Getting a tattoo can be a meaningful form of self-expression or a way to commemorate a life event, but it’s not without its risk. For one, you have to be extra careful to make sure it doesn’t get infected. And then there are the rare instances where the tattooist makes a mistake that ends up permanently etched on your skin.
In a thread on Reddit, tattoo artists have been sharing some of their most cringeworthy memories from their careers when it comes to tattoo “typos” and other mistakes. Thinking of getting inked? Let these confessions be cautionary tales, with a simple moral: check, check, and double-check the tattoo you want before the work begins!
A large number of the errors cited on the thread had to do with spelling and grammatical errors in their tattoos—the risk of which becomes greater when a client insists they want a tattoo in Latin, Hebrew, or other languages that they don’t speak.
From Zornamental: “My only spelling mistake ever was in Italian. Girl wants a phrase in Italian. She writes it down no less than 5 times on paper. I tell her to make sure it is correct, as 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.”
There’s a fairly simple way to avoid this particular kind of mistake, of course. Know what language you’re putting on your body. “Best advice I could give anyone, as someone who has lived abroad and seen too many screwups in multiple languages, study the language/script first!” Said Sorceress683. “Knowing even a bit about how letters are formed in different writing types can help so much. Grammar is important as well. I lived in Japan and saw so many weird things written in English because people didn’t know the proper word order.”
Even with that being said, mistakes can happen, as ALasagneForOne attests:”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.”
Other times, the artwork itself is technically flawless, it’s all just a matter of perspective. From Joshsidekick: “I was working at a place when a guy came in for a full back piece of 3 different cars. It took like 4 visits to finish and each visit he’d look at it and say it looks awesome and then he would take off. On the last visit, they call me in to look at it to show me how awesome it turned out. Well, all the steering wheels were on the wrong side and the reason no one caught it was because the dude was looking in a mirror to check his progress so they looked correct. I’m pretty sure the guy was super chill about it when they offered a bunch of free work and they fixed it in another session.”
In the vast majority of the stories that artists shared on the thread, the problem ended up being resolved, either by the artist fixing the original mistake, or covering it up with something else entirely. As Eastpunk says: “I’ve heard of clients being fairly crushed by tattoo mistakes, but generally they can be corrected with a little creativity and skill.”
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