Tattoo Location
December 21, 2017 9:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out where a tattoo would look good. Read on if that's the kind of thing you have opinions on!

I've toyed with getting a tattoo on and off for years. I'm not really a tattooish guy but my bf has one that I think is lovely and it sometimes makes me want one. I was fairly close to getting a somewhat substantial graphical one but bailed because 1) I was supposed to give the thumbs up to a design and get the tattoo the same day and it was OMG TOO MUCH PRESSUREZ, and 2) we now live in Oakland where they are so ubiquitous it had started to seem boring.

But I'm edging back toward the idea of getting one. It's a very short (two-word) quote*. The restriction is that I don't want it to be casually visible. I'd thought of sort of over my heart but wonder if words under chest hair look dumb. Also, should it just be straight across? Curving around? Basically I have no idea what it should look like. It's just words I might want emblazoned on my flesh forever/until the giant comet.

Strong opinions on tattoo aesthetics solicited, with thanks in advance.

*I'd tell you but it'd make me less likely to get it, in a weird/dumb way I can't explain.
posted by Smearcase to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always liked the look of inner arm tattoos (disclaimer: I do not have an inner arm tattoo, but have thought about it). It's a long enough area to fit a quote, and it's relatively discreet while also remaining easily visible to the person that has it. I've heard getting a tattoo in this area can be a little sensitive, but YMMV.

If you're wanting to stick with the chest area, FWIW, this internet stranger doesn't think they look silly when the chest hair grows back in, and thinks that a sort of "nametag" style placement would probably look pretty good and hold up well with age. Good luck!
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:23 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a very hairy dude with a bunch of tattoos and I would suggest against having your very first one be in an area with a bunch of hair. This is exactly what I did (wedding date over my heart) and it was a bit like having to walk before learning to crawl because healing tattoo + growing back hair is bad news bears when you have to make sure to both keep it clean, keep it moist and keep hairs from getting ingrown which requires scrubbing which hurts like a motherfucker especially when it has to be done very carefully to not mess with the tattoo.

I don't think words (or any other kind of tattoos) under chest hair look dumb but the smaller the print the more blurry and unreadable it will be with time, a lot moreso than usual because of the hair. Like this. Give the opportunity I would've gotten the text somewhere hair isn't, or just much bigger bolder text.
posted by griphus at 9:33 AM on December 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

Yeah, inner bicep would be a good spot. Short-sleeved shirts cover it (but tanks don't, but your arm is still down so it isn't clearly visible unless you want it to be). Less chance of thick body hair on the inner bicep, I think. And you gotta flex to show it off. ;-)
posted by jillithd at 9:48 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recently got my first tattoo. My criterion for position was that I wanted it to be somewhere where I could see it. Otherwise - no point, right? So it's on my forearm. When I arrived for the appointment, my tattoo artist tried it out in a couple of different positions until it looked good (the template is a transfer that wipes off - you can try different locations until you're completely happy). My artist was also happy to share some rules & standards of size & placement - like, she would have refused to do it in such a way that it would appear upside-down when seen from the front. So, your chosen artist can help in the same way perhaps.

The placement works really well for me - wasn't too much shaving to be done because my arms are not that hairy, it healed up really well, was easy to wrap & care for while it was freshly done. I like that I can see it all the time - that's the whole point for me. Guess you don't want it so visible, so inner/upper arm placement would solve that.

One thing I'm glad I took my time over is choice of artist & studio. I looked at a load of people's work online, and it wasn't really happening for me until I saw a style that I liked & that was available from an artist who works at a studio I could see myself actually attending.

Also - this was a kind of beginner-tattoo for me. What I originally intended as my first was a whole complex & meaningful thing that I'll totally still do on my other arm some time, but I just couldn't get my head around it to begin with - so I needed something small & easy to start out on, to make the whole idea more realistic.
posted by rd45 at 9:58 AM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

I only have a single tattoo (a tribute to my late father) on my arm just below the shoulder. I think it's a great place. Not generally visible, not hard to show if people want to see it, still prominent if I (for some unknown reason) have my shirt off.
posted by booooooze at 10:05 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm moderately tattooed (not quite heavily tattooed, but working on it). There are a lot of places that your ink won't be visible to casual viewers, but the big issue is that you really don't sound sure about this, and you need to be absolutely positive. If you're not positive, don't do it. What I'd recommend is to get a bunch of temporary tattoos or just a sharpie and try them out in various places to see how you feel. Since you're talking about a two-word quote, I'd just go the sharpie method and write them on yourself, or have your boyfriend do it. When you hit the spot that makes you to "OMG YES THIS" then you know where to put it. If you don't find that spot, don't get the ink.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:14 AM on December 21, 2017 [13 favorites]

I have three tattoos, none of which are words. One of them is on my right pectoral.

You don't really talk about how hairy your chest actually is, and that's going to factor into the look. I'm hairy, but not *super* hairy (thanks, Ukrainian genetics), and the image I have on my chest is clearly visible underneath.

Curved versus straight - so, I feel like word tattoos on arms, legs, and other places that move a lot (like down the side under the ribcage) can be straight, because the natural movement of the skin and muscles underneath will give the words life and movement. On the chest, those words are going to be more static, so adding flow to them by curving them feels more natural to me. YMMV.

On the chest, you're going to be more sensitive as the needle moves towards the sternum. Less muscle and fat combine with more bone (and organs underneath that your body knows are Very Important and that your skin is going to want to alert you to danger for) means more pain signals there, especially compared to the area closer to your armpit.

Obviously, you're already thinking of things like fonts and spacing and artist.

Good luck! Let us know how it comes out.
posted by hanov3r at 10:26 AM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

What about on your upper thigh? Covered by shorts when you want it to be. Or you can pull them up if you want to show it off. Might be hairy depending on your legs. Or you could do one word on the back of your left calf, and the other word on the back of your right calf. Visible when you're wearing shorts.
posted by hydra77 at 10:26 AM on December 21, 2017

From the perspective of a professional henna artist -- I've often done "test tattoos" for those who would like the test out the "feel" of a potential tattoo before getting it done. They can check out size, placement and how it feels to wear it for a while.

A henna design done with safe natural henna can last anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on where on the body it is done (thick skin areas last longer than thin-skinned areas), and your level of aftercare. A hennaed design might not be as tight and precise as ink, depending on the type of design -- but it can still give you a pretty good feel after wearing it for a week or two.

I've done designs for people that then decided to go ahead and get their tattoo done, with adjustments to the size and/or placement (such as the woman who realized that the placement she chose meant it was always covered by a bra strap!). I've also done designs for folks that eventually changed their minds -- after wearing it for a few weeks, they realized it was something they liked, but not enough to put it on their skin permanently.

I realize this is not quite what you were asking -- but just thought I'd introduce you to the concept, as it's an interesting way to see how you feel about having a tattoo on your body.

(Just be sure to deal with a professional henna artist that uses safe, natural henna paste -- preferably one that they mix themselves. NEVER use so-called "black henna" as it is not even real henna and contains toxic chemicals that can give you skin damage.)
posted by Jade Dragon at 11:05 AM on December 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

My husband a has a big ole moth tattoo on his inner bicep. It’s at least 3x5”. No one notices it. I even forget it’s there.

I also have 18 tattoos and one with text on my inner bicep. It’s a good straight relatively flat spot. Though I have text in places the curve (ankle) and that’s fine.

Back of the shoulder or center of the shoulder blades near the top can be good too but of course you won’t be able to see it.

And yeah, do a test tattoo. Since it’s just words, use a washable marker and test it out. (I test lots of mine with tattoo stencil transfer paper, but again, I have a lot of them.)
posted by Crystalinne at 11:36 AM on December 21, 2017

I got my first tattoo this year. I got it on my upper arm/shoulder because it's easily covered by anything I'd wear to work, but it's also visible should I choose to make it. I'm unlikely to put a future tattoo anywhere super-visible, though I have considered putting text on my forearm at some point.
posted by SansPoint at 12:01 PM on December 21, 2017

I chose to get my tattoos on my back, reasoning that they could be easily covered for work/family and the skin is less likely to sag (as much) as I get older. If I were to get words, however, I would have chosen my inner upper arm (a straight line of text equidistant between my armpit and my elbow, visible if I raise my arm to show off my (paltry) bicep. Text looks great there, and I have a couple of friends who've done that and have been very happy with it. An ouchy spot, but minimal hair to deal with. And I second the idea of doing a test run with henna (or magic marker) to see how you like having it there.
posted by pammeke at 1:09 PM on December 21, 2017

The plantar surfaces of your feet would be pretty discrete.
posted by Rash at 10:04 PM on December 21, 2017

My tattoo is on the outside of my right ankle. If I had it all to do over, I would put it on the inside of that ankle, where I could see it every time I sat down, crossed my legs, etc.
posted by raisingsand at 5:46 AM on December 22, 2017

Some of the more discrete spots people are suggesting, like your feet, will hurt like hell and not keep the ink worth shit. Please do your research on that because it does matter, even for a two-word tattoo. I got a lower abdominal tattoo and didn't realize how much being super ticklish would be a problem, and it was 45 minutes of agony. I did it because once you start, you can't stop or you'll end up with HUG LIFE. Check in with people around you and eventually with your tattooist if you go through with it.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:04 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have several tattoos, and all but one of them (so far) are word based. My smallest is above the interior arch of my left foot, it's three short words in a Gaelic script. Pro: it's the one I see the most, but it's also easily hidden. Con: skin on feet wears faster than other body parts, so you may at some point need it touched up (I've done mine once). I'm also fairly cautious about what shoes I wear when I'm doing anything strenuous - my previous hiking sandals had a strap that would cross right along there and I either bandage or wear other shoes. Regardless, I love the placement. A++ would do again.
posted by librarianamy at 8:05 AM on December 22, 2017

between your belly button and hip bone
posted by WeekendJen at 12:32 PM on December 22, 2017

I just got my first tattoo last week. It is text. It is on my inner forearm.

FWIW I'm 45 years old and have thought about getting a tattoo for more than 10 years. I made the decision to do it from the waiting room of my shrink's office on a whim and was in the chair 90 minutes later. It didn't hurt; I mean, there was intense sensation at brief moments but I get B12 shots that literally hurt 100 times more. During my B12 shots I swear; during my tattoo I chatted to the women in the chair next to me.

I really, really thought that making a permanent, visible alteration to my body would feel momentous. It did not. It felt factual. I got it, I like it, I never think about it. No regrets, and I doubt you'd have any either.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:19 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

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