I got a LOT of ‘asks’ about why I’ve decided not to tattoo the hands/necks/fingers/faces of my clients anymore, so rather than respond to each I’ll put a little something here. This is something I’ve been considering implementing for quite some time and a particularly negative experience the other day tipped the scales. This decision was based off of two major factors with many little reasons littered between them - Science & Society. I’d like to make it a point to say I am simply speaking for myself as a licensed tattoo artist in the state of Washington and in no way do I represent the thoughts/feelings of my industry as a whole.
Let’s talk Science
Tattoo ink remains a liquid underneath your skin, that’s how it is able to move/grow with you (any hard/raised parts of your tattoo are scar tissue) the ideal placement for this pigment is right between the epidermis and dermis, seems simple right? It’s really not. The tissue on your face/hands/feet is so thin it takes skill and practice to “float” the pigment in the perfect spot.
Too shallow and pigment will fall out when your skin naturally regenerates, too deep and your tattoo will appear blurred, blobby, or permanently bruised. (Many people don’t realize this is also why only certain pigments will be bright on certain skin tones, your tattoo is under your skin, not on top. It also accounts for why white ink tattoos heal like shit) Either of those mistakes are easy for your artist to make, even an experienced artist can misjudge depth.
"What about all those rad hand/finger tattoos I see on tumblr that look absolutely awesome?" yeah, like white ink tattoos these pieces typically look fine right at first, what you should be looking for is how these turn out when they’re healed. The tattoo below was well done, if I was this artist I’d be proud of my work, but then look at the healed picture. This is an extremely standard outcome in the finger tattoo epidemic you’re all obsessed with.
Any artist worth his salt will sit you down before your hand/neck/finger/foot tattoo and not only explain the societal repercussions but the limits we are bound by when it comes to your body healing the art. You should be warned about the frequent touch-ups you will need throughout your tattoo’s lifetime and take those into consideration. Do you have the time/money to take a few days off work to stay off your feet or try not to use your hands?
Something I’ve personally struggled with and know so many other artists have had problems with (and the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back recently) is that I always lecture these points, but often clients will still come back irate that their tattoo healed rough. They want someone to blame and they often want their money back because their tattoo didn’t come out how they imagined (how they saw it on tumblr) this isn’t my fault but becomes my problem. Big time. Irritation, infection, fallout and blowout are all very typical on those types of tissue. Usually your artist will offer 1 free touch-up on their work, after that you should expect to pay to have it gone over.
The responsibility doesn’t solely fall on your artist to warn you though, it is our jobs as professionals to try to guide you to the best tattoo but in the end if you’re getting tattooed you’re an adult and the research/repercussions are yours to deal with. Know the location you want to get tattooed, know your artist and their capabilities (like I said, not just anyone should be tattooing necks/hands/fingers) and listen to THEIR aftercare advice since it’s THEIR work you are healing. All in all you get the tattoo you deserve.
Let’s talk Society.
Now we can talk about the obvious. Employment - does not only your current job but your desired lifetime career allow visible tattoos? No this does not mean “I work at Taco Bell and they don’t care.” unless your life plan includes working at Taco Bell for the long haul, THINK TOWARD THE FUTURE. TATTOOS ARE FOR FUCKING EVER. What is the dress code for your career? How do you think hand/neck tattoos effect you applying for a business loan from a bank?
Law Enforcement - you have your neck tattooed? Congratulations you are now an object of interest for every cop you walk past. Police will stare down your tattoos checking for gang/criminal imagery and excuses to fuck with you, because lets face it, cops are typically bullies and assholes (not all…. but most). You may notice routine traffic stops are no longer so routine as well. I sure did.
Living Arrangement - You and another person put in an application to rent an apartment… think the little old lady landlord wants to rent to the tattooed sideshow or the normie? My friend is a husband and loving father of 2, when he moved to this state from another his wife’s landlord sent 2 men to ‘bounce’ him from the apartment when he had been on the lease/paying the rent all along because she would have never rented to him knowing he looked like that. (Same man was not allowed on the PTA at his kid’s school because of his tattoos and I’ve never met a more awesome dad)
Culture - Though tattoos are now more widely accepted than ever before in modern times there are still PLENTY of folk happy to assume you are a prostitute, drug dealer, or gang banger because you like to wear your art, and you’re more likely to draw these negative assumptions with hand/head/neck/face tattoos. That’s just a fact. Are you the kind of person who can handle these kind of shitty stares and snickers on a near daily basis? What is the culture like where you live? I live in the most liberal neighborhood in Seattle and still overhear “nice neck tattoo, have fun making minimum wage the rest of your life” and the like. Lots of people stare, but you can tell which ones are doing so out of disgust/disdain and sometimes you just wanted to buy some milk without being judged as a human being. The just as horrible flipside to that is having a permanently visible tattoo means every fucktard that ever got/wanted a tattoo will feel the need to approach you in public and tell you about tattoos they want, invade your personal space by touching your tattoos, or remove their clothes to show you theirs (when you didn’t ask) and let me tell you right now if you are that dude tattooed people FUCKING HATE YOU. Like I said, sometimes you just want to buy some milk and get out of the grocery store without seeing Johnny Whitetrash’s ass crack when he lifts his shirt over his head to show you his hatchet man tattoo he got in Craig’s kitchen. But this will happen to you. A lot.
There are plenty of tattoo artists that don’t give a single shit how the work they put on your will effect your life, unfortunately/fortunately I’m not one of them, I’m not gonna put some stupid shit on your neck for the rest of your life so I can make $50, and if you’re hell bent on doing it no matter what I say to dissuade you you’re going to go to another shop and have it done. And you know what? That’s fine. That means I don’t get the email/phonecall crying when you want it covered cuz Melanie broke your heart or your finger tattoos look like bird shit.
It’s time for the body modification industry to reclaim control of the work we put out there and put an end to shitty inner finger tattoos, 18y/o kids getting their throats tattooed, girlfriend’s names on your neck, and white ink bullshit fake tattoos. Does a single artist make a difference? As a whole probably not, but it makes a huge difference in my professional life and hopefully the people I turn away will think a little harder about the piece they’re about to have done.
So that’s that, I could probably double this list but I feel like this rambled on enough. Hope it helps people see my point of view, and also get some insight to why an artist might turn you down for a tattoo you have in mind.