Tattoo artists share things you should never do when getting a small tattoo

  • Tattoo artists shared some common mistakes people make when getting small tattoos.
  • Experts say that one should avoid getting too many small details or turning wrist tattoos upside down.
  • Try to find an artist who specializes in small tattoos and skip the white and yellow ink.

Insider spoke to tattoo artists to learn about common mistakes people make when getting small tattoos.

Jesse Smith, celebrity tattoo artist, shop owner and co-director of the Richmond Tattoo, Art & Music Festival, told Insider, “One of the biggest mistakes people make when getting small tattoos is making them too small.”

Over time, the ink tends to bleed or expand, which can cause small tattoos to become blurry and lose detail.

“You can expect the lines to double, triple and sometimes quadruple over time, so it’s best to take that into account when choosing a design,” Smith added.

Smith also recommends paying attention to your artist’s concerns about size.

Smith told Insider that you should consider the placement of your small tattoo, as he’s seen people apply them to large patches of skin and end up wanting to fill their bodies with something bigger.

“Throughout my career I’ve seen a lot of people start out with a super small tattoo and then later decide they want something bigger. This usually results in having to cover up the small tattoo and/or an odd placement on the body part,” Smith said.

He recommends saving small tattoos for smaller surfaces like the feet, ankles, and the inside of the wrists.

Tattoo artist Alicia Simms told Insider that those considering a small wrist design should carefully consider the direction of the piece.

“Sometimes with small tattoos on the wrist, people want them to face them, which makes the tattoo upside down. Let’s say they get a word tattooed and want it to face them so that when they look at their hand it’s right side up,” Simms said.

“However, her arms are mostly down – relaxed, standing, in photos – so the tattoo always looks backwards and that’s a big point of contention among tattoo artists,” she added.

Person with compassion and courage tattooed on their wrists

Some tattoo artists believe that you should get the words tattooed on your wrist so that the bottom of the letters are directly above your palms.

Jupiterimages/Getty Images


Jen Bean, a tattoo artist at Loose Screw Tattoo, told Insider that small tattoos aren’t the best option if you’re hoping to incorporate a lot of detail into the art.

“One problem with smaller tattoos is that the client often wants ‘everything but the kitchen sink,'” Bean said, adding that all of those details “bleed together” over time.

Tattoo artist Lorena Lorenzo of Indigo ArTattoos told Insider that while getting a small tattoo can be fun and spontaneous, it’s important to think about placement.

“Finger tattoos, inner lip tattoos and hand and ear work are very trendy these days, especially minimalistic ones that look very cute at first glance,” Lorenzo said. “But later they become a nightmare and difficult to fix or retouch because of the area they are in.”

When in doubt, ask your tattoo artist what to look out for when tattooing a specific spot on your body.

a broken chain tattoo on the neck of a blond person

When choosing a placement, consider whether you may want to have your tattoo retouched.

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Gianna Caranfa, tattoo artist and owner of Bee Inked Parlor, cautions against choosing yellow or white ink for small line tattoos because “in most cases, your skin is naturally darker than these pigments.”

“Because tattoos are in the second layer of skin, the first few days of a tattoo look bright and visible in this pigment. However, once the first layer grows back, it’s covered by your skin tone,” she said.

Consider using darker ink colors for best results on small tattoos.

Brandon David, tattoo artist and founder of Tattoo Space, said it’s also important to pay attention to undertones when choosing a design.

“Some people have tanned skin with a yellow or red undertone. Some darker skin types have yellow or red undertones,” David told Insider. “Understanding this will help you choose the right color for the tattoo to ensure it heals and sets in the desired color over the long term and ages well.”

David warned against using yellows and golds on tanned skin with yellow undertones as the skin would dull the tattoo colors and small tattoos in particular would become barely noticeable and muddy.

Some assume that any artist can do a small tattoo, but Caranfa told Insiders that’s not always the case. Failure to research your artist can result in a poor quality tattoo.

“If a tattoo artist can take you right away, it’s usually for a reason — whether they’re new/an apprentice or don’t have a good job and aren’t busy,” Caranfa said.

In addition, making small tattoos requires a lot of expertise. Someone with no experience could end up using lines that are too thick, or creating unstable, scratchy lines.

“A client should always do their research and find a clean line artist who specializes in smaller, thinner tattoos,” Caranfa said.

feet in red slippers with stars tattooed on the foot

When in doubt, consult a professional tattoo artist whose work you love.

Franziska Richter/EyeEm/Getty Images


It is not uncommon to see a small tattoo accompanied by a lettered word or phrase. This can create a messy look, especially with smaller tattoos.

“A lot of people want to get a tattoo that means something, so they choose an image that represents that. But sometimes they want to write it down too. You want to say in words what the picture already represents,” said David.

David said that sometimes it’s best to just let a picture tell a story.

According to David, when it comes to tattoo longevity, some skin areas are more prone to problems.

“The inside of the wrist is a very common tattoo placement for small tattoos — but that skin isn’t the same as the arm or even the top of the wrist,” David said.

Areas like the inner wrist, elbows, elbow pits, knees, knee pits, armpits, and ankles can be particularly difficult to tattoo and “are prone to several issues when it comes to tattooing and longevity.”

David recommends working with a knowledgeable artist to understand if a special approach is needed to ensure the tattoo you get heals and lasts.

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