Ideal tattoo placement?
January 28, 2016 7:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to get my first tattoo for my 30th birthday. My question is, where is the best place on your body to get a small tattoo (probably a couple words a few inches across)? I want to be able to conceal it in case of future workplaces that frown on tattoos, I want it to age as well as possible, and I'd ideally like to be able to see it without the use of a mirror.
posted by a strong female character to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
So I'm deducing you're a female, in which case, I suggest your side/ribs to best meet all three of the conditions you describe (below where a dress armhole would reach--you can mark this out on your body with sharpie before going in for placement). Bonus: if you place it to be concealable by your usual style of bathing suit, it will additionally age well due to lack of sun damage ever (though you should hit it with sunscreen anyway).

There are those who suggest that this isn't a good placement for a first-timer due to pain reasons, but it's so variable by individual--and a lot of anecdata suggests that women are less sensitive to pain than men are in the tattoo chair, so if this is where you want it, find someone highly recommended and sensitive and with a light hand, and go for it.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:02 AM on January 28, 2016

Upper thigh. It's one of the big muscles in your body, so it will age well. It's covered by pants or shorts. You can look down and see it.
posted by chrillsicka at 8:03 AM on January 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have a 5 word tattoo on my inner, upper arm. Of all of my tattoos, this placement is probably my favourite. It's easy to see for myself and not visible if I wear a t-shirt with actual t-shirt sleeves. I don't know about it aging well but so far (6 years), it's held up quite well.
posted by gursky at 8:03 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like the one on my rib cage, though I do have to look in a mirror to see the whole thing. It didn't hurt at all btw. I have a little guy on the inside of my wrist that you really can't see unless you're looking right at it or know to look for it. I thought about getting one in that little indent below my collarbone, in which case if a workplace is conservative enough to look down on tattoos, then they probably have a conservative dress code, which means that spot will also be covered. I would also consider upper thigh as well.
posted by greta simone at 8:14 AM on January 28, 2016

So I'm deducing you're a female, in which case, I suggest your side/ribs

A friend of mine got an image+words tattoo in this spot when she was 19 to memorialize a friend's death. She's 30 now. Her weight has yo-yo'd a bunch since then and the tattoo is still in great shape. She got it right below where her bra band sits.
posted by phunniemee at 8:14 AM on January 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone else. On your ribs is a beautiful spot for word tattoos, easy to see in a mirror, and super concealable. In fact, just how concealable it is may be the biggest downside. Sure you'll never have a problem with workplace tattoo policies, but your tattoo will probably only ever be seen by people you let see you in your underwear.

Of course, for a first tattoo, that's not a very big pitfall. There are plenty of more prominent places for future tattoos.
posted by 256 at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2016

If you do want to get pregnant one day, beware of tattoos around the stomach/underboob/side area since the skin could stretch and end up differently.
posted by monologish at 8:26 AM on January 28, 2016

Upper thigh. It's one of the big muscles in your body, so it will age well. It's covered by pants or shorts. You can look down and see it.

I disagree. Mine are faded and blurry and I almost never wear shorts or bathing suits. I also haven't gained or lost any significant weight. However, they are 20 years old, so maybe the inks/procedure has improved by now.
posted by desjardins at 8:27 AM on January 28, 2016

I have a tattoo on the inside of each ankle, and they have worn well over time and with weight changes. Yes, they're visible in skirts and shorts, but they cover easily with tights, pants, knee socks, etc. (FWIW, yes, cover them up if your workplace dictates, but I have people who've known me professionally for YEARS (and I don't have to cover mine, so I wear skirts and shorts to work all the time), and didn't realize I had tats). Inside your ankles is an ideal spot to show off and an ideal spot to cover up easily.

I also have small word tattoos (3 inches wide on one, 4 on the other) on each of my shoulders right next to my collarbones. I can see them pretty easily, and it makes me smile to have them on each side of my head and heart. They're only visible if I'm wearing tank tops or very boatneck shirts, so again, they're easy to show off and easy to cover. I can't speak to how they're wearing as well, since they're newer (year and a half) versus the ankle ones (13 years old and 4 years old).

The ones on the inside of my wrists are very visible, but would be easily covered with a watch or a bracelet. They're single words, however.

There is no covering up the one on the inside of my arm below the elbow unless I'm wearing long or 3/4 length sleeves.

I'm happy to take pics of how they're wearing later if you want!
posted by joycehealy at 8:31 AM on January 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have mine on the upper sides of my breasts, so I can see them without a mirror, show them off with a revealing top, but they're also never visible if I'm dressed professionally. I think I worried they might not age well, but it's been more than 15 years now for even the newer one, and they look pretty dang good. I had them touched up, but those touch-ups were more than 15 years ago now, too.

Otherwise I'd go for upper arm.
posted by ldthomps at 8:36 AM on January 28, 2016

Possibly worth considering: Over the ribcage is a fairly painful tattoo spot for most people. (In general, tattooing is more painful when it is over shallow bones or thin skin.) The calf, the upper arm and the outer thigh are all usually less painful.

Obviously, any tattoo will hurt some. And it won't be unbearable no matter where you choose — just about anyone can tolerate a small tattoo even in a very sensitive area if they want to. Just, you know, be aware of what to expect.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:01 AM on January 28, 2016

I have several tattoos on my upper arms and one on my lower shin. If I wear a short sleeved shirt and pants, they are covered.
posted by Lucinda at 9:29 AM on January 28, 2016

I got my first tattoo below my left collarbone. I wasn't too concerned with being able to conceal it, but my tattoo artist made sure to position it so that it's always covered unless I wear a really wide scoopneck shirt (or a tank top or whatever). I've only had it for three or four years (it began as just a word, and later I decided to add some artwork and color), but my weight has yo-yo'd quite a bit in the meantime with no detrimental effect. It's far enough above my breast to prevent any issues caused by future sag (I hope).

I really like it because I can see it easily when I want to, and it's close to my heart, which was important to me because the design is pretty personal and meaningful. Surprisingly, it was less painful than I expected. Most of the linework wasn't bad at all, and some even felt scratchy-nice. It only really hurt when my artist really started packing on the color.
posted by QuickedWeen at 9:48 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have some text tattooed on my mid-thigh, which is great placement IMO. I like having the option to wear a short skirt & bare legs/non-opaque tights to leave it visible, or a longer skirt/opaque tights to hide it completely. And I like that I can look at it myself!
I've only had it for a year and a half so it's too soon to say how well it will age, though.
posted by anotherthink at 9:50 AM on January 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Upper shoulders are a good spot. That spot really doesn't stretch, and it is easy to conceal with short sleeves if you keep it high enough (and sleeveless shirts aren't usually work-appropriate anyways). Both of mine are tattooed and it's been easy to cover and they've held up well. I have words on one arm and I can see them easily.
posted by john_snow at 9:51 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

my first tattoo is on my right hip at the pelvic bone. I got it in 1980. Still good. So are all my other ones, though, so it's totally up to you. I have ink all over my back, sides, upper thighs, and one shoulder.
posted by janey47 at 10:11 AM on January 28, 2016

mid or upper thigh, it's meaty there, doesn't hurt much at all and usually ages well! or upper inner arm but that can be pretty painful (or at least the one i have there was, and i can generally handle tattoo pain well)
posted by burgerrr at 10:57 AM on January 28, 2016

I got one on my upper thigh/hip area. It only shows if I were wearing a French style bathing suit. That tat, 30 years later, after kids and weight gain, and menopause changes to my overall shape, still looks brand new. The inks are still bright, the lines are still clear, the shape didn't change, I see it every day and nobody but my husband and I know it's there. I still love it, and don't regret it, and if I were to do it again, I would pick that same spot.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:59 PM on January 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

My one and only tattoo (a cat design I chose and had done two years ago, when I was 35) is on my outer upper arm/shoulder. I chose this location:
- so I would be able to see it without a mirror
- so it would not be painful to get (tattoos over muscle tend to be less painful than those over bone; I've heard rib and ankle tattoos can be pretty nasty in that regard)
- so I had the choice of showing it or not depending on the situation.

My present employers don't care if you have tattoos or not so it's not an issue to display it, but it would only show if I wore a tank top or very short sleeves. So depending on your usual work attire, this may or may not be what you want. Personally I like the option of being able to cover up easily but also throw on a black tank in the summer and rock the slightly edgier aesthetic. :)
posted by aecorwin at 2:46 PM on January 28, 2016

I have a tattoo on my upper arm, on the outside. It's 18 years old now, so it's somewhat faded (it's just black). However, I have gained and lost weight a million times in these almost two decades, and I'm that much older -- and the design hasn't warped, drooped, or anything else. It's easy to cover with a short-sleeved shirt, but I can also show it by wearing cap sleeves.
posted by Miss Scarlet with the Candlestick in the Lounge at 4:15 PM on January 28, 2016

Pain-wise, the rule of thumb is: the more ticklish you are there, the more it will hurt.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 10:04 PM on January 28, 2016

Hipbone. Meets your criteria (which were also my criteria 20 years ago when I got it!), and I can vouch for the fact that it won't be affected by significant weight gain or loss. Theoretically not impacted by pregnancy either. I still love it. Enjoy!
posted by finding.perdita at 3:00 AM on January 29, 2016

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