Tips on Portrait Tattoos

Portrait tattoos are the kind of tattoo where you need to get an expert who knows what they’re doing. Stylistic, geometric, or even cartoonish art can lead to interesting tattoos. And, typically, art is subjective; the eye of the beholder and all that. But if a portrait looks bad, it slips into uncanny valley territory, and it just looks awful. Seriously, if you check out pictures online of bad, ugly, or just plain cringey tattoos, a lot of them are going to be portraits. Doing a good portrait is difficult to do on paper or canvas and even trickier on human flesh. It cannot be stressed enough. Go to an expert.

If you are getting a portrait tattoo, it can be assumed that it is a portrait of someone very special to you. Some people get tattoos of someone loved and lost. Do you want to be permanently stuck with something that’s supposed to be the person you love most, but it looks like some hideous goblin? Of course you don’t! Go to a tattoo artist who specializes in portraits. Ask to see pictures of tattoos they have done. Don’t be afraid to tell the person you’re shopping around and might get back to them later. Remember, they have to impress you. You’re the one paying the money.

Speaking of money, this is a case of getting what you paid for. Expect to pay three figures…per hour worked on it. Depending on just how big, how detailed and exactly where you want your tat, a portrait can take anywhere from three to seven hours. If you just have to have color, it will take longer. Do you want a portrait tattoo that looks good? Be prepared to spend a lot of money and expect an artist who takes their time on getting something right. Remember: Tattoo guns don’t have erasers! 

Make a consultation appointment with a prospective tattoo artist. Schedule it on a day they’re not expecting to work on someone, if you can. If you can’t, you can forgive them for being a little late since this isn’t something where you can just drop everything. But only up to a point. You don’t want to work with someone too disorganized. Bring a photo of the face you want tattooed. They’re not police sketch artists, after all. (Have you seen those things? Hardly tattoo material.) Ask to see photos of specifically portrait tattoos they’ve done. If you can actually talk to a former client, that would just be a bonus. Ask about the price and how long it will take. You don’t have to decide right there. You can say you’re considering all options and will get back to them if you decide they’re who you’re going with and part with a friendly handshake.  

Getting a good portrait tattoo can be difficult, but living with a bad portrait tattoo can be even harder! Remember that it is your loved one you want immortalized, and it’s your body being worked on. You have the privilege to choose who does the job. Get a person who will do it right!  

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