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How to Choose Tattoo Placement

Tattoos are a big commitment. Agonizing over which design to permanently ink onto your skin is only the beginning. Once you've found the perfect piece of art, you need to decide where it will go on your body! Placement matters, especially on a living, growing thing such as your skin. When choosing placement, think about things like aesthetics, how much you want the tattoo to show, and how much pain you can tolerate.


EditUsing Aesthetics to Guide You

  1. Break your body up into a series of canvasses to visualize your tattoo. Think about your body as made up of small canvasses. These "canvasses" are broken up by your body's joints. For instance, the top of your thigh to your knee is one "canvas." Consider each of these canvasses in turn for placing your tattoo.[1]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 1 Version 3.jpg
    • By visually breaking up your body into sections, you can figure out which designs work best in each place. You're looking for the best small and large areas on your body where tattoos can go.
  2. Place large, detailed pieces on large sections of your body. A very detailed design is nearly impossible to do in a small space. If you want a detailed design, you'll need to choose a larger area of your body to make the design work.
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 2 Version 3.jpg
    • For a large design, such as a portrait or a character, choose areas of skin that are easy for your artist to access without making you contort yourself, such as your back, thigh, or upper arms.
  3. Put small designs on smaller parts of your body. For smaller designs, such as symbols, you can pick much smaller areas. You can put one on your inner wrist, for example, or on your hand. You may even prefer a more whimsical placement. Try behind the ear, around a finger, or behind the joint of your ankle.
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 3 Version 3.jpg
    • For an extra bit of whimsy, consider the forward helix (on your ear) or the inside of your lip!
  4. Choose a location based on your tattoo's shape. Look at the design of your tattoo. Is it long and thin? Is it round? Is it rectangular or oval? The shape is important, as different shapes will look best on different parts of your body.[2]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 4 Version 3.jpg
    • For instance, a long, thin tattoo might look good down your spine or your inner arm.
    • You can wrap some designs around a limb, such as a tribal band or the string of rosary beads. Choose an area that will allow the artist to complete the design evenly, such as the upper forearm, the bicep, or just above the ankle.
  5. Avoid taking up a large space for a small tattoo. Many people regret taking up a large part of their tattoo-able space with a tiny tattoo in the middle. You may want to get more tattoos in that space later or a large tattoo that covers the whole thing.[3]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 5 Version 3.jpg
    • For instance, if you get a small symbol in the middle of your shoulder blade, you can't get a larger tattoo there later unless you incorporate that symbol into the design.
  6. Pick a location that you will still like as you age. When looking to place your tattoo, think about what may happen to your body as it ages. Are you always going to like that tattoo in that particular place? It may be fine when you're in your 20s, but think about how you'll feel in your 40s, 50s, or 60s+. You may want to place your tattoo so it's not as susceptible to your body's aging process.[4]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 6 Version 3.jpg
    • For instance, you're less likely to gain weight on the backs of your shoulders than you are on your stomach. Therefore, your shoulder blade may be a better option.
    • Similarly, you're not likely to gain much weight in your wrists, so your inner wrist may be a good option.

EditChoosing a Practical Placement

  1. Get your tattoo on the front of your body if you want to be able to easily see it. Some people love being able to see their tattoo all the time, and some people don't. If you do, place it somewhere you can see it without a mirror, such as your belly, breasts, arms, or legs. If not, place it somewhere you can only see if you look in a mirror.[5]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 7 Version 3.jpg
    • For an in-between option, pick a place that you can see without a mirror but that can be covered with clothing.
  2. Try a spot that you can hide or reveal depending on your outfit. You may want to show off your tattoo and place it somewhere people can see it all the time. On the other hand, you may want the option to hide it at times by picking a different piece of clothing. If you want to be able to hide it, choose a place where you have that option.
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 8 Version 3.jpg
    • For instance, if you have a tattoo on the trapezius muscles between your neck and shoulders, you can cover it up with a collared shirt or choose a shirt with a low neckline to show it off.
    • You may also be able to do this with tattoos on your thighs, upper arms, back, and your feet.
  3. Try a "peekaboo" tattoo for a fun placement. These tattoos are placed in areas that are commonly not very visible to the casual observer, but may reveal themselves as you move, such as behind your ear, inside your lip, on the webs of your fingers, or on the inside of your upper arm.
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 9 Version 3.jpg
    • You can also try your upper chest, lower back, collarbone, or behind your ankle joint.
  4. Hide delicate colorful tattoos from the sun. Tattoos will fade over time, and the sun speeds up the process. If you want a tattoo with a lot of color, then it's best to place it where it can be hidden by clothing. That way, the sun can't get to it as much, keeping it from fading as quickly.[6]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 10 Version 3.jpg
    • The sun also makes your skin age faster, which can decrease the beauty of your tattoo.
  5. Place your tattoo in a discreet place if you need to hide it for a job. If you are worried about hiding your tattoo at your job or from certain people, then put it somewhere that's easily hidden. The torso area is a good option for a hidden tattoo, as you can easily cover up this area as needed.[7]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 11 Version 3.jpg
    • You could also try your upper thigh or shoulder blade, as those areas are usually hidden by professional clothing.

EditWorking within Your Pain Tolerance

  1. Aim for "meatier" areas like the thigh or biceps for the least pain. If it's your first tattoo, these 2 places may be a good choice. They tend to be less painful than other areas because of the muscle.[8]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 12 Version 2.jpg
    • The forearm is also a good choice. However, you may want to skip the inside of the upper arm if you have a low pain tolerance, as it has too many nerve endings to be very comfortable.
  2. Consider the calves or shoulder for pain in the lower- to mid-range. These areas still provide quite a bit of muscle for the needles to hit. They have a bit more bone than the thighs or biceps, but they still have more cushion than other areas.[9]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 13 Version 2.jpg
    • The wrists also fall into this range, but they are slightly more painful.
  3. Avoid bony areas to decrease the pain. Bony areas, such as your feet, hands, ribs, knees, and elbows, are all going to be more painful. A tattoo is going to hurt, unfortunately, but if you get a tattoo in one of these areas, it's likely to hurt more.[10]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 14 Version 2.jpg
    • These areas hurt because you don't have as much flesh between the needle and the bone.
  4. Talk to your tattoo artist about your pain tolerance. The tattoo artist is going to know which areas hurt the most. If you're especially sensitive to pain, ask the artist about good places for you to get a tattoo.[11]
    Choose Tattoo Placement Step 15 Version 2.jpg


  • Be willing to listen to your tattoo artist. Obviously, you should have an idea of where you want it to go, but your tattoo artist will be able to help you with small adjustments that will make the placement much better.
  • Tattoos naturally draw the eye to that part of the body, so choose a place you don't mind people looking at.


  • Listen to your artist if they have objections to your tattoo placement! Though you may have your heart set on a design and placement, they may have valid and sensible reasons for you to think about before permanently altering your body.

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EditSources and Citations

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from How to of the Day