Get Inked: A Professional Tattoo Artist’s Guide to Thigh Tattoos

Woman kneeling on the ground on short pants showing tattoo on thigh.

The number of Americans seeking tattoos is on the rise. That means that as a tattoo artist, it’s likely that you’re going to have a lot of first-timers who need additional guidance when settling on the design and placement of their tattoo.

Thigh tattoos are popular these days because the thigh offers a lot of opportunities. Clients may want a small thigh tattoo that’s easy to conceal. Other clients looking for huge pieces may consider a thigh tattoo because the thigh offers a lot of canvas space.

No matter the client’s desires, it’s up to you to help them make the right choices and deliver the best tattoo possible. Today, we’re going to offer a glimpse of the tattoo basics with our guide to thigh tattooing.

Read on to learn everything there is to know about thigh tattooing, from preparation to design and beyond.

Consulting With the Client

The first thing that you will do is have a consultation with the client. This is your opportunity to discuss what they want from their thigh tattoo and what future plans they have for their body, including any future tattoo goals. Let’s take a look at what you should talk to your client about when they’re asking for a thigh tattoo.


Thigh tattoos are easy to conceal with clothing, even when the tattoo is large. On the flip side, placement and size will impact how and when your client will be able to show off their thigh tattoo. For example, a side thigh tattoo that extends up the hip will rarely be visible in its entirety, so if this is important to your client, you may want to discuss a side thigh tattoo that stops below the hip.


It may seem intuitive, but not all clients will understand that if they want more detail in their tattoo, they’re going to need to go with a bigger size. The thigh does offer a large canvas that is perfect for big pieces, but if your client is set on a small tattoo, you may need to convince them to scale back the detail of the design to maintain clarity and avoid the blurring effect that can come with age. For example, if they want a cluster of realistic roses and aren’t willing to go with a medium-sized tattoo, you should ask them to consider a single realistic rose.

Size and Placement

Clients are entitled to make the final decision about the size and placement of their tattoo, but as a tattoo artist, you should know the best placement for thigh tattoos based on size. For example, small tattoos often look best on or above the knee, medium tattoos look best on the inner thigh, large tattoos look best on the front or outer thigh, and extra-large tattoos will take up the entire thigh. When talking to your client about the placement of a small or medium tattoo, take into account their tattoo goals, as well.

Pain Scale

First-time clients or clients that have never had their thighs tattooed will likely have questions about pain scale. Keep in mind that studies have shown that we all experience pain differently, and some clients will be more sensitive to pain than others. That said, you can provide clients with general expectations.

The front and outer thighs are often less sensitive to pain. The inner thigh and back of thigh are far more sensitive, and getting a tattoo in these areas may cause a notable degree of discomfort.

Future Plans

If the canvas a tattoo is on changes in size, the tattoo is going to look different. While you don’t want to outright ask a client if they’re planning on losing weight or gaining muscle, pay attention to what they say about future plans. If major body changes that will impact the legs are in the works, they may want to hold off on getting their tattoo at this time.

Tattoo Goals

Trying to work individual thigh tattoos into a larger design or leg sleeve is a lot more difficult than tattooing one large, unified design. If a client is asking for a small tattoo in the middle of the thigh, where larger tattoos would comfortably fit, ask them about future tattoo goals. Again, the final decision is up to them, but you may want to remind them that if they have plans for a large thigh tattoo or leg sleeve in the future, a small tattoo in the middle of that area might be disruptive.

Design Considerations for Thigh Tattoos

Once you’ve completed your consultation with the client, it’s time to start designing. Designs shouldn’t just reflect the inspiration your client has given you or the aesthetics they’re interested in. Designs should also reflect the part of the body the tattoo will cover, and thigh tattoo designs are no exception.

Fitting the Body Part

When a client wants a large tattoo to cover the side of their thigh, your design should fit the side of their thigh. What that means is that it shouldn’t stop short or start several inches above the knee. It should fill the designated area completely and account for the unique shape of your client’s body.

Creating Flow

Tattoos should look like they belong on the body, not like they were stamped there, and that means creating a design that follows the natural musculature. On the thigh, imagine a diagonal line that’s moving in a downward direction toward the inner thigh and an upward direction toward the outer thigh. By following this line with your design, you create a tattoo that looks natural and complimentary, rather than out of place.

Direction of Faces

If the design includes a face, whether human or animal, realistic or graphic, the direction that the face is looking matters. Traditionally, faces always look inward or forward. In other words, if the faces are on the front or back of the thigh, they should look inward toward the center of the body, and if the faces are on either side of the thigh, they should look toward the front of the body, not the back.

Preparing for the Tattoo

Once it’s time for your client’s appointment, you will need to follow the right steps to give them a high-quality, sanitary tattoo. This will include steps that you will objectively take, like shaving the area, as well as additional conversations with the client about final considerations. The way that you prepare for the tattoo will have a huge impact on the outcome, so take care in these important moments.

Disinfect and Shave

Even if the client tells you that they just shaved their legs, you need to shave the area where the tattoo will go. Hold a clean paper towel below the tattooing area and spray a generous layer of green soap onto the skin. Then, shave the area using upward strokes and use another clean paper towel to remove loose hairs and dry the area, once again using upward strokes.

Place the Stencil

Once the area is disinfected, shaved, and dried, place the stencil with the client standing in an upright position with their legs straight and relaxed. Remember that the tattoo should be right-side-up when the client is standing, and you may want to encourage them to reconsider if they want the tattoo to “face” them. Give your client plenty of time to review the stencil placement in a mirror and continue to tweak the placement until they’re happy.

Properly Position Your Client

There are a few ways that you can position a client when they’re getting a thigh tattoo. For example, if the tattoo is going on the front of the thigh, they can either sit on the tattoo bed or lay on it, depending on their preference and yours. If they’re going to prop their foot on the tattoo bed, ask them to remove their shoe first, as shoes are extremely dirty and can compromise your otherwise sanitary tattoo station.

Start Your Career at the Florida Tattoo Academy

Thigh tattoos are popular these days for obvious reasons. By using the thigh as a canvas, you can meet a lot of widely varying client needs and desires. The goal is to make sure that you provide the expertise to help them make the best choice for their body, the quality and clarity of the design, and their future tattoo goals.

Do you want to get your tattoo career started the right way? You may be a good fit for the Florida Tattoo Academy, where we help new artists learn the ropes, develop their skills and style, and become expert tattooists. Contact us to find out more about our courses and schedule a school tour.

Do you need a loan for your tattooing education? We’ve got you covered. Start your loan application today.