How to Choose the Perfect Tattoo for You

woman with tattoo

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Ink-loving celebrities like Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus add to their tattoo collections on a whim without giving it a second thought. But if you're a first-timer who's never set foot in a tattoo shop before, it can feel like a daunting task to decide on a design you'll love for the rest of your life (or you know, until you laser it off). 

The goal is to have your tattoo for the long haul, though, so choosing one that feels true to you is the single most important factor to consider when making your decision. No clue where to start or feeling indecisive? We've got you covered. We rounded up a few failsafe tips to consider before committing to an ink option, below. 

Meet the Expert

  • Jaz Paulino is a head artist at Fleur Noire, with locations in New York and Los Angeles.
  • Dillon Forte is a celebrity tattoo artist who is internationally known for his sacred geometry work. His clients include Chris Hemsworth, Usher, Kat Von D, Kehlani, Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons and others.

Keep scrolling for some tips on choosing a tattoo you’ll always love.

Ask Yourself Why You Want Body Art

Black woman with tattoo

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Do you want to commemorate a special moment or memory? Or are you more interested in a really unique design? Let the reason guide your design decision. "As a tattooer, I find that when people get tattoos for themselves or for their loved ones (family, sometimes friends) they cherish them forever," says tattoo artist Jaz Paulino. "A tattoo can be a tribute to a transitioned loved one, a present mother/family member, a long term best friend, or a lifelong partner. When you get something for someone with good intentions it's almost always a good move."

Maybe you're seeking a detailed design of your grandmother's face, or perhaps you just got engaged, married, or gave birth to your first child, dates also make for amazing tattoos because they serve as a singular reminder of a significant moment in your life. It doesn't have to be anything traditionally grand, either. It could be the birthday of your favorite folk artist or the first time you traveled somewhere totally solo. 

Consult a Tattoo Artist

Tattoo artist

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If you just can't seem to decide on the perfect design, no worries. Take the time to find an artist on Instagram who will work with you to create a tattoo that suits you. Once you've revealed a few personal details, most tattoo artists can help you brainstorm a few designs based on what you tell them and can suggest some options that fit your desired placement and size. No matter how good the artist's suggestion is, make sure it really fits you before committing.

Determine Where You Want Your Ink

Black woman with tattoo

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Where you're interested in getting your art could make all the difference, as some designs will look better in certain places. This decision might often hinge on your day-to-day life (i.e. is visible ink something you're comfortable with, or do you want your body art in a hard-to-see area?)

Ensure It Makes You Happy

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"When selecting a tattoo design the first thing to consider is who you are getting it for?" Paulino says, adding that 's getting a tattoo to pay tribute to a romantic relationship can have its downsides: "Unfortunately some relationships don't last as long as tattoos, that's just a matter of fact."

That's why getting a tattoo that you love is the most important thing to consider. "One thing is for certain, and that's the relationship you have with yourself, because that is a forever type of love," she adds.

Make a List of Your Favorite Things

tattooed hands

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Everyone and their mother has a favorite quote, phrase, or lyric, which is probably why so many people choose to get them tatted. Words also give you the freedom to choose from a variety of different font styles and sizes, so the options are truly endless. You could even ask a loved one—a child, a parent, a friend—for a signature that the tattooist can copy and use. 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.

Gather Inspiration


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Tattoo magazines are also a great source of visual inspiration. Additionally, keeping a notebook filled with all of the design ideas that have caught your eye is a great idea as then, when the time comes, you'll have plenty of ideas and musings ready to work with.

Look For Ideas in Unusual Places

Woman with neck tattoo

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From Pokémon to the Spice Girls to superheroes, the tattoo industry has broadened enough in both style and talent to render whatever you can come up with in this realm. Go ahead: Watch your top 10 favorite movies for inspo. We would, too. Even if you do go down the non-traditional road, it's always a good idea to provide your artist with a clear, high-quality photo to help them in the designing process.

Keep an Open Mind

Two black women with a tattoo

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Once you have a somewhat defined idea, take it to your artist or do your own research. Even looking at images of artwork can be inspirational. Just envision how a design might look on your skin, rather than on paper or canvas.

"If you see or think of something you love & that makes you happy (as long as it doesn't offend/is associated with any negative connotation), and you feel so inclined to get it permanently marked on your bod-go on with yo bad self," Paulino says. "My mother always says, 'As long as you are happy and aren't doing damage to yourself or anyone else, do it,' and I think that applies to just about everything."

Think Ahead

Black woman with tattoo

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Of course, you can't see into the future, so it's impossible to know how your life might chaneg in a few years, but try and ensure you're selecting a choice that will stand the test of time. Ask yourself if this is something you'll be comfortable with years down the road, or if it's a little too trendy or of-the-moment. "People should love their tattoos for years or decades since it's permanent as opposed to days, weeks or months," says celebrity tattoo artist Dillon Forte. "I believe if you love the tattoo you took the time to pick out, it won't matter if the style is trendy or not."

Be Patient

yin yang tattoo

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Ultimately, gradually and thoughtfully are the best ways to proceed with your body art. Once you have a plan for your tattoo in a style you like, you can then scope out inspiration for design ideas that will have more significance and meaning later. "You should also take the time to read up on different styles of tattoo designs," Forte says. "During the process you'll find some you like and come up with a solid game plan on what design(s) would be perfect for you."

Don't be in a hurry to commit to a design, especially if you want a tattoo with meaning. Remember, this is permanent (unless you undergo painful tattoo removal).

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