Design and Draft: How to Choose a Tattoo With Your Client

how to choose a tattoo a book on one leg, a tattoo on the other leg

According to some studies, approximately 12% of people in the US regret one or more of their tattoos. But there’s a problem with fearmongering statistics like these that don’t tell the whole story. In reality, most people won’t regret their tattoos if they take the time to think them over.

The thing is, clients often don’t know how to choose a tattoo. Many walk into tattoo parlors with rock-solid ideas of tattoo placement, but none whatsoever of tattoo design. Fortunately, you can help them throughout the process of designing a tattoo until they’re satisfied.

Read on as we discuss how you can help a client choose tattoo art that they’ll never regret.

Some Considerations Before Designing a Tattoo

Before anyone should ever consider getting a tattoo, they need to think about how it will affect their life. With the exception of people who have autoimmune diseases or skin cancer, virtually everyone can get a tattoo. However, they should carefully consider any social implications.

Cultural and Religious Conflicts

Unfortunately, some cultures and religions frown upon tattoos.

In Japan, for example, tattoos have a close association with organized crime. Getting them can lead to judgment and ostracization. Similarly, there are religions where members cannot remain in full standing if they get a tattoo.

If someone is a member of a culture or religion with a tattoo taboo, they can (and should) get a tattoo if they want. But they definitely need to be more cautious. They should consider a tattoo that is not visible when wearing normal clothes.

Another factor to consider is the subject matter of a tattoo in a certain culture. Getting tattoos with profanity or nudity might not go over well in the US, for example.

If someone plans on a culturally sensitive tattoo, they need to be aware that they could be playing with fire. It may be in your best interest not to serve them. You’ve put so much work into becoming a tattoo artist, you don’t want to ruin your reputation over one tattoo!

Familial Conflicts

As an extension of the reasons above, a person’s family may not support tattoo art. In the same vein, a tattoo client should consider a less visible tattoo.

Passing Interests

Remember Game of Thrones? It was the biggest and most popular television show for years running. Upon the conclusion of the universally-hated final season, though, there was a massive exodus of its loyal fans.

Case in point, people’s interests and tastes change. They may have enjoyed a certain movie franchise or music group at one point in their lives. Fast forward a couple of years, and they no longer feel that way.

It’s important to avoid tattoos that are ephemeral. Advise your client against any tattoos for the sake of a fad or a fandom.

Instead, recommend evergreen tattoos. These are the ones that will look good several decades from now, regardless of what’s popular on Netflix.

Job Prospects

Many occupations and career fields to this day frown upon tattoo art. It’s a shame that this is the case, but that is the reality we live in. If a tattoo client plans to go into a field where tattoos are taboo, they are risking job prospects.

Even non-visible tattoos could present an issue further down the line. If a coworker discovers that your client has a tattoo, they could possibly report it to HR.

Romantic Relationships

It’s common for people to get tattoos that have the names or pictures of people they love. This is a great idea for parents and their children. But it’s risky for romantic relationships, even long-term ones.

As a general rule, we discourage tattoos for recent couples. Even if someone has been together for a handful of years already, it’s best to save the couple’s tattoos for later. Many, many, many people have had to remove them after a breakup.

Skin Color and Complexion

This can be a tricky topic to navigate, so treat it with care. Lighter skin colors tend to show more detail and color with tattoos. Darker skin tones won’t have colors or lines that are as vibrant or visible by comparison.

This isn’t to say that a person of color shouldn’t get a colorful tattoo. Just make sure they know that it will look very different on their skin compared to a draft on paper. Consider showing them example pictures that have a person with a similar skin tone.

Further, some tattoo clients may have persistent skin problems. Getting a tattoo could make the skin problems worse–or at least, more difficult to treat.

Cover-Ups and Removals

Even with proper foresight and preparation, a select few people may eventually regret their tattoos. They should be aware of what their options are should that moment come. If they are lucky, they can likely get a tattoo coverup job.

But if a cover-up is not possible, then the last option available is tattoo removal. Tattoo removal can be painful and quite expensive. Your tattoo clients should be aware of the risk that their tattoo may not be to their liking someday.

With all of that out of the way, let’s discuss how they should choose their tattoo.

How to Choose a Tattoo

It goes without saying that tattoo art will be highly personal. What looks beautiful to one person may look terrible to another. Let’s go step-by-step through all the things to consider while designing a tattoo.

Pick Tattoo Placement

This is perhaps the most important decision, even more important than the tattoo itself. Placement can help a person to accentuate their good features and cover up their less-favorable ones. Bad placement can make a good tattoo look misshapen and silly.

For example, many men like to do full-arm sleeves and chest tattoos. Women, on the other hand, tend to have stomach or back tattoos. Of course, many clients can put the tattoo anywhere and still look great.

Consider how this placement will work over time. People age and gain weight. A tattoo that looks wonderful now may not be so hot in 20 years–particularly with poor placement.

Take a look at images from the Internet of tattoos that other people have done for inspiration. Work with the client to decide which location will be best. Do remind them that certain areas are more painful (ribs, neck, etc.)

Pick the Size

Just as important as the placement is the size. Some people want to ink their skin from top to bottom and are willing to go to multiple sessions for it. Others will be happy with a single, small tattoo that requires only one sitting.

Size also affects the complexity of the tattoo. A long-arm sleeve will require a lot more work on your part. It can be difficult to arrange its elements so it looks good along the arm.

Naturally, large tattoos will also cost more. This is why it’s important to quote general prices to your tattoo client from the outset. You don’t want to waste their time–and yours–on a tattoo they can’t afford.

Account for Past or Future Ink

Some of your clients may not have a single tattoo on their entire body. Others may have various tattoos that they have collected throughout the years. Others still may see this tattoo as a single piece in a larger, life-spanning collection.

Ask your client if you should be designing a tattoo that goes well with their existing artwork. If not, then make them aware of when your planned design might clash with what they already have.

Also, speak to them in depth about their future plans for tattoos. Do they want to add a neck and back tattoo to those new sleeves, but they don’t know when? If so, you may want to lay the groundwork so that you or future tattoo artists can easily add to it.

Make It Meaningful

Tattoo art is personal, and should reflect the tattoo client as much as possible. Ask them about their life to get a better understanding of who they are. What are their hobbies, what do they value most, and who are the people that are most important to them?

You can ask thousands of questions, but what matters is that it is symbolic and meaningful.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that the tattoo has to relate specifically to something in their life. Many people like tattoos for aesthetic reasons only. What matters is that they feel a connection to the tattoo design, and identify with it.

Choose Artwork That They like

As you begin to do early drafts, it helps to find out what a person’s artistic preference is. There’s so much to choose from here. Give your tattoo client the task of providing you with artwork that they enjoy.

Specifically, identify the style of artwork that they like. This could be hyperrealistic, impressionist, or cartoon artwork.

Identify if they want a tattoo that is colorful or one that is monochrome. Tattoos with a lot of color and detail will obviously take much longer. Of course, that won’t be a problem for you if you take a good tattoo course.

Begin With Rough Sketches

Now that you have gotten all of that out of the way, it’s time to do some scribbling. Begin with some very basic sketch work. Create multiple different styles, designs, and subject matter to cover all the bases.

You can do the sketches quickly while your client is in the office. Or, send them over digitally.

If you want to leverage technology to your advantage, consider using AI to get some inspiration. You might come up with some clever ideas that lead you in interesting directions.

If your client has some artistic ability, ask them to sketch out what they have in mind. You can iterate off of their sketches and make them even better.

And if your client is a very skilled artist, have them design the whole thing! You can then help to translate that design into ink.

Create Multiple Final Drafts

Once the client approves some sketches, build off of them into some final versions. Tweak these until they are perfect, and then show them to the client. Make changes as necessary.

We highly recommend that you provide the client with multiple options to choose from. That way, they don’t feel that they have to accept the first one that you present. In fact, they may even ask you to blend elements of multiple final drafts.

Be Patient

Remember, at the end of the day, you’re helping someone to make a permanent decision. They will carry the ink that you gave them for the rest of their life, for better or for worse. Take your time!

There is a special joy in collaborating with a client to develop the perfect design. It may take a few days or weeks before they are happy. But ultimately, you will be glad once they settle on something that makes their eyes sparkle with satisfaction.

Develop a friendly relationship with every tattoo client. They are about to trust you with one of the biggest decisions that they will be making. Throughout this process, get them to feel as comfortable as possible.

Become a Tattoo Artist With Florida Tattoo Academy

When a client first walks into your parlor, they will need a lot of help on how to choose a tattoo. Make sure to consider all of the social implications a tattoo will have on their life situation. Once you get the green light, carefully go step-by-step and consider all the elements of the best tattoo design for them.

Florida Tattoo Academy is the best place in the Sunshine State to learn the craft of tattoo work. Schedule a tour of our campus and then sign up for our legendary tattoo courses.