Everyone remembers the story of their first tattoo. The excitement, the fear, and the uncertainty of the design. After all, it’s a permanent thing.
But what upsets some people is that even after going through all that pain, the tattoo turns out to be an absolute disaster. Because of this, tattoo artists have heard all sorts of cries and even seen some of their clients faint.
That’s why a Reddit user ArthurThyKing asked “Tattoo artists of Reddit, who was your worst ‘tattoo virgin?’” Here are some of the best ones.
So she was technically never an actual client, but I hat a teenage girl, about 16 years old come in once. She wanted a tattoo of a rose on the side of her neck. Now I’m certainly not going to even entertain a neck tattoo for a teenager period, but she didn’t even bother to bring a parent with her to sign for her so it went from a certain no to and absolute never in a million years. She got pretty upset and made a scene in our front area and I told her to leave. After a lot of arguing she finally left, but not before making some idle threat. Other than sharing the story with my coworkers over beers later and having a laugh at her audacity I think no more of it. Until the following week when an incredibly angry middle aged woman comes barging into the shop screaming how she is going to have us all shut down and sent to jail. Everybody in the shop was pretty confused and after we got her to stop screaming at all of us we finally got it out of her why she was so angry. Apparently her daughter had went out and got a neck tattoo without her knowledge. It was around then that I recognized the girl from the week before peaking in our front windows. It all clicked. She had found some sketchy artist in a kitchen to tattoo the rose on her neck that I said no to. I told the mother to call her daughter in and her daughter pointed to me and told her Mom I was the one who did it. The tattoo was terribly done to say the least so the Mom definitely had several reasons to be so livid. She started getting upset again and yelling about how this was going to get me fired and sent to jail, etc. I let her yell until she had calmed down enough to listen. Then I explained to her how the week before I had told her daughter outright that I wouldn’t give her a neck tattoo. Her daughter screamed that I was a liar and Mom started up with another round of yelling, this time about how I was calling her daughter a liar. It was around this time that I just decided to point to our CCTV camera in the front area until the mother noticed what I was doing and stopped. I told her if she would like to, she could review the footage of me denying her daughter, the temper tantrum, and then her daughter leaving the shop. We usually keep footage for a week or two and then delete it so I knew it should still be on the computer. Her daughter started looking pretty nervous around this time, but she didn’t say anything. Meanwhile I find the footage from the day and Mom watches the entire interaction that I described go down. Then with the coldest look of anger, betrayal and disappointment she turns to her daughter. She takes her outside of the shop quietly and then screams at her outside for basically everything that has just happened, and how humiliating it all has been. After a bit the daughter comes in and gives me a very sarcastic apology and then leaves. Now at this time I was still willing to tattoo minors with parental consent, but I’d been having a lot of s****y dealings with them and occasionally their parents. I had been considering a no minors at all policy, but this experience solidified that in my mind. Aside from 1 or 2 exceptions I haven’t tattooed any minors for the last 13 years now.
Oh wow, reading this thread is bringing up some repressed client memories. My worst one by far, though, was about five years ago when I was apprenticing in a college town. This girl came in with her boyfriend for a traditional butterfly above her elbow, I was still super new so it took me way longer than it should have (maybe 2hrs). I lay her down on her stomach with her arm bent at her side—this is relevant later.
Anyway, we start tattooing and within maybe 10 mins she starts getting a string of texts from her freshman friends, telling her they’re essentially ousting her from their group and they don’t want her to contact them again. Super mean stuff, obviously she’s upset. As she’s relating all this to her BF, she starts crying, then full on sobbing. I asked her if she wanted to stop, but she insisted on me continuing, and I felt too awkward to counter her.
She continued to sob on and off for probably another hour, while I just kept plugging away at this dumb little tattoo. At this point she had cried so much that her tears had gathered where her arm was pressed against the massage table and had started to spill over into my lap. So I’m feeling uncomfortable as hell, and now also damp. THEN, as I’m within 30 mins or so of finishing, she begins whimpering, then moaning…loudly. At one point she tells the BF “this is more intense than a**l” and I wanted to die. As soon as I finished and checked her out, my coworkers (who had all been waiting on me to close) were like “what the actual f**k was going on, and why did you keep going??” But in the moment, all I could think was to finish the tattoo asap.
To her credit, she came back (a year later!) and told me she had been too embarrassed to come back but loved the butterfly and wanted another tattoo from me. Her second session was pleasant and without incident.
Not an artist, but I’m a receptionist at a pretty popular tattoo shop in my town. I’ve seen quite a few people who had no business getting tattooed, but by far my favorite was this one guy who wanted to get some script tattooed behind his ear. He had come in before to get priced out, but absolutely refused to make an appointment and drop a deposit. He came back a few days later as a walk in, so we squeezed him in that day. He was a mess getting done lol; shaking, sweating and basically crying in the chair. The tattoo itself took maybe 15 minutes. Well the reason why this dude refused to put a deposit down was because he planned on getting tatted and leaving without paying.
As soon as the artist put saniderm on his tattoo, he jumped up out of the chair and bolted for the front door. Then promptly passed out as he ran through the lobby lmfao. He ended up breaking his nose as he hit the ground, and we called the cops. The best part was watching this dude cry like a baby because he was just a few days from getting out of the military and local PD notified his command. Best shift ever.
Not the worst client. But just an unfortunate event. The apprentice at my shop who had only been tattooing for a little under a year was tattooing this girls wrist recently, her first tattoo the word “undefeated”. Gets the tattoo, it goes smoothly, she likes it, walks to the lobby, shows her dad, he likes it. Walks back to get bandaged up, gets bandaged, they walk back to the counter as he’s explaining aftercare she blacks out. Falls back hits her head on a giant painting hanging on the wall (an ed hardy original) the painting falls, glass breaks. He runs over picks her up and is checking the back of her head. Realizes a giant piece of glass had punctured her shoulder/trap. Emt comes, tell her she needs stitches, they end up having to take her to the emergency room where she got 6 stitches. The next week the girl brought him a giant tub of cookies. She wasn’t the worst, but it was an incredibly unfortunate experience for the both of them. His first time having someone pass out and her being “defeated”.
This girl’s first tattoo, and my first paying customer (I tattooed people for free during my apprenticeship.)
She wants a star outline on the side of her heel below the ankle. She’s a bit nervous, so I allow two of her friends to come in the room with us.
I start the tattoo and immediately she jerks away super hard. I warn her not to do that and try to relax. We start again and she jerks her foot. The two lines I’ve done now look like S**T and I’m already pissed/freaking out inside.
I get her two friends to help hold down her foot and she continues to jerk around and at one point KICKS ME RIGHT IN THE JAW.
Needless to say her tattoo looked like s**t and I was crestfallen. I called my mentor after work crying that I ruined my first tattoo on a client and she kicked me in the face to which he said “Wait, what?? Nah f**k that, it’s not your fault. I’ll see you tomorrow at work.”
Been tattooing 13 years now and still love every minute! Got way crazier stories under my belt since that kick in the face.
One shop I worked at we had a couple come in on the day we did $100 two inch by two inch tattoos, they both were getting these small triceratops outline tattoos behind their ears, nothing too crazy or detailed so maybe about 15 minutes each in the chair at most.
The guy is losing his mind, he’s hyperventilating, laughing, jumping up and down and yelling questions at all of us, visually very nervous. He tells one of our apprentices that this is his first tattoo and keeps asking them how bad it hurts over and over again, the owner went into the back and grabbed an ammonia packet, worried the guy would pass out the second needle touched skin.
Turns out it was this couples first date, he had told her he was impulsive and she tried to call his bluff and suggested they get matching tattoos. To his credit he got the tattoo and didn’t pass out, paid for them both too!
Had a 19 year old lad in the studio, he wanted “Laura” in large letters on his forearm. I took my time to quiz him, turns out Laura was his sweetheart. I also spent a LOOOONG time explaining that tattoos are for life, and girlfriends come and go. He remained adamant, and clearly explained that if I didn’t do it, he had a friend with a “tattoo gun” who would do it.
So I did it, wrapped it up and explained aftercare. As he left I checked the time, great! 22 minutes to My next client.
22 minutes later my client turned up on perfect time, followed less than a minute later by Mr. Lover boy.
Apparently he’d met Laura at the park who instantly dumped him for being so f*****g stupid, it would appear she wasn’t as in love with him as he assumed.
22 minutes from tattoo to requesting a cover up…
Mine was a young lady who wanted a semicolon tattoo on her wrist. Maybe 1inx2in, black ink, no preference on font. Easy enough, and I had the stencil all ready to go before she even came in.
I was expecting a 15 min job max, so I gave her a pretty cheap quote.
Anyway, she turns up for her appt and she’s very nervous. I do my normal, “it’s about as painful as a cat scratch, nothing to panic about!” speech, and she informs me that she’s already taken a strong painkiller, and would like the specialist numbing spray as well.
Uhh, OK. That’s an extra £30. She agrees. Spray goes on, stencil goes on, we’re ready.
I don’t even make contact with her skin before she starts making a very loud, high pitched whine. I try and calm her down again, and tell her that she can have a few mins to get her courage up if she wants, but 99% of the time, the anxiety of getting a tattoo is usually worse than actually getting one.
Bearing in mind, the parlour at the time had 4 other artists, all with customers, all staring at her.
She just kept putting it off. She’d say OK, I’d turn on the gun, and she’d freak out again. After an hour I told her that I was expecting another client, and she could reschedule if she wanted. She just bolts out the door, didn’t even pay for the numbing spray.
To this day, I can’t quite believe how dramatic she made the whole thing.
A friend who had never had a tattoo before wanted one on her ankle and was adamant about that. I told her several times that the ankle is a very not fun location, and asked her if maybe she’d prefer the shoulder instead. She insisted on the ankle. Okay then. The moment the needle touched her she hollered. You sure you want to keep going I asked? She said yes. That was the loudest appointment I ever had but to her credit she made it through.
I’ll take this one. I had a client who got a Jesus fish with Greek letters on his chest. I put the stencil on, he looks down says “looks good” and we do the tattoo. Guy sits like a CHAMP through his entire first tattoo. I finish up after about 45 minutes, he checks it out in the mirror and immediately goes pale, starts to sweat and sits down. Dude looks at me and says “it’s BACKWARDS!” All shook. I look at his tattoo, look at him on the floor, look at the mirror and tell the guy “ I’m gonna take a photo of it for you to see, because you don’t know how mirrors work.” A couple minutes go by as I’m handing the dude paper towels, The guy stands up all quick and try’s to play it off like he was just messing with me even though for a minute there, there was a corpse on my studio floor….
I was the tattoo virgin.
Went in for my first piece, 5+ hours. Was obviously nervous and I’m not that great with needles, but as soon as we started I was like “oh this is way easier than I built it up to be”. I was feeling the pain, but knew I’d be able to commit.
About 20 minutes later, I start to feel really dizzy. My vision is going so I sit up. She stops immediately, and she’s talking to me but I can barely hear her. The world is closing in, and it’s only getting worse. I think she asks if I’d like to go to the bathroom, but I know I will make it 1.5 steps before passing out if I stand up. I can’t tell her this because my brain is not working and speech is not an option. And then I start gagging.
My artist is scrambling for something to help me, but she is not fast enough. I vomit into my mask, my hands, all over my dress, into my hair, onto the floor. It’s a mess. I’m a mess. I immediately feel better and go to the bathroom to clean up whilst this poor artist is wiping up the rest. I come back, still stinking of vomit. I offer to take my dress off and literally sit there in my underwear while she finishes. She completes the tattoo like a champion- she sits with me in vomit aura for another 5 HOURS. I am mortified and make sure I tip extra for the inconvenience. But the tat is STUNNING, so it was worth every minute.
I’m bringing a bucket next time, just in case.
Not a tattoo artist but my friend tells this story had to share here.
So he went to the pharmacy to get some prescription filled in North Carolina. They tell him it’s going to take about 1 hour to fill and to come back later.
So he walks out of the strip mall and the next place over is a tattoo shop. He goes in and asks for a random tattoo.
They tell him it’s going to take about 15 minutes to do the drawing and about. And about 30 to tattoo it on him.
He asks what they can do right now instantly, and they tell him they can pierce his nipples.
Within one hour he gets both nips pierced, a pretty sweet tattoo and his prescription filled all in one regular Tuesday afternoon.
A bit different, but I was the front counter person for a tattoo store. I was basically just there to look hot, but I was still too young to realize that’s why I had been hired. I had a few tattoos but zero visible while I was working.
Since I’m at the front desk I’m also the DJ for the place, in charge of the music playlist. Anyway, one day I’m doing my college HW, playing some elliot smith and before I know it the store is in ‘after hours’ (aka no new clients, but current tattoo sessions can go on as long as they need to). This guy is getting his neck tattood and he taps the artist for a time out, turns to me, and goes, ‘shut this p****y s**t off the f**k right now and play some death metal or I’m walking out of here with half a bobcat on my neck and no money for your boy’…so I changed the music lol. He was definitely only 1/4 joking.
Not an artist, but just got my first tattoo and asked her this question! She had a woman come in with her boyfriend to get her tattoo. The lady screamed after the needle first came down and told her boyfriend that she was going to have to bite him to cope with the pain. Chomped on his arm the whole time while moan/screaming. My artist told me she thinks it was some weird kink thing that she did not consent to participate in.
I was still a tattoo apprentice at the time, and I think I had only done about thirty tattoos or so at the time. All my clients so far had been friends, or friends of friends – very low-pressure situations. This girl was someone I knew casually from college, and she was getting just a little quarter-sized outline of something on her ankle. (A chibi-Totoro, actually.)
It was the most nervewracking experience. She okay’d the drawing (I’m being generous calling it that; it was literally an outline), I had the stencil, everything is set up. I place it with no issue. She lays down on the bed, and as soon as my foot touches the pedal and my machine starts, she screams. Not a little yelp of surprise, or a little gasp. A full-on scream. I immediately stop the machine, ask her if she’s okay.
“Yeah, I’m fine, it’s just a scary noise!”
Okay, I understand — it’s loud, it’s intense. I try to soothe her and say that she won’t have to hear it for more than ten minutes. But as soon as I turn on the machine again, she screams – again. My nerves are shot, my heart is pounding, and at this point I’m telling her that maybe she shouldn’t get tattooed today. (Or possibly ever.)
“No, it’s fine — just tattoo me through it!” Alrighty then. I turn on the machine – cue a small shriek – and go to make one line. She immediately squirms across the table, yanking her foot away.
This back and forth ensued for another twenty minutes. I go to tattoo her, she’s screaming, she’s writhing on the bed, she keeps physically wrenching her body away from me. The needle hasn’t even made contact with the skin yet. But she’s still arguing with me: just do it, I can handle it, I don’t want to leave without a tattoo. At one point, after half-standing to physically hold down her foot, I make a little line.
This line is literally the size of a sewing stitch in a jacket. It’s 1cm long. But she bursts into tears. I entirely give up on the whole tattoo. I told her she clearly wasn’t ready, it’s not a big deal, and she can just come back to finish it another time. So I bandage it up (it’s still a wound, after all), and she goes on her way.
The whole thing was excruciating. Ironically, she did come back and get it finished a few weeks later with minimal fuss.
EDIT: Getting tattooed (even a little one) can be terrifying, and I don’t want to diminish anyone’s anxiety or worry about it. A permanent change to your body is always a big deal. However, in this case, she seemed to be playing it up for the friend she brought with her. He had stepped into the front room to check his phone or something, and she started to really act up — and then would look over to see if he noticed.
My mentor was with me during this whole process, and she was trying to let me handle it on my own but she actually stepped in towards the end to tell my client that I could not tattoo her with her behaving this way. I was so new that it didn’t occur to me I could refuse to keep going. I also suspect that that’s why she came back and got it with no big deal; I insisted that she come alone.
By now, I’ve done several first tattoos and soothed many clients’ nerves. But I’ve never had a scenario like this happen since, and if it did, I’d gently refuse to tattoo them until they could sit properly.
Had someone come in asking if they can bring their emotional support animal. Usually this is kind of iffy because it could be a sanitation risk, but we made exemptions for good dogs. Found out the emotional support animal was a 3 foot long snake. Turned down instantly.
So many people passing out, high on painkillers before their appointment, taking continuous videos and posting how “inked” they were with their new ankle beach wave, or even one person tipping me in expired Subway coupons.
Just be cool and calm while getting tattooed and everything will go smoothly.
Not your usual tattoo virgin story more of a rant on my behalf, but Ive been tattooing for almost 8 years now. The worst experience i have had with a client, was a lady who my work mates and I would call “the hello kitty lady” 30 something year old tattoo virgin.
So essentially the design we were working on was Hello Kitty riding a pink Dragon, Half sleeve (shoulder to elbow) now I specialise in Japanese tattoos which for the initial consultation she expressed how much she loved my style of Japanese Dragons, so heres me thinking “sick, i can smash this dragon out the park and just put a hello kitty on the dragon” easy peasy, booked her in for a full 8hr day.
So we begin tattooing, we start talking about how much we both loooove art and shes heavily praising the tattoos i do and my tattoo style, suuuper friendly and we’re hitting it off. Shes talking kinda loud, which I take its because shes understandably nervous, meaning my work mates can easily hear her speaking aswell. Fast forward to our 20 min lunch break, i finish eating and so i walk out to front reception where one of my work mates tells me “ hey man i was joutside havin a smoke with your client, not too sure if she knew i was an artist aswell, but she was real upset with how the tattoos going, she says it isnt hurting as much, that youre not doing the tattoo properly because her skins not red (iritated) and she said “theres no way im paying all that money for a tattoo that isnt done properly”” completely caught me off guard and went against eeeeverything we were talking about. so when we came back to tattooing i made sure to be overly reassuring, letting her know exactly what i was doing and why i was using certain inks which she’d insist were “too light of a shade of pink” but i knew this pink was going to heal exactly the way she wanted it.
Anyways we finish up and I get home, check my emails and there are 2 huuuuuuuuuge paragraphs on how much of a s**t job ive done and that i never did what she asked for (we both clearly agreed to the design before hand, i do this with every one of my clients where i get them to check the design) I reply reassuring her that the tattoo will heal as planned that the colours will settle and that it is easily fixable (I put paw prints on hello kitty to show it was the underside of her paws and not just 2 lil random clouds pokin out. But she didnt want them, even tho they were in the original design she approved. No worries, i graylined them so theyd be super easy to fix) She replies with another long paragraph on how i should tattoo and listen to my clients wishes which i dont reply to because at this point i know she is overreacting and its her first tattoo.
2 weeks later she emails saying how much she loves her tattoo, it healed perfectly, the pink was the right shade and that she wants to book in to finish it up
edit: people are asking if she apologised or if i finished the tattoo. So i didnt end up finishing i palmed her off to another artist. Basically told her i felt uncomfortable that I wasn’t going to meet her expectations (purposely worded it that way) in reality i wanted nothing to do with her lol I was wondering whether i was being a d**k for doing so but i even felt uncomfortable emailing her so i did the right thing. She also never apologised didnt even acknowledge her behaviour. Since then i take even more precautions before booking in clients.
I was the worst tattoo virgin. Didn’t know you were supposed to tip the artist until a couple weeks later a friend asked me how much I tipped. Made more sense why he seemed really cool until I checked out and was all pissed. I was to embarrassed to go back and tip him but I wish I would’ve now. It’s been 10 years
It’s not the worst, but I love this one. At the expense of my very good client, I generally use this story to help newbs ease in to my chair more comfortably. So it was his first and I’m getting my stencil prepped. He was so nervous, he was basically white. Kept asking if he was good. Yeh he was ok..I guess. Place the stencil on him and ask him to take a look. He looks at his arm and immediately passes out in the chair lol. He’s sliding out of the chair, we get him back up and he comes to. He got over it, eventually and has his sleeve
I did piercings, but my friend was an artist at the shop we worked at. Had a girl come in, no ink, no piercings. She wanted to get no joke, “Daddys Girl” as a tramp stamp. She was in tears moments into the tattoo, like hysterical s**t. She suffered through all together probably 25 minutes, and walked out with “Girl” right above her waist line. 10/10 hilarious.
The other was a guy. He had a few small tats on his arms, nothing crazy. He was also one of the “I watch UFC and wear Tapout, don’t f**k with me” types. He wanted a pretty large tribal chest piece. Collarbone to collarbone. He was told that we recommended a couple of sessions, them s***s is going to hurt, and this is A LOT of outline and A LOT of shading. He insisted no, he could sit. He ended up fainting toward the end of his outline. I worked there for roughly a year after and he never came back to get it finished.
Not an artist but my regular artist told me he had a guy come in to get his birth year tattooed on his back in Gothic script but insisted it be really tiny. The guy then bragged about “being inked”.
I ask this question if every tattoo artist I go to. The last tattoos I got were just above the back of my knees. It didn’t tickle, but it was fine. A girl the bed over from the is getting a really cool looking owl on her thigh and weeping the entire time – sniffing and wiping her tears, whimpering occasionally. I ask my question. “Ooooh boy, we had a guy come in last year for his first. He passed out and p****d himself. I didn’t know a human could hold so much p**s.” The tattoo artist doing the owl tattoo chimes in: “I had a guy throw up a few weeks ago. The whole studio stank real bad.” They swapped some other stories, but these were the best. I love these stories so much and will as the question every time I get tattooed.
She was HOWLING during a simple solid color fill. Like the grape lady during the whole thing