first time getting tattoo guide

Choosing Your First Tattoo Placement: A Straightforward Guide

Selecting the spot for your first tattoo is more than just about the ink; it’s about how and where you choose to express yourself. With personal style and comfort at the forefront, this decision is key to ensuring your tattoo journey starts on the right note. This guide aims to simplify the process, providing insights into popular placements while considering the unique blend of excitement and apprehension that comes with getting inked for the first time.

From understanding pain levels to considering visibility and the practicality of each location, we’ll equip you with the knowledge you need to make a choice you’ll be content with long term. Whether it’s a hidden symbol or a statement piece, we’re here to assist in navigating your options, making the path to your first tattoo as clear and straightforward as possible.

Let’s begin by exploring the various considerations for picking a tattoo spot, emphasizing how each choice reflects your narrative and style.

Understanding Pain Levels: A Key Factor in Tattoo Placement

tattoo pain level guide

One of the first considerations many people have when choosing a tattoo placement is the pain factor. It’s no secret that some areas of the body are more sensitive than others, and since everyone’s pain threshold is different, what might be a breeze for one person could be a challenge for another. Here’s a brief overview to help you gauge what to expect:

Low Pain Placements

  • Upper Arm/Shoulder: Thanks to its thicker skin and fewer nerve endings, it’s considered one of the least painful spots. Ideal for first-timers.
  • Forearm: Offers a relatively low pain experience due to its muscle coverage, making it a popular choice.
  • Outer Thigh: With ample muscle and fat, this area tends to be less sensitive, providing a comfortable option for larger designs.

Moderate Pain Placements

  • Calf: This area offers a mix of sensations, generally moderate in pain but can get more sensitive near the shin and knee.
  • Back of the Neck: While not the most painful, the closer you get to the spine and skull, the higher the sensitivity.
  • Inner Wrist: A favorite for its visibility, though the thin skin and proximity to nerves mean a bit more discomfort.

High Pain Placements

  • Ribcage: Known for its high pain level due to thin skin over bones and minimal fat. It’s a challenging yet popular location.
  • Ankles and Feet: Close to bones and with little muscle or fat, these areas can be quite painful, especially over the ankle bone.
  • Hands and Fingers: High sensitivity due to the thin skin and dense nerve endings makes this an area for the brave.

Understanding pain levels is important, but it’s also important to remember that pain is temporary, while your tattoo will last a lifetime. Choosing a placement that means the most to you, aligns with your pain tolerance, and fits the design you want is key. Always consult with your tattoo artist, who can offer personalized advice based on their experience and your body. You can follow this pain level chart from Healthline for more details.

With this knowledge in hand, let’s move on to exploring the balance between tattoo visibility and privacy, another critical factor in deciding where to place your first tattoo.

Navigating Visibility and Privacy: Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Tattoo

where to pick the placement of tattoo

When planning your first tattoo, considering how visible you want it to be can significantly influence your choice of placement. Whether you’re looking to make a statement or prefer something more personal and discreet, understanding the balance between visibility and privacy is essential. Here’s a breakdown of placements based on visibility levels:

High Visibility Placements

  • Wrists and Hands: Perfect for those who want to showcase their tattoos. However, consider potential impacts on employment and social situations.
  • Forearm: Offers a canvas that’s easily seen, ideal for art you’re eager to display.
  • Neck and Behind the Ear: Highly visible, these areas make a bold statement but can be hidden with the right hairstyle or clothing if needed.

Moderate Visibility Placements

  • Upper Arm and Shoulder: Visible with certain types of clothing, these spots allow for flexibility between showing off and covering up based on the occasion.
  • Calf: Easily covered with pants but also simple to reveal when wearing shorts, offering a good middle ground.
  • Ankle: This spot provides an option for concealment with footwear or the opportunity for display in warmer weather.

Low Visibility Placements for Maximum Privacy

  • Ribcage and Chest: Mostly hidden by clothing, these areas are ideal for tattoos meant for your eyes only or for select viewers.
  • Upper Thigh: Offers privacy and is only visible in intimate settings or if you choose to show it off.
  • Back: A large area that remains unseen unless you decide otherwise, perfect for more extensive, personal pieces.

Considering the Future

Thinking about potential lifestyle or career changes is crucial when choosing your tattoo’s placement. What works for your current situation may not fit with your future self, so consider how a tattoo in a highly visible area might impact your career choices or social life.

Making the Choice That’s Right for You

Ultimately, the decision comes down to what makes you comfortable. It’s important to choose a spot that aligns with your personal comfort levels and confidence. Discussing visibility and privacy concerns with a professional tattoo artist can also provide valuable insights, helping you select the best placement for your design and lifestyle.

By carefully considering how visible you want your tattoo to be, you can ensure that your first tat not only meets your aesthetic desires but also fits seamlessly with your life. Next, let’s delve into the significance of tattoo size and how it influences your choice of placement, design complexity, and overall satisfaction with your first piece of body art.

Deciding on the Size: How It Influences Your Tattoo Experience

tattoo sizing placement

The size of your first tattoo is a pivotal decision that affects not just the design and placement but also your experience during and after the tattooing process. Whether you’re contemplating a subtle symbol or a more elaborate piece, understanding how size impacts your tattoo journey is key. Here’s a look at the different size categories and their considerations:

Small Tattoos

  • Definition and Examples: Small tattoos are typically defined as designs that can fit within a 2×2 inch area, such as tiny symbols, initials, or minimalist art.
  • Advantages: They are less painful due to the shorter tattooing time, easier to conceal, and often more affordable. Small tattoos can be a great way to dip your toes into the tattooing world without committing to a large piece.
  • Considerations: The level of detail that can be achieved is limited, and smaller tattoos may require touch-ups sooner due to potential fading, especially in high-friction areas.

Medium Tattoos

  • Definition and Examples: Medium tattoos might cover a 4×4 inch area or a bit larger, including designs like medium-sized floral arrangements, animals, or detailed symbols.
  • Balance Between Visibility and Versatility: These tattoos strike a balance between making a statement and remaining versatile for placement options. They’re noticeable but can be easily covered if needed.
  • Healing and Care: Medium tattoos require a bit more aftercare than small ones, with a slightly longer healing time. However, they often allow for richer storytelling through more detailed designs.

Large Tattoos

  • Definition and Examples: Large tattoos are extensive pieces such as full sleeves, back pieces, or large thematic compositions that cover significant portions of the body.
  • Commitment and Consideration: Opting for a large tattoo means a significant commitment in terms of time, pain tolerance, and cost of the design. It’s a decision that should be made with careful consideration and planning.
  • Long-Term Planning: Large tattoos often involve multiple sessions and considerable planning, especially if you intend to incorporate future tattoos into a cohesive design. They also demand a higher level of care during the healing process.

Choosing Your Ink: Navigating Your First Tattoo Design

tattoo design choosing

Selecting a design style for your first tattoo is crucial in ensuring your ink reflects your personal taste, values, and the story you want to tell. With a myriad of styles available, understanding the characteristics and appeal of each can guide you toward a choice that resonates deeply. Let’s explore some popular tattoo design styles to help you find your perfect match:


  • Characteristics: Known for its bold lines, vibrant colors, and classic motifs like roses, skulls, and nautical symbols.
  • Appeal: Traditional tattoos carry a timeless quality and are rooted in the rich history of tattooing, making them perfect for those seeking enduring designs with strong visual impact.


  • Characteristics: These tattoos mimic the look of real-life images, focusing on detail and shading to create lifelike depictions of people, animals, and landscapes.
  • Appeal: Ideal for those who wish to capture the essence of a photograph or a real-life subject, realism tattoos require a skilled artist to execute the complex details accurately.


  • Characteristics: Mimicking watercolor paintings, these tattoos feature vibrant colors and a blend of hues without solid outlines, creating a fluid and artistic look.
  • Appeal: For art enthusiasts seeking a standout piece, watercolor tattoos offer a unique and colorful approach to body art, though they may fade faster than other styles.


  • Characteristics: Characterized by black lines and shapes that form intricate patterns and symbols, often rooted in specific indigenous cultures and traditions.
  • Cultural Significance: It’s important to approach tribal tattoos with respect for their cultural origins, making them a meaningful choice for those connecting with heritage or appreciating traditional art forms.


  • Characteristics: Comprises geometric shapes and lines to create both simple and intricate patterns, ranging from minimalist designs to complex, symbolic compositions.
  • Appeal: Geometric tattoos appeal to those looking for a modern, clean design that can carry personal or mystical significance, offering versatility in both small and large scales.

Japanese (Irezumi)

  • Characteristics: Features traditional Japanese motifs like koi fish, dragons, and cherry blossoms, characterized by detailed scenes and vibrant colors.
  • Appeal: Japanese tattoos are ideal for those attracted to the aesthetic and narrative depth of Japanese culture and folklore, often designed to tell a story or convey specific meanings.

Making Your Choice

Selecting a tattoo design style is a personal journey that should align with your aesthetic preferences and the meanings you wish to express. Investing time in researching different styles and consulting with a tattoo artist can ensure that your first tattoo not only looks great but also holds personal significance. You can also consult and design with tattoo artists online. You can visit our page where we recommend artists that offer commissions.

By understanding the diversity of tattoo styles, you’re better equipped to make an informed decision that reflects your unique identity and the stories you wish to tell through your body art.

Having explored the foundational elements of choosing your first tattoo, including placement, pain levels, visibility, size, and design styles, you’re now ready to embark on your tattoo journey with confidence and clarity. Remember, your first tattoo is a profound form of personal expression—a piece of art that will accompany you throughout life’s adventures.