Trust With Complex, Custom Tattoo Designs


Designing complex, custom, large-scale tattoos presents more artistic variables to contend with. This increase in complexity often makes it harder to predict how successful each aspect of the design will be on a 3-dimensional body surface.


This element of unpredictability can be accounted for with a multi-faceted and fluid design process. It’s often necessary to combine pre-drawn concept sketches with on-skin marker and pen drawing prior to starting actual tattooing.


With this more open-ended approach, the design is allowed to evolve as needed in response to challenges that arise. The artist is freed from the rigidity of a pre-drawn stencil to solve these challenges as they occur.


This means that the finished marker drawing on skin is often different than the pre-made sketches. It also means that the client will not be able to see an exact finished version of the tattoo on paper before starting. Which, of course, requires much more trust from the client, and more communication from the artist about what they intend the finished result to look like.


Even still, the client may form a different mental image of the finished result than the artist has tried to describe from their own imagination. This is just one of the accepted risks of most complex, custom tattoo projects.


To put this risk in perspective, an example of the opposite would be “flash” tattooing, where the client picks a completely finished design ahead of time that the tattooer makes an exact replica of. 


So in contrast to a complex custom tattoo presenting many artistic variables, a simple request such as “small red rose on blank area of skin with no existing tattoos around it” presents almost zero variables or unforeseen design challenges, can be pre-drawn with an exact stencil, and thus involves very low risk and uncertainty.


Ultimately, the client must decide how much risk or uncertainty they’re comfortable with and tailor their tattoo request accordingly. Likewise, a knowledgeable tattooer should be able to communicate to the client up front how much risk, trust, and complexity is involved in any request.