Help a tattoo newbie, please.
March 30, 2019 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I have no tattoos, but I am considering getting one. I'm drawn to styles that include fine, thin black lines and tiny dots. How do those hold up over time?

I like this artist's work, and I like a lot of the lines and dots that this artist shows. I'd be doing something smallish -- like maybe 2x2 inches. Location will most likely be the inside of my forearm.

Questions I have:
-- I am already in my 50s. What does this mean in terms of tattoo + aging skin?
-- Is that a good location for what I'm considering, in terms of aging skin?
-- My body type can be described as fat. How does that play into this? Also, I'm on the pale end of white.
-- What else do I need to know about having a small tattoo made up of fine lines and tiny dots, in black?

Any other thoughts for me as I consider my first tattoo?
posted by BlahLaLa to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have what's best described as 'barbed wire without the barbs' going around my ankle. After about 30 years it's a bit more than a bit faded (blackness) and blurry (like the fine lines have widened out). It may be that inks have changed nowadays. It could stand a touch-up or cover-up sort of treatment. I'm about 50 now and I'd maybe guess that the ankle is a high-wear sort of area with shoes and such really moving the skin around alot...
posted by zengargoyle at 10:25 AM on March 30, 2019

I have a 2x2" ish line tattoo on the inside of my wrist. I really like it. Thin line work can sometimes be challenging so finding the right artist is pretty important. Dots and shading may blur over time but someone who is good at doing shading should be able to manage that. I have another tattoo on my shoulder that has a lot of dots/shading and 25 years later it's still looking pretty good.

The big thing, for me was knowing that the inside of your wrist (depending exactly where you go) can FLEX and that can make a geometric tattoo (as mine is) look weird or askew when your hand/arm is in certain positions. Not a big deal but when I fist got mine I was like AAAAAAA because I somehow hadn't considered it. I'm settled with it and enjoy it now.

Being fat is fine, especially for where you are considering and does not affect how the tattoo goes in generally. For super stretchy body areas I'd advise caution, but this is fine. Also think about whether you wear wrist jewelry that might affect it.

Only other advice is that bigger is often better in terms of tattoos. Many people really want something small, sometimes because of cost, but you get more definition and more options if you go a little larger. Just worth thinking about because your artist may mention this and it may sound like an upsell but it's really generally not.
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 AM on March 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

That first artist's work will age great. Over time the lines will get wider, a little blurrier, and paler — think soft pencil or cheap ballpoint rather than ultra-fine-tipped pen. In most of their designs, the lines have room to spread out like that without running into each other or ruining anything. That rose won't look as impeccably neat and tidy in another 30 years, but it will still be clearly legible as a rose.

The second one I'm less sure about. That sort of separate-dots pointillistic style hasn't been popular for as long, so I haven't seen examples of what it looks like 20 or 30 years out. My guess is that at some point, the dots will start to run together, and they will look more like traditional greywork — which ages okay, but can get smeary-looking, like an old newspaper photo.

Any tattoo will age better if you treat it well when it's healing and keep it out of the sun (or under sunscreen) after that. (But honestly, most of the old tattoos you see are on people who haven't followed this advice.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:52 AM on March 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Ask your tattoo artists! If not easily findable in their instagram, they are very likely to have healed photos of their work. I always tag my artists in photos taken much later that show the healed piece, which artists really appreciate precisely because it helps them address this question with new clients. As you scroll through artists’ instagrams, look for their repeat clients, where they’re adding something new to a sleeve with healed pieces (for example).

But the comments above are right on - the lines will get a bit faded and blurred, and it’s part of the aging process. It’ll age more slowly if we’ll lotioned and sun protected. Don’t go into a tattoo with the expectation that it will never change - look for a design where the blur and fade will add to the beauty of it over time.
posted by amelioration at 2:12 PM on March 30, 2019

Find a tattooist you want to work with and talk to them about what you want to do and what they think will make it hold up well. I'm moderately tattooed, and have some ink that's over 20 years old and it does get a little blurry but that little bit of blur is way better than not having tattoos. The location you're talking about shouldn't be a problem and also shouldn't be too painful.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:13 AM on March 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

> I am already in my 50s. What does this mean in terms of tattoo + aging skin?

I don't think it's an issue yet. The only person I know who was told she shouldn't get a tattoo because of aging skin was in her 80s.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:41 AM on March 31, 2019

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