What You Need to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo

Portrait of tattooed bearded man wearing t-shirt, beard

Source: iStock

Tattoo’s are a pretty big decision (and you’ve probably heard this a million times): Once you get inked, it’s there for life, so make sure you don’t make any rash decisions when choosing to get one. Although the permanence aspect of them can scare a gent away, there are also a lot of great things about getting tatted, the number one being that it’s an outward expression of yourself, a way to commemorate happenings in your life, or pay tribute to a loved one you’ve lost. Plus, body art can turn out really cool.

If you’re thinking about getting one (even if you have one already), there are some things you should consider. If you’re going to get a tattoo, pick out your design, make sure it is original and has personal meaning, and then wait a year before you get it. Remember, tattooing is a timeless art form. If you are in a hurry to get it done, you’re probably not in the right frame of mind to get the most out of the experience.

On a practical note, it’s very important to consider where on your body the tattoo is going to go. Chances are, you’re going to want to cover up your tattoo at some point, for example, if you go on a big job interview, the first time you meet your partner’s parents, a formal event, or anything else unexpected that may arise. Just be sure to consider your career choice and rule out any tats that can’t be covered up with standard dress shirts or pants.

While you’re thinking about it what and where to have it done, here are some of the most popular tattooed body parts for men:

Shoulder Tattoos

These are one of the most attractive places that men can get tattoos. It’s easy to see the ink if you wear a tank top or short sleeves.

Back Tattoos

For the most part, you’ll only see them when you take your shirt off, but you know that it’s there and that’s all that matters. Although ones that are close up by the neck have more of a chance of peeking out and making their appearance.

Side (Rib) Tattoos

Although seen on women, they still look good on men as well. Sure they’re less common than other areas that are frequently tattooed on , but that’s also what makes it so unique, especially if it holds great meaning to you.

Upper Arm Tattoos (and bicep)

It’s one thing to get a tattoo on your arm, it’s quite another to go all out and get a sleeve (have your arm heavily populated with tattoos. If you get it high enough, it’s easier to cover up with your dress shirt.

Chest Tattoo

Like the back tattoo, the only downside to getting a chest tattoo is that you won’t be able to see it unless the occasion calls for you to take your shirt off.

Lower arm (and forearm)

The most revealing of the bunch is also the most difficult one to cover up. It happens to be an incredibly cool place to get a tattoo because you’ll be able to clearly see it everyday, especially if you chose to get one that is very meaningful.

What to consider:

Bearded man with tatoos on both arms


Find the right design

Finding the right tattoo design can be a very daunting task not only because of its permanence, but also as  The Art of Manliness suggests, it should be original. Although you can search around for inspiration, the main goal of tattooing, at least today, is to express yourself and your individuality, so do a little soul searching before going under the needle. Especially if your tattoo will be signifying something important in your life, a struggle you overcame, a need for constant inspiration, or to pay tribute to a loved one you lost. Of course, if you do like a design that you’ve researched and seen on someone else and feel that the design suits you, then by all means go for it.

Find the right place to put it

Figuring out the right place to put the tattoo that you’ve been thinking long and hard about (we can only hope), not to mention the place where you can withstand the most pain, can play a big role in the decision making process. “Don’t shortchange yourself because of the pain,” says Shane O’Neill, season one winner of Spike TV’s Ink Master to Men’s Health. “We’re talking about two hours of pain here to get what you want for life.”

One factor that you should really consider is body hair, as in, are you OK with the placement of the tattoo if hair starts to grow over the finished canvas. “Even the slightest bit of hair can affect the way the tattoo looks,” says O’Neill. However, if you’re willing to keep the area hairless, say on your arms or chest, then the tattoo is sure to look better and fresher because it will pop off the skin.

The final factor to consider in terms of placement is how visible you want the tattoo to be, especially because in some workplaces tattoo visibility can be an issue, but so can the general aesthetic of the tattoo. “It ultimately depends on the style of the tattoo, but for guys I think the chest onto the arms is one of the cooler looking spots,” says O’Neill, “I’m not a big fan of tattoos just stamped somewhere on your back. That’s silly looking.”

Consider size and color

photo of a young man with tatoo

Source: iStock

Once you figure out the right placement for your tattoo, you need to think about exactly how big you want it and whether it should stick to a black and grey palette or if you want some color. Skin tone plays a huge role in how a tattoo will ultimately look on your body. “Tattoos look great on paler skin — they’re super bright and look fresh,” O’Neill says. Keep in mind that lighter skin is the best canvas for both color and black-and-grey tattoos, and if you have a darker complexion, then black and grey is probably your best option for maximum effect. Not to mention that black and grey tattoos are the most durable because the color won’t break down over time. The sun tends to erode color tattoos, making black-and-grey the smarter choice in the long run, so you don’t have to go back every so often for a color touch up.

Size is the other decision you need to contend with. O’Neill says it’s important to think about it yourself but also consult the artist to suggest the size. If your piece is very detailed, you don’t want to jam it into a spot that is way too small to appreciate or see it properly. If it’s too detailed and small, the colors can run together, and bigger is better if you want to retain the details and see crisp lines.

Find the right artist:

Before actually getting the tattoo you need to take your time and find the right studio and/or artist. Don’t be one of those guys who decides where to go on a whim and go into the nearest studio without a second thought. Sure you can get lucky and walk away with a great tattoo from a place that you took a chance on, but a lot don’t. Here are some quick, few necessary steps to take when finding the right place and artist.

Make sure you shop around a bit

Remember, this tat is going to be on your body for the rest of you life. Not only are you getting a permanent piece of art on your body, but it’s also a major purchase. You wouldn’t just buy the first house you saw and call it a day  you would shop around.

Do your research

It’s incredibly easy to check out an artists work without having to visit the shop  you can check out their portfolio online or even on Instagram. Make sure to look very closely at their work and pay attention to line work  they should be smooth, not jumpy or jagged, and the colors should be blended perfectly. If you find an artist you like, visit the shop, see if they’re friendly and willing to talk to you. You should be comfortable enough to ask them questions, look around, and see if they take pride in their work.

Go by referral

Ask your friends or an acquaintance that has a tattoo you admire, because both can be a great resource for you and point you in the right direction. If they had a great experience then they will probably recommend their artist, and if they had a bad experience, then they’ll warn you to not make the same mistake. Don’t be afraid to ask around, most people love to talk about their tattoos.

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