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Tattoo Placement: The Best Tips For Displaying Your Ink

Pain, size, and lifestyle all play an important role in choosing the best tattoo placement for your next ink. Discover everything there is to know about where to get inked in this handy guide

grace in Placement

You have chosen a design and spent hours searching for the perfect tattoo artist to ink your body skillfully. Yet, the question remains… Where will you place your tattoo? Since this art will live on your body forever, you must be dead set on its exact location. After all, laser tattoo removal is pricey, and depending on the body parts, it can be very painful. Navigating the world of tattoo placement may seem like a daunting task but you will be glad you did your homework. It is not just based on aesthetics, although this plays a primary role, it deals with the complexities of pain tolerance, ink longevity, and aftercare.

What is Tattoo Placement?

In simple talk, tattoo placement refers to where you will place the tattoo on your body. While it may appear a simple subject matter, it is more complex than it seems. Deciding where your next tattoo will live on your body depends on many factors. A skilled tattoo artist can ink nearly every part of your body. Yet, those with less experience may find certain areas challenging.

The level of pain is also an important issue to address as areas of the body with less fat or muscle will prove to be more painful and may deter tattoo newbies from getting inked. Then, there is the topic of fading and the ink-touch-ups required over time. Areas that experience more movement or exposure to the sun often tend to experience quicker rates of ink distortion than others that are more static.

Common Considerations When Choosing the Best Placement for a Tattoo

Tattoos have been around since 3370 BC as discovered by scientists studying mummified bodies. Yet regardless of their timeless appeal, it doesn’t make the topic of tattoo placement less overwhelming. These are just some of the things to think about when considering where to display your new tattoo.

Your Personal and Professional Life

Since tattoos are a permanent form of self-expression you will have to decide if you may need to cover up your tattoos for work or travel. In the following sectors, visible tattoos are widely seen as a taboo topic and are often forbidden.

- Law Enforcement - Education - Financial Institutions and Banks - Government Offices

If you frequently travel to countries where religion forms a strong part of the local culture it is a good idea to investigate the local rules about tattoos. For example, historically in Japanese culture, tattoos have been associated with criminal organizations such as the Yakuza. While attitudes are gradually changing, there is still a stigma attached to visible tattoos in certain contexts, particularly in traditional settings like public baths (onsen) or some workplaces. This sentiment is extended to many other countries across Asia and the Middle East.

Size and Detail

Viewing the body as a canvas requires you to apply common sense when choosing the perfect placement for your tattoos. Detailed traditional Japanese tattoo style designs won’t be able to fit on small areas like your wrist while minimalist fine-line tattoos may lack the impact you desire when placed on a larger area of your body like the ribcage.

Future Life Plans

Over time our bodies change. Our skin loses its elasticity, many experience weight gain, and imperfections such as stretch marks may alter your appearance. Think about the aging process when choosing where to place your tattoo. Also, women considering pregnancy should wait before tattooing their stomachs or hips.

Tattoo Goals

It is a well-known fact that tattoos are addictive. Once you have one, it is hard to stop. When thinking about placements for small tattoos and larger designs, think about whether this is a stand-alone ink or will coexist with other illustrative body art in the future.

A Guide to the Best Placement for Tattoos

From head to toe, we have you covered. Never doubt about the best tattoo locations on the body again. Discover the ins and outs of tattoo placement and be inspired to embrace the colorful world of body art

Face and Ears

A space once reserved for gang members and criminals, the face is quickly growing in popularity as a place to display new tats. Some people opt for permanent freckle tattoos, permanent lip color, or eyeliner, yet these kinds of beauty enhancements come with a risk. The face is what is considered in dermatology to be a “dirty site” as there are mucous membranes where bacteria is more common. Ear tattoos on the other hand are much more common and are reportedly less painful. Ear helix tattoos are a fun way to display tiny designs and combine your body art with existing piercings.

Shoulders and Arms

One of the most common places for tattoo placement is the shoulders and arms area. It is a great place for newbie tattoo artists to practice their skills as it's an easily accessible area with lots of skin to use as a canvas. Designs can vary from fine-line minimalist tattoos to full-cover sleeves.

Forearm tattoos have surged in popularity in recent years, becoming a canvas for intricate designs and simple motifs. Positioned prominently between the wrist and elbow, the forearm and inner-forearm offer ample space for medium-sized designs, allowing individuals to express their passions, beliefs, and personal stories.

As a first tattoo placement, this area also allows for future creative development should you desire to add more tattoos to your body. Yet, if you know you want just one, the area is small enough to make a single design stand out. The skin in this part of the body is thicker which means that the pain level is minimal. What it does mean however is that there is more of a chance of fading since the area is prone to friction from clothes and creasing of the skin.

Neck and Sternum

Considered by many to be the center of the body and the center of life, the upper torso is a wonderful place to showcase your body art. For both men and women, the contours of the body invite the placement of designs with intricate detailing. The area is also close to the heart, holding a deep spiritual meaning for some.

Neck tattoos can vary in size and style. From hidden tattoos at the base of the neck to large vertical tattoos that flow down each side - the neck is a great place for self-expression. Yet as it is highly visible, not everyone can opt for this tattoo placement. It is also worth considering that due to its proximity to major blood vessels and nerves, the neck can also be a relatively sensitive area for tattooing, potentially making the process more uncomfortable compared to other parts of the body.

Sternum tattoos, also known as chest tattoos, are commonly placed between the breasts to create a highly feminine placement that can be hidden and showcased as pleased. However, due to the bony structure of the sternum and its proximity to sensitive areas, the tattooing process in this area can be more uncomfortable compared to other parts of the body. Additionally, sternum tattoos may require careful consideration in terms of design and placement to ensure symmetry and balance with the body's natural contours.

Side Boob and Under Boob

Offering a blend of subtlety and sensuality, side boob tattoos allow for a range of designs, from delicate floral patterns to intricate geometric shapes that accentuate the natural contours of the body. Side boob tattoos often evoke a sense of femininity and empowerment, as they are typically visible in certain clothing styles, yet remain discreet enough to be concealed when desired.

A strictly female tattoo placement, under boob tattoos, are a popular choice for women looking for a personal, empowering design. Curved illustrations echo the contours of this area while handwritten quotes, placed close to the heart offer powerful reminders of strength and courage. It is not uncommon for survivors of breast cancer to opt for this tattoo placement as a reminder of their successful battle against the disease.

Since both areas are close to the bony area of the ribcage, these tattoos are not for the faint-hearted. While pain varies from person to person, tattoos here are known to be more uncomfortable than others.

Stomach and Lower Abdomen

Another area that is also high on the pain threshold is the stomach and lower abdomen area. This large area of skin offers an ideal canvas for those wishing to celebrate their body with body art. A stomach tattoo can easily be covered on a day-to-day basis and showcased when at the beach or with a select group of people.

The lower down you get, the more prone this area is to infection so making sure that your tattoo artist explains proper aftercare is a must. Larger-than-life designs, favorite quotes, or realistic tattoos of loved ones make an ideal choice for placing in this area of the body. Yet, just like all placements, choosing a tattoo design comes down to personal preference.

Back and Buttocks

Many celebrities have opted to display their body art on their back with Ben Afflick’s extra large phoenix tattoo springing to mind. This tattoo placement works well regardless of gender and the large space gives you room to tell a visual story with one or many tattoo designs.

The upper back, around the shoulder blade, doesn’t hurt as much since the area is mainly muscle. Yet when you move towards the spine or the ribcage, the pain increases in these classic spots.

Again, just like stomach tattoos, back tattoos offer the best of both worlds as they can be covered or showcased depending on the occasion. When considering a buttocks tattoo, be sure that you maintain appropriate hygiene to avoid the risk of infection.

Thighs and Legs

A leg tattoo placement looks great on both men and women and is an ideal place to start if you are new to getting inked. It is one of the least painful places, ideal for those with a low pain tolerance and there is lots of space to experiment with body art. What’s more, the legs can easily be covered when needed. The further down the legs you go, the more painful it is to tattoo this area. This is due to the skin becoming thinner and less muscle and fat separating the skin from the bone. Think about body hair and the effects of shaving or sun exposure and how that will affect your chosen design over time.

The thighs provide an ideal canvas for large-format tattoos or designs with curved lines that can wrap around the upper thigh. Floral motifs, faces, and tribal tattoos are all popular choices for this area. Further down, focussing on the lower legs, mandalas that spread across the knee promote spiritual energy and add a decorative addition to your body art. The calves are the best spot for small to medium-calf tattoo placement tattoos that call to be displayed with pride.

Hands and Feet

Quite possibly one of the most painful areas of the body to get tattooed is the hands and feet. A hand tattoo placement requires small, intricate designs which make the process of tattooing a tricky business. Not all tattoo artists will have the skills to create a design that will age well. And, since this area receives a lot of wear and tear, the lifespan of hand tattoos will be short, requiring regular upkeep to maintain the original appearance.

Finger tattoos are an ever-increasing trend. They have gained popularity thanks to celebrities such as Cara Delevingne who proudly wears a lion on her right index finger. Tattooed wedding bands are the ultimate show of dedication and support and many couples choose this option as a permanent sign of affection for one another.

Likewise for a foot tattoo placement. Our feet are stuffed into shoes and socks, used to walk miles each day and a design here will lose its definition and color over time. Not to mention, with so many bones in the foot, this is a very painful place to get inked.

Best Placement for Small Tattoos

There is something magical about smaller tattoos. These simple, subtle designs carry so much meaning yet thanks to their tiny size they can be discreetly hidden away, saved for the gaze of a select few. If you are considering opting for a little tattoo, some smaller areas of the body make these designs look even better.

Behind the Ear

For women, this area offers a discreet location to display body art as it can be easily concealed by long hair if needed. The relatively small area of skin behind the ear ensures that the chosen design doesn’t get lost in a sea of negative space and the area remains fairly static reducing the risk of fading or distortion over time. Since the area has very little fat, a tattoo here may be more painful than other areas for tiny tattoos.


Those considering an ankle placement tattoo may choose a small design that can easily be covered by socks or footwear. This area's elongated nature works well with horizontal and vertical designs. However, consider how your daily life will affect the tattoo over time. Those with a more active daily routine may experience fading caused by friction of socks and shoes or exposure to the sun.

Back of the Neck

Just like small tattoos behind the ear, the back of the neck is a popular tattoo placement for women. This space can easily be covered by hair when needed, plus the relatively flat surface makes any design look great. It is also less bony than behind the ear making it a possible option for newbies.

Not Sure Where to Start? Play with Temporary Tattoos First

If the idea of getting inked feels daunting why not experiment with temporary versions before committing to the real deal? Transfer tattoos, otherwise known as flash tattoos have come a long way since they were given as party favors when we were kids. Companies such as Tatteco offer realistic, fashion-forward temporary tattoos that allow you to try out various styles and tattoo placement ideas. And, what’s more, some of their designs even last 2-3 weeks - long enough for you to fall in or out of love with the placement of your tattoo.

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