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Written by Kieran Proctor

How To Decide On Tattoo Placement?



black and color tattoo sleees

This is Part Two in our 10 part series, looking at the process of getting a tattoo for the first time. In this article, I discuss tattoo placement. And how to decide where your new tattoo is to be put on your body.

If you haven’t read my article about choosing a tattoo style, you should go back and do that first. Because you will need to know what style you want, before you try and decide where you want it on your body. The style of tattoo you want will have a significant impact on its placement.

For example, a micro tattoo will look simply ridiculous on a bicep. And a large detailed Japanese Koi simply won’t fit on a knuckle. You need to have a good idea of the tattoo style you want, its color palate and its included stylistic cues, before you decide on placement.

Yet, for those people that do know the style of tattoo they want, and have a basic idea of the design they intend to get, the question then turns to where it should be put on the body.

How to Choose tattoo placements?

Size is a major factor in placement. Small tattoos on large surfaces look out of place. And large tattoos don’t fit on smaller parts of the body.

Size is the primary consideration, when deciding on the location for a tattoo. Because the size of the tattoo will limit the available locations where the tattoo can be applied.

Some online tattoo guides suggest that the second most important factor that should be taken into consideration, is the level of pain you’re comfortable with. And they might argue that the armpit or elbow are just too painful for a first tattoo.

He loves tattooing elbows and armpits

But everybody has a different threshold for pain. And pain can be overcome with various tattoo numbing products, like the numbing cream I use. Instead of pain, your second most important factor in deciding on where to get a tattoo, should be where you’re comfortable having a tattoo.

You may not want your tattoo to be visible. Or you might want it to be highly visible. And you should decide on whether or not, you want other people to see your new tattoo.

I would add, however, that it’s a terrible idea to get a tattoo on your face, neck or hands as a first time tattoo client. As these spots will be highly visible and you will get noticed. Tattoo placements on the hands, face and neck, can affect your career prospects and future direction in life.

Mad Rabbit Numbing Cream
The numbing cream I use and recommend

Face, neck and hand placements can also affect your work prospects, relationships and lifestyle. 

Save any tattoo ideas you may have for your hands, face or neck, until you’re already heavily tattooed everywhere else. And then decide if you still want them.

With that said, the third most important factor in placement is the level of detail and skill of the artist.

A large and highly detailed tattoo can be shrunk or expanded within reason. Provided that the artist is capable and the style allows for it. Removing or adding details will allow the size of the tattoo to be adjusted.

So, once you’ve removed from your list all the placements that the tattoo you want, simply can’t be put due to its size and the detail; and you have removed all of the placements you simply don’t want a tattoo due to visuals (what others see or don’t see); you should then look at how much adjustment to the tattoos size can be accommodated by your artist.

To see how much adjustment to a tattoo can be made, you will need to go and discuss your ideas, with your artist. And I’ve discussed in detail how to pick an artist in other articles on this site. But for now, you should have a short list of spots, where you would like the tattoo to go.

When you get to the artist, you should know 2-3 potential spots for placement of the tattoo, the style you want and a rough idea of the color scheme.

And once you know the tattoo style and artists limitations, the areas with the right sizing and where you’re comfortable wearing your new tattoo, you’re well on the road to getting your first tattoo.

Yet, I will add one further consideration. One that I never thought about when I got my first tattoo. Choose a spot that allows for future tattoos. Because you will likely want a second tattoo. And probably a third tattoo or perhaps, even more!

Now, that you know the style and placements you’d be happy with we can start to get to the fun part. Choosing a shop and an artist.

My own tattoos
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