I need help with my quit-smoking tattoo.
October 14, 2011 10:23 AM   Subscribe

TattooFilter: I'm getting a quit-smoking tattoo and I need help with placement and a font, and maybe a border.

I'm going to get a quit-smoking tattoo. It will be the last four lines of Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening" read as overcoming the temptation of a death-wish, or, by a small stretch, of overcoming an addiction:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I have no other tattoos. I'm not very good at visual/design things and so I'm asking for help here with a font and also with the tattoo's placement. While the message and the promise are what's really important, I'd like it to be pretty too. A cursive type of font might be nice. Could/should it have some kind of border? And where could it go? My first thought is to put it on my (right) front ribcage, but I don't have much padding there and am afraid it will hurt like hell. Pain is not a huge concern, but excruciating is a bit much. I don't really want it to be visible in an everyday setting. Alternately, it might be nice for it to encircle some body part for the circular=binding symbolism, but which?

Thanks - this is something I'd really like to get right.
posted by kitcat to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a tattoo on my ribs, but on my chest. It was probably one of the more painful place. But, I enjoy the feeling of being tattooed, its a whole pleasure/pain thing.

I have multiple friends that have rib tattoos, and bar none they claimed it was the most painful tattoo they had.

In terms of designing it, just make some rough sketches, and find a good tattoo artist. They will make the magic happen.
posted by handbanana at 10:28 AM on October 14, 2011

Your own handwriting, as if it were writing a note to yourself.

Inner upper arm.
posted by milk white peacock at 10:28 AM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Your own handwriting, as if it were writing a note to yourself.

They can do that? Oh, well then that's probably best.

Can anyone guess at how long it might take? I've had piercings in the past and I get the whole pleasure/pain thing - but those pains were momentary...
posted by kitcat at 10:31 AM on October 14, 2011

I have a very similar tattoo (four line stanza of a poem) on my upper arm (I'm a lady, and the bottom line is usually visible when I wear a shirt steve shirt). I have a very, very old edition of the book this poem was published in, and I ended up using the the type-set font in the book as a my template (including an upside down "s"). I like the hand writing idea for your poem.

It took mine just over an hour, and cost about $100 (this was back in 2004, tho).
posted by Ideal Impulse at 10:41 AM on October 14, 2011

Google Images is great for finding this sort of thing. Most of these pics link to calligraphy websites with more examples.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:41 AM on October 14, 2011

Your own handwriting would be great! Print clearly, larger than you'd like, preferably with a thick pen—the tattoo artist should be able to shrink it and tweak it to make it an even better tattoo. And I would say no to the border. If you desperately want a border later, you can get one.

I'd also agree with sticking with your upper arm. I love my ribcage tattoo, but it hurt. A lot! And whenever I see it in a mirror I think "oh yeah, that's there"—it's not really the place I'd want a daily reminder to be. BUT if you don't want it visible, go for the ribs, or the side. It will hurt, but isn't that kind of the point?

(I think I read this on Metafilter, but I agree: the pain feels, alternatingly, like a kitty gently scratching a sunburn, or like a flock of bees repeatedly stinging a sunburn. But tolerable.)

And yeah, it should take about an hour.
posted by good day merlock at 10:46 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would spend some time looking at The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos for an idea of how different types of text will look on different parts of the body.
posted by Jairus at 10:48 AM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

I say this in response to a lot of tattoo questions: find an artist you like, then talk to them about your ideas.

(Body Type is another decent book about text tattoos.)
posted by box at 10:51 AM on October 14, 2011

I vote no border
posted by bq at 10:58 AM on October 14, 2011

Pinch yourself where you are thinking of getting the tattoo, if it hurts, it's going to hurt under the needle.
posted by kanemano at 11:01 AM on October 14, 2011

I'm a big fan of tattoos on the outer thigh. It's my new favorite placement. Maybe because that's where the piece I'm working on right now is. Bonus: Outer thigh is the least painful place I've been tattooed. (Most painful? Inner wrist, far and away. HOLY FUCKING SHIT.)

With text, especially such a big chunk of text, you're going to want to consider going big/bold. Fine delicate stuff has a tendency to spread and blur as it ages.

A thought I had about this idea. If you're not going to go visible, maybe go with a placement that you can casually touch/rub through your clothes. Like a worry stone, physical manifestation of internal stresses thing.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:04 AM on October 14, 2011

I also vote no border.
posted by Windigo at 11:07 AM on October 14, 2011

Response by poster: Fine delicate stuff has a tendency to spread and blur as it ages.
Thank you; I did not know this.
posted by kitcat at 11:13 AM on October 14, 2011

A few suggestions if this is your first tattoo.

1. Print out a sample of the text in a font you like, cut off the edges to just the text block/line and try holding it up to your body in a mirror. It sounds a bit goofy but it will help to determine a bit more if you really like a particular location or not and if a particular font looks good, if the size is right, etc.

2. Don't be afraid to go bigger. I think "I don't want it too big" is a common first time mistake. I've heard many, many people say that they wish they'd gotten a first tattoo bigger, but rarely do I hear that they thought it was too big.

3. Find an artist who's work you really like and don't be afraid to ask questions. They should be focused on helping you get the outcome that you want, not what they think or like, etc. (although they should also warn or inform you of things to consider too)

4. If you are considering color(s), be aware that certain colors may fade more/faster than others, particularly with exposure to sun.

As for pain, my experience has been that it's not so bad, certainly not as bad as I thought or had sort of been lead to believe (although I haven't done my ribs yet, so far just both shoulders and multiple upper back pieces.)
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:17 AM on October 14, 2011

Best answer: Here is another lovely site focused on literary tattoos that you can look at for ideas: Contrariwise
posted by flex at 11:24 AM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

How 'bout Frost's handwriting? Picture of manuscript here (scroll down to bottom).
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:36 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Edwardian Script is easily the most popular choice of font for tattoos where I am. 52 or 56pt is a typical size, but sometimes it can go as small as 48pt. Bickley Script is also very popular for people who want that look, but I can't remember the minimum size for it.

If you print out the text you want in Edwardian Script (it is very similar to a lot of other fonts like the similarly popular Kunstler--several use almost identical lower case letters) around 52pt that will give you an idea of how much space on you needs to be covered while keeping the letters big enough that they will remain legible years from now when the letters have blurred a little.

If it's taking up too much space, you could think about just using the middle two lines, possibly with an abstract (faint, light grey?) tree behind the words to replace the first line.
posted by K.P. at 11:52 AM on October 14, 2011

It seems like All The Cool Kids are going for handwriting or slab serif typewriter-style fonts. I honestly don't know (and you should ask your artist) whether this is because those are the styles of writing that show up best on skin, or just because they're what's popular right now.

You also see a lot of vaguely blackletter-ish tattoos. I think a real properly-drawn Schwabacher or something would be gorgeous, and that style of lettering is apparently way tattooable because everyone and their uncle has one — but between the gangsta connotations of the big swashy uppercase blackletter characters and the ren faire connotations of the more tastefully calligraphic lowercase ones you probably just want to steer clear of the whole thing unless you're Making A Statement.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:56 AM on October 14, 2011

Response by poster: You guys are so freaking awesome - all these good ideas and great stuff you found for me - wow.
posted by kitcat at 12:08 PM on October 14, 2011

Also, since you are in Canada you can get EMLA over the counter but you will want to talk with your tattooist first to make sure they're ok with it (the two I know best have no issues with it buy YMMV) and so you know how much effectiveness to expect on a given body part.
posted by K.P. at 12:09 PM on October 14, 2011

I have no tattoos, but judging from many images I've seen go by on the interwebs, you'll want to verify the spelling and punctuation a few dozen times before getting it done, if that sort of thing is important to you. I understand tattoo artists typically transfer the art to your skin via carbon or whatever before inking? Maybe one last check at that point?
posted by chazlarson at 12:50 PM on October 14, 2011

No border; Milk White Peacock has it.
posted by functionequalsform at 12:57 PM on October 14, 2011

Regarding what it feels like — I usually describe it as "like an ongoing cat scratch". This depends on where on the body it is, of course! The cat-scratch sensation is for the fleshy or muscular bits. Anywhere that it's skin-over-bone with very little padding (for example, going over the collarbone if it's a shoulder tattoo, or over the ribs if you don't have much fat around your ribcage) will probably feel much more intense, although not necessarily more painful. (The vibration was the most disconcerting aspect of doing that part of the tattoo, I found.)

In my experience, getting pierced involves a sharp, intense, but quick pain during the procedure, followed by a longer-lasting duller pain as it heals. Getting tattooed involves a lower level, less sharp pain during the procedure which does last for as long as it takes the tattooist to do the piece, but the pain goes away much more quickly than following piercing — feels more like healing a skinned knee than the ow ow ow why did I decide to push a sharp piece of metal through my flesh? I know it seemed like a good idea at the time... *grin*
posted by Lexica at 1:57 PM on October 14, 2011

Ribs hurts like hell (although I thought stomach was worse). Arms are pretty easy.

I recommend looking at tattoos people have where you live and asking people with good tats where they got them (hang out at your local Hot Topic or Harley dealer and see if anyone has anything particularly good). The 2 common mistakes people make when getting their first tattoo are:

1) They go to a shitty artist because they're cheap/popular/family.
2) They get a dumb design because they haven't looked at enough tattoos to know what will look good where, or what will age poorly.

Take your time and do it right.

Finally, if you're going to use your own handwriting, I hope it's good. Otherwise you're in for a lifetime of people saying, "Wow, your tattoo guy really sucked."
posted by coolguymichael at 2:29 PM on October 14, 2011

I'll add to Lexica's answer: My arm and chest tattoos felt like a cat scratch. My stomach tattoo felt like a butcher knife twisting in my guts FOR AN HOUR. But since lots of shading hurts more than linework, your poem probably won't be that bad.

If you can take a hydrocodone or similar pain killer beforehand, do so -- it'll help a lot.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:34 PM on October 14, 2011

I have 3 lines of of scripted text on my right ribcage (with some flourishes), measuring about 1 x 4 inches altogether. The artist drew it freehand. It's my only tattoo, and I don't have much padding there either. It kind of felt like a knife carving into my bones, but it only took about 15 minutes and was not unbearable. The worst part was that, for some reason, it caused an intermittent tingly feeling in my right funny bone.

I'll Me-mail you a link to a picture.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 7:50 PM on October 14, 2011

Hmm, make that about 2 or 2.5 x 4 inches, when I stand up straight like a human being.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 7:57 PM on October 14, 2011

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