I WISH I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW
I got my first tattoo when I was sixteen years old, and never did I think that I’d even have a tattoo that was visible when I had a T-shirt on, let alone end up wanting to cover my entire body (besides my neck/face) with this kind of art. By the way, I had to get my first tattoo in Idaho because they allowed people to get tattooed at the age of sixteen vs. eighteen like the state I lived in. (I don’t neccessarily advice getting tattooed that young for a variety of reasons)
Fast forward a few years and a few hundred hours under the needle, and I can tell you for sure that I would do some things differently. Back then, Instagram wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now, and there wasn’t really anywhere to go to see other people’s work with the click of a button. So through a lot of “trial and error” I’ve gotten to where I am now, and there are definitely things that I wish I knew then.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED:
1.) PLAN AHEAD
It’s helpful before you start any tattoo project to have a plan. When you’re just starting out it’s hard to think about future work, but it’s really important to plan wisely. Whether you are planning your back piece, a front piece, or your arm/leg sleeves, it’s best to have at least some sort of plan of where you want to take the project.
I think that sometimes people simply want a tattoo and lack a plan/direction they want to take their collection because they are too hasty to methodically plan out their upcoming works (myself included plenty of times) therefore resulting in “floating” pieces that could have been placed more strategically. Even if you are unable to do a large scale piece for whatever reason, it’s important to plan with the intent of creating a cohesive project.
2.) BIGGER IS BETTER (to me anyway!)
The most important thing that I have realized when it comes to covering the majority of your body in tattoos is that bodysuits look best when they are planned out as LARGE SCALE projects. Meaning GO BIG!! This is my personal opinion and preference of course, and there are plenty of exceptions and other ways to go about a full body suit, but for me personally I wish I had known this before I started. Most people have no intention of getting a body suit, but as a serious collector, I wish I had known this.
For example, when doing an arm sleeve, in my eyes it usually looks best when there is a piece going from approximately the top of the shoulder to your elbow, a piece starting from where that piece ends (elbow area-ish) to your wrist (or extended to your hand if you wish to do so) that covers the top of your forearm and the outside of your forearm, a piece on your inner wrist to the arm ditch, and a piece on the inner bicep. All the pieces should have shading that blends them together and connects each piece to whatever pieces are nearby.
Compositionally, I personally just think that’s what looks best, but everyone has different opinions, and of course there is no right or wrong here. The basic idea is that work looks best when it is planned out to be “large scale” vs. collecting smaller pieces and then trying to create a cohesive look later on.
I wish I had planned on going as large scale as possible with every single piece I have collected (some I did, but I also have plenty of “stickers” all over my body that I have either removed/covered up or that I am still in the process of removing, so that I can collect large scale pieces that flow into each other beautifully.
3.) CONSULT WITH YOUR ARTIST
Your tattoo artist plays a larger role in your overall experience than you may realize. Artists know a lot about proper placement, size, what’s possible and what isn’t, and are full of ideas and creativity. Use their expertise to help you achieve the best possible results.
That doesn’t mean that you have to let them choose your design, but defintely take advantage of their knowledge and ask their for their advise and ideas.
Also, it is in your best interest to figure out whether you want a single piece, or an entire project before you begin. Then from there you should start planning and plotting with your tattoo artist and swapping ideas/references you can use. You could lay them out on Photoshop, or however the artist desires so you go in with a solid idea of how you want the project to turn out exactly. This will help you collect work that looks like it was meant to be there, not work that looks like it was impulsive or spur of the moment.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Basically, what I’m trying to say is to try to think through and make important decisions before you start inking things- or you could end up like me having different pieces “floating” on your body taking up prime real estate that could have been used for large scale pieces that turn out beautifully. Now, I’m on an expensive and frustrating journey of removing the stuff that’s floating so I can cover those up with work that looks like it was supposed to be there.
Finally, I do realize that not everyone wants to have large scale pieces. For lots of people (probably most) they are perfectly happy with smaller scale tattoos and actually prefer it. But for me personally, I love the look of a large, well-planned, cohesive piece.
Here are some examples of some really well thought out/layed out projects and pieces: