The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Hand Tattoo

Updated 07/01/19
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Hand and foot tattooing is a fine art—so fine, in fact, that many tattoo artists simply refuse to do hand and foot tattoos. The spots pose obvious challenges, most due to their frequent use during the healing process. Not to mention that hands are uneven surfaces with delicate skin and bone structures, which makes tattooing them much more difficult than other body areas; even for the experienced tattooist.

Despite the difficulties, hand tattoos remain quite popular. Novelty design ideas like a mustache or a Rihanna-inspired "Shhh..." on the index finger may be overdone, but they did pave way for more acceptance of hand tattoos, which makes for exciting ideas. But still, without proper knowledge of the challenges and aftercare, a tattoo artist's final results can be poor and permanent.

What You Need to Know About Hand Tattoos

First, you should never decide hastily to tattoo your hands. Ample thought, preparation, and a skilled artist are all necessities if you opt for a tattoo in this area. Many employers frown upon visible tattoos in the workplace; the U.S. military even has a ban on hand tattoos. It's not as bad as it used to be, but enlisting in the services or finding work in a more traditional career field may prove difficult with hand tattoos. Be sure to think long-term.

Once you've decided to get one, don't just stumble into the first tattoo parlor you see on a whim. You need to plan how you'll function for a few days where you have limited hand capabilities. Taking a few days off from work or school gives your hand time to heal adequately and minimizes the risk of infection and pain.

Maintenance

Be aware that, after your hand tattoo is healed, you might need to go back and have it retouched. Artists usually won't retouch hand tattoos for free or assume any responsibility for early wear and fading, particularly in this location.

In fact, your tattoo might need to be touched up several times during the first year before it fully looks its best. How often depends on how well the tattoo heals the first time, along with the strength of the design and its exposure to wear and the elements. Over the lifetime of your hand tattoo, expect several more touchups to maintain the beauty of your body art. For these reasons, you'll need to factor tattoo maintenance into your budget.

Design Ideas

Design ideas for hand tattoos are endless. Some people opt for traditional, old-school designs such as sparrows. Others select fluid or organic tattoos that create effects upon movement, such as dots or waves. These types of tattoos are very artful and can have a spiritual theme to them.

Some people opt for simple finger tattoos. Wedding bands, words, and phrases are small but can be significant to the wearer. Although finger tattoos are now pretty trendy, the sides of the fingers and the palms of the hand are actually difficult to tattoo effectively. A small expression of "Faith" on your palm could very easily fade within a few weeks just from daily use and chores. The top of the hand and knuckles are much better sites to consider if you're set on a finger tattoo.

Test it Out Temporarily

If you're really serious about getting a hand tattoo, try henna body painting as a test; it's a no-commitment way to see what you like and where. Floral designs are popular as dainty, unique options that might have some sentimental meaning for you. In addition to henna, you also can experiment with temporary water-based tattoos to play around with placement and design ideas.

Final Considerations

Following the face and neck, hands are the second most visible place to tattoo. That means your choice of a tattoo artist is crucial. They should have a lots of experience, confidence, and knowledge in how to tattoo hands. Be aware of the additional healing challenges and touch-ups you'll need. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and check things like reviews and their Instagram. Look at the artist's portfolio, and and even ask to see photos of fully healed hand tattoos. Lastly, think about your tattoo design.

Your hands serve as a greeting to the world, so think about what you want them to say. And check out the gallery below for some inspiration.

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