How to Complain About a Tattoo - Help! I'm Not Happy With My Tattoo

Written by: Pete

Tattoos are a permanent risk that you take with trusting an artist and the work they’ll do on your skin. It’s for that reason that we continuously stress the need to do research on artists and shops before hopping into the tattooist’s chair. But sometimes, no matter how much research we do, we might encounter a poor experience with a bad tattoo. So how can you complain about your tattoo? We’ve got you covered.


How to Complain About a Tattoo

Mistakes Happen

Nobody is perfect, and neither is your tattoo artist. Sometimes, you’ll simply walk out of a shop with tattoo regrets. This can be due to a design that was poorly executed on your skin, or perhaps words that weren’t double checked prior to being tattooed, and now have spelling errors on your skin.

If you’re caught in an, “Oh my God,” moment, just take a deep breath and remain calm. No tattoo artist intends to give you a bad tattoo, so remembering that it’s unintentional is the first step to opening up the doors to communication and improvement.

Chances are, if you’re unhappy, your artist is probably unhappy as well. Tattoo shops are in the service industry, and they want happy customers; their reputation and success depends on it, so stay level-headed.

Speak Up Early

Chances are you’ll notice your unhappiness with a tattoo the moment your stencil is put on your skin. And this is truly the best time to present your issue with the tattoo.

Sometimes, an artist’s sketch will not transfer to stencil format as beautifully as anticipated, and you should stop the artist while they’re ahead. This will save you time, money, and disappointment. You have a right to ask for a different size, placement, or even an entirely different design. Your artist is working for you and wants to please you, so it’s okay to ask for a completely different design if it doesn’t meet your needs.

After the Fact

If you can’t catch your disappointment at the stencil stage, you’ll likely be stepping out of the artist’s chair, looking at your work in the mirror, and feeling your heart sink into your stomach. Don’t panic! You’re not at a total loss, even if this piece has been permanently etched onto you.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that the placement is awkward once the tattoo is complete, or the colors are odd, or the details are all wrong. This stage in your tattoo is meant to be a reflective stage of the work that was done, and you are in your right to request that your tattoo artist continue or improve upon the work they did. Don’t worry if they have another appointment; you are paying for this work to be done perfectly.

Unless the bad tattoo is a result of blowout or poor tattoo artist skills that don’t insert the ink deep enough in the dermis causing ink loss, you can usually catch your unhappiness with a tattoo before you leave the shop. If the poor quality tattoo is a result of an inexperienced artist, this will present itself after the third or fourth day of healing.

Remember not to panic, not even at this stage. Walk into or call your shop and show them your tattoo. Express your unhappiness calmly and with clear communication. Be upfront, be honest, but be kind and ensure that you both come to a clear understanding of how they will make this right for you.

Details are Important

Majority of the issues that people have with their tattoos comes from the fact that they:

  • Were not clear about their vision
  • Did not look at the artist’s portfolio to see what style they excel in
  • Printed a design off the internet and expected an exact copy
  • Did not recognize that skin is not stagnant; it moves when you move and so the design will shift as you shift
  • Were too nervous to be clear about what they wanted and gave vague directions to their artist
  • Are getting tattoos because they’re popular and not because they’ve taken cautious time to consider the process

Tattoo artists are not mind readers, and cannot be blamed for your own lack of research and understanding of the process and experience. This is one of the reasons why we continuously stress the need for you to do plenty of research prior to getting a tattoo. Our website is a great one-stop-shop for everything you need to know.


If you happen to have a bad tattoo, there are a few potential solutions to your issue.

  • Speak to your artist. They’ll likely offer to fix up your design to your liking. Constructive criticism is welcome in all creative fields.
  • If your tattoo is beyond repair, wait a few months and seek out a cover up or blastover for your tattoo. This is when you get a new tattoo over your old one to hide it.
  • If the issue is with an inexperienced artist leading to blowout, speak to the shop owner and you may get compensation (and save others from getting a horrible tattoo).
  • If your issue is with the shop itself or the hygiene practices leading to an infection in your tattoo, speak to the shop first, and then find the correct governing body to submit your complaint.

Our Final Thoughts

Sometimes, bad tattoos just happen. The most important thing you can remember is not to panic. Speak your concerns clearly and with a level-head and we don’t doubt that your tattoo artist or shop will want to find the appropriate solution that leaves you pleased with your ink. It’s important to speak up as early as possible when you have concerns regarding a tattoo; it’s your body and you’re in your right.

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