As much thought should go into placement of the tattoo as to the design. Preferably the design should fit comfortably into the area where it will be tattooed. Questions to consider are visibility and the effects of longevity on the tattoo.
Visibility – Who should see your tattoo is a personal choice. If you prefer to keep your tattoo out of sight then placement should be in an inconspicuous place such as the shoulder, hip or thigh, groin area, buttocks, inner ankle, upper arm above short sleeve level or chest/breast. Otherwise, any part of your anatomy is fair game.
You should note though that most reputable parlors will not tattoo the hands or face for obvious reasons.
Longevity – Certain areas of your body take more abuse than others and sheds and replenishes its skin more rapidly. This shedding and replenishing tend to fade out a tattoo more rapidly. These areas include the hands and feet, elbows and knees, lower arms and wrists.
There are also certain areas where the skin stretches so much that a tattoo there will tend to ‘move’. This includes the inner part of the elbow, the neck and backs of knees. Women in particular should keep in mind that childbirth will have a big effect on their body. Stretch marks may appear on the breasts and abdominal area. A tattoo in these areas will be affected.
DOES IT HURT?
Everybody has a different threshold for pain. What will hurt one person can be simply annoying to someone else. How much a tattoo hurts is dependent on your individual tolerance for pain. There are areas more sensitive than others that is the same for everybody. Generally the ‘meatier’ the area the less it hurts. The closer to bone or tendons the more it hurts. Likewise certain areas are exposed to the elements, such as the back and outside parts of the arm, and tend to hurt less than more protected areas, like the inside of the arm, thigh or stomach. Women also tend to be more tolerant of pain than men, specially around the stomach area.
The pain associated with tattooing has been described as feeling like a) a bad sunburn, b) a bee stinging several times, c) a cigarette burn and d) a bad scrape. In most cases the pain diminishes after a few minutes when your body’s natural painkillers (endorphins) kick in.
As Al, a friend of mine and tattoo artist as well, likes to put it, “a tattoo is going to hurt no matter where you get it, so you might as well get it where you want it.”