Tattoo artists of Reddit were asked: “What’s the worst mistake you’ve made on someone’s tattoo?” These are some of the best answers.
1/21 Was as much my fault as the client’s. He got a tattoo with Deutschland spelled Deuchland. A black silhouette of Germany is what we covered it up with.
2/21 Well some guy came in with a pic of his son and said he wanted a tattoo on his shoulder of him. Anyways the problem is I made the eyes WAY to big. It looked less like a normal human being and more like some f*cked up ET hybrid. He didn’t really say anything about it but it still haunts my dreams.
3/21 I’ve been tattooing for four years, but I will always consider myself a student of this art and am always learning new things. That being said, I should mention that a lot of tattooing is taking risks, trial and error, etc.
Well, one day when I was in my first year, I was tattooing a yellow sunflower with a blue background and some script. Seems pretty simple, right? I was so excited to start right away into the sunflower that I ignored my training and did all of my light colors, yellows, white highlights etc first. I finish that and move on to the dark/medium/light blues for the background, and it only took one misguided wipe of the excess dark blue into the yellows of the sunflower to permanently stain what was once a pastel yellow sunflower into a lime green mess.
4/21 It was my second legit in shop tattoo, I was to do free tattoos for friends only for a few months before I was allowed to get actual clients. An old friend from high school made an appointment for a nautical star. I did the outline no problem, and started packing in color. I was going around the points filling in the left sides black and when I got to the last point I filled in the right side instead. I felt horrible. We worked it out to where she was happy and tried to tell me not to worry but I did, and still do.
5/21 I was tattooing a couple of friends one night, and a friend wanted a skull with cross bones. I started with the one of the bones she forced me to stop cause she couldn’t hack the pain so I stopped but now she has unfinished tattoo that looks a ballsack on her leg.
6/21 This tough, biker looking guy came in and asked for a tattoo of a skull wrapped in thorns. Now, usually when I do thorns of any sort, a rose accompanies it. I guess I was super nervous and in the zone because I sure did draw a skull wrapped in two roses on his back. Needless to say, he was pissed. I haven’t had any mistakes at all since then. One mess up definitely straightens you out.
7/21 I came home kinda drunky one night when my 16yr old sister walks in the living room and tells me this “brilliant” idea of a tattoo I should do. She grabbed a marker and wrote ‘NO 1’ on my leg and said that it could be read as ‘no one’ or ‘number 1’ my drunken self thought, “Wow! That’s so f*cking witty!” So I grabbed my machine and tattooed right over what she had written.
For some reason though I ended up putting a dot right after the ‘No’ part so it says ‘No. 1’ which is always read as “Number 1”. To make matters worse she had written it right under my Porno For Pyros (a band) tattoo which is a picture of the devil (it’s a symbol from their album). So I have the Devils face with No.1 written under it. I think it’s funny though so no harm done.
8/21 Just fresh out of my apprenticeship I had an older gentleman late 70’s in a wheelchair with his caregiver come in and asked to have his late wife’s name but on his arm.
I went on to tell him how sometimes its a bad idea to tattoo older people like himself because of how thin and paperlike the skin is. It often leads to blow outs or the tattoo completely falling out. He goes on to say that he doesn’t care and that I was his wife’s deathaversary the next day and he wanted to go and show her… said that before she died he told her he’d do it.
I put the stencil on his arm let it dry and go to begin the tattoo after asking if he was ready. First letter in… The whole letter blows out an is completely unrecognizable. I stop, call over a coworker with more knowledge and we both tell the gentleman that we don’t think its a good idea to go on with the tattoo.
He then begins to cry and tell me how much he hated it and how was he supposed to show his wife this now? I apologize and tell him that sometimes it happens and I had given him fair warning. I gave him his money back and sent him on his way. His caregiver was a huge help in this trying to calm him down and was very understanding.
This was 6 years ago and I still remember it everyday before I start a tattoo.
9/21 Spelled Philippians… Philippines. Oops, he cried, I cried. We covered it with huge praying hands with a dark background. Lost a bunch of money doing the cover up, but I regained my confidence and pride. Worth it. Glad he trusted me to fix it.
10/21 I got drunk and tattooed myself and now I have a sh*tty South Carolina Palm tree on my ankle and a melting eye that looks like an avocado above it.
11/21 When I was a new tattoo artist this guy came in and wanted his daughter’s name and birthdate. Easy enough. During the tattoo he told me all about how his evil baby-momma was keeping him from seeing their daughter, calling him a terrible father and whatnot. I felt bad for the guy. Several days later he comes back wanting it “fixed.” He told me the wrong birthday.
12/21 I once did a child portrait on a young mother with slim-jims for arms. In trying to make the piece large enough to allow for long-lasting detail, I rendered the stencil a bit too large for her arm, so it wrapped around the sides a bit; thus instead of the eyes working things out, they decided to part ways.
13/21 I tattoed the day of the death of my client’s grand-dad on the chest.
2 weeks later, he came back saying he made a mistake about the date. Couldn’t do anything for him so he left with his wrong date tattoo. It was 15 years ago and I still think about that at least once a week….
14/21 I was starting a huge koi coverup piece on a girls side a couple months ago, she’s super skinny and the second I start on the outline she starts shaking like a chihuahua and would not stop. Her entire side got a nice shaky as f*ck koi fish.
She never came back for another session to attempt to clean it up with some black shading, and honestly I was pretty relieved, she was the worst to tattoo. I felt terrible that she got a bad tattoo even though there was really nothing I could do differently.
15/21 A stick n poke that was supposed to be a DRI skanking logo came out as a swastika.
16/21 DIY Tattoo Artist here. It was late one night and I had been reading up on the great tattoo method that is “Stick & Poke”. For those of you who aren’t familiar it requires: A Needle, Thread, and Ink. Three simple things that would guarantee a semi-permanent mark. I scrounged around and found some sewing needles and some India Ink, but I couldn’t locate any thread that would work so I said, “Screw it, I’ll just constantly dip the needle in the ink.”
Mistake #1: I then realized that I would be stabbing myself repeatedly over the span of an hour so I thought, “What would help ease this procedure? Oh. Alcohol.” See now rubbing alcohol helps sterilize the site and keep everything clean and the other kind makes you inebriated. So naturally I began using copious amounts of both.
Mistake #2: What do I tattoo? A Triforce of course. I love video games haha! So there I am doing a shot every twenty or so pokes. Naturally I get to the point where I can’t tell how deep I’m going with the needle and there is ink and blood in and on my skin. I look down at my leg and realize that I have a lopsided bloody triangle etched into my leg. That’s also when I realized that this entire thing was a terrible mistake. So. My own “prison tattoo” was one massive mistake.
17/21 I had a guy write down his own wife of 12 years’ name wrong once. They showed back up three days later with her attitude in nuclear mode. I happened to have the piece of paper with his handwriting on it with her name spelled wrong, so I was off the hook. They got divorced.
18/21 I used to work in a shop out in Fresno, and I was an apprentice at the time. At this shop, I didn’t yet have my own booth. I was working on this girl and just about to finish when the light that was clamped to the counter behind me fell on the girl who was laying on her stomach. It caught her on fire immediately and burned her pretty good. I was needle down when this occurred. It didn’t go well for her.
She got a nice black line where it didn’t belong. Needless to say, we were both so shaken up from the ordeal, she ended up coming over and I got her one of my nice shirts to replace hers, didn’t charge her, and smoked her out, was a good female bonding experience. We ended up friends. Could have been sued probably. That lamp went to the garbage despite my shop owners “opinion”. Still feel bad 6.5 years later. I quit not long after.
19/21 I was an apprentice and had to bring in my own people to work mostly unless some easy lettering or tribal came in. I had been doing really well and my boss/artist I was working under wanted me to step up my portfolio. So I drew up a really fine line henna style half sleeve for a female friend of mine. It was very intricate and in hindsight far to difficult for my skill level. I honestly still have no idea what happened but something about her skin and the fine line quality just didn’t match and the tattoo just didn’t stick well.
It didn’t necessarily blowout but the line quality was poor and needed to be touched again. I felt very bad because I knew this person well. I tried to redeem myself but I just couldn’t get a smooth line to lay and it still haunts me. I’ve done great tattoos and this one shouldn’t have caused any trouble being simple line work but for some reason it turned out to be my worst tattoo.
20/21 I had only been tattooing about 4 years (started in 1996) and that nautical star wave had just started to hit. I screwed up the order in coloring the sides. Since it was two of the under sides, I recovered by making it look like a 3D star with proper top-down light source rather than its more graphical representation.
21/21 I had a machine in high school. I misspelled “independant” on my friend’s leg. She was dependant on a smarter artist after that.