How to Choose the Perfect Tattoo for You

There's endless options, and we're here to help.

Updated 03/30/19
Miley Cyrus has an arms-worth of meaningful tats.  Getty Images

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. Find a few failsafe ink options to consider, below. 

Significant dates

Whether you just got engaged, married, or gave birth to your first child, dates 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. 

What's more: Dates can be written in countless different styles, fonts, and characters (i.e. Roman numerals, calendar graphics, and calligraphy). Zodiac symbols are another great option for all you astrology-lovers out there. Whatever you decide, this type of tattoo will definitely make you happy whenever you look at it.

Portraits

You don't have to get a detailed design of your grandmother's face—unless you want to, that is—to call it a portrait tattoo. In fact, you can even get a stick figure of your favorite pet if that feels more you. That being said, there's no denying that portraits make for very meaningful tattoos as they remind us of someone we love or miss. If you want to go the timeless route, opt for the traditional black and white style, and if you want to set your ink apart, consider incorporating some color. 

Even if you do go down the nontraditional road, it's always a good idea to provide your artist with a clear, high-quality photo to help them in the designing process.

Quotes and lyrics

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. 

Pop culture favorites

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. 

Still lost for ideas?

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. 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).

Tattoo magazines are also a great source for 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.

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'll be wearing your body art for a lifetime, so choose wisely.

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