Tattoo Design Clarity and Size


Less subject matter, at larger sizes, is the general rule for a successful tattoo composition. Success means the ability to withstand the aging process by being clear, bold, and readable at a distance.


To achieve this, subjects within the overall design must be sized large enough to provide adequate space between details, in order to allow the tattoo to undergo its natural aging process.


As a tattoo ages it blurs out a bit, losing sharpness, and its colors fade a bit, losing contrast. So if it contains elements at too small a size, or too many tightly grouped details, the overall appearance becomes muddy and cluttered looking.


Therefore, to keep a tattoo looking great for the maximum amount of time, the artist’s design challenge is usually to “say more, with less.” Small elements and details must be used strategically.


All tattoos, whether big and bold or with small “risky” details, will age and deteriorate over time. Repeated exposure to lots of sunlight accelerates this process. The aging effects will simply be more quickly and easily noticeable on any tattoo with a busy design or tiny details. They’ll also be more quickly and easily noticeable on pastel colors than on bold primary colors or dark shades.


Therefore all tattoos can be refreshed and made new again with a re-work session after 10-15 years. Tattoos that are likely to need this maintenance sooner are any that see a lot of sun exposure, are composed of busy designs full of small elements and tiny details, or that feature lots of light pastel colors.