How to Design a Tattoo

Designing a tattoo is an incredibly personal experience, so you should really spend time doing research and working on your sketch. Tattoos can be compelling ways to showcase important aspects of your life. Learn how to design your own tattoo!

Designing a tattoo is not an easy task. There are many things to take into consideration before you can actually start drawing. Before designing a tattoo, the most critical question is, “what do I want the tattoo to look like?” You need to make sure you know what you want the tattoo before moving on to the next step of designing it.

Look for inspiration to design tattoos.

If your tattoo is supposed to represent something, a picture, or a symbol, it will be easier to understand if you can imagine the person for whom it is intended. The symbol or picture can be whatever you have in mind.

Suppose you want your tattoo to represent your family. In that case, tattoos of family trees, portraits of relatives, and pictures of family pets are examples of tattoos that work well.

A tattoo representing a favorite book or movie or musician or sports team is more problematic because the person for whom it is intended won’t necessarily care about the same things you do.

Sometimes the best tattoos are funny or ironic. A tattoo doesn’t have to be permanent. Temporary tattoos are fun, and when designed well, can represent anything, including ideas.

Tattoos are personal and idiosyncratic, so you can’t expect them to turn out the same way anyone else’s does.

Use the right tools

When designing a tattoo, you have two basic choices.  You either sketch your ideas on paper, or you can use a stencil.

Sketching by hand can be pretty satisfying. You create the picture you like, and you can change it as much as possible until it looks the way you want. And so, if you make a mistake, you can fix it. But it’s also time-consuming and hard to share. If you want to show your idea to someone else, you have to draw the whole thing again.

Stencils are quicker and more accessible, but the picture you get is not as good as the one you drew. Stencils work only if your idea is simple enough to write down. And if you’re an artist, that may not always be true. For example, graphics artists have their own set of tools, which are unlikely to be used when designing a tattoo.

Stencils are better when you just need a rough outline for shaping your design. But if you want to make a detailed drawing, you have to draw it by hand.

The choice of tools you make depends partly on how easy you want the design to change. Stencils are more accessible but more complicated.



The proper tattoo design can be material. Some people don’t think twice about getting a tattoo; others, it’s a serious decision, one they ponder for years. But in either case, the final design must be just right.