Raise your hand if you’ve felt like this…
“I’m ready for a new tattoo, but I’m not sure what to get.”
You’re not alone, we have clients every week that stop by the studio ready to get new work but haven’t found a concept they love. While some shops will point you to a wall of flash, we encourage a different approach. We believe that tattoos should be meaningful and coming up with ideas for a custom piece isn’t easy.
Follow this process to quickly generate personalized ideas and images for your custom tattoo.
Click here to download your Inspiration Worksheet that you’ll use through the process.
Brainstorming Image Words
1. Who are the people who have influenced your life?
Write down a list of the most influential people in your life. They could be family members or friends or personalities from entertainment or history. If these are positive people in your life, you could consider a portrait of the person or a design that incorporates their name.
But don’t limit your list to people that made a positive impact on your life. Remember that I said “most influential” not “most loved.” Think about those who challenged you or those who had a negative impact on your life, since these interactions often lead to meaningful experiences in your life.
Now go through the list of people and write down words for the images that come to mind when you think of the person. Did your grandmother love hummingbirds? Great, write that down. Did your stepfather hit you with a belt? That sucks but write that too. Often, imagery that reminds you of people creates the most striking and original tattoos. Make sure your image words include things that can be seen and drawn, don’t include ideas of feelings like “love” or “honesty” that don’t have tangible images.
Write your favorite two image words from this step into the Inspiration List and move to the next step.
2. What are the places that are most important to you?
Start a list of the places that are important in your life. They could include your hometown, favorite vacation spots, locations from the epic trip you took, or even buildings/rooms where memorable events occurred. Now go through the list again and write objects or imagery that remind you of that place in your image words column.
Read through the list and notice the places you respond to the most. Add the top three image words to the Inspiration List and move to the next step.
3. What events have shaped your life?
Start a list of the events that had the greatest impact on your life. Some may be obvious, like a marriage or the birth of a child. Others may take more thought, like when you experienced realizations or experienced rapid growth. If your life flashed before your eyes, what images from the events of your life would you see? Write these down. What are the dates of these events? Those numbers could be incorporated into your custom tattoo.
Now go through the list again and write objects or imagery that remind you of that place in your image words column. Add two ideas that you respond to the most to the Inspiration List on your worksheet.
4. What are your core beliefs?
What beliefs make up your personality? What are your convictions? Don’t limit your list to religious or spiritual beliefs. Think about other values that help you make decisions. What are the assumptions that you have about the world and those around you?
These are difficult questions to answer about yourself. If you’re drawing blanks, this about it this way: If I asked your friends what you believe in more than anything, what would they say? How would they describe your view on the world?
Write two single words from your core beliefs to your Inspiration List and let’s move on. We’re not going to create image words for these items. We’ll get image ideas for these later.
5. What experiences or accomplishments are you most proud of?
This should be an easy one after the core beliefs question. Think back to the things you’ve done that you’re most proud of and list them. They could be achievements like degrees or awards, but also consider experiences you had that were influential.
After you get a good list, go through the items again and write the objects or imagery that first comes to your mind when you recall the experience or accomplishment.
Add two of your favorite image words to the Inspiration List.
6. What inspires you?
What are your favorite books, movies, art, and music? Are there quotes, people, or stories that inspire you? Move quickly and try to get a bunch of ideas. Now go through the list again and write the first image that pops into your head for each item.
Add the two most compelling image words to your Inspiration List and let’s move on.
Inspiration List Image Search
You now have a solid list of visual words in your Inspiration List. And the best part – they all mean something personal to you! Now let’s grab some images to go along with the words.
Go to Google, click the image tab and type your first image word. Go through the first few results pages and save images for anything that catches your eye. Try to save four images for each word, then move onto the next word and do another image search.
IMPORTANT: Don’t put the word “tattoo” in the search – we don’t want to rip off other’s work and you don’t want to be led by tattoos that may not work on your body. We want to come up with an original idea that’s tailored perfectly for you.
Collect all your saved images in a folder on your computer. Look through them for commonalities. Do multiple images share the same colors? Do they share subject matter? Do you prefer a simple tattoo that incorporates one of these elements or a larger piece that weaves several ideas?
You will now have over 50 personal image ideas for your custom tattoo. Remember when you didn’t have any idea what you wanted? Now you have the opposite problem and we need to limit these down to the best concepts. Write your top three concepts down and live with them for a few days. You don’t need to make a final decision now.
When you’re happy with your top three concepts, bring your ideas and images to the consultation with your artist. Your artist will give you recommendations on which concept will work best on your body and you can talk details on the composition, style, and colors. Finally, your artist will sketch your concept and you can watch your idea come to life.
A great tattoo will live on your skin forever and following this process ensures you develop a unique and personal piece that you are proud to show off.
About Canvas Tattoo & Art Gallery
Located outside uptown Charlotte, NC, our new top-reviewed tattoo shop features state-of-the-art equipment with experienced artists who specialize in custom tattoos. The foundation of Canvas Tattoo & Art Gallery is to maintain a clean and professional tattoo studio staffed with Charlotte’s highest-rated artists. We seek to set the standard for customer service, in providing a clean and comfortable tattoo parlor and in delivering the best tattoos to our clients.