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Tattoo FAQ 04: Getting a 'small' or 'subtle' tattoo

Original question from our visitor: i'm considering getting a tattoo on the back of my shoulder. i want something subtle, which can preferably only been seen when looked at closely. i was thinking about getting a small design which looks a bit like lace with butterflies and lilys. i was thinking about getting it done in white but i've heard that some tattoo artists won't do this and i've also heard that they fade easily. can you give me information about this? and any ideas on what i should do?

Ok. The first thing that I thought when I read your message is why bother getting a tattoo at all? Subtle is fine but its sounds as if your going for something that is not even "there" enough to be worth it. To me, it sounds like you want the best of both worlds; to be tattooed but not really. Maybe ask yourself why you are so keen on it being so subtle? Could it be you really arent ready for the commitment? Are you afraid of something? And if you are, what is it thats at the core of that fear? The last thing any artists wants, at least in my experience of asking many of them in interviews, "Whats a horrible customer to you?" More than I can count, the main thing that irked the artist was someone who wanted a tattoo but it had to be "small" or "subtle" or so it couldnt be seen or hardly seen... I mean whats the sense then? I dont mean to sound harsh here but I have a full sleeve, full back, and most of a leg done. I find it difficult to listen to folks who are afraid to commit to one real visible tattoo as if it is something to be ashamed of and hidden away.
Ok, now that my hackles are soothed down...
The color white. That is for me and my husband what we call the "Mother F-ing painful color". The particles are said to be the biggest of all the colors and when it is being pushed into the skin, it hurts. Most of the time, white is used to blend colors, or to highlight color that is already laid on the skin. It being the lightest color is usually used last when you have already sat though some time of being inked and depending how long you have been sitting, your endorphines may have pretty much run out and now your raw, irritable, cramped from sitting still and in a weird position and its just no fun. I have never known a tattoo to be completely done in white, and personally like I said, why bother then? As for fading, I have a large full moon with lots of white in its shading, and its about 15 years old and still looks awesome. Good Old Rick Harnowski work.
Maybe go for something that is done in a shading mix of black and white, or "black and grey". I have seen the most beautiful Wolf done by Julie Moon years ago that was on this girls hip. It looked like a pencil drawing and it was wispy and subtle but you knew what it was at the same time. Awesome work. There are many ways to be subtle but with attitude. Check out artists near you to see if they have a portfolio that includes this type of work or look for someone who specializes in it. But please oh please make sure you really want a tattoo. Nothing is worse for the tattoo world than someone who doesnt like what they got and tells everyone about it.

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