- Insider spoke to two tattoo artists about mistakes people make when getting large tattoos.
- Stu Hepcat, from the UK, and Claudio Caminero, from New York, have experience with large designs.
- They said it’s important to do your research and avoid numbing cream for longer sessions.
Anyone who has gotten inked knows that it’s an exciting venture, but it’s also a risky one.
This is particularly the case when it comes to large tattoos, since they can be costly and difficult to cover-up. A large tattoo can be defined as one that takes more than one sitting to complete, according to Stu Hepcat, owner of Hepcat Tattoos in Glasgow, Scotland. Hepcat told Insider these include arm sleeves, back tattoos, or leg sleeves, which have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Insider spoke to Hepcat and Claudio Caminero, a New York-based tattoo artist who goes by the name Cloud Walkerabout the mistakes people make when getting large tattoos.
Lack of research could lead to regret
Hepcat said clients should be meticulous when researching a large tattoo design to ensure they won’t require a cover-up later down the line. Large tattoos can be particularly difficult to cover, as the cover-up should be at least double the size of the original design, according to Hepcat.
“There’s a great tattoo saying, ‘You get the tattoo you deserve.’ And you do. You do your research and you put the money down, and you’ll get a great tattoo,” Hepcat said.
“There’s no excuse now — the internet will tell you everything you need to know,” he said, adding that you should use Instagram to research tattoo artists that specialize in the type of design you want before committing to getting inked.
Failing to properly plan can lead to an unfinished tattoo
Getting a large tattoo is a big commitment, Caminero told Insider.
“The commitment involves how much it’s gonna cost, how long it’s gonna take, am I even able to take the pain?” he said, adding that clients should also think about whether their schedule will allow them to have the time needed to get it.
“You may have bitten off more than you can chew and just jump into a project for a $5,000, $10,000, $3,000 sleeve that you may not be able to afford at the moment,” Caminero said.
Diving into a project that you’re not fully committed to or that you can’t afford would be a huge mistake as it could lead to you walking around with an unfinished piece of art on your body. So to avoid this, Caminero said it’s imperative to fully understand what you’re in for on all levels.
Hepcat added that some large tattoos, for example a back tattoo, can take up to a year to complete if the client attends one session every month. He said they should allow for at least two weeks’ healing time between sessions for large designs.
You should avoid numbing cream when getting a large tattoo
Hepcat said that while numbing cream isn’t bad to use overall, he wouldn’t recommend using it for large designs where you’re sitting for a prolonged period because it will likely wear off.
“One reason you shouldn’t use it is it only lasts for about an hour and a half, and if you are sitting for a four-hour session it will hit you like a train,” Hepcat said.
He said clients are more likely to get used to the sensation of being inked if they don’t use numbing cream at the start of the session.
Don’t micromanage your tattoo artist
Designing a large tattoo can be complex, and Hepcat said you shouldn’t come to the session expecting to control the artist’s creative process. Instead, he said you should give a general idea of what you want and allow them to work their magic.
“Give them an idea, but don’t nitpick. Give them freedom. If you nitpick, you’ll get resistance from the artist. Give them a ballpark idea,” he said.
Take the aftercare seriously
Caminero said sometimes people will get a large tattoo and then head out for a sunny vacation or day at the beach just a day or so later.
Getting in the water or sunbathing are activities that directly affect the healing of the tattoo, Caminero said. He described a fresh tattoo as an open wound and said that during the healing process you should avoid submerging it in anything that could cause an infection, which he said includes pools and other bodies of water.
Since it’s an open wound, the skin can burn more quickly than you may be used to, which, according to Byrdie, could lead to your tattoo fadingcracking, blistering, or peeling.
“You invest a lot of money in these tattoos,” he said, so you should take care not to ruin it or harm your skin in the aftercare process.