Is It Rude To Design Your Own Tattoo?

Artist at work

The short answer is no. It’s not at all rude to design your own tattoo. Most people want something personal. It’s quite common that people want to have some part in the process of designing the tattoo like with these small floral tattoosSome artists may be happier about this than others, but they are all used to it and won’t be offended.

hung pham featured pic
ARTIST AT WORK

Designing Your Own Tattoo Can Be Really Satisfying

Below you can see one of the more unusual tattoo designs I have. I had originally done it as a painting and took the drawings and painting to the tattooist. We then worked out what he could do to reproduce the original design.

lower leg tattoo taken from an original painting
LOWER LEG TATTOO TAKEN FROM AN ORIGINAL PAINTING

Is It Okay To Bring Your Own Design To A Tattoo Artist?

Yes. A lot of people take a design they want to a tattooist. The tattooist will then advise you if it is suitable for tattooing and if they can replicate it. It may be that the design cannot be reproduced exactly. The tattooist should be able to adapt most designs to make them suitable for tattooing though.

It may be that the design you have chosen is not suitable to make a good tattoo in some way. If that is the case, then a good tattooist will tell you and advise you how it could be adapted. This is a good reason why it is good to talk to several artists to get their opinions.

Below is another design that is a fantastic painting, but it would be difficult to reproduce as a tattoo. With the fine detail and complex line work. Over time, this would be the sort of tattoo that could end up looking not so great. The colour range looks great in a painting in a well-lit room, but is just too tonally dark without enough light and contrast to work well as a tattoo in the long-term, in my opinion.

mayan head painting originally conceived as a tattoo
MAYAN HEAD PAINTING ORIGINALLY CONCEIVED AS A TATTOO

Can I Draw My Own Tattoo?

The easy answer is yes. If you are artistic, there is no reason why you can’t draw your own tattoo. However, it is good to talk to a tattoo artist to understand what they need from you. This will help you make the drawing suitable and easy for them to work from.

It’s no good going to a tattooist with a rough sketch on a scrap of paper hoping they immediately grasp what you want. You should draw the design as close to the actual size you want as possible. That way you can see what it will really look like.

It might also be a good idea to draw a larger version for reference. The mandala ideas in the link might inspire you.. If you find it easier, draw it to a larger scale and reduce it in size on a computer.

Below is a series of sketches of a Lion Mandala tattoo I designed. I took all the stages of the sketches to the tattoo artist so he could use what he needed.

three stages of a lion mandala tattoo drawing
THREE STAGES OF A LION MANDALA TATTOO DRAWING

How Can I Design My Own Tattoo?

Designing a tattoo is similar to doing any other drawing. First, look at where you want the tattoo, as this will affect the size and shape of the design needed. A lot of traditional tattooists will want a clear-line drawing that they can use as a stencil. Not all tattooists work like that though, so you need to talk to them. It depends on the design and the style of the tattoo artist.

Keep It Simple To Start With

Keep it simple to start with and copy what you have drawn at each stage of the drawing. Make 5 copies of the first sketches, then you can try different ideas to make the design work better very easily.

If you are doing a design that doesn’t have the hard frame line used in traditional tattooing or like these single line tattoos, you still need to create a picture that will help the tattooist. Still, most tattooists are fairly well practiced at deconstructing a drawing to create the drawings and stencils they need.

Adapting A Painting For A Tattoo Can Be Challenging

Here you can see the painting that inspired the tattoo alongside the final tattoo. I found an artist who was happy working without a line to frame the outside of the piece. I really didn’t want a dark line right around the outside on this one.

the tattoo of the painting
THE TATTOO OF THE PAINTING

Remember that even with a good fine line tattoo artist that over time, lines do spread on the skin. Too many lines that are very close together is not good. They may look great when the tattoo is first done, but over time, they can become a grey and black mass with no detail.

A great example of this is the many tattoos of dogs I have seen done over the years. The fur of the dog involves many lines done close together. If they are done too close together with few lighter areas, the details will be lost over time.

Good And Bad Examples

Here you can see good and bad examples of how to use tonal variation when drawing fur for a tattoo. The Mandala drawing on the left is high contrast which is great for a tattoo. The artist has also left space between the lines and even over time I would expect it to look good. The Lion drawing on the right is great, with some fantastic details in the hair. However, unless it was huge as a tattoo the details would quickly get lost as the ink spreads over time. Take a look at our drawing tutorials here for some great ideas to inspire you. The Lion and Tiger drawing guides might help you design a tattoo of an animal of any kind.

lion art for tattoos
LION ART FOR TATTOOS

Is It Rude To Change Tattoo Ideas?

This is an easy answer, No. It is more important to get the right design than anything else.

If the tattooist has done work creating a design for you and you change your mind, it is only fair to pay them for their time. The business is their livelihood, after all.

Most tattooists won’t be upset if you come to them with a change f heart. They want you to get the tattoo you want too. Having said that, if you go back again and again with constant changes, they are sure to get frustrated.

Try to make your mind up first, but if you want something changed, it is better to do that before the tattooist starts. You cannot simply rub out tattoo lines to start again.

Can I Change My Tattoo Design Last Minute?

You can. As I said above, it is better to change your mind than end up with a tattoo you will regret.

Remember, the tattoo artist is busy and has a lot to prepare. Don’t turn up to a pre-booked appointment with last-minute changes without discussing them with the tattooist first.

It is better to postpone an appointment to discuss the changes with the artist. Don’t expect a tattooist to drop everything to get your changed design ready to work from at the last minute.

lion mandala leg tattoo
LION MANDALA LEG TATTOO

Is It Illegal To Do Your Own Tattoos?

It is perfectly legal to do your own tattoos as long as you are over 18 years old (different age limits may apply in different states and other countries). Having said that, it is usually a bad idea unless you are a tattooist.

Tattooing is a skill that is hard to master. Most tattoo artists have been trained by someone who taught them the skills they need. An apprenticeship from an established artist is always the best way to learn how to tattoo well.

Being a good artist is different from being a good tattooist. Some of the skills are transferable, but that is just the start. A Tattooist will need to be a good artist, but a good artist does not always make a good tattooist.

Some Simple Feathers Can Make Great Tattoo Designs
SOME SIMPLE FEATHERS CAN MAKE GREAT TATTOO DESIGNS

What Should You Not Ask A Tattoo Artist?

There are very few reasonable questions that should not ask a tattoo artist, but there are a few no-go zones. A tattooist is just like anyone else, treat them with respect, and you are likely to get the same. They will answer most questions with a smile.

DO NOT ASK THE TATTOOIST IF HE OR SHE CAN DO THE TATTOO CHEAPER.

This is a sure fire way to upset any tattooist. If your most important question is about price then perhaps you need to look at the possible problems a cheap tattoo can cause.

DO NOT ASK THE TATTOO ARTIST IF YOU CAN PAY WITH SEXUAL FAVOURS.

Because of the personal nature of a lot of tattooing, people can get ideas that really aren’t appropriate to voice. At best it will distract the tattoo artist when they are trying to concentrate. At worst it may get you thrown out of the shop.

BE POLITE.

Banter is fine and will be welcomed by most artists up to a point. Rudeness is not. Remember, the person with the tattoo gun in their hand is in the process of marking you for life. Upsetting them is really not a good idea.

Below are some more great examples of original tattoo designs. There are both drawings and finished tattoos to help inspire you and help you on your journey.

We have a huge catalog of tattoo images of all different kinds here, so why not take a look to find some inspiration.

Fantastic Feather Tattoo
FANTASTIC FEATHER TATTOO
Some Simple Roses Can Make Great Tattoo Designs
SOME SIMPLE ROSES CAN MAKE GREAT TATTOO DESIGNS
A Classic Arm Band Tattoo Design Of Leaves
A CLASSIC ARM BAND TATTOO DESIGN OF LEAVES
Practice And Perfect Your Drawing And Tattoo Design Skills
PRACTICE AND PERFECT YOUR DRAWING AND TATTOO DESIGN SKILLS
The Feathers In These Wings Are Great
THE FEATHERS IN THESE WINGS ARE GREAT

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