Have you ever seen someone with a questionable image—to put it nicely—tattooed onto the side of their face? You know, like an ice cream cone. Or maybe someone whose bicep was covered in their late mother’s face—except that it looks more like a tiger, or—wait—is that a garbage can? Yeah.
Ugly, poorly done, thoughtless, impulsive, drunken, and racist tattoos exist just about everywhere. Maybe you even have one! Sometimes they’re just regular bad (think ‘tramp stamps,’ tribals on white dudes named Chad, and Chinese tattoos that actually mean “small charcoal grill”—ahem, Ariana Grande).
When these tattoos happen, there’s a tattoo artist somewhere who is responsible and probably very unethical. Luckily, many excellent and ethical tattoo artists exist, and they refuse everyone from nazis who want swastikas to teen girls who think anchors symbolize ‘never drowning.’
So, over in an AskReddit post, a user u/pm1966 asked a pretty stellar question: “Tattoo artists of Reddit who have refused a client’s request for a specific tattoo: What was the tattoo, and why did you refuse to do it?”
Here are their brilliant and sometimes hilarious answers:
“I am a tattoo artist and the stupidest thing I ever tattooed was the letters WMD (weapon of mass destruction) in army-stencil-font just above some dude’s junk. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was very overweight and I had to wrassle with his belly the whole time. I also had to shave his overgrown pubes that stunk of nut butter. Not my finest moment. Oh, and his other idea was “Lucky You” but he didn’t have enough money.”—Schismatron
“Managed a shop for a while… some dude wanted his girlfriend’s initials on his taint and requested a female artist to do it. We kindly denied it because a.) not 100% sure how that would heal and didn’t want to deal with him coming back with issues trying to pin it on us, and b.) our only female artist didn’t want to go near some random dudes taint…”—GoreTiciaAddams
“Friend who is a tattoo artist says she mostly turns down drunk 18 year olds. A girl came in to the shop and was SMASHED, actually laid down on the floor and screamed “BUt I WaNT MY NOSE PIERCED RIGHT NOWWWW!” Also turned away a wasted mother/daughter duo. That time, the drunk mother argued “she’s not drunk, I’m her mother!” Lady, you can’t sign a permission slip to make someone sober.”—_rummagingsoul
“From my friend that does tattoos he turns down more request to do butthole tats then he ever thought he’d have to.”—gil_beard
“Lord of the rings ring around their butthole. No thanks.”—oldcoffee
“My wife is a tattoo apprentice and they turn down people all the time. Usually one of the following: Obviously underage (usually with angry mother in tow demanding they do it anyway..) They want a face or hand tattoo as a FIRST TATTOO They want something that can’t be done, like a massively detailed image but in a 1 inch square area. Something generally offensive. Like the guy who wanted ‘Party Girl Anne Frank’ because his drinking buddies called him Frankie. Butthole tattoos, most people have trouble showering for a standard tattoo, its not worth it. Drunk/drugged out. Happens a lot, sometimes people get hammered or high so they can tolerate the pain better. But that’s a big no on informed consent that is not worth the liability to the studio.”—Wind_Yer_Neck_In
“One of my friends wanted a tattoo of a single dot on his arm, which would basically be indistinguishable from a freckle. The guy politely refused, and talked him out of it by bringing up that he’d still have to charge him like $40 just for using a needle.”—1313thirt
“I got my first and only tattoo just after marrying my husband 30 years ago. My tattoo artist tried to dissuade me from getting my husbands name tattooed in the design. When I insisted, he said “Fine but just remember – Love last forever but a tattoo lasts six months longer”. I’ll never forget that advice.”—person874321
“I’d just like to publicly thank the tattoo artist who in 1988 (on my 18th birthday) refused to tattoo a pot leaf on my leg. You are a saint..”—Jack_kels
“SO went in to get our oldest son’s name on his back. Super awesome artist made it clear she only does names of kids and dogs because she doesn’t want to have to cover a good tattoo in 2 months if things don’t work out. Thought it was funny as hell that SO had to pull up a pic of our kid to get it done.”—that1chick1730