It can be hard to commit to one image that will be permanent. Some people just have too many ideas! Here are some ways you can decide what to get tattooed…Subject, style, and placement.
- Find an image or subject that you like. If you don’t have any very specific ideas or you can’t find something you want to commit to permanently, abstract art is always an option. Simple, flowing shapes work very well on the human form, hence the popularity of “tribal” tattoos. You can even be as vague as wanting a shape, or a curve tattooed on you. “Abstract” means just that- there is no subject matter, and the meaning is obscured. This is a good choice if you’re indecisive or change your opinions from time to time.
- Placement is important. Do you want to be able to see your tattoo? Then get it on the front half of your body. Would you like to be able to easily hide it? Get it on the thigh, or back, or calf (if you can wear knee socks). Do you want it to be a teaser? Get it so that part of it extends beyond the sleeve of your t-shirt from your upper arm. The easiest paces to get work done, and the best for long-term wear and tear, are the outside of the calf and thigh, the inside of the forearm, the outside of the upper arm, and the upper back. The most important thing though? Is where YOU want to see the tattoo. The pain only lasts a short time, but you will be looking at the tattoo itself forever.
- Abstract art works well too because you can invent new meaning or significance for the tattoo as you get older. Getting something that is pure decoration can save you the trouble of trying to commit to one point of view or meaning. Most tattoo artists enjoy doing some abstract work; just be sure the artist you choose works in the style you enjoy seeing. (more on this below!)
- When seeking subject matter, keep an open mind. Look at tattoo magazines and imagine yourself as the people in the pictures. What would feel right for you? What can you relate to? Look at photographs and paintings that aren’t tattoo-related and imagine them on your skin, instead of on paper or canvas. Would it look right to you? If you have hobbies, think about whether there are objects or images that express them. If you have inside jokes with friends or loved ones, think of ways to express them with images. Getting matching images is usually not a jinx on a relationship the way getting a tattoo of someone’s name can be. Does your child have a favorite toy, or a nickname? Does your wife have a favorite flower? You can get her a bouquet, or memorialize this time in your child’s life, by tattooing it on you.
- If it’s a tattoo for a relative, “Mom” or “Pop”, think about what kind of images they enjoy, and what their personality is like. Memorial tattoos and relationship tattoos, just like gifts, mean more if they are personal to the receiver.
- Don’t feel hedged in to what you have already seen as a tattoo. The tattoo industry has expanded in technique and equipment rapidly in the last ten years or so, and besides being safer (with disposable equipment and such) the artistic possibilities are close to endless. While not every design can be applied as-is, usually a few modifications can make it possible to do just about anything on skin. Look to all forms of art and photography for ideas and styles to apply to your tattoo.
- Try to find your inspiration in your own taste and interests. If you like art nouveau vases, use them as reference. If you like wild animals, find some photographs of animals you find meaningful. Or simply look for shapes, motifs, and colors that you like.