Tattoo artists will tell you what tattoos to avoid

‘Matching tattoos are cool,’ she says, ‘but names? It should be someone close to you or not at all (Picture courtesy of Sofia Tan / Getty)

Many tattoos can be considered beautiful, even if beauty isn’t for everyone.

At the end of the day, some ideas are simply… not great.

Don’t worry, we’re not here to argue about what is or isn’t ‘basic’. Instead, we’re giving you a peek at a tattoo artist’s point of view on the subject.

When we chatted to tattoo artist Sofia Tan about the things she’d never ink on another person, it was an eye-opener.

Obvious no-go’s, like awful racist iconography aside, the first thing she tells us she’d never tattoo is the name of someone’s partner.

She says she’s fine to do something that reminds you of the person you’re with, but names are out of the question.

‘Matching tattoos are cool,’ she says, ‘but names? It should be a family member or nothing at all.’

An abstract tattoo by Sofa
Some of Sofia’s work (Picture: Sofia Tan)

Of course, Sofia, who owns and runs KVART Studios in Helsinki, Finland, doesn’t speak for every single tattoo artist on the planet, but her insight gives us a good idea of how other pros in the industry might think too.

She recalls how one time, she took on a client who wanted ink of just his girlfriend’s initial – S.

‘When we were doing it, he was telling me “Yeah, if we ever break up, I’ll just make it ‘sex’ instead”‘, she says. ‘I was like “…OK.”

‘And in a year and a half, he contacted me, and we made it “sex.”

‘It’s always like that – you always get people asking for cover-ups of letters or names and stuff like that.’

Russian-born Sofia also says she’s not going to copy the tattoos that are all over your social media feed.

‘It comes with the development of an artist’s style,’ she explains. ‘When you’ve found yours, and the direction of art you’re working in, you just cannot.’

‘Trends can be remade, but not done in the same way that a lot of people ask for.’

In addition to that, the 26-year-old points out that ‘good tattoo artists’ would never copy a peer’s work anyway.

An abstract tattoo by Sofa
Her specialty is abstract designs (Photo by Sofia Tan).

So when you show up for your next appointment, feel free to bring reference photos to give your artist an idea of what you’re after, but don’t expect a carbon copy.

In keeping with her style as an artist, Sofia’s also not about tattooing fake muscles, fake shoes on people’s feet, or the faces of family members.

‘I’m not a realism artist,’ she says, ‘and even if I did do realism, I think with time, the face of someone specific can turn into someone else’s.’

An abstract tattoo by Sofa
‘Trends can be remade’ (Picture: Sofia Tan)

And finally, Sofia’s not going to tattoo any death symbols or references to suicide – for obvious reasons.

For instance, she’s had a few requests for nooses that she’s turned down.

When asked about the places on a client’s body she’d never agree to put a tattoo, she says: ‘No genitalia.

‘One girl asked my colleague to tattoo her anus.’

‘I don’t even know how that would heal. Anything down there is just going to get infected.’


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