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Should Fat People Get Tattoos

Even to this day tattoos can be a controversial topic and even more so when we’re talking about large, tattooed bodies.

I see tattoos as a work of art that’s painted across one’s skin and size shouldn’t be part of the equation. But not everyone will agree, you might hear many opinions on what big folks can tattoo on themselves, what looks good on our bodies, and sometimes they’ll even advise you against it because we don’t fit into that “aesthetic.”

So, should fat people get tattoos?

When it comes to tattoos, size shouldn’t matter. There’s a variety of tattoo design choices for fat people, and you might want to consider the best placement to accentuate your favorite feature. If you’re fat and you want to get a tattoo, simply go for it.

Let’s destigmatize tattoos, especially tattoos that adorn fat bodies, and help you decide if it’s the right choice for you!

Should Fat People Get Tattoos?

Tattoos have been around for a big portion of human history, and there is evidence that it goes back to Neolithic times. There’s was no stigma around tattoos and no discrimination for centuries until they lost their popularity with the mainstream, and became associated with criminality.

The 21st century seems to be the renaissance of tattooing and more and more people are choosing to wear them. I truly believe that our weight, our bodies aren’t and shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle when it comes to tattoos.

Tattoos are literally there to be enjoyed by the one who wears them. They can have a special meaning, you might want to wear the work of a famous tattoo artist, or simply add some color to your skin, a visual appeal of your choosing.

I have always loved tattoos and being bigger only made me feel like I have more space to add some beautiful piece of art and not be limited. Of course, there are a lot of things to consider when getting tattoos, in certain circumstances your size might be one of them, but I see that as an opportunity to get the best result for me, not a reason to avoid them!

What Do You Need To Consider Before Getting A Tattoo If You’re Fat?

So, as I said getting the perfect tattoo for you, and having a great experience, in the long run, means that tattoos shouldn’t be a spontaneous thing unless that’s your thing which is also fine. But for me, it was a serious decision, and I had to think about a few things not necessarily as a fat person, but simply as someone who wanted the best result for me.

1. Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are a universal thing for most bodies, and they can be seen as a major obstacle to getting a tattoo or a motivator. I have lines on my hips, my belly, and my arms, they’re not all the same, some are quite prominent while others you can barely see.

Placing a tattoo over a prominent stretchmark or in a spot where more are yet to come, could mean that the design will become distorted, and it might be best if that place is avoided.

Light stretchmarks on the other hand can be covered with a beautiful design and a skilled tattoo artist will let you know if that’s possible. They might tell you that they can cover them completely or work with them to make the design work and blend perfectly.

Stretchmarks can appear for different reasons; you might have some of them because of rapid weight gain or loss. You might have grown too tall too fast during puberty and it is something that affects a lot of women during pregnancy.

So, if you’re thinking of having a baby at some point a tattoo around the stomach area might not be the best choice because of the possible stretchmarks. Of course, I still think this is a personal choice, and covering stretch marks is possible with a talented artist. So, while they’re worth considering they shouldn’t necessarily stop you.

2. Placement

Finding the perfect spot for a tattoo is a difficult question no matter your body type, but some areas can work better for larger figures. I think we actually have enough space to accommodate different types of tattoos when it comes to styles, size, and color.

Ultimately, the placement of your tattoo might come from the need to “beautify” a body part that you might feel uncomfortable showing off. It’s possible to gain confidence with tattoos and it can also happen by accentuating an area you already love about yourself.

This is true for any body type, and at the end of the day you’re the one who is going to live with this tattoo, and you need to place it where it makes you feel good and happy.

3. The Tattoo Size

This might be a personal preference, but I do think that big folks can go for any tattoo size they want as long as they’re happy with the design and the artist. Choosing the right tattoo to compliment your body reminds me of the whole stripe theory, where horizontal stripes can make the wearer look leaner and taller. That’s why I’d suggest, if possible, avoiding pattern-based designs, that rely on symmetry, or that might make an area look wider.

Being curvy can these designs, especially if they rely on lines like tribal tattoos, can get lost or look different on your body as opposed to how they look on a flat piece of paper. Small text tattoos can also get lost, and with time they can get faded.

Despite the possible available space, a large piece could also overwhelm a person’s body and might end up looking over the top. Of course, that’s also a personal preference because there are fully tattooed people that look like a walking piece of art and there’s nothing too much about it.

Different tattoos will work for different people and it all boils down to your personal style and confidence in the tattoo choice you’ve made.

4. The Season

If you want to get a tattoo, summer and overall hot months aren’t the best time of the year. Many tattoo artists don’t recommend getting tattoos in the summer because of the sun exposure, possible infections from going to the beach, swimming, and overall dirt.

But as a fat person, I think winter is a great time to get a tattoo because of the minimal sweating. Sweat can make a tattoo super itchy and uncomfortable. During the winter you also don’t have to fear the sun or grabby hands that want to investigate your new tattoo.

Yes, a lot of people have no boundaries when it comes to tattoos!

Seasons are also very important to consider in the long run, even after you get the tattoo. While there’s nothing to worry about during the cold months, apart from possible moisturizing to keep the tattooed skin looking fresh, summer is different.

If your tattoo is in a visible place then the sun can affect the color, especially if you’re not taking care of it by using sunscreen and moisturizers. Depending on where you live and how much you enjoy outdoor activities, like surfing or summer hiking, you might give extra consideration to how visible you want that tattoo to be!

5. The Commitment

This is a universal dilemma when the first thoughts of getting tattooed sprouts into your head. Are you ready to have something permanently engraved on your body? Bodies change, our weight can change and as we grow old our skin is not the same.

Those are things that can affect how you see tattoos. Sure you can decide to remove a tattoo, but that’s a painful and costly process, and going into a tattoo salon thinking that if you don’t like it one day you’ll simply remove it isn’t always the best idea.

I personally think that even a distorted old tattoo is better than not having one. Tattoos tell a story and can make anybody feel beautiful. But that’s how I feel about having tattoos forever as a fat person, what about you?

Can you make that commitment?

Where Should You Place Your Tattoo If You’re Big?

As I’ve mentioned above figuring out the best placement for you and the kind of tattoo you want to get is important. In this case, your full figure can give you more options or limit some others.

If you’re afraid of having a tattoo in places that are bound to change, or where your skin folds then you can always go for inner forearms that are less likely to change and are more or less protected from the sun.

There are places on our body that will most likely not stretch or deform like the back of our necks which I consider a very beautiful spot for tattoos. Your calves and feet should also be quite safe no matter your body type.

The chest can also be a great place and it can be covered beneath clothes, so no one has to know you even have a tattoo. Tattoos that are placed over muscle can get distorted if you decide to go for a sport that will increase your muscle mass, but that’s only if you decide to go for the extreme workout.

That being said, large folk have different body types and one thing that might look good on you might not serve the same purpose for someone else. I found that my tattoo became a part of me as soon as I got it and I kind of forget that it’s there, but whenever I get a glimpse of it I remember how it helped me embrace my body even more.

How Much Do Tattoos Hurt When You’re Fat?

If you’ve figured out what your dream tattoo looks like and you’ve got a few areas on your body you’re considering then a persistent thought on your mind might be the pain. For some, pain is enough of a reason to avoid getting a tattoo.

First of all, it’s important to note that pain is relative and everyone has a different tolerance to it. Sure, tattoos are going to hurt, it’s realistic to expect that, but the degree might vary. It is usually described as intense scratching and for me, it felt like using an epilator to remove hair from.

Tattooing is the process of piercing the top layer of the skin with tiny sharp needles covered with pigment. The most painful places to tattoo are usually considered to be the ones with the least fat, where your skin is the thinnest, as well as areas with the most nerve endings, and that are close to the bone.

Having more fat might help with the pain since the bony places on your body will be more protected. This will also depend on your skin since looser skin can be more sensitive, but this truly depends on how well you tolerate pain as an individual, whether you are large or not.

There are of course certain areas that are known to be more painful than others on average, so let’s take a look!

Most Painful Tattoos

If you’re afraid of the pain. you might want to avoid areas where the skin is very thin and close to the bone, like your ribcage. For large folks that store fat on their upper body, this spot might be less intense, but the movement created by breathing can make it uncomfortable nonetheless.

Areas like ankles, shinbones, elbows, and kneecaps are where your bones lie beneath a thin layer of skin even among a lot of fat people. This can make these tattoos quite painful since there’s usually very little fat or muscle to protect the bones.

Depending on your pain tolerance wrist tattoos, areas behind knees can also be painful, either because of how bony they can be, but mostly because of the nerve endings, the veins, and arteries.

If you’re thinking of getting a tattoo on your back the closer it is to your spine the more painful it’s going to feel. Stomach tattoos can also feel different for fat people since the skin might be looser and more sensitive to needle pain. Similarly, the bicep can be a painful area since the skin is quite soft. If you’ve ever been pinched there you know what kind of pain I’m talking about.

Least Painful Tattoos

While all tattoos will cause some degree of pain, there are definitely areas that are easy to handle. Meaty areas with tight skin are your best choice. Unlike the inner thighs that will most likely rub against each other causing pain, the upper and outer part of the thighs can be a great place for tattoos, especially ones on a larger scale.

Backs can be tricky for some people and while I think you should be able to get whatever tattoo on whichever body part you want, lower back tattoos can cause a different kind of discomfort. Partly it might be because of the area’s bad reputation, but it’s also because of the possible back rolls that can distort or cover up parts of a tattoo depending on how you move.

Forearms are great because of how thick the skin usually is and there are fewer nerve endings to cause pain. Similarly, shoulders and outer biceps feet perfectly into this category of painless tattoo areas, and you’ll have an extra reason to wear, or finally buy sleeveless tank tops to show off that area!

As a larger figure, I think hip tattoos can be a great spot to get a nice tattoo, large or small. Depending on your body shape your curves can create a cushion between the needle and your hip bones.

Finally, let’s not forget that our legs, specifically our calves are a great spot to get a tattoo that won’t cause much pain. But no matter where you choose to get a tattoo, it will still be painful no matter what, and for some individuals, these two categories could be reversed.

My Top Tips For Fat Folks That Want To Get A Tattoo?

Getting a tattoo is a serious decision, and while I’m sure you don’t think that getting tattooed is like getting a few polo shirts to change things up, but it’s important that you realize that they’re permanent, like forever! I believe that a commitment like this should be well thought through to avoid future tattoo dysphoria. As a person who has gone through this process, I have a few tips that hopefully might help you make better choices and have the best result!

Tip 1: Find The Right Tattoo Artist

If you have a vague idea in your mind about a tattoo it’s important to find a tattoo artist that can help translate your ideas into a design. If you have a set design then you have to pick the artist according to their specialization. Some tattooists are excellent at old-school tattoos while realistic tattoos might not be their strong suit and vice versa.

While trying to find a tattoo artist you probably will have one more thing on your mind and that’s your weight. I’m here to tell you that a professional tattoo artist will and should not care about your weight. What they should be concerned about is the tattoo and the only thing you might expect is hearing a few suggestions on how to make a specific tattoo work for you.

I know this might not be the best choice for those of you who feel too anxious mentioning their weight to strangers, but I’d actually suggest asking your tattoo artist about what they think will look best on your body in the long run, suggestions on better placement, size and basically anything that I’m concerned about.

If you feel that a tattoo salon or the artist themselves are making you feel uncomfortable about your body then no matter how great they are I’d suggest you look for someone else. Yes, you need an experienced and talented artist but they also should be decent people.

Another tip that’s non-weight relatable, is to look for quality artists and be willing to pay for their work. Good tattoos are pricy, but it’s a long-term investment. You can also ask your artist if they’re taking tips since it’s a nice gesture, especially if you’re really happy with the overall experience!

Tip 2: Consider Your Professional Environment

While I do think that people with tattoos shouldn’t be discriminated against, but unfortunately it does happen in certain countries and certain professional fields. So, before you get a tattoo you can do your own research on how welcoming your work environment to tattoos is.

An expert on body art at the University of Western Australia says that “attitudes at work have been changing over the past two decades. But he says the situation is not “black and white” and many firms still won’t hire you if you have prominent body art.”

If you’re a healthcare professional you might find that visible tattoos are restricted in your country. The same goes for police officers, teachers, lawyers, and many other professions.

Of course, even though you might be restricted at getting a visible tattoo, you can always find a few areas on your body that will stay hidden from the possible judgment of your boss. This might not concern everyone and every profession, but it’s worth your consideration.

Tip 3: Don’t Neglect Tattoo Aftercare

This is something that your tattoo artist will point out a million times, I’m sure, but I want to do the same! You need to follow the aftercare instructions of your artist, ask them about washing your tattoo, and even about when you can shave if needed.

During the whole healing process, it’s best if you stay away from tight clothing and instead wear something loose that won’t stick to your tattoo too much. This of course will depend on the placement, but either way, the less friction the best results you’ll have.

When we think about aftercare, we usually think about the next few weeks when we’ll have to apply a possible ointment and moisturizer to help with the healing. But I realized the hard way that aftercare never truly ends.

If you want your tattoo to look crisp and as good as new for as long as possible then sunscreen is a must during the hot months, that’s if your tattoo is exposed. My tattoo is on my back so, I’ve often neglected this step and unfortunately, I’ve noticed some fading with time.

During the winter moisturizing can also help keep the tattoo looking beautiful and vibrant. I have dry skin so this step would definitely be part of my routine with or without a tattoo. For a long time, I used any type of skin moisturizer, but I’ve developed a new obsession with the You should only use it after your tattoo is fully healed and after that, you can enjoy the freshness and brightness of your skin art!

And Remember regardless of your skin type, moisturizing is definitely, tattoo beneficial!

Tip 4: Just Go For It!

Last but not least, if you want to get a tattoo but you feel like your beautiful large body is keeping you back then simply go for it. There’s an abundance of designs now that are going to make you feel even more at home with yourself.

Lines, watercolors, intricate old-school tattoos, or tiny minimalistic designs, are all there for you to break the rules and choose your own aesthetic!

The aspect of pain might also scare some of you, but you can always ask your tattoo artist for breaks if you need them. Remember to get enough sleep before a tattoo and plenty of water to reduce the pain, stay sober, and don’t turn up for your appointment with an empty stomach!

And to quote one of the most popular and motivational ads out there “just do it!”

Do I Need To Lose Weight To Get A Tattoo?

Before I get deeper into this question, I want to make it clear that you don’t need to lose weight or change your body to get a tattoo. Not only because it’s not a good reason to do so, but most importantly it’s not necessary.

Being tattooed and big, these two things don’t exclude one another. With that being said, if you’re thinking or you’re in the process of losing weight for your own personal reasons, then that can have an impact on your tattoo.

So, in this case, you could wait until you’re at the weight you want to be and get a tattoo. I tend to fluctuate in weight, but I always have a full figure so I haven’t seen much change in the way my tattoo looks.

Of course, distortion of tattoos after weight loss or weight gain also depends if it was a drastic change and its placement. As we grow older and as we move up or down on weight scales, the elasticity of our skin might change, so tattoos on areas like the abdomen, lower back, and underarms can be affected.

So, if you’re thinking of losing weight and you’re in a dilemma on whether you should get that tattoo before or after it’s best you consulted with your tattoo artist. You can let them know about your plans so they can advise you accordingly.

Is There Representation Of Fat People With Tattoos?

As always, I want to finish on the most positive note possible and talk about representation. While we still strive to see large bodies being represented, I want to help push this goal further by talking about a few tattoo models and artists from whom you can draw courage and inspiration!

With more than 300k followers Fullerfigurefullerbust is one of my favorite people to follow. She might not be a tattoo advocate, but her beautiful body is painted with amazing tattoos. She not afraid to share her personal life story, she’s a plus-size model and she is a genuinely positive soul!

Another lovely lady you might have heard of is Tess Holliday. She’s gorgeous and covered in tattoos in multiple styles that are simply to die for. My personal favorite is her old school tattoo with a woman’s face and a sentence written above it that says “I’ve burned bridges bigger than you…”

Remember how I mentioned back rolls as an area that fat people might want to avoid? Well, I also want to mention these curves and rolls in the most tattoo-positive way.

Just take a moment to check out this amazing tattoo artist that has united back rolls and tattoos and created something truly unique, called “roll flowers”. Her name is Carrie Metz-Caporusso and these roll flower tattoos were created to adhere specifically to the beauty of larger bodies. And it doesn’t have to be on your back it can adorn the side of your hip each delicate line creating beautiful curves to accentuate the way our skin folds, and show us how beautiful it actually is.

There are plenty of large folks out there that rock one or multiple tattoos and if you really want to, you can be one of them!

My Final Thoughts

Tattoos are meant to bring color, meaning, and fun into your life and you have the choice to cover your body with all those things. Tattoos shouldn’t be a source of anxiety, but I do understand that being fat comes with extra emotional labor on things that might seem plain and simple to some.

We have to second guess our decisions and unfortunately wonder if we should be doing something or not just because of our weight.

Well, I hope after reading this article, hearing my experience with tattoos, and my thoughts on them, you’ll know that fat people can and should get tattoos if that’s something they truly want!

So, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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