How do I design and obtain a tattoo around a scar?
March 4, 2015 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I have a scar that I hate. I want to incorporate it into a tattoo. How does one go about doing that?

I have no tattoos at the moment. I do, however, have a large and very thick scar from a traumatic injury. It's an unpleasant reminder and I don't like looking at it. I'd like to incorporate it into a phoenix tattoo, symbolizing moving on with my life and rebuilding myself from the ashes and so on. I have no idea how to go about doing that.

As stated, I'm a totally tattoo newbie. How do I find someone who can do this kind of work? How do I design something that fits around my weird scar? I know I can be very difficult to tattoo on scar tissue, but what about around it? What am I not thinking of? Help me, Mefites with cool tattoos! I'm in Atlanta, if that helps.
posted by a hat out of hell to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a tattoo directly on a scar and the surrounding tissue - when I asked about doing something in that area, and whether we'd have to work around it (because I'd heard scar tissue couldn't be tattooed), my tattoo guy said it wasn't a big deal. The ink on the scar tissue looks exactly like it does on the non-scar tissue, and hasn't behaved any differently. So - talk to your tattoo artist. You may not need to do anything different at all.
posted by okayokayigive at 11:23 AM on March 4, 2015

Many tattoo artists do this on a regular basis. I have several friends who have tattoos around scar tissue, and there is a program called Personal Ink (P.Ink) that helps breast cancer survivors get tattoos incorporating their scars. I don't have a specific tattoo artist recommendation for you in Atlanta, but you can start by looking at tattoo artists' portfolios online - most shops have them available on their websites. Once you see an artist whose style you like, contact them and ask them if they are comfortable incorporating a scar into a design.

Artists who do custom tattoo work will not even bat an eyelash at being asked this question, as I guarantee you it has come up before. They will work with you to design the tattoo and make it exactly what you want. Tattooing near scar tissue isn't a big deal for an experienced artist.
posted by bedhead at 11:25 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Scars and has a page that says:
Can You Tattoo Over Scars?
The answer to this question is yes, you can tattoo over scars. You may also tattoo over stretch marks and freckles (not the raised ones) but not on or over moles.

What To Consider If You Still Want the Tattoo
If you do decide to get a tattoo, make sure the artist who does the tattooing is experienced and has done tattoo art for people with scars in the past. Ask to see photos of their work covering up the scars. Since it’s possible that the scar my not take the ink, find out if the price of the tattoo covers all subsequent visits.
I cut out the bit about if you should tattoo over your scar, as it sounds like that's not the question you have, but you can read more on that topic in the linked page.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:26 AM on March 4, 2015

The second point is good for any kind of tattoo - find an artist whose work you like, look at their catalog of pieces, and chat about the design and how many visits (and the cost) it would take to complete.

I think recommendations can help you find someone who you'll like as a person (related to the actual experience of getting the tattoo), but the selection of an artist (the art itself, the end result) is very individual.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:29 AM on March 4, 2015

Best answer: As stated, I'm a totally tattoo newbie. How do I find someone who can do this kind of work? How do I design something that fits around my weird scar?

Start looking at and for images, and make a collection of things you like. Start looking at local tattoo shops - ask your friends, and don't be shy about asking strangers if you see someone who has work that strikes you! Make consultation appointments with artists whose work you like - bring printouts of things you're thinking about, or ask if they'd rather you email them links, or what. They will have advice about size and placement and how it will work around/over your scar.

Once you decide to work with someone, they may ask for a deposit; you may have an additional appointment with them before the actual inking, so that you can see the art they've come up with. Really important: If the art doesn't feel right to you, say so! Say if it's too big or too [otherthing] or not [something] enough. Take your time thinking things over! I have five tattoos now, and I've never regretted taking my time pondering.

If you end up designing something that actually covers all or part of the scar: I've got a big keloid scar on my forearm that now has a tattoo over part of it. It healed fine, and looks great. I was concerned at first, when I realized how the placement of the tattoo was going to be, but my artist said since the scar is so old, it would be no problem, and she was right.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on March 4, 2015

This is a photo someone posted on Facebook yesterday of a tattoo they got done over a scar on their arm. I hadn't heard of watercolour tattoos before but they're beautiful. I've been planning on getting a new tat this year and I'll definitely try for one myself. This one is a bird but you could easily take the shape and incorporate a Phoenix.
posted by billiebee at 12:13 PM on March 4, 2015

I have fairly extensive scar tissue on my left arm and I incorporated part of it in a tattoo design. My tattoo artist asked me to send a few pics of my scars and he worked the design around it. This is no big deal and any reputable artist will be able to tattoo on or around it.
posted by Diskeater at 12:28 PM on March 4, 2015

Here is what one baseball player did with his Tommy John surgery scar. Here is Joba Chamberlain who made a smiley face out of his TJ surgery scar.
posted by 724A at 1:02 PM on March 4, 2015

Don't know about the scar issue specifically, but if you are looking for shop recs in Atlanta, I have had good experiences with both Sacred Heart Tattoo and Timeless Tattoo. I echo the advice above- look at the portfolios of the artists to find someone whose style resonates with you, then work with them to design the tat.
posted by oblique red at 9:29 AM on March 5, 2015

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