Research from Fox News suggests that approximately 21% of adults within the United States have at least a single tattoo, with 14% sporting more than one piece of body art. Though tattoos are much more common in the US today, there is a small portion of tattooed Americans that say they regret their decision to get a tattoo. Indeed, at least 25% of tattooed Americans say that they dislike their tattoos, which leads many of them to seek tattoo removal or other cover up options.

Though there are more tattoo removal options available today than ever before, getting a permanent piece of art like a tattoo shouldn’t be taken lightly. In order to avoid regret, it’s crucial to pick a tattoo design that you’re confident you’ll enjoy forever. Part of starting a life-long love affair with your body art will be up to the skill of the artist you choose, however most of it will come down to your decisions. So how do you select a tattoo that you’re sure you’re not going to regret? Following are some steps to consider before you go under the needle.

Step 1: Decide on a Design

A tattoo design should never be something you choose at the last minute from the walls of your local parlor. No matter what, the aim should be to select something that has personal meaning to you — a piece of art that invokes a positive emotional response, or a beautiful piece that you’ve admired for years. You may even find it helps to go and speak to tattoo artists about your thoughts before you even consider getting a tattoo.

Make sure that you stay away from the “flash” art shown in tattoo studios, unless you’re looking for early inspiration. Any tattoo artist will tell you that the best tattoos feature unique and original designs created to reflect the person behind the art. Browse online for the work of artists that have impressed you in the past, and use elements of their pieces to create something that’s personal to you.

Think about any written word for twice as long as pictures. Check the meaning of the words and ideograms you’re considering using, and choose quotes carefully. The last thing you want is to be stuck with misspelled words, or a phrase that conjures up an alternate meaning you weren’t aware of.

Step 2: Pick the Perfect Position

The area in which you’re hoping to get your tattoo will have some impact on the design you choose. When picking a placement, think about how likely it is that you will need to cover the body area you’ve chosen with clothing, and the career options that may affect your choice. While 73% of Americans suggest that they would hire staff members with visible ink, certain designs may have an impact on your ability to pursue particular occupations.

For a first tattoo, it’s usually a good idea to choose an area that’s easy to cover, and think about the way the art will look as you progress through life. Getting a tattoo on your stomach when it’s flat and toned may seem like a great idea, but it’s important to remember that your skin, and your body is unlikely to stay the same as you age. When choosing the perfect placement, consider how much sun exposure your tattoo will get, and how quickly it will fade. Some of the most common places to get a tattoo include the arms, chest, ankles, back, and wrist.

Step 3: Know Your Career Options

While only 4% of tattooed individuals feel they face discrimination in the workplace as a result of their body art choices, it’s worth knowing the occupations in which ink is more freely accepted. The occupation with the highest percentage of tattooed individuals is currently the US military, and soldiers in the U.S. army have recently seen an update in rules and regulations which permit them to cover most of their bodies with tattoos if they so desire.  

A change to the Army Regulation 670-1 has eliminated the rules surrounding the number and size of tattoos that a military service member can have. Of course, there still remains to be some exceptions, and soldiers cannot have neck, hand, face, or head tattoos, with the exception of a ring tattoo on one finger. Similarly, the army will not permit racist, sexist, or derogatory tattoos.

Step 4: Make Sure It’s What You Want

Finally, before you sit down in a tattoo parlor, make sure you tattoo design is something you want. You’ll have some time before you commit when the tattoo artist will place a transfer of the design onto your body before they begin using the needle and ink; this will be your final chance to ensure you’re happy with the placement, size, and design.

Plenty of people regret their decision to commit to ink, and getting a tattoo should never be a passive choice. Think about every aspect of what you’re doing, and remember that it’s your body – you have the power to change your mind.

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