We've all seen bad, cringe-inducing tattoos in the wild. From crossed-out names to bad tribal prints, there's never a shortage of ugly body art out there. But sometimes there comes a tattoo idea so bad that even the paid tattoo artist can't help but say, "Are you serious about this, dude?"
Well, these are those tattoo artists' stories on the good, the bad, and utterly ugly tats they've had to do.
Only In A Smalltown
“The first tattoo I ever got to do in a shop was a cover-up of a woman’s name, let’s say, Amy, on this guy’s chest. The man explained to me that she cheated on him with some guy named “Keith”.
I lived in a somewhat small town, and the very next day this couple comes in wanting the woman’s named tattooed on the guy’s butt. The guy who owned the shop was gonna let me do this as my second tattoo seeing as he was pleased with the one from the day before.
I asked for her name and when she said Amy I laughed inside to myself thinking there was no way it was the same one. Well, the guy’s name was Keith, he told me… He said as I was shaving his butt cheek. I couldn’t help but laugh and said I was giggling because I’d never shaved a butt cheek before.
Turns out they had only been together for the past few weeks but were madly in love.”
This Guy Finally Got The Picture
“Former tattoo artist; a man who looked to be in his late 50s with no other tattoos came in asking for a black widow on the tip of his peen. He said he wanted to surprise his wife when she got back from her trip that weekend. He didn’t seem to be under the influence of anything fueling him to make this ridiculous choice, so I proceeded to tell him it was a horrible idea. Peen skin is not the same as other areas you’d get a tattoo. It would be painful and he would not want to use it while the tattoo was healing. I thought of everything I could think of for him to logically come to the conclusion that it was a bad idea. No dice. I could also tell he was getting off on trying to make me uncomfortable (small female, mid-20s at the time). I finally said sure and threw out an astronomical handling fee. He frowned and finally walked out the door.”
This Tattoo Sounds Sick Bro
This was about a year ago
There I am doing my thing in my shop when a lovely young man walks in and asks if we do custom designs
‘Yes’ I reply
So he pulls out a very detailed piece of paper upon which there was a drawing
A drawing of Jesus on the cross getting his peen sucked by Judas
I’m not in the habit of questioning my clients but I had to ask why he wanted it
‘My parents are Christian’ was his reply.”
“He had a female client come in and ask for a tattoo that started on her pelvic bone and ended on her junk. He said she kinda shifted around in the chair as he was doing it, expected given the sensitivity of the area. But then she started moaning and arching her back and being clearly aroused. He wasn’t sure but thought she might have gotten about partway through the tattooing.
After he was done she asked him very pointed questions about wanting to meet up for a drink later but he noped out of there hard. She was just too sleazy and involved him in some weird kinky thing without his consent. Bad juju.”
The Things We Do For Friends
“I witnessed a tattoo artist attempt to talk a guy out of a tattoo while getting one. This guy who was maybe in his early 30s came in. He was super awkward and had a few other people with him. They were obviously wasted. He explained to the artist he wanted a hello kitty tramp stamp the size of a cd. His friends all laughed and started to record this guy. The artist asked him why and he said his friends thought it was funny. The artist tried to talk him out of it. He ended up getting the tattoo. I think about this poor guy who was obviously doing this to fit in with his crowd of friends and how he has to live with a tramp stamp of hello kitty.”
You Know…Something Cool
“Opposite end of this spectrum. I was 19 and my buddy from the dorms in college decides he wants a tattoo on his stomach of his initials. Think Tupac ‘Thug Life’ tattoo but like gothic lettering initial or something. Sounded stupid to me but whatever, I am not a tattoo guy. But, we go into this tattoo shop that was pretty popular at the beach near us and he tells the guy what he wants and is looking at pricing and fonts etc. But, the tattoo guy starts trying to talk him out of getting his initials and instead says he needs something more ‘You know eye-grabbing like VIOLENCE, or RAGE, or MAYHEM, you know something cool.’ His exact words and suggestions. Strangest interaction by anyone trying to sell anything I have ever seen. To also put some perspective on this, this was 1999 and my buddy had a pooka shell necklace, frosted tips hair and wore cargo shorts and Ralph Lauern Polos every day of his life. He was not the ‘I need a tattoo that says VIOLENCE on my stomach’ kind of guy and that was pretty obvious.”
The Story Of Chicken Boy
“Not a tattoo artist, but I was told several different stories by one.
First was the guy that wanted the Playboy bunny tattooed on each of his cheeks. The artist in question will not do face or neck tattoos, so he would refuse, but the guy would come back every few weeks and ask again. Finally, he came back and asked for something else. The artist goes in the back to get the art, and when he comes back, the guy is upfront with a bucket of KFC, and there’s breading all over the floor. Not just that, but the guy is walking all over it, grinding it into the floor. Artist says you know what, I’ll do the bunnies for you after all. That guy is now known as Chicken Boy around town.
The second was a real muscular guy, the type that spends more time in the gym than anywhere. Tells the artist he wants a chain that goes all around his neck. Artist tells him, that’s a bad idea, it’ll hurt like heck when I get to your collar bone, but the guy says he can take it. Artist knows better but decides to draw up two versions: one he shows the guy that looks like what he wants; the other where it goes up to the collar bone, so it looks like the chains are coming out of his skin. That one he doesn’t show guy. He starts tattooing, and when he gets to the collar bone, the guy starts crying like a baby. Artist says you know what, I have an idea of how to do this if you want me to finish.
Last was the guy that wanted his girlfriend’s name tattooed on him. Artist doesn’t like tattooing names and will do his best to talk people out of it, but he will do them. The guy starts talking to the girlfriend on his phone while the artist is doing his thing, then the guy starts crying. Really crying. Artist is confused, as he has a light touch, and this shouldn’t hurt very much. Then he realizes while inking that the guy is crying because his girlfriend had broken up with him, and thought calling her while getting her name tattooed would convince her to take him back. It didn’t.”
Probably Not A Good Back Tattoo Idea…
“Not an artist but, a friend in college wanted to get ‘Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ on her back since she loved the poem by Dylan Thomas. The problem was it was too long so she was going to shorten it to ‘Do not go gentle.’ I had to convince her that was probably not a great idea.”
Here Comes The Taste Police
“I was getting work done and the receptionist came in to speak with the artist. She had someone at the front desk looking for a quote on “Barbed wire starting around his wrist and wrapping around his arm all the way up to the shoulder,”
‘How about nothing, because that’s stupid and I won’t do it.’
‘Oh, uh, okay, I’ll tell him.’
He looked at me and said, ‘Sometimes you have to be the good taste police. I did a Nike Swoosh once when I was broke and I still regret it.'”
One Smart And Sensible Tattoo Artist
“This isnt my story, but a story I was told at a bar. I was talking to a guy while smoking and he was a tattoo artist. He told me he had a female client who wanted a neck tattoo that said ‘Forget ya’ll losers, your man chose me.’ He said that he delicately, as politely as humanly possible, got her to agree to just the words ‘He chose me.’ He said the kicker was telling the woman that the tattoo would be meaningful in different social situations. Such as a wedding per se, He chose me, or when going to church, He chose me. The woman agreed and got it tattooed.”
Ah Yes, Obscure Cultural References
“I know a guy with a left shark tramp stamp. It was apparently a meme about a bad backup dancer at Katy Perry’s halftime show performance? To me, it just looks like a janky cartoon shark welcoming you into this poor guy’s bum.”
Saved His Life And Dignity!
“Oh, boy…I was traveling through Germany in my late teens and had a few too many pints when I stumbled into a tattoo shop demanding a flaming pentagram, held by a demon’s hand, with a banner of my name under it. I’d been carrying a sketch for MONTHS…the shop owner asked me,’Bist du dir SEHR sicher?’ and I kinda had a moment there…I said…sorta tentatively, yes, and he turned me away immediately. German for ‘Too inebiaited to consent.’ Saved my life!”
10 Years Later And Still No Monster
“A friend of mine from my high school days is currently covered in absolutely ridiculous tattoos. Some aren’t that dumb per se, but the reasoning is just awful.
The kid was a real petrolhead. In high school, he thought if he got a tattoo of a Monster Energy logo that Monster would sponsor the car he was trying to build.
Ten years later, he does not have a deal with Monster Energy.”
Some People Never Learn!
“This was actually a post tattoo proclamation.
A woman came in with her boyfriend wanting his name with a crown over It on her wrist. I tried to talk her out of it but she insisted so, my general policy is to do the tattoo well, maybe with a thinner line weight so it’s easier to cover later, but at least it’ll be a good tattoo.
So, fast forward to after the tattoo, she’s all wrapped up, ready to go, and she asks me to look at another tattoo to see how much it would cost to cover.
Turns around, pulls up her shirt, and lo behold, there, across her lower back, in HUGE letters: some OTHER dude’s name, WITH A CROWN OVER IT!!!!!!!
WHAT!?!?!? Are you KIDDING ME????? WHY WOULD YOU WANT THAT???
Some People Just Love To Be Edgy
“Several years ago I tattooed the words ‘Jeffrey Dahmer’ in lousy scratchy writing on a girl’s neck for her 18th birthday. She had been coming into the shop a lot with her friends as they got tattooed and talking about it. She had the letters drawn exactly as she wanted them and everything. The answer was always the same. ‘No flipping way.’ When she finally turned 18 she came in with a few friends and asked again. I told her politely to get lost with her shenanigans. A few minutes later her friend told her he could just tattoo it with the tattoo tool he got off eBay at home. I made the hard choice to do the tattoo to ensure that it wouldn’t get infected or be all scarred up if she ever decided to have it removed.
It’s been circulating around the internet for several years. I still feel lousy about it”
Hey This Thing Is Backwards, Bro!
“My favorite tattoo mess-up story was when someone I worked with had some real basic-bro friend come in and he wanted an ambigram. Which is a word that looks like a different word from different angles, but they’re kinda hard to read from any angle.
So anyway, stencils cause a reverse image when you apply them like a stamp. So you have to reverse the image in Photoshop before you print the stencil. It’s an easy step to forget but you usually notice when the image is freaking backward on the person. Anyways she couldn’t read this ambigram thing he brought her, so she didn’t notice when she put it on him backward. Then he approved it in the mirror because I guess he didn’t realize mirrors reverse things, so it looked fine to him! Then it was this big, black-fill piece on his arm. And even after that, he didn’t notice it was backward for several days and came back into the shop like ‘Hey this freakin’ thing is backward bro!” She had to give him a whole tribal sleeve for free to cover it up and make it up to him.”
Not Doing Couple Tattoos Anymore
“Back when I was an apprentice, I tattooed matching pieces for a young couple. It was Arabic text, running from the nape of the neck right down the spine to the coccyx. They initially wouldn’t tell me what I said, but after I refused to tattoo it without knowing, they told me.
Hers said ‘You are the jelly to my peanut butter’ and his piece said the reverse. They’d been together for two months…
I don’t do couple/relationship tattoos anymore.”
29-Year-Old Me Hates 19-Year-Old Me
“Not a tattoo artist but I am an idiot. I was 19 and super into piercings and tattoos. I’d had both my nips double pierced, a plus sign on one side and an X the other. Decided the finishing touch would be to get the Punisher skull tattooed above the diagonal piercings, skull, and crossbones. So cool. Told the guy what I wanted and he flat out said ‘No way am I doing that corny stuff,’ I was mad but wanted a tattoo so instead got the skull on my calf. 19-year-old me was ticked off it didn’t happen, but 29-year-old me is so grateful that guy didn’t let me go through with it.”
Lousy Tattoos For Lousy People
“When I was an apprentice I just got handed a lot of assignments I couldn’t turn down. The one that stands out is a couple who got enormous tattoos that just said “dysfunctional” shoulder to shoulder, in the giant font. They were white but it was in the style of those large, arching Chicano family name style tattoos. I was handed the assignment of tattooing the woman of the couple because the boyfriend ‘didn’t want another man touching his woman’ and I was the only female with a slot. Also they just like sucked as people. Were on too many muscle relaxants and kept slipping off the chairs and jolting up, twitching. They said lots of aggro things etc. I was lucky that her shoulders were much smaller so I finished her up much quicker than the poor dude that was tattooing her boyfriend. He kept having to come back for more sessions.
Also, Nazis like to try and trick you into giving them Nazi tattoos. It’s like a perverse little game with various levels of sophistication. So that’s obnoxious, I hate it.”
Tattoos Are Not For The Angsty
“I’m not an artist, by any means, but I went with my younger brother for his first and the artist had a look like he was dying on the inside the entire time. I could see the absolute defeat in the man’s eyes when my brother responded with ‘Yeah that’ll show her.’
What was planned was a gorgeous macaw and some flowers along with a nickname our grandma used to call him before she died. But literally, as he’s walking back with the artist for the final decision my brother decides the macaw needs to be a skull, the flowers needed to be daggers, and the lettering DEATH instead of the nickname. This was being changed because his girlfriend had broken up with him a few days before and he was angry and this tattoo would be his outlet. The artist was able to come up with something but it definitely looked thrown together last and he wasn’t happy.
The ex-girlfriend never even saw the tattoo. As far as I’m aware she blocked him and all of his friends and moved back to her home state with her mom.”
Good Thing Someone Was Able To Fix That Mess Up
“The first tattoo was for my entire left side. I’d done the art myself as a watercolor, and it looked really good—a bunch of driftwood, a fishing net, and various seashells and glass dolphins hanging like windchimes. The artist was recommended by a friend who swore up and down that he was incredible, but I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to look up his portfolio, etc. He had me wait a few days because I was grieving the death of my sister, to make sure I didn’t change my mind.
I wish I had. His lousy ‘apprentice’ redrew the art, and I didn’t think to check after the kid cuz I was too worried about him licking his lips when I took my top off. The seashells looked like hands and the dolphins looked like peens. And the artist didn’t correct either, claiming that I should’ve gone over the apprentice’s shoulders and made sure the kid did it right.
Went to the shop next door a year later (their rival shop), and asked one of their artists to fix it. The new artist takes one look, notices all the scarring and heavy lines, compares it to my original painting, and immediately knows who did it. He even called out the creepy apprentice. The dude has done all of my tattoos since. His portfolio is all hyper-realism, but he does incredible watercolor if you let him loose. I always feel bad because I know he’d rather do muscle cars, but he tells me he doesn’t mind cuz his watercolor work on me brings in easy sorority girl money.”
Time Heals Most Regrets!
One of my best friends is a tattoo artist and a real pro. She’s much older than me but we became close when I was 15. I asked (begged) her for a tattoo when I was 16 and she agreed as long as I got parental permission. My mom was done arguing with me by then and said, Whatever. So I picked out what I remember feeling extremely passionate about a fairy looking back with tons of swirls and sparkles as—a huge tramp stamp. She laughed at me and argued that this in no way represented who I really am and that it would be almost impossible for her to endorse. I was very persuasive and so she agreed to do it in a beautiful pencil-like way so that she could ‘cover it up when I was grown and wanted to.’ It looked awesome to me so I was easily persuaded. Kept that dumb design for 20 years and now I’m three several-hour sessions in on a half back cover up and man is it cool that the fairy is gone! Thanks, Andrea!
Somebody Has Some Explaining To Do
“So I’m sitting there just killing time with the artist and the owner of the shoe comes in. Gets set up and starts doing his thing on an iPad, then his phone rang and the conversation was something like this.
‘Hi this is ** with blah blah tattoo shop.’
‘Uhm yea I think I can do that. How big were you thinking?”
‘So you want a tattoo that looks exactly like a fresh c-section scar?’
The dude hangs up and just kind of stared out the window for a while. Then he turns to my artist and asks ‘Why the heck would some want a fresh c-section scar as a tattoo?!'”
A Beyond Weird Request
“Years ago hanging out with a former pal who was in a band that had all kinds of ink – I went to the same guy he did to get my work done. We were hanging out at the record store he worked at and this female groupie of his band came in. To say this person was not attractive was a gross understatement. She was always making overly inappropriate comments to my pal.
Well, when she came in she told us she was going to get two new tattoos done. 1) in her armpit, of a rectum with a hand coming out of it holding an eyeball. 2) – rows of teeth tattooed around her junk. As soon as she left we called the guy that did our work to give him a heads up of the request coming his way.
His response was ‘F* NO!'”
His Artist Saved Him Some Serious Grief
“Not a tattoo artist but mine had a ‘You freaking sure, bud?’ moment with me. I went through a bad break up and started a lot of self-destructive habits. One of which was going to get a tattoo that covered my head, some of my face, and all of my neck. The tattoo artist went back and forth with me trying to convince me it was a bad idea. He said wait a month and come back and he would do it if I was still sure. I came back a month later and he gave me a ‘bug off’ price. I came back a week later with the money in hand and he flat out said no. He showed me some designs for sleeves instead and said he would discount his rate if I settled for them. I did. Looking back, dude definitely saved me from an embarrassing decision.”