Tattoos are pretty permanent, that’s why it’s extremely important that the tattoo artist knows exactly what he’s doing. However, at the end of the day they’re just people – and even they are not safe from an occasional human error. And their clients tend to remember those mistakes for a long time.
A little while ago, one Reddit user
Recently, a Reddit user asked tattoo artists to share some of their biggest mistakes and their clients’ reactions, and received some cringeworthy answers
I tried to tattoo “PATIENCE” on myself when I was 16,using the stick and poke method. I made it as far as “PATIEN” and stopped. I never finished it. Eventually got it covered up when I was 28. Literally didn’t have the patience to finish it lol. It was a funny story to tell for all those years, and a lot of my friends were disappointed in me for covering it. But I have no ragrets
I had a client email me asking for a four-letter acronym. I don’t do freehand script so I put the letters into a font generator and sent him back some options. He picked the one he liked best and we set an appointment date. On the day of his session, I showed him the acronym again and we chose a size. I placed the stencil and he approved it and I got started. Midway through the tattoo I asked him what the letters stood for and he told me. My heart stopped. The letters were in the wrong order. The middle two were swapped. I ran to the shop computer to check my email and sure enough, in his original email he’d sent me, they’d been correct. I had typed them into the font generator wrong. But to be fair, he had seen them several times since then and didn’t notice my mistake. I spent the rest of the session covering them up with another design he’d had as a backup tattoo idea and I didn’t charge him. But it was a good learning experience for me to always ask what initials/acronyms stand for ahead of time to make sure I get them in the right order.
Worked as a piercer in a shop a decade ago. A guy came in and wanted “Murphys law”…the artist freehanded a design on him, he green lit it after watching in the mirror and they did a beautiful piece with a banner saying “murpys law”. Seemed fitting. The guy loved the fact that his one messed up tattoo was the murphys law one.
I was a receptionist at a tattoo shop. One of the artists misspelled “neighborhood” on this guys neck. He spelled it “neigborhood”, leaving out the first “H”. Neighborhood was the guys nickname. It was a pretty large, elaborate tattoo so there was no fixing it. I don’t think I have ever cringed so hard in my life. The guy was surprisingly really cool about it. He did see the drawing and approved it before it was tattooed on. He ended up making the artist tattoo a “H” on his palm so if anyone gave him crap about the misspelling he could smack that person with the missing “H”.
I had been tattooing on human skin for no more than two weeks and was very inexperienced. My mentor wanted me to participate in a $13 Friday the 13th flash special coming up that week. I drew up a flash sheet full of designs that I was confident I could pull off with my limited experience. I spent the entire day beforehand prepping my station, gathering supplies, printing stencils and consent forms, cleaning the entire shop, etc. I decided to sleep on the shop floor that night so that in the morning I could buy the whole shop some fancy donuts from a nearby cafe and get back in time for the event. Right before it started my mentor, who was also the shop owner, changed up the rules of the special. He announced on Instagram that people could bring in whatever small design they wanted to get done for $13. I was suddenly being asked to draw and tattoo designs that I was fully unprepared to take on. The shop had one computer with photoshop that we all had to take turns on to create designs so our turn-around time slowed to a crawl. (And I already tattooed slow anyway since I was so green) The shop was overflowing with people and we had a waitlist with literally over 100 names.
Just as we were about to close up shop at 2am, one girl walks in and asks if she can still get in on the special. She wants a butterfly. My mentor tells me to take care of it. I’m exhausted but hey, you don’t tell your mentor no. So I print the stencil and I get started and…. my hands just stop functioning. My wrists were so sore and cramped from working all day that I couldn’t control the tattoo machine anymore. It was the strangest, most horrible feeling. I watched in horror as, no matter how hard I tried to tame my gnarled hands, I just completely botched this girl’s tattoo. Lines were all squiggly and off. I even cut into her arm in some places. Lots of bleeding. I felt absolutely horrible. It looked horrendous.
I called another artist over to finish the tattoo for me and told the client that her tattoo was on the house. She left without saying much. We closed up shop after she left and I told the other artists to go on home while I stayed behind and cleaned up. I cried as I cleaned. I made only enough money that day to cover the price of the stupid donuts. By the time I was done cleaning it was 3:30am and I still had to ride my bike a few miles home. I was so tired that I decided to spend a second night sleeping on the shop floor. I woke up early the next morning to ride home… and the rear wheel had been stolen off of my bike. I had to carry it two miles to the nearest bike shop and spend $90 on a new wheel, tire, and cassette. I thought that was the end of that nightmare until… A week later I’m at home and get a call from my mentor. He’s SCREAMING through the phone. Apparently the butterfly girl went and left a 1 star review of the shop on Google after her experience with me. He said I had disgraced the name of his shop and the other artists that worked there. I had to come in the next day and apologize to each of them personally for damaging their reputations. I then had to contact the client and apologize once again to her and offer her another free tattoo. She never responded. The whole experience was humiliating.
I misspelled “forward”. It was a line of script on the side of a foot, and a last minute addition to a couple other tattoos they were getting. I quickly knocked it together on photoshop and nothing looked out of place, the client approved, so I made the stencil.
The real fu**up is that I didn’t ask them to spellcheck… I ALWAYS ask them to spellcheck, except for this ONE time…
The next day they came back and pointed out that forward isn’t spelled “foreword”. I do a lot of reading and I guess it didn’t look wrong because I’m used to seeing it as the “foreword” of a book. I apologized profusely, feeling like a total a**, and told them to pick at the scab of the extra “e” and the “w” while they were healing (to make it fade) and come back in two weeks.
Fixing the O was easy and I was able to turn the E and W into a wide loopy W and add a bit of extra loops and flourish to other letters so that it looked totally fine in the end albeit a bit stylized. She was happy in the end and still comes to get work from me.
Ten years of tattooing and that one still haunts me. There have been other mistakes but they’re mostly the clients fault… things like dads getting their children’s birthdays wrong (happens a lot actually. Dude, I don’t know what month your kid was born… call your wife!).
Also, bonus story: the guy who spells his kids name wrong! I had him write their name down. Literally HE wrote it down. “Bently” I drew up a fun custom script, he loved it. Put the stencil on him and had him check it out (I even told him to make sure everything was right), all good. Did the lining and had him check it out while we took a break, loved it. Finished the shading and drop-shadow etc, all finished. He’s checking it out in the mirror, loves it, until I hear, “uhhh, what about the e?”
“What E?” I reply in dismay!
“The E! Bently has an E!”
So I show him what he had written down, and he groans, “oh man, I always fu** that up… my wife is going to kill me!”
So I sit down with the original drawing and manage to turn part of the L and the Y into an E, add another couple lines to re-form the L and Y, and boom: Bentley. It worked out in the end and I felt like and absolute wizard, but fu**, DUDE, it’s your kid’s name and you didn’t notice the spelling was wrong the 10 times you checked it out during the process?!?
What a job.
Once had a client call the shop who was crying hysterically because, according to her, I had done her tattoo backwards. It took a few minutes to get her to calm down to the point where we realized she was looking at it in the mirror. She apologized and hung up. The tattoo was on her back. When I placed the stencil, and finished the tattoo, the client was using two mirrors. A handheld one, and the wall mounted one. Using two mirrors, it looked correct (which it was). When she looked in just one mirror at home, it appeared backwards, the way a mirror works.
A few years ago I was tattooing a client who had apparently lost a bet, his buddies were allowed to tattoo something behind his shoulder as long as it wasn’t racist or offensive.
Turns out the guy drew up a design of “A Leprechaun throwing up on a book”… Sure, why not, everyone was sober and they were paying pounds upfront.
Easy work- the drawing was really simple and the shading was easier than I thought it’d be.
Turns out everyone liked it… Except the guy with the tattoo of a Leprechaun throwing up on a book. He picked at the scab, trying to get rid of it, completely took it from bad to worse.
Comes in about ten days later, demanding a refund of money HE didn’t pay or the studio, not me, cover it up. Nope, management said you signed for it in your right mind and than damaged it yourself, personally I was yelled at and told NEVER tattoo anyone like that, it only works in television series or film.
Did I make a mistake? Yes and no.
The lesson here is don’t get involved in others drama when permanent body marking are involved.
When I was but a wee baby piercer, I worked at the biggest shop in my city which had 14 artists and 2 piercers. It was the peak of the tramp stamp trend (I’m still so sad that was the nickname, ass antlers was so much better) so when a super tiny 18 year old black woman came in and wanted her name on her lower back with a flower it was just normal. An older white male tattoo artist took her to pick a font, it took a minute (even though back then everyone went with Edwardian) but they came out, I had her do paperwork and he got the drawing finished. She okayed the design, she okayed the stencil, she sat for the tattoo, loved it, tipped him and left.
Two hours later she called back sobbing saying we ruined her life. The counter girl told her to come in and we would fix whatever was wrong. Tattoo comes back with her two gigantic, angry af friends who are ready to freak out. We finally see the tattoo.
Her name was Whitney. The “n” got left out in the font process. So huge across her lower back it said “Whitey”……. It was covered for free and with many apologies with three giant purple roses. The tattoo artist was so fu**ed up over that he didn’t come in for a week. It was an honest mistake, but it was the worst fu**ing spelling error I’ve seen.
Dang, I’m late to the party. This didn’t happen to me, but to an artist that used to work in the booth next to me.
Some lady comes in and wants a pocket watch with roses in her arm, so my coworker agrees to do it. The client specifically wanted the pocket watch to be stopped at “4:20”
He draws it up for her right arm and she’s soooo excited, but for some reason she decides to change it to the left arm last minute. No problem, he runs in the back to the printer to mirror the image. She loves it, and they slap the stencil on and start tattooing. When they’re almost done, he realizes when they mirrored the image, the clock doesn’t say “4:20” anymore, it says “7:40”.
He doesn’t know what to do besides finish the tattoo. When the client checks it out in the mirror, she doesn’t notice and fu**ing loves it. The lady ended up coming back a few weeks later to say once again how much she loved it! I always wonder if she ever found out…
Tattooing a kanji backwards. Client brought in the reversed image, I made a stencil and applied it and the client checked it in the mirror and gave the OK. Came back the next day claiming I did it wrong. I pulled the original out of my box and held it up next to the tattoo and said “nope, that’s what you brought in.” Felt bad, but still laughed when she left. long story short: YOU AS A CLIENT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SPELLING. Tattoo artists are not cultural experts or professional grammar nazis. You pick it, we just stick it.
This will be buried but it’s worth a shot. I work at a tattoo shop with a few artists. One of our artists fu**ed up tremendously on a face tattoo. She did the stencil before hand and showed him, after his approval she started above his brow. He wanted “cursed” but he left the shop with “CUSRED” tattooed on his forehead. He was pissed of course, never saw him again.
I tattooed Philippines 4:13 instead of Philippians 4:13 on a girl one time. Fortunately I was able fix it though
Oh semi recently I did an arm band of sheet music on this walk in and I put one of the segments on upside down because I don’t read music and it looked right. Client noticed when I was about halfway done with that segment; luckily she was cool and just said she should have checked her stencil harder and shrugged it off.
When I first opened my shop I was SUPER nervous about making mistakes and those first few clients were a roller coaster of anxiety
Well ofcourse one of my first clients comes in and asked for a tattoo to be covered because another artist screwed it up. The tattoo was meant to be a peanut riding a motorcycle however the tattoo artist screwed up and it looked like a penis riding a malformed motorcycle from hell.
So I get to work covering it up with a new design, she asked for a raven to cover it up since I could colour the raven in black and cover up the other artists mistake. No problem all good right?
No…..the tattoo was in a SUPER awkward position and the client wouldn’t stop squirming. Eventually I finished and to my dismay I noticed my fu** up….
I didnt cover the peanut part of the original tattoo properly and the raven looked like it had a little penis coming out of it….
When she realized she was angry and demanded it be fixed, the only solution I saw was to attach another smaller raven to the original one as a sort of chain link.
The client now tells people that the tattoo is two chained ravens because “our inner darkness must be chained”….but we both know why she REALLY got it…ha little penis man
I’ve never really made any big mistakes that garnered a reaction, but one of my clients has a tattoo from another artist in a local studio that says “Gradad” instead of Grandad.
The studio fired the artist and wouldn’t take any responsibility for what had happened
My wife and I got matching tattoos with our children’s bday and our wedding day. Pretty generic. We had to watch the kids so we took turns. She went first, I showed up after her appt and she was beaming with excitement at how nice the numbers were. She showed me. The wedding day was wrong. She had the 15th and ours is the 14th. The tattoo artist felt terrible. My wife had looked at it atleast twice before she it was put on. Entirely her fault.
My ONLY spelling mistake ever was in Italian. Girl wants a phrase in Italian. She writes it down no less than 5x on a paper. I tell her to make sure it is correct, I don’t speak Italian. She insists it is correct. I draw up some nice script, tattoo it with no issues, bandage, pay and she leaves. She comes back in hysterical and tells me I spelled it wrong. I hadn’t thrown out the paper. I spelled it exactly how she spelled it. I asked what she wanted to do, and she decided “eh no one I know speaks Italian”. That was about 15 years ago, I often wonder if she ended up getting it covered up.
When I started tattooing I was working at an awful studio that would often give me works that didn’t fit my style in any way (very fine line works which I wasn’t very good at)
The mistakes I made were usually crooked tattoos or going too deep and instead of actual helping me the owners either would yell at me later, forced me to tell clients I was more experienced than I actually am and got upset that I “ask too many questions”.
Eventually they just stopped giving me work all together. Sadly every once in a while they give my number to unhappy clients that I tattooed at that time and I still get calls asking me for compensation. I know it’s also my fault for those things but they really took of any responsibility.
These days I have my own small one person studio, I have nothing but sweet and satisfied clients and ironically I do a lot of fine line tattoos which I used to hate at that studio.
But if you want something specific- while I was in the studio some girl wanted a cursive tattoo that was extremely tiny. It was extremely small and thin and when I finished it looked good but when it healed a lot of the letters spread and mashed up together and because she barely had any tattoos it was VERY noticable. I gave her money back even though she demanded me to pay for tattoo removal. (And yes she signed a contract beforehand but the studio told me it protected only them and not me)
I read thoroughly and fortunately realized she had no case against me so she couldn’t sue. In general today I recommend people to steer clear of that place, disgusting money grabber assholes.
They do treat other tattoo artists who work for them like sh**.
Apprentice here. Nothing major but bad karma on one tattoo from the get go that absolutely floored my confidence for a bit. Only recently did my first ever small tattoo on a client. Had to do a small range of flash ideas that I felt comfortable with. Had my mentor (who,judging by some other stories, I’m very lucky to have. Hes a sound dude) discuss with me beforehand my needle choices, placement technique, usual bits and was ready to go. Every felt ready. Midway through, my machine goes. Its brand new. My only one. Managed to sort it without much fuss. In doing so, in my panic put the wrong needle size in the machine when it came to replacing it with a fresh one. Botched a line when I realise almost immediately the size difference. Change again, nerves are shot, back at it. Brand new footpedal breaks. Replace it with an old one from my mentor. It breaks too. Power pack dies. That was brand new too. Panic. Spill my ink. Practically had a meltdown in my brain about what has happened. Carried on with another artists equipment. Apologising as calmly as I can to my client. Mentor calmed my nerves and I ended up pulling it out the bag and doing a job I was happy with somehow but most importantly, the client loved it. Anyway, not a crazy bad story but as an apprentice who’s also a fairly confident dude, I have never felt so absolutely floored in my life. Tattooing someone is monumentally stressful when all doesnt go to plan. I cant wait to do more and progress, but fu** me what a time for sh** to happen. My mentor helped me sort all my gear afterward and was super cool. Sat with me and said something like “Well. Of all the times and all the things that could’ve gone wrong. That was the absolutely perfect one for them” Nerve wracking stuff.