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

21.

“My ex did a large scarification on the client’s abdomen. The client had brought in a piece of paper with the stylized word ‘preserverence.'”

“I was invited in mid-way to see the progress and had to tap my ex on the shoulder for a spelling lesson.” — gnitelove

22.

“I was working at a place when a guy came in for a full back piece of 3 different cars. It took like 4 visits to finish and each visit he’d look at it and say it looks awesome and then he would take off.”

“On the last visit, they call me in to look at it to show me how awesome it turned out. Well, all the steering wheels were on the wrong side and the reason no one caught it was because the dude was looking in a mirror to check his progress so they looked correct. I’m pretty sure the guy was super chill about it when they offered a bunch of free work and they fixed it in another session.” —JoshSidekick

23.

“I was working at a shop in NYC, this very heavy set gentlemen came in and wanted a full back piece. No other tattoos. The design was very elaborate and quite good.”

“Once it was all approved the tattoo stencil was applied, and again approved by the client. I wasn’t doing the tattoo, but I was occasionally checking in on the process. Once the linework was done as shading had begun… I noticed something horrible… the stencil was applied over his rolls of skin on his lower back. I made a comment to the artist privately. He went back to tattooing, moved the skin apart at one point… and with out a doubt several inches of untattooed skin.

The client never noticed. I stopped working there not too long after that, not for this reason.

I’ve always felt so bad for that guy.” — magical_jacob

24.

“Back when I first started tattooing, I think I’d only been doing it for about 3 months at this point, one of my pals asked if he could come to me for finger tattoos.”

“I asked my mentor, and he said it was too early for me to move onto hands just yet.

One of the other guys in the studio overheard and said he’d actually been wanting to get his fingers tattooed for a while, if my mentor was happy with it he’d let me practice on him. My mentor okayed it, so he got to work on the stencil. The tattooist I was practicing on is ambidextrous, and had an exact font in mind for his finger tattoos, so he said if I got everything set up, he’d freehand the script (no stencil) on his hands and then we could just get started.

I finished the first hand, everything was fine, until I went on to start his second hand, at which point he was checking out the tattoo I’d just finished. And realised he’d written the script out left to right facing him. Meaning to everyone else the finger tattoos were backwards (just the phrase – not the whole letters). Cue much panic, me convinced he’s going to go mental at me for not noticing, him convinced he’s landed me in it with my mentor, before we both calmed down and started spitballing on how to fix the tattoo on the fly. The phrase he’d gone for (“riff raff”) was thankfully similar enough on each hand that all we had to do was block out the vowels a bit more and make them slightly larger than the other letters in order to hide the original vowel underneath. In the end we fixed it, he got the tattoo the right way around, and you can’t even tell there was once a mistake under it.” —lilsugarcrisp

25.

“Worst was when I just started out tattooing…”

“A few months in I’m tattooing a old coworkers wife and she’s getting some Roman numerals and before starting I ask her to triple check the numbers and she’s like yup all good let’s do it.

Cue 1 hour after being done I receive a text from my old coworker that one of the letters are wrong…

That was a great week to be alive dealing with that anxiety.” —somethingsrunning

26.

“I’ve fixed some really fu**ed up ones. Mostly spelling mistakes. Some terrible ones. But I had to do a cover-up of one of a guy’s son.”

27.

“I had been tattooing on human skin for no more than two weeks and was very inexperienced. My mentor wanted me to participate in a $13 Friday the 13th flash special coming up that week. I drew up a flash sheet full of designs that I was confident I could pull off with my limited experience. I spent the entire day beforehand prepping my station, gathering supplies, printing stencils and consent forms, cleaning the entire shop, etc. I decided to sleep on the shop floor that night so that in the morning I could buy the whole shop some fancy donuts from a nearby cafe and get back in time for the event. Right before it started my mentor, who was also the shop owner, changed up the rules of the special. He announced on Instagram that people could bring in whatever small design they wanted to get done for $13. I was suddenly being asked to draw and tattoo designs that I was fully unprepared to take on. The shop had one computer with photoshop that we all had to take turns on to create designs so our turn-around time slowed to a crawl. (And I already tattooed slow anyway since I was so green) The shop was overflowing with people and we had a waitlist with literally over 100 names.

Just as we were about to close up shop at 2am, one girl walks in and asks if she can still get in on the special. She wants a butterfly. My mentor tells me to take care of it. I’m exhausted but hey, you don’t tell your mentor no. So I print the stencil and I get started and…. my hands just stop functioning. My wrists were so sore and cramped from working all day that I couldn’t control the tattoo machine anymore. It was the strangest, most horrible feeling. I watched in horror as, no matter how hard I tried to tame my gnarled hands, I just completely botched this girl’s tattoo. Lines were all squiggly and off. I even cut into her arm in some places. Lots of bleeding. I felt absolutely horrible. It looked horrendous.

I called another artist over to finish the tattoo for me and told the client that her tattoo was on the house. She left without saying much. We closed up shop after she left and I told the other artists to go on home while I stayed behind and cleaned up. I cried as I cleaned. I made only enough money that day to cover the price of the stupid donuts. By the time I was done cleaning it was 3:30am and I still had to ride my bike a few miles home. I was so tired that I decided to spend a second night sleeping on the shop floor. I woke up early the next morning to ride home… and the rear wheel had been stolen off of my bike. I had to carry it two miles to the nearest bike shop and spend $90 on a new wheel, tire, and cassette. I thought that was the end of that nightmare until… A week later I’m at home and get a call from my mentor. He’s SCREAMING through the phone. Apparently the butterfly girl went and left a 1 star review of the shop on Google after her experience with me. He said I had disgraced the name of his shop and the other artists that worked there. I had to come in the next day and apologize to each of them personally for damaging their reputations. I then had to contact the client and apologize once again to her and offer her another free tattoo. She never responded. The whole experience was humiliating.” —corneredcryptid

28.

“Got a small tattoo on my foot. As he was making a line I heard him say “Whoops…” I now have a stray line that’s jutting off away from the rest of the tat.”

“Fortunately over time it has faded, but it’s such a crappy tattoo. The whole thing is just the worst. It was only $60 so I didn’t say anything, and just told myself one day I’d get it covered up by something better.

Edit to add: the main reason I didn’t complain is because the tattoo artist was (and still is) my best friend’s neighbor.” —jaceinspace

29.

“Did my first one on an old schoolmate who was aware of my artistic abilities, despite having never applied ink before, and he offered me his back…”

“I had 3 pros watching as I drew a geisha freehanded on his back while he was hunched over. When the design was laid out, he checked it in the mirror and was good with it so I began lining it. The thing is, the other artists said it looked great but unfortunately I was doing something else when he checked it so I didn’t notice just how screwed up it really was. Any way, I lined it and we took a break. As he stood up while I was watching, my heart dropped as I witnessed the geisha’s face droop into a palsied state on one side. He was sitting leaned forward with his elbows on his knees while drawing it and so distorted the canvas.

Now, this sounds crappy, but I never really liked this guy too much (he originally wanted a back full of strippers) so I didn’t feel bad that when he went to look in the mirror, he lifted his shoulder to look at the tattoo, which normalized the proportions and he said it looked awesome. Well, good then. Big lesson learned though. I still have the occasional nightmare over it.”– WhenInDoubtBolt

30.

“I’ve been fairly lucky and able to fix or cover everything I’ve done.

It’s all little stuff like “always” only has 1 L, getting a date mixed up on translation while going through various fonts, or the dreaded starting coloring the wrong side of a nautical star. Sh** still gives me chills and I’ve developed a bit of OCD asking and double-checking all the things. I’ve got 16 years in this game, and I am only human.

The absolute worst I’ve witnessed, a guy did a huge flowy script on a girl’s thigh. Supposed to be “Born 2 Lose”, actually said “Born 2 Loose”. The only thing I could do was a massive coverup.” —JVonDron