There are a number of ways tattoos can go wrong and these artists are here to share their experiences of how and when they messed up!
"On Friday the 13th we do a tattoo special. I had been working for about 12 hours and I go to tattoo this girl.
She gets Finn from Adventure Time and the word 'thirteen'. As I'm tattooing the stencil starts to rub away and I realize I spelled 'thirirt' and I stop freak the heck out. I tell the girl and she agrees to let me cover it with roses. The tattoo turned out pretty good, and she has been back several times since surprisingly.
I just can't believe I misspelled 'thirteen' on Friday the 13th when I had been tattooing it on people all day. There's another one coming up next week and I'm dreading it. There won't be any words on the flash sheets this year."
"I was tattooing a guy's shoulder blade, so he was sitting upright facing away from me. It wasn't a big tattoo or anything, otherwise, I usually lay people down for this, and it was busy, so just sit down and bang it out.
Get about a third of my way into it, his skin goes clammy cold - big warning sign - so I start asking him if he's okay, and of course, he wants to be all tough guy about it and assures me he's fine. His face isn't too pale, so I go to start another line. He stands straight up like the Manchurian candidate, and like that, he's out. He tips forward away from me, I can't grab him fast enough with a tattoo machine in one hand and his chair in my way, and he crashes face first like a plank of wood hitting the floor.
The only thing this poor dude had going for him was that he had a baseball cap pulled low and the brim saved his face from hitting full force. Everybody saw this, the whole shop, the lobby full of people, they probably heard it outside. I'm shedding gloves and putting stuff down, and my client is twitching on the floor like a fried egg. We get to him, roll him on his side, and he starts waking up.
The first thing he says really loud, 'mmmmmMMMM PANCAKES!' Everybody burst out laughing. My client is still pretty out of it, so he's coming to, on the floor, and everyone is doubled over in laughter.
It took us a while to get him sorted and finally explain to him what happened. He had no explanation for the pancakes."
"I was tattooing this girl for the first time on my own and I was pretty scared.
Anyhow, I was going pretty strong and everything looked pretty good so my boss stepped out to grab food really fast. Right after she leaves, the light she had clamped to my station fell and the bulb exploded on my client's back upon impact and caught her shirt on fire. She later said the lamp was there over a year and never fell. Gee, I was so lucky. During the commotion, I tattooed a really nasty line right through the flowers I was tattooing on my client.
Yeah, it took months to get over that for me. She was cool though. I ran her to my house, hung out for a bit, and gave her one of my cute shirts to replace hers. It could have been a lawsuit or something, but thankfully she was cool. It's not the worst story from that shop, but it was definitely the biggest immediate 'oh no!' I had there. Thankfully my boss fixed it up for her too, I was too nervous and shaking from that for the rest of the day. I have a cortisol disorder and stress like that always screws me up for long periods. Could have been worse though."
"When I was getting my first tattoo, the artist was doing his thing and quickly turned around with the active machine in his hand and the clip cord got caught on my foot. This action ripped the machine from his hand and actually stuck him in the arm with the dirty needle he had been using on me. He was not happy.
After a few questions about my medical history, he finished the tattoo.
The funniest part is that the artist (strangely) didn't have a single tattoo on his body before I walked in, and now he has a little dot on his arm."
"My biggest freakout moment was when my guy was working on a piece for my left sleeve.
As anyone who has sleeves, full body, sweater effect skin art knows, sometimes the person getting inked just has a bad day. Meaning, that day, you're not into getting the ink. It's one of those 'You just don't want to be there' feelings. And on top of that feeling, I was getting work done on my armpits. Anyone who has had their armpits inked knows how it can be.
Now, combine these two...
Anyhow, my guy is working on the inside bicep area and this particular piece is going about halfway into my armpit. Just being in that position for any length of time is taxing. Add in the fact that I just wasn't 'feeling it' that day. So, a couple of hours of work on that part of my arm made it super tender and it swelled up pretty bad. He moves to another area for a while and decides he needs to hit the pit again.. well, I wasn't expecting that and when the needle touched, I jerked and his machine tore about a half of a fingernail-sized chunk of skin out of my brand freakin' new ink. I felt like a jerk for ruining this guy's hard work. I said to him, 'Man, I'm sorry dude. But I do think it's best we stop today. I can't do this.' He's super cool about it and says it's no problem. I come back in a few weeks and he finishes that area and touches up over the fresh fingernail-sized scar. Can't even tell it happened. In fact, I don't remember exactly where it was at nor can I find it."
"I've been tattooing for almost 17 years.
Last winter, I was doing a very small and simple tattoo on a young woman's calf.
Usually when a client is about to lose consciousness - and it does happen - I can tell. They get this weird cross-eyed look, their skin gets sweaty but cold, they talk nonsense. When I know it's coming, there are steps I can take to prevent it, or at least prevent them from injuring themselves.
In this case, none of that happened - and besides, I was looking down at her leg, not up at her face.
Girl faints and straight-up faceplants onto the hard tile floor. There's a loud 'THUNK' like a watermelon being dropped into the bed of a pickup truck.
So, I get down there to check her out. Unconscious.
I scream at her, 'Can you hear me?' Nothing.
So I look at her friend and ask, 'What's her name?' She responds saying her name is Tasha.
'Tasha! Can you hear me?' Nothing...
And then I see it. The huge, dark, crimson pool of blood spreading around her head.
Just so much blood.
Oh, this is terrible.
Dead white girl in the tattoo shop. Bearded, tattooed, scary, outlaw biker tattooist. I'm going to prison right freaking now. I hope I look good in orange.
I look back at her friend. 'You! Call 911. The address here is 123 Main St!'
Just then, Tasha begins to stir and make weird animal noises.
'Hi, Tasha! You're gonna be okay, you've lost consciousness. Let's keep you right here on the floor so you can't get hurt, okay? Are you breathing alright?' I got her turned onto her back with the wound not draining into her eyes or nose, and gently started to clean blood off her so we could see the damage. She's talking okay, making sense, breathing and heart rate are at least close to normal, she isn't nauseous, and has no complaints other than a severely bumped noggin.
Two fire trucks and an ambulance arrive at the shop. There are a total of seven EMTs in my shop. Tasha goes to the hospital and gets 10 stitches in her head.
All licensed tattooists in my state are required to be First Aid and CPR certified, but luckily I didn't have to use the training in this case. I have to renew these certifications every year.
Getting tattooed by an amateur unlicensed scratcher without the proper training can lead to death. Had Tasha been getting tattooed by some amateur at a house party where there were illegal substances on the table and nobody was willing to call 911, things could have been a lot worse.
All is well that ends well: Tasha returned two weeks later so I could finish her tattoo. She did not faint again. She left a happy customer."
"We received stick and poke tattoos at my boss' birthday party one year. Her best friend was a shop girl at a well-known tattoo shop in our city, and she brought some of her tattoo artist friends along. I have tattoos (never had a stick and poke) and my boss asked me if I wanted one from her friend. I said sure. The needle was pretty impressive. It was like a real machine, but without the motor. It had a nice weight to it and was super nice.
She sets everything up and I'm pretty shocked when I see my ex-boss (she used to run the cheese department) - a 36-year-old woman who said she doesn't want any tattoos - get a stick and poke in our friend's living room. It probably had something to do with her partying. She lets me design a simple heart, and the girl goes ahead at tattoos it on. She does mine second. She keeps telling me that she can only do these things in her current mental and physical state. Her tattoo artist friend designed mine, but she ended up kinda messing it up (it's the number 17 and she elongated the top of the 1), but I honestly don't care.
The girl has tattooed a few more people and I wanna say an hour has passed and my ex-boss wants to add an 'I' and a chunk of cheese to the tattoo in order to read, 'I Love Cheese.' I have to keep redesigning the cheese for her until she's satisfied (she wanted it to have the holes 'correct'). The girl who's tattooing is pretty screwed up at this point. She's been getting progressively worse. Anyway, she tattoos it on there and definitely misses some of the main holes she wanted, but she does it to the best of her ability and does a really decent job for her state of mind.
I just remember leaving the party and seeing her lying on patio furniture, holding a bottle, with a blanket over her face. Definitely thought she was regretting it big time, and I felt bad.
Turns out she's fine with it. Just a little bummed no one told her not to soak it for two months after getting it."
"I met a friend of my wife recently when we were on vacation in another state.
I'm looking at his tattoos and one is supposed to say: 'To thy own self, be true.' But what it actually says is: 'To thy own self, be ture.'
So I asked him, 'Hey, is that supposed to be an inside joke?' He says, 'What do you mean?' and seemed kind of offended...
I said: 'True' is spelled wrong.
He responds by saying: 'No it's... Oh Crap! I'm changing my review on Yelp! I've had this tattoo for two years and no one has ever said anything.'
At that point, we all burst into laughter and he's now determined to get it covered."
"Well, I have had to do a lot of messed up tattoos for people. This includes the time I had to tattoo a butterfly on a woman's ankle. I do so many butterflies it's crazy so it's nothing I couldn't handle. I sketch it out, she loves it. I pull everything out and get ready to shave and/or clean her skin. She pulls her foot out of her boots and Jesus Christmas, that smell. I wear combat boots, I have since I was 12 years old, so I know this new fashion thing, girls wear boots, but Jesus the smell was so bad. I have never ever smelt something so bad.
The woman rolls up her stocking and her feet were horrible. The toenails were long, yellow and weird. There was black stuff between her toes. I get my gloves and start to draw on her ankle. I gag, she screams at me how rude I am. I tell her I just ate something bad so I get a mask. I am finally finished with sketching it out and she's complaining how I'm rude and how she's not going to tip me. Fine, whatever you say.
As I start to ink, she suddenly moves away. Thankfully I didn't hurt her or mess up, but she did start to bleed pretty badly all over the chair and the stool. I grab some gauze and help her out. She's screaming for my manager, so I go get him. He helps and tells her if she didn't move that wouldn't have happened. I didn't end up finishing the tattoo. No, I left that to my boss.
When he was finished, the lady said I should be fired. She said she will blast me on the Internet. My boss said that her feet were so disgusting. He said when he grabbed her feet she almost kicked him too. It was just an all around horrible experience."
"I went to get a tattoo on a whim.
It was to be my second tattoo, which was a silhouette of a Douglas Fir, the same one that is in Oregon's license plate. Pretty straightforward.
So the guy prints out a stencil and applied it to my arm, and gets started on it. Right off the bat, I notice he's pressing pretty hard, and there's more blood than there was with my first tattoo. I don't say anything because I haven't had this much filling done before, I think maybe it's normal.
About halfway through, a guy comes up reeking of a horrible smell and says something along the lines of, 'Hey man, I'm about to leave. How much longer are you gonna be?' The tattoo artist says, 'Just a couple more minutes, it won't be long.' Then he starts going faster and pressing harder.
This is the pivotal moment for me.
Maybe 10 more minutes pass before the smelly man comes up again. 'Hey dude, I really gotta go. Are you almost done?'
Homeboy kicks it up another notch. To wrap things up, I ended up with a scarred arm, round blobby tree branches, and he ended up with no tip.
Just make sure to research tattoo parlors before you go, even on a whim.
I also forgot to mention his kid was 'DJing' horrible, mind-numbingly loud music, and his even younger kid kept running out from a back room causing his mother or sister to chase him back into the room."
"I woke up in the middle of the night, sat up, and said 'Oh NOOO,' as I suddenly realized that 47 in Roman numerals is NOT written out 'XXXXVII', which is what I tattooed on someone earlier that week. I am usually really strict about my clients, and usually, a coworker will spell check EVERYTHING, even if I'm 100% sure already.
This dude gave me a lot of trust and neither of us thought anything about it when I had the design printed out.
I emailed him the next morning apologizing, offered him a cover up or free work (I tattooed him before and we talked about more plans in the future). He didn't even mind, and came back several more times for other stuff."
"So a family friend of mine wanted to get this patriotic bald eagle tattoo. He goes to the tattoo shop with cold hard cash and arrived very early. The stencil was awesome, so they had this so planned out. They said, 'We are still working on a few clients, we will be done within the hour.'
What do he and his buddies do? They go to a bar and nearly blow everything (I'm talking about a grand or so). They come back less than sober with less than $100. So what does he decide to do? Oh, he got a bird alright. Tweety bird
You bleed a TON of you get a tattoo while you're in an altered state.
The tattoo artist did it anyways cause he felt bad for him."
"I spent ages picking who I wanted to tattoo a detailed historical biological drawing of an octopus.
I finally pick a guy and decide I want it on my forearm, so he needs to redraw it to make it more narrow. Two hours into the tattoo I'm looking down at my arm and counting the tentacles. One, two, three, four, five, six. Ugh, I count again. And again.
Eventually, I stop him and point out that an octopus has eight tentacles and he's like oh yeah.
All the other artists in the studio start giving him crap and saying they should just tattoo on a shark and say it ate the other two tentacles, meanwhile I am freaking out and all I can think of is that 'no regerts' tattoo.
He stops and free draws on two more tentacles and did such a great job. He was super apologetic and ended up giving me a huge discount for messing it up and taking longer than he should have. Love the end result and have a story that people find funny."
"This happened in a shop where I used to work.
The guy comes into the shop and browses the flash, finally settling on a skull wearing a stars and bars 'do-rag'. Then he goes off to the artist's room and they get to work. Shop owner peeks in at what's going on, then just goes about his business. They finish up, and the guy leaves the shop and he is stoked, so all is well.
Artist comes out to wait for his next appointment and the owner says to him: 'You colored the flag backward. The blue goes behind the stars.'
The artist's brain just couldn't comprehend what was just said to him. Complete vapor lock.
He grabs the flash sheet and stares at it for a second until he screamed..."
"A friend of a friend decided to try to be a tattoo artist a few years back and was posting on Facebook and started a group and everything trying to recruit clients.
He bought a used tattoo gun online and was tattooing out of his kitchen. I'd been to their house and let me tell you, it was not clean. He also just threw a Ziploc bag over the gun as protection. There were pictures of him tattooing himself and his friends with his cat wandering around in the background.
His artwork was tragic, and his lettering looked like crap - one of the tattoos had a word with double e's and they looked different. It was a disaster.
He claimed he was lined up to apprentice with a reputable artist in town. I decided to contact the shop to see if it was true and to voice my concerns. They had no idea what I was talking about but they gave me the info for the public health office, so I called and reported the guy.
His wife was furious about the situation and went on Facebook bad mouthing the tattoo shop (who had contacted them directly as well). I don't think they knew I was the one that reported them. I didn't care if they found out anyway."
"My sister got her first tattoo on her spine at a tattoo shop with a less than stellar reputation.
She got a Lilly and on the stem, it's supposed to say 'Hope' in a whimsical, flowing font. The 'H' in 'Hope' is not long enough making it say 'Nope.' Neither her nor the artist noticed and she's been proudly showing it off."
"I had a tattoo done without reservation in Japan.
I went in with my own design, they were really cool about it, and we understood each other just enough to sort it all out.
It was on my upper outer thigh, and maybe an hour or two in, I twitched a bit. It didn't hurt too much and it was a surprise to me but he told me to try and not do it again, so I tensed up to try and stop myself. Then he asked me to relax, and I accidentally kicked a short while later.
I just heard him say, 'Oh.' I asked him if it was okay. I didn't understand enough Japanese so he just said, 'Probably.'
It healed really well and looks fantastic and I can't even see where he went wrong...if he did. But I was panicking for a good hour after that."