How To Design Your Own Tattoo: 10 Things To Consider To Create A Tattoo You’ll Love

Compass Tattoo @ng.ringvean

You’ve decided you want to get a tattoo. Not just that, you want to let your creativity free and create your own tattoo design. However, designing a tattoo isn’t just about putting a few elements together…

From the meaning of different tattoos and where on your body you want to place it, to your budget and the maintenance involved, there are a few things to consider to design a tattoo you’ll love when it’s on your body. 

Memorial Tattoo

Meaning And Significance

Tattoos don’t have to have a deep meaning…You can opt for a design that you simply just like!
If you do want a meaningful tattoo design, consider what you want your tattoo to represent. To figure this out, explore what has personal significance to you.

“If you’re feeling stumped, listen to an old song you love, read cards you’ve saved, or try thinking about specific sayings or mottos your friends and fam may have shared with you for inspiration,”

Small ‘Amar” Tattoo

Remember, getting a meaningful tattoo isn’t about choosing something trendy you like now – you’ve got to think ahead to the future and what’s going to make sense for you for years to come. 

A few common themes that stand the test of time include transformation, strength, remembrance, and spirituality.

Crescent Moon Tattoo @tattooist_giho_

Tattoo Placement

Think about where on your body you want your tattoo and how it will look in that area.

To test out a few areas, you can draw your design on a piece of paper and, using tape, stick it on different possible placements. This can give you an idea of how your design will wrap around certain body parts.

You’ve also got to think about your lifestyle and job. While many workplaces no longer frown upon body art, there are still some professions and corporate environments that want their employees to cover their ink.

If this describes your situation, focus on areas that are easy to cover up with clothing in a professional environment – think below the collarbone, the ankle, and the hips and thighs.

Dragon Hip Tattoo @polina_floyd

Tattoos hurt. While there isn’t really a way to get around this, there are ways you can lessen the pain. One strategy is choosing a placement on the lower end of the pain scale.

“People have different tolerance levels for pain. If you don’t have a high tolerance for pain you may want to consider getting your tattoo in less painful areas, such as the butt, shoulder, or thigh,”

Custom Tattoo Design

A good rule of thumb to follow is the closer the skin is to the bone – so, the less muscle and fat – the more painful getting a tattoo there will be. So, placements such as the ribs, wrist, and shin are known to be a challenge.

Small ‘Resilient’ Tattoo @_jose_g_p_

Tattoo Size

Consider how big or small you want the tattoo to be. This will have a big impact on the area of your body you choose for your design. Large tattoos need a large surface area, so these designs are often done on the back, chest, or stomach.

If you want a large design done on the forearm, know that the tattoo will wrap slightly distorting the design. Smaller tattoos can be done just about anywhere – this is one of the reasons why opting for a small design is a great choice for your first tattoo.

Bold Sleeve Tattoo @traditionalstattoos

The larger your tattoo, the longer it will take and more ink will need to be used, which will have a big impact on the price. 

How much detail you want in your design will also impact the size of your tattoo. Tat Ring explains,

“…if you want a lot of detail in your tattoo, you’ll want it to be bigger rather than smaller. Many people come in with intricate designs that they want to fit into a very small area, and the artist may turn them away unless they agree to make the tattoo bigger or remove a lot of the detail.”

Hourglass Old School Tattoo @jerryjames_tattoos

Tattoo Style

There are many different tattoo styles out there to explore. From old-school traditional American tattoos (think saturated colors and anchors) and traditional Japanese Tebori tattoos to the maximalist trash polka and minimalist, fine-line designs. Choose a style that fits your personality and the meaning of the tattoo.

If you’re new to the world of tattoos and body art, take your time to research different styles to see which one speaks to you. Self Tattoo has a ton of blogs to help guide you on this journey. 

Watercolor Fox And Moon Tattoo @regina_pochanina

Color Ink

Do you want a black and gray tattoo, or are you open to incorporating colors into your design? 

Color ink can help emphasize the meaning of a tattoo, and can be an amazing way to express more of your personality. 

Plus, certain tattoo styles often rely on color ink to fully express the style.

“There are a lot of tattoo styles that complement color; some of the styles include traditional Japanese, classic Americana, watercolor, old-school sailor tattoos, illustrative and new school tattoo styles,”

Saved Tattoo
Strawberry With Melted Gold Tattoo @jooa_tattoo

However, there are a few cons when opting for a colorful tattoo.

  • One, color tattoo ink tends to fade faster than black ink.
  • Two, you’ll need to go for frequent touch-ups to keep your design looking crisp.
  • Three, color doesn’t work well on small tattoo designs as the colors can easily mix together as the tattoo ages.
Flower Calf Tattoos @nolwenn.grignon

Tattoo Artist

Choose a professional and experienced tattoo artist who can bring your design to life. And remember, the tattoo industry is unregulated, so there are people who just buy a tattoo kit online and call themselves a tattooist.

Take your time to do your research – get recommendations from others and stalk artists’ social media profiles. 

A tattoo done by a professional tattoo artist is way more likely to last compared to one done by someone inexperienced. This is because an expert knows exactly where to place the ink to avoid blowout and fading.

Colorful Hummingbird Tattoo

“When [getting a] tattoo, it’s extremely important to find someone whose work inspires you, as well as meeting that person and getting a feel for their personality, process and preference. Like it or not, you will have an experience with this artist that you’ll remember for the rest of your life,”


Experienced tattoo artists can also give you great advice on your chosen design and your placement. They’ll be able to advise on what will work best, and the choices that probably aren’t good ideas. Have a long conversation with your chosen artist and ask all the questions you can think of.

Minimalist Eye Of Horus Tattoo @the.xx.ttt

Tattoo Aftercare And Maintenance

Walking out of the tattoo parkour with your fresh ink isn’t the end of the journey…Adhering to the aftercare process is essential if you want your tattoo to heal well. 

Looking after your fresh tattoo is important because:

1. It prevents infections. A new tattoo is basically an open wound, so it’s a breeding ground for bacteria.

2. It prevents scarring as washing and moisturizing the tattoo promotes the healing of the skin.

3. It enhances the appearance of your ink and helps the colors remain vibrant and the lines sharp.

4. It helps prevent skin irritation, itching, and discomfort.

Click below for our guide to looking after your fresh ink.

Fine Line Mini Hand Tattoos @paulobozotattoo

Then, there’s long-term tattoo care. If you want your ink to look its best for years to come, you’ve always got to be conscious of looking after your tattoo. 

Long-term tattoo aftercare includes:

1. Washing your tattoo daily with a gentle, fragrance-free soap.

2. Drinking plenty of water to keep your skin moisturized – tattoos age best on hydrated skin.

3. Wearing SPF or covering your tattoo with clothing when out so that the sun won’t fade your tattoo.

4. Avoiding scratchy fabrics or tight clothes over your tattoo as, over time, this can wear away the tattoo ink. 

Pick a tattoo design where the above won’t be a challenge for you. 

Rose Thigh Tattoo @thedansal

Tattoo Longevity

Consider if you want a tattoo that will last a lifetime or one that will fade over time. Tattoos don’t actually have to be a lifetime commitment. Henna tattoos fade over a few weeks, there are non-cheesy stick-on tattoos all over the internet, and there is even Ephemeral Tattoo a design space that tattoos with ink that’s made to fade. 

Getting a short-term tattoo is a great step to add to your tattoo journey. Once you think you’ve got the design you want, opt for semi-permanent ink. Over the next few weeks or months, you can see whether your design choice (and placement) is truly right for you. 

Then, once you’re 100% certain, you can make your tattoo appointment. 

Whale And Sword Tattoo @tattooist_jaeo

Some things that will affect the longevity of your tattoo include:

1. Quality of the ink and needles used (another reason to make sure you go to a professional tattoo studio). Check reviews of the place you’re considering to make sure most people have had a good experience there.

2. Proper aftercare. As discussed above, taking proper care of your healing ink – washing it regularly, moisturizing your skin, and keeping your new tattoo out of the sun – goes a long way in maintaining your tattoo.   

3. Tattoo placement. Where your tattoo is placed can impact how your tattoo fades. Areas exposed to the sun a lot, places that rub against clothes, and joints (because of the constant movement) lessen a tattoo’s longevity. 

4. Color. Colorful designs fade faster than black and gray tattoos. 

Hand Poked Sea Shell Hand Tattoo @averykiyo


Tattoos aren’t cheap. If someone offers you a suspiciously cheap tattoo, run! Remember, experience and quality comes at a price, and because a tattoo is something that’s going to be with you for many years, don’t skimp.  

Set a budget for your tattoo and make sure you can afford the cost of the design and the artist’s fee.

Many tattoo shops will have a basic minimum fee, which can run up to a couple of hundred dollars depending on where the tattoo studio is. Then, your chosen tattoo artist’s experience comes into play, as New Jersey-based tattoo artist, Nancy Rose McLaughlin, explained to Byrdie,

“It all really depends on the artist. The longer the artist has been tattooing and the more clientele they have, the more they can charge.”

Moon, Mountains, And Wave Tattoo @kameenstudio

The size, placement, and intricacy will all impact the final price of your tattoo design. The larger and more intricate, the more it will cost. Some tattoo artists will give you a price upfront, while others charge by the hour. Plus, be prepared to pay a deposit, especially if you want a larger, more expensive design. 

Often the most expensive tattoos are sleeves and full leg tattoos as those take a lot of ink, time, and energy. 

And, after your tattoo, you’ll need to tip your artist – budget between 15% and 30% for this.

Polynesian Tribal Tattoo @rick_coito_tattoos

Do Your Research

Research your design to ensure you are making an informed decision.

You may have stumbled upon a symbol on Pinterest you love, but do you know the history and cultural significance behind this design? 

Polynesian and Celtic symbols are huge genres in the tattoo world, and many people can get one of their cultural symbols tattooed without appreciating the meaning behind it. 

So, do your research to make sure you know exactly what you’re planning to get tattooed on your skin. 

Roses And Scissors Tattoo @start.your.line

A tattoo is a commitment you’re making to your future self. You’re promising future you that they will still love your chosen tattoo design for years to come. Make sure this is true by considering the above 10 factors carefully. 

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