Tattoos are an incredibly personal art form, one that allows you to express yourself in a wholly unique way. Sure, talented tattoo artists can easily conceptualize and render original designs — and yes, you should definitely seek professional input — but it can be a really fun process to design and create your own tattoo.
Whether you want to design a tattoo for yourself, or you’re a tattoo artist looking to start an original portfolio, we’re going to break down the process of designing a tattoo in four easy steps.
Not an artist? We hear you! No matter what kind of artistic ability you have, you can come up with a personal and original tattoo design on your own. We’ll show you how.
Check out the video below, then read on for tips and tricks on creating the tattoo masterpiece you’ve always dreamed about showing on your, well, sleeve. ⬇️
1. Choose where your tattoo is going.
The first thing you need to plan out when designing a tattoo is where it is going. The location on your body, the visibility with various outfits, and the discretion of your taste all play a key role in planning the design of your tattoo.
Are you looking at a semi-private location? A public location? How large of an area does the body part you select provide for designing? These are all important considerations.
After you choose a spot on your skin, it’s time for the fun part: looking for artsy inspiration.
2. Find inspiration for the design.
Tattoo magazines, Instagram, Pinterest, art books, and botanical books are all great places to find references. Look at the art styles as well as the contents of the imagery to create something that is true to your tastes and beliefs.
If you’re having trouble getting inspired or aren’t sure where to start, look at zodiac signs, floral designs, animal drawings, or things specific to the culture you grew up with. Pro tip: Nature-inspired or birthplace/birthday-related designs are more neutral and less intimidating because they don’t tie to spur-of-the-moment life happenings or trends.
3. Start sketching (then ask for professional help!).
Once you’ve determined your inspiration, it’s time to bring your idea to life and actually create the tattoo artwork!
You can, of course, try drawing it yourself — even rough sketches can help you better communicate with a professional artist. Or, you can start with a professional artist and use all the details you’ve collected up until this point to guide their efforts.
4. Choose your tattoo colors.
Part of this process will be choosing a color (or colors). It’s best to first have your tattoo art designed in a single color so that you can get the composition and size dialed in. But once you have a general idea in place, it’s time to consider adding colors. Monochromatic tattoos are timeless and clean-looking, while colorful artwork can really pop. You could even opt for a white tattoo or glow-in-the-dark ink if you really want it to stand out.
Remember that tattoos designed with a variety of colors may be more high-maintenance, needing frequent touch-ups in the future. It’s a small detail now, but one you may want to consider when designing your own tattoo as it can take additional time and money down the road.
Once you’ve made these decisions, we also recommend hanging the design up in a place that you’ll see it every day. See how you feel about it after a week of looking at it.
If you still love it, then you’re probably good to go! If you find that you like it less over time, you may want to start over and reconsider the tattoo design. Make sure the design is something you really love and want before you decide to make it a permanent addition to your body.
Now that you have your tattoo designed, the final step is finding the right tattoo artist to bring it to life. Keep in mind that different tattoo artists have different specialties. Take a look back at your inspiration board, and let it guide you toward your future tattoo artist.
Take your piece to several shops and be open to feedback from the artists. They are professionals and may have some insight you have yet to consider. They may want to modify your design as they see fit, and you should always welcome their input provided they are licensed and reputable.
They could have recommendations on changing the body part or artwork to better suit you, or help you be more comfortable by avoiding placing a really detailed tattoo somewhere more painful than you originally anticipated. Of course, you’ll want to follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare recommendations to make sure that the healing process is as quick and painless as possible.
👉 Designing your own tattoo can be a ton of fun, but it can be intimidating for people who don’t feel they have the right artistic skillsets to draw the designs they envision in their mind. Design Pickle’s team of Custom Illustrators can help anyone bridge that gap and bring your vision to life — and possibly onto your body, too. Whether you’re designing a tattoo for fun or looking to create a portfolio of original tattoo designs, we’re confident we can help you out!