but on a shoulder or knee they'll bend like pool noodles. Bendy imagery like snakes and flowers are better for high movement areas.
If you want a job stopper, have a stable career first.
Hand, neck and face tattoos are known as job stoppers since it can cost a lot of job opportunities in most industries. We generally don't do these until you're heavily tattooed and established in a long term career path.
Allow enough space.
Big imagery needs a lot of space. If you want a whole Japanese dragon from its head to tail, you'll need a full arm to do it justice and have it be a clear design that lasts well over time. If you're set on using less space like a half sleeve, you can still have a dragon, but it's best to focus on the upper body of it and imply the rest is hidden behind some clouds.
Layout mostly applies to planning large scale tattoos like sleeves and bodysuits, but since so few people only get one tattoo, I think it's important to consider a layout style you like. Having a layout in mind can help any future tattoos flow or connect well, without ruining any future plans by having to awkwardly work around what's already there.
While there are a ton of ways to layout a sleeve or bodysuit, I think there are four main layouts that work the best. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks which you can read about by clicking your favourite below.