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Tattoo Artists Share Their Most Cringe-y Mistakes (37 Stories)


“My wife and I got matching tattoos with our children’s bday and our wedding day. Pretty generic. We had to watch the kids so we took turns. She went first, I showed up after her appt and she was beaming with excitement at how nice the numbers were. She showed me. The wedding day was wrong. She had the 15th and ours is the 14th. The tattoo artist felt terrible. My wife had looked at it at least twice before she it was put on. Entirely her fault.” —Haas19


“Tattooing a kanji backwards.”

“Client brought in the reversed image, I made a stencil and applied it and the client checked it in the mirror and gave the OK. Came back the next day claiming I did it wrong. I pulled the original out of my box and held it up next to the tattoo and said “nope, that’s what you brought in.” Felt bad, but still laughed when she left. long story short: YOU AS A CLIENT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SPELLING. Tattoo artists are not cultural experts or professional grammar nazis. You pick it, we just stick it.” —Freck37


“I’ve never really made any big mistakes that garnered a reaction, but one of my clients has a tattoo from another artist in a local studio that says “Gradad” instead of Grandad.”

“The studio fired the artist and wouldn’t take any responsibility for what had happened.” —mt995


“My ONLY spelling mistake ever was in Italian. Girl wants a phrase in Italian. She writes it down no less than 5x on a paper. I tell her to make sure it is correct, I don’t speak Italian. She insists it is correct.”

“I draw up some nice script, tattoo it with no issues, bandage, pay and she leaves. She comes back in hysterical and tells me I spelled it wrong. I hadn’t thrown out the paper. I spelled it exactly how she spelled it. I asked what she wanted to do, and she decided “eh no one I know speaks Italian”. That was about 15 years ago, I often wonder if she ended up getting it covered up.” —Zornamental


“I tattooed Philippines 4:13 instead of Philippians 4:13 on a girl one time. Fortunately I was able fix it though.” —hazard0666


“Some lady comes in and wants a pocket watch with roses in her arm, so my coworker agrees to do it. The client specifically wanted the pocket watch to be stopped at ‘4:20.'”

“He draws it up for her right arm and she’s soooo excited, but for some reason she decides to change it to the left arm last minute. No problem, he runs in the back to the printer to mirror the image. She loves it, and they slap the stencil on and start tattooing. When they’re almost done, he realizes when they mirrored the image, the clock doesn’t say “4:20” anymore, it says “7:40”.

He doesn’t know what to do besides finish the tattoo. When the client checks it out in the mirror, she doesn’t notice and fu**ing loves it. The lady ended up coming back a few weeks later to say once again how much she loved it! I always wonder if she ever found out…” —srhfy


“When I first opened my shop I was SUPER nervous about making mistakes and those first few clients were a roller coaster of anxiety…”


“When I started tattooing I was working at an awful studio that would often give me works that didn’t fit my style in any way (very fine line works which I wasn’t very good at)…”

“The mistakes I made were usually crooked tattoos or going too deep and instead of actually helping me the owners either would yell at me later, forced me to tell clients I was more experienced than I actually am and got upset that I “ask too many questions”.

Eventually they just stopped giving me work altogether. Sadly every once in a while they give my number to unhappy clients that I tattooed at that time and I still get calls asking me for compensation. I know it’s also my fault for those things but they really took of any responsibility.

These days I have my own small one-person studio, I have nothing but sweet and satisfied clients and ironically I do a lot of fine line tattoos which I used to hate at that studio.

But if you want something specific- while I was in the studio some girl wanted a cursive tattoo that was extremely tiny. It was extremely small and thin and when I finished it looked good but when it healed a lot of the letters spread and mashed up together and because she barely had any tattoos it was VERY noticable. I gave her money back even though she demanded me to pay for tattoo removal. (And yes she signed a contract beforehand but the studio told me it protected only them and not me)

I read thoroughly and fortunately realized she had no case against me so she couldn’t sue. In general today I recommend people to steer clear of that place, disgusting money-grabber assholes.

They do treat other tattoo artists who work for them like sh**.” —Carmelioz


“I did an armband of sheet music on this walk-in and I put one of the segments on upside down because I don’t read music and it looked right.”

“Client noticed when I was about halfway done with that segment; luckily she was cool and just said she should have checked her stencil harder and shrugged it off.” —sagestudio


“Nothing major but bad karma on one tattoo from the get-go that absolutely floored my confidence for a bit…”

“Only recently did my first ever small tattoo on a client. Had to do a small range of flash ideas that I felt comfortable with. Had my mentor (who, judging by some other stories, I’m very lucky to have. He’s a sound dude) discuss with me beforehand my needle choices, placement technique, usual bits and was ready to go. Every felt ready. Midway through, my machine goes. It’s brand new. My only one. Managed to sort it without much fuss. In doing so, in my panic put the wrong needle size in the machine when it came to replacing it with a fresh one. Botched a line when I realise almost immediately the size difference. Change again, nerves are shot, back at it. Brand new foot pedal breaks. Replace it with an old one from my mentor. It breaks too. Powerpack dies. That was brand new too. Panic. Spill my ink. Practically had a meltdown in my brain about what has happened. Carried on with another artist’s equipment. Apologising as calmly as I can to my client. Mentor calmed my nerves and I ended up pulling it out the bag and doing a job I was happy with somehow but most importantly, the client loved it. Anyway, not a crazy bad story but as an apprentice who’s also a fairly confident dude, I have never felt so absolutely floored in my life. Tattooing someone is monumentally stressful when all doesn’t go to plan. I can’t wait to do more and progress, but fu** me what a time for sh** to happen. My mentor helped me sort all my gear afterward and was super cool. Sat with me and said something like “Well. Of all the times and all the things that could’ve gone wrong. That was the absolutely perfect one for them” Nerve-wracking stuff.” —drewswayk