Tattoo artists are professionals, but they sometimes make mistakes on the job, just like the rest of us.
The only difference is that people have to live with those mistakes permanently etched into their skin for the rest of their lives. Whoops!
AskReddit users who work as tattoo artists share their biggest ‘oh no’ moments from the job.
1. Not backwards
“After a few years of tattooing, I had moved & started at a new studio. I was a pretty new hire at the time. I obviously wanted to show my employers I was competent.
One of the co-owners had a coworker/friend from his other job at a casino come in for some tattoos on her back. They were two tribal looking symbols, apparently in some Asian language (She herself was an immigrant & vouched for the meanings).
Long story shorter, I get a phone call about 2 weeks later. The lady was upset & insisted I had tattooed the symbols backwards! Mind you, I am very cautious. I always have my clients look at the design(s) on paper, sign off on paperwork, check the stencil before & after application. So, despite feeling pretty sure I didn’t mess up the placement, I was a bit freaked out. I told her to come into the shop right away to check it out.
She came back in, and I pulled up the jpeg of her tattoo lines (I save everything). She confirmed they were correct. She went back to my station & showed me her back. The tattoos matched perfectly! She looked in the mirror and continued to argue they were backwards. Smh.
So, I took the paper with the line work & showed her. She agreed again that they looked correct. Then I showed her the paper in the mirror, next to her tattoos. Obviously, to me at least, mirrors show the inverse image.
This lady looked shocked, like I had just performed a magic trick. Well, despite being about 50 years old, she never realized mirrors will make lettering/images appear backwards. She laughed, and began to apologize profusely. Told me she’d tell my boss & everyone else that she badmouthed me for no reason.
I had one other lady experience thus years later. It took every member of the shop staff to explain to her how mirrors work.”
“Back when my first tattoo artist was still in business I came in to get a tattoo done by his apprentice.
As she doing mine she tells me about the day before, she had had a lady pay to get Cinderella’s castle tattooed on her entire back. My artist had spent the while week getting it ready. Lady comes in to get the line work done. They get towards the end of the session and this lady starts taking about how she cant wait to see what Snow White’s castle looks like finished.
My artist told me she had a heart attack. This tat was massive and if it was the wrong castle there was no way to change it. She said she immediately started questioning the woman, totally panicked. Turns out lady had had a bit of a brain fart. She meant to say Cinderella. She apologized for the confusion and they finished the session without any more issues.
She said that after that woman said Snow White it was the most terrifying 5 minutes of her life.”
3. Lucky he loved it
“Not an artist but an artist who was working on me told me this story of something that happened in the shop:
The shop hired a new tattoo artist who was under the influence one day (they didn’t know him too well so they didn’t know if it was just his personality or not). He’s working on this guy who is a hippie, stoned as all hell. He’s tattooing a Tiger on him. Apparently he tattooed an extra leg by accident on the Tiger and when they were finished, the client was beyond irritated and goes “I don’t mean to trip out man, but what’s with the extra leg” the tattoo artist just looks at him and goes “he’s just one step ahead of the game, man” the client, for some reason, got a huge kick out of it and ended up loving it and it ended there.
They fired him immediately.”
4. Passed out
“Was doing a cover up on a small wrist tattoo for a girl. After about a half hour she got kind of quiet and clammy so I asked if she wanted a break. I got up to take off my gloves and she slumped off the chair. Luckily I caught her and tried to wake her up. After about 5 minutes she came to and we got her a granola bar and she perked up. I was the newbie at the shop so all the other artists were laughing at me for freaking out over a passed out client.”
Girl comes in fresh faced, just turned 18 and ready to make the step into getting a tattoo.
She was after a henna style lotus flower on the centre of her back.
“OK, cool” I thought.. Probably 2 hours work, tops?
Fast forward a few weeks to the appointment. Consent form has been filled in and signed. I put my old squiggle on the bottom.
She gets laid down after I’ve put the stencil on and I begin. She tenses up and says it really hurts. I reassure her that after the first 10 minutes or so it does get easier. At around the 17 minute mark she erupts into tears. Not just the odd tear but I mean hysterics. Her make up was running down her face and she was crying out at every line.
If any of you have played the remaster of Resident Evil, she literally sounded like Lisa Trevor.
I ask her if she wanted to leave it and maybe try another day when she felt braver. Through tears, she just said “No.. I need it done today.”
Ok, right yep. So a two hour tattoo turned into a 3 and a half hour showdown of blood, sweat and (many) tears.
She hasn’t been back since.”
6. Big mistake
“Not me, but a friend of mine is a heavily tatted individual.
He was born and raised on Vancouver Island in BC, and as an homage he wanted to get an outline of the island tattooed across his entire back.
Went to the shop he had been going to for years but sat down with one of the new artists. She showed him the stencil of the tattoo on his back, with the help of a mirror. He ok’d the tattoo.
The artist was about 75% done the tattoo, she then lets out an audible ‘oh sh*t’….
My buddy, thinking she maybe made a small error said ‘no worries if one of the lines isn’t perfect, I trust you’.
‘No, *****, I think I drew the island backwards.’
What she had done was put the stencil on his back the wrong way, but upon showing him in the mirror it appeared that it was on correctly. He ok’d the tat and she went to town. At this point both of them start freaking out. He called me asking me to come to him immediately as he was losing his mind. The artist ran out of the shop crying and disappeared for the whole day.
The owner quickly came over and offered to fix the tattoo, which would now have to include a great deal of shading in order to cover up the previous mistake. In the end my buddy got free tats for life and now has a GIGANTIC tattoo of Vancouver Island on his back.”
7. That’s not good
“My brother in law got the oh so original ‘death before dishonor’ tattoo (ironically before he was dishonorably discharged from the army) and when it was finished we realized it said “death before dishoron.”
Yeah, it was spelled like that.
The artist was able to fix it the best that he could but it still looks funny.
It’s fitting though. My brother in law is an idiot.”
8. Wrong year, pal
“Not the artist, but the one getting the work done. I was getting a tattoo with a specific year on it, as well as a good amount of other detail around it. About halfway through I look down, and the year is completely wrong. Like, hundreds of years off. I was young and didn’t like confrontation at the time so my heart just sank and I accepted my fate.
The artist seemed to become aware of what was happening, and said “Give me a minute.” He left me sitting in the chair and went to the back of the shop. He came back a couple minutes later, proceeded to shade in the old year and put the correct year underneath the shading, and tied the entire tattoo together with that shading which ended up making it look even better than the original design. It worked out for the better in the end but for 10 minutes I was sure my tat was ruined.”
9. A few for ya
“Obligatory “not an artist”, but my friends older brother used to tell us stories from his tattoo shop before class and a few stuck with me.
So, Jake was about 3 years into tattooing and he had seen some crazy sh*t. People screaming as though they had been shot, clients passing out, he had even been punched in the face because he was taking too long. But, hey, this is Vegas. Crazy sh*t happens. However one client sticks in his memory as his most frightening scare.
One day a client comes in with his friend and wanted something semi complex on his forearm. Jake free-hands some nice sh*t (incredibly talented guy) and gets right to it. About fifteen minutes in, the guy starts bleeding a decent bit. That’s clearly nothing shocking in a tattoo shop, but the amount is a little more than normal. After taking a minute to talk to the friend she tells him they’d been drinking. Most if not all artists will tell you not to drink before getting some work done due to the fact that booze tends to make you bleed more than normal. Jake adjusts his attitude and gets back to it.
About five minutes later the guy starts bleeding a lot more. Like, a LOT more. Jake stops and asks the guy what’s going on. The dude confesses that he’s got a medical issue with blood clotting. Jake is really bothered because no tattoo, even with cut skin, should be bleeding that much. He tells the guy that he can’t finish and to see a doctor. While cleaning up he happens to catch a piece of the conversation they’re having while they grab their bags.
“Shouldn’t you tell him that you’re poz?”
This client was HIV positive. And here Jake was wiping up a small pool of his blood. Needless to say, Jake was freaking out. Things escalate to shouting and the owner of the shop gets involved. Once the owner finds out he calmly ushers Jake out of the room and implores him to inspect himself for cuts. Jake gets obsessive and checks about a thousand times while the owner sternly informs the client that he should have informed them of his status. The client leaves and they clean obsessively for hours and don’t let clients in that room for a couple days.
Guys, tell your artists about medical issues before hand, don’t drink before getting a tattoo, and definitely tell them if you’re HIV positive. Yes, good shops sterilize profusely but you should still let them know. It’s for your safety as well as theirs and other clients.”
“I’ve posted about this before. But my roommate in high school (we also played b-ball together) got a tattoo that said “Truely Blessed” around a basketball on the outside of his arm.
The problem being, “Truely” isn’t a word… It’s spelled “Truly”…
He wore a shooting sleeve for the rest of the season… Even our coach would light him up sometimes. “[Name], hope you’re blessed enough to remember the fucking plays.” He did go on to play professionally in Europe though. Hope things are going well for that dumbass.”
11. Oh sh*t
“Been around tattoo studios for more than half my life, worked front desk for several years. Sister in law is a tattoo artist. Biggest oh shit moment I’ve witnessed personally was a person coming in nervous about getting their first tattoo. On the paperwork we made you fill out before it clearly asks you when the last time you ate/had anything to drink was, because some people’s nervous system can’t handle the pain and they will pass out or start shaking real bad. This woman stated she ate 30 minutes before coming in, no problem there. 10 minutes into the tattoo she passes out and wasn’t responsive. 911 was called.
She woke up as the paramedics arrived, turns out she hadn’t eaten anything since the evening before because she was nervous about the tattoo and was hypoglycemic. After refusing to be taken away by ambulance, she at some snacks she had in her purse and rescheduled for the next week. We requested that she bring her food to eat it in front of us to ensure that there wasn’t a repeat performance. That session went without a hitch.
The funniest moment I’ve ever witnessed was a woman getting a cupcake tattoo on her foot approximately the size of a quarter, and the way she was screaming and yelling in pain, you’d think we were beating her with a club.”
“My friend went to an apprentice to get a free script tattoo. It was on the backs of her thighs, separated like “We’re all” and then “mad here”
She was in a lot of pain so I was trying to distract her by reading her riddles and jokes and stuff. I guess the guy was nervous and tried to make it as identical as possible on each thigh. He’s on “mad here” and she looks back and he’s put an apostrophe.
At first she was like “…what is that”
Dude paled. Lost all colour in his face. I thought he was gonna throw up.
But she was super sweet about it and gave him an out and said something like “oh cool are you going to connect that part to the top of the “h” or something? I like that detail”
He did. Looks awesome. You’d never be able to tell. But poor guy.”
“Back in the 80’s, my Dad and his Navy buddies sat down to get tattoos on a street corner in Spain. First tattoo comes out great, second one looks great and then the guy they struggled to convince to get a tattoo steps up. He agreed to get his wife’s name “Kim” tattooed on his arm.
He’s getting tattooed, first the vertical line, then for some reason a horizontal line? Maybe some fancy font. When he’s halfway through the “m” my Dad says “Oh shit, I think he’s writing Tim on your arm!” Coincidentally, when he came home his wife broke up with him anyway.”
14. His fault
“My ex boyfriend wanted me to tattoo him. He broke up with me for another girl a few months before. But I wanted to be the bigger person and establish something like a friendship or whatever. The tattoo was on his shin, and after 30 minutes he jerks so violently I really f*ck up an outline.
Like, no can do f*cked up. I think oh jeez that’s bad. Trying to explain what happened, that probably we can figure something out to cover it. He just completely loses his shit and rants about how I took revenge on him for dumping me. Urm… Yeah, two years later he’s still yabbing about his crazy ex who mutilated him.”
Now that is some seriously CRINGE spelling. Yikes.
Do you have any stories like this? Tattoo artist have issues with the basics?