So, you want to get a back tattoo? Before going under the needle, it’s important to know what exactly you are getting yourself into. When you’re prepared for the pain involved, understand the pros and cons of the placement, and recognize what designs will work well and which aren’t a good idea, it’s more likely you’ll walk away with a design you will love for years.
When it comes to the back, it seems like a great choice of tattoo placement. It’s a large canvas so there is a lot of room to play with in terms of design. Plus, it’s a placement that is relatively easy to hide.
Let’s dive into the different areas of the back to get tattooed, and the pros and cons for each.
The shoulder blade makes for a great flat surface area to work on for tattoo artists.
Other pros of shoulder tattoos are that shoulder skin doesn’t stretch and age the way other areas of the body do, shoulder tattoos are easy to hide, and the shoulder is still relatively easy to reach for aftercare.
Wings are a popular tattoo choice for the shoulder blades. This is an example of a mirror tattoo, as the two tattoos reflect each other. Wings are deeply symbolic – a wing tattoo can represent divinity, adventure, and power.
If a larger design has caught your attention, be aware of how this might transfer on your shoulder. If a shoulder blade tattoo is bigger than a certain size, then the design will start creeping up onto the top of the shoulder and around to the bicep.
Click here for a guide to shoulder tattoos.
The spine is one of the most painful placement choices for tattoos. This is because of the nerves running all along the vertebrae and the thin skin that covers the bones. If the area you want to get tattooed has little muscle or fat covering the bones, there is less cushioning to absorb the impact of the tattoo needle.
“Tattooing on top of bones, especially in areas with thin skin, is typically painful. Unfortunately, the spine is basically nothing but delicate skin and bones. In particular, the lower part of the spine is considered the most sensitive,”Authority Tattoo
Tattooing a highway of nerves – which is kind of what the spine is – can also result in strange sensations throughout your whole body.
Getting a tattoo along your spine can result in a beautiful work of art, but the bumps of your spine can be challenging. So, make sure to choose a tattooist who has experience in spine tattoos.
Part of what makes spine tattoos eye catching is the white space around them. Before settling on a spine tattoo, think about any future back tattoos you may want and how your initial body art will be affected.
Tattoos that work well in this placement are flowing designs that emphasise the length of the back. Examples include plants and flowers, phrases, and the phases of the moon.
Click here for more on spine tattoos.
Middle Of The Back Tattoos
When deciding on a back tattoo, it’s important to consider any future ink you may want to get.
A mini tattoo of a crescent moon towards the side of the middle of your back can be amazing if you’re looking for a simple, dainty tattoo design. However, if you want to add to your art, you’ve got to think about how this moon will blend in with future back tattoos.
“It makes sense to consider how the tattoo will move with your body and how each section of your back tends to be used on a daily basis. It’s also worth considering how the location of your design will factor in with any other tattoos you may already have,”Byrdie
A tattoo in the middle of the back comes into contact with your ribs, and rib tattoos are notoriously painful.
“This area has more bones and less tissue, so you’re more likely to experience pain,”Inked Mind
However, everyone’s pain tolerance is different, so the pain level depends greatly on the tattooee.
If you’re worried about pain during your tattoo session, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, you can ask your tattoo artist for a skin numbing cream. Try and distract yourself from the pain by listening to music or a podcast. If the pain gets too much, communicate with your artist and let them know that you need a break.
Lower Back Tattoos
The popularity of low rise jeans and crop tops in the Y2K era brought with it an array of lower back tattoos – from flower motifs and words, to tribal designs and butterflies.
This tattoo placement hasn’t been left behind totally, though – lower back tattoos are making a comeback.
Phoebe Satterwhite, a hand–poke tattoo artist, explained to The Cut that on the surface the so–called “tramp stamp” making a comeback has to do with the resurgence of early 2000’s fashion trends, but there is a deeper level to this, too.
“…it’s also about sexual liberation and taking back the idea that being a tramp is a bad thing.”
This taps into whether or not getting a tattoo based on a trend is a good idea. Nicole Richie removed her lower back tattoo in 2013 saying that,
“It just means a certain thing, and I don’t want to be part of that group.”
At the end of the day, it is important to go beyond what’s in vogue at the moment to recognize whether this trend will still be meaningful to you for years to come.
Of course, no one can predict the future, so whatever tattoo you get, you are taking a chance that future you will regret it. Luckily, there are ways to deal with tattoos that you hate.
Full Back Tattoos
The back can be the perfect canvas for a large design, especially if you don’t want any wrapping to occur. The back is a rather flat surface compared with your arm, for example – a large design on your arm will wrap around, resulting in you having to turn your arm to see the full design.
Be prepared for multiple sessions for your full back tattoo. Chat to your tattooist about your design and they’ll be able to advise how many sessions you should be prepared for.
Don’t try to get through your complete tattoo in just one session. Remember, getting tattooed is a traumatic experience. There’s nothing wrong with taking breaks.
When it comes to price, be prepared to pay quite a bit for a full back tattoo. The larger and more detailed the design, the more it will cost.
What Else You Should Be Aware Of Before Getting Inked On Your Back:
If you want to get pregnant, you may want to choose another placement for your tattoo because a back tattoo can impact the process of getting an epidural.
Neil Tanna, MD, Associate Program Director of Plastic Surgery and Professor of Surgery at Northwell Health said to Inside Out,
“The process of placing an epidural catheter during childbirth could potentially cause tattoo ink to enter spinal components or increase the risk of infection.”
Another reason why you may need to choose another placement for your tattoo is if you have acne on your back. Ink Art By Kate explains,
“If you have acne in the selected place on your back, most likely the tattoo artist will advise you not to make a design, because it will heal badly and it may bleed more when tattooing on your back.”
Acne that appears after you get your tat is not something you need to worry about. What is important is to not pick at any pimple that arises during the healing process. If you scratch your healing ink, you increase the risk of distorting your tattoo and getting an infection.
Sleep And The Healing Process
Can’t get comfortable enough to sleep on your stomach? Then you might want to think twice about getting a back tattoo.
During the initial healing process (one to two weeks), you can’t sleep on your back. If you sleep on your back, the constant rubbing caused by moving around can impact your ink negatively.
So, if you insist on a back tattoo, get used to sleeping on your side and stomach leading up to your appointment.
One of the best things you can do to make sure your tattoo heals well and looks amazing for longer is to follow the aftercare instructions your tattoo artist gives you.
This includes carefully washing your tattoo with fragrance free soap twice a day and moisturizing it often. Obviously, if your tattoo is in a place that you can’t see or reach, the aftercare process becomes a lot more difficult to follow.
“Use a mirror to ensure you’re reaching every part of your tattoo if necessary, and expect to have to stretch and twist your body a bit to be able to take care of your full tattoo. It may not be an easy aftercare process, but knowing what it will take before getting the tattoo will make it easier in the long run,”Byrdie
Resist the urge to use a long handled loofah to reach your tattoo. The course material can scratch your fresh tattoo, hampering the healing process.
If you have someone that would help you, call them.
Dos And Don’ts To Prepare For Your Tattoo Appointment
- Do have an in depth conversation with your tattoo artist. Do not rush the process! Chat with your artist about your chosen design and how they think it will turn out on your back. Also, check how many sessions your tattoo could take. The more intricate and bigger the design, the more time it will take to complete.
- Do get a good night’s rest. Being exhausted isn’t going to make your tattoo appointment any better – it can make it worse. You should be alert when getting a tattoo so that exhaustion doesn’t get the better of you.
- Do hydrate. Playhouse Tattoos recommends drinking a ton of water 24 hours before your appointment.
“Not only is it good for your health, but it will make sure that your skin is hydrated and prepared for your tattoo session. Hydrated skin takes ink a lot better than dehydrated skin which will make the entire process a lot smoother for your artist.”
- Do moisturize, but not on the day of your appointment. Preparing your skin by lathering on lotion during the days leading up to your appointment is recommended, but putting on moisturizer on the day of your tattoo appointment can interfere with how the stencil is applied on your skin.
- Don’t drink alcohol before your tattoo. A wild night out will really hamper your tattoo experience because alcohol dehydrates you and thins your blood. Bleeding too much can impact your tattooist’s vision.
- Don’t skip meals. When you get a tattoo, your body goes through pain and trauma. You need nutrients in order to properly deal with the pain and heal. So, have a big breakfast or lunch before heading off to get your tattoo. Your blood sugar also drops during a tattoo session, so bring snacks and a drink with you to keep you sustained.
The back is made up of many different areas, each with its own positives and negatives. What’s important is to do your research, find a tattoo artist that’s experienced in the style that you want, and get a design that’s meaningful to you. Trends are great!
However, what’s in vogue changes constantly. For tattoo longevity, choose something that you truly love and look after your ink.