Your next consideration should be where you want your tattoo. Is it something you want to show off, easily conceal or reveal, or a more personal project that only you will see? Your body will be your canvas, so it’s important to choose a portion of your anatomy appropriate to your art. Back pieces are exceptionally well suited to larger concepts, which you may want to expand at some future date. If you just want to start small, the bicep or the forearm are ideal for more contained show pieces, discrete emblems that can be worked into “sleeves”—either half or full—at a later time.
To help you, at least a little, we got some design suggestions from Sean Dowdell, co-owner of Club Tattoo, which has locations in Las Vegas, as well as Mesa, Tempe, and Scottsdale, AZ. Dowdell's team has inked celebs like Slash, Miley Cyrus, Amar’e Stoudemire, Blake Shelton, Steve Aoki, and Keith Sweat. We asked him for suggestions on the most popular types of tattoos today—and ones that will look good with time, instead of feeling dated to a certain decade.
Historically finger tattoos get a bit of a bad wrap. Typically they use to be reserved for bikers and gang members, they also were considered a bit of a faux pas if you wanted to get a respectable job. Nowadays however they are more common place and socially acceptable. The traditional finger tattoos were to get “LOVE” on one hand and then “HATE” across the other knuckles, this was a design that was popularized by movie characters. Generally people will get either two four letter words across their knuckles or one eight or ten letter word across both of their hands.
Getting a tattoo, although a permanent decision regardless, can yield all sorts of different results as the years go by. Some of the tattoos that look coolest in the short-term may end up changing drastically over time. And this can be really frustrating if you weren't prepared. Luckily, there are some tattoos that look better with age, and tattoo artists know exactly what they are.
An important note to consider, whether you’re just getting your first tattoo or are a veteran of the process, is your nervous system. Anywhere that the skin is thin—feet, hands, or clavicle—you will experience enhanced sensitivity. Concomitantly, in places where an abundance of nerves run close to the surface—upper inner arm, back of the knee, hip and groin area, and lower back—tattooing will be more painful.
These instruments are also remarkably similar to much later tattooing implements used in 19th-century Egypt. The English writer William Lane (1801-1876) observed, "the operation is performed with several needles (generally seven) tied together: with these the skin is pricked in a desired pattern: some smoke black (of wood or oil), mixed with milk from the breast of a woman, is then rubbed in.... It is generally performed at the age of about 5 or 6 years, and by gipsy-women.”
Plenty of cultures from across the globe have used tattoos as a form of expression. Certain cultures have used tattoos as a part of many rites of passage, for beauty, or artistic purposes, as a type of warrior mark, to identify a tribe or a gang, and so on. But it’s pretty much clear that when it comes to cultures from across the globe, tattoos have always stood for both belonging and marginality.
Another thing to consider while deciding on your tattoo sleeves is whether you’ll go with color or not. Sleeve tattoos using only black and grey can look amazing, but there’s nothing more eye-catching and vibrant than an arm full of color. If you do go with color, it’s vital that you plan your tattoo beforehand so you don’t end up with a combination of colors down the road that don’t look too great together. Also keep in mind that a colored sleeve tattoo will require more time and money.
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Don’t expect to get a huge tattoo, or series of them, in just one sitting. They just take too long. Gualteros has some clients who fly in from overseas, and who then spend a few solid days getting big-scale tattoos completed. But that’s a special case. “Usually it’ll happen over more time,” he says. “It could take months, it could take years. Usually, you leave 3-4 weeks between appointments and a sleeve can require anywhere from 8-10 sessions.”
If you talk to a tattoo artist about it, they'll likely be able to advise you on what will and won't look good, based on experience. Unfortunately, some of the trendiest tattoos are the most difficult to keep up over time. "There are two main reasons some tattoos age better than others: the size of the tattoo and long-term sun damage," Jordanne Le Fae, of Jordanne Le Tattoos, tells Bustle. But other little variables, like line-thickness and tattoo color, also end up making a difference.
Tattoos have also been used for identification in other ways. As early as the Zhou, Chinese authorities would employ facial tattoos as a punishment for certain crimes or to mark prisoners or slaves. During the Roman Empire, gladiators and slaves were tattooed: exported slaves were tattooed with the words "tax paid", and it was a common practice to tattoo "Stop me, I'm a runaway" on their foreheads. Owing to the Biblical strictures against the practice, Emperor Constantine I banned tattooing the face around AD 330, and the Second Council of Nicaea banned all body markings as a pagan practice in AD 787.