Be Open with Planning Your Tattoo

Coming in with an idea and the general concept for your theme and motif are good things. Unless you want an artist to tattoo a piece of art entirely based on his or her own motivations and style you’re going to have to provide some input. That being said, being completely rigid and expecting an artist to accede entirely to your vision can be harmful.

Tattoo artists have a lot of things to consider that non-artists may not take into account. The matter of scale is one example. Did you want a samurai on your forearm? This may not be possible because incorporating an entire human figure on a smaller canvas may create a miniaturization effect – it will look like a tiny version of the image you had in mind.

Having too many elements that need to be exactly the way you want can also create problems. Did you really want northern lights above a mountain with a tiger on it and waves in the foreground that have a man in a boat fishing? On your calf? Although you may be able to see the image perfectly in your head the tattoo artist has to execute it in the here and now. No matter how hard you try they won’t see what you see and a solid artist is going to tell you when something isn’t possible or it’s a bad idea. Keep your expectations realistic and you won’t be disappointed when their realization of your description is slightly different.

It’s also important to keep in mind that some animal motifs and flower motifs aren’t designed together.  So reading a little on those symbols ahead of time can be helpful.

Most artists do their best to interpret your concept based on their style. Which bring us to the next point.

Choose the Right Artist

This is critical. Choose an artist that makes art you enjoy and is reflective of the type of tattoo you want. It simply doesn’t make sense to try and get an artist with one style to produce artwork of a completely different fashion.

By no means does that imply that artists only want to do the same work they’ve done before! Most are keen to try something unique that allows them to be creative – never be scared to ask about doing something new to them. They will give it their own flair. Just don’t be disappointed if they don’t feel comfortable doing something that is stylistically not representative of themselves.

Take a look at their artwork – most tattoo artists display their work on Instagram these days. You’ll know when something speaks to you.

Find Appropriate Reference Material

Although this isn’t always necessary it is usually a helpful. Reference material can help communicate with an artist when words aren’t really doing the job.

It could be pictures of tattoos you’ve seen them do in the past that you really enjoyed. You can also indicate other artists (tattoo or non-tattoo artists) that you really enjoy – but make sure you know that your tattoo artist won’t be copying anybody else’s work!

It doesn’t necessarily have to be picture. It could be a feeling, a general theme, a written passage, or expression.  During the Edo period many artists were influenced by ukiyo-e art.  Especially in ukiyo-e art from the Suikoden.

Reference material should be thought of as the means to provide context for what you’d like your artist to create.

Yoko_protecting_his_father_from_a_tiger-1024x630 Planning Your Tattoo

Tiger by Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). This print depicts Yoko protecting his father from an aggressive looking tiger. Any art can serve as a good reference for what you’re trying to express. Art that speaks to you can be helpful when planning your tattoo.

Don’t Rush

For those of you that are planning on traveling to Japan this is especially important. It’s necessary to have realistic expectations about what can be accomplished during your trip. Great work won’t be rushed.

If you’re going to be enjoying an extended stay, perfect! You can plan session times spread out well enough to allow your skin to recover between appointments and you’ll hopefully be able to plan times that work with your schedule. Otherwise don’t expect to get a full sleeve done during your week long vacation. Larger works will require a greater investment of time. Healing time between sessions is necessary and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to book an entire week of an artist’s time.

Many people worry about wandering around with an incomplete tattoo on their body. It’s normal to have a work in progress and not something that should be a deciding factor in what you’d like to have done. Consider this just another reason to effectively plan your future trips!

Plan Your Time Around Your Ink

Traveling abroad is always a fun experience! And we often want to see it all and do it all. It’s easy to plan a lot of traveling and activities on paper before arriving in country but it’s another thing all together to be there in person doing it day after day.

Traveling is fun but will often leave you tired. Your body is already out of its usual environment: sleeping at different times, eating different foods, and generally taking it all in. This is an important factor in making sure that you’re properly prepared for you tattoo sessions. Being rested, hydrated, and well fed well improve your recovery and healing time.

A tattoo session should be the focus of your day. If it’s sandwiched in between running around the city’s different sights and activities you’re likely to burn out and have a less enjoyable experience. Don’t lock yourself in your hotel room either! But it’s best to keep a more leisurely pace and plan an appropriate amount of time to arrive at your tattoo session. You’ll be better able to enjoy your time between sessions.

Shibuya_Station_Yamanote_Line_Platform-1024x768 Planning Your Tattoo

Make sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time to arrive at the studio.  Even though the train system always runs on schedule, transit in Japan, especially Tokyo, can be hectic.

Avoid Prevaricating

Going back and forth on your motif or theme will send an artist the wrong message. It indicates that you’re not certain about having a piece of artwork done by them. Or the tattoo in general.

By no means does this mean that you shouldn’t change a description or give new input. It’s not set in stone until it’s set in your skin.

But we want you to be confident with what you want before you sign on. Sometimes that means knowing only that you don’t know what you want exactly!

Maybe the only thing you’re certain about is that you enjoy the artist’s style and artwork. That can be enough. Most artists love having the freedom to be creative.

Guidelines Not Rules

These guidelines are not hard and fast rules. And even if they were, every rule has its exception. If there’s anything causing uncertainty or something you want to discuss, it’s important to do so.

Every tattoo experience should be positive.

Matt Trudeau

Author Matt Trudeau

More posts by Matt Trudeau