How to Design Your Own Tattoo

I’m getting a lot of questions right now on where to find”unique tattoos and how to design your own tattoo.

It seems like people have raised the bar and aren’t ready to settle for a generic tattoo that an unknown number of people already have.

Getting a unique tattoo often requires a little bit of effort, but it can actually be pretty easy to create a totally unique tattoo or add your own “twist” to an existing design.

I have previously touched on the subject of how to come up with a unique idea for your tattoo, but I wanted to give you some more specific ideas for how to get that *idea* out of your head and “onto paper”. So here are some tips if you’re looking to design your own tattoo.

1. Create a tattoo based on a photo

Example: Let’s say you want a tiger tattoo…I found this beautiful photo:

A tiger tattoo?

Photo credit istock/Brimac The 2nd

A skilled artist would easily be able to draw up a custom tattoo for you based on that photo. You will probably want to ask the copyright owner if it’s ok to use the photo for your tattoo, alternatively make a few small changes to it in order not to make it an exact copy.

We’re actually considering including a separate gallery containing only beautiful photos that are suitable for turning into a tattoo, like the one above, in the new version of TattooMeNow.

By the way, the development of the new site is taking a bit longer than expected but I’ll keep you updated on when we’re ready to open.

2. Use an image editing program to change the colors, edit, combine two tattoos, or add something to a tattoo.

If you’re really good at using programs like Photoshop you can probably create a great-looking tattoo from scratch, or easily change an existing design to your liking.

The problem is, Photoshop is pretty expensive, and requires quite playing around with it before you know how to use it to the fullest.

I’ve found a few great alternatives though. Piknic and Splashup are two free, simple to use image editors that you should definitely check out!

Here’s one I found that was created exclusively for editing tattoo designs. It’s isn’t free and I haven’t tested it myself but it looks pretty cool and is probably worth it (it comes with a 60 money-back guarantee so you can always get your money back if you don’t like it).

3. Add lettering

Adding some beautiful lettering to a tattoo is a great way to “make it your own”. I have a good article about tattoo lettering here: “How to easily create unique tattoos with a meaning…”


Got any other ideas for how you can create your own unique tattoo? Please comment below!


PS. I almost forgot to add “Get a TattooMeNow membership:) It’s not only the ultimate “tattoo idea database” but you’ll also be able to ask for feedback and ideas from our helpful members.

By the way, a few people have asked me about this…if you get your membership today, you will NOT have to pay any extra when the new site goes live..


  • Stephen

    July 28, 2009

    I always use Photoshop or Printshop to get my ideas on paper. Then let my artist develop my idea into a tattoo

  • kim sheedy

    July 29, 2009

    i really love that tiger one so much. and the cross one is really nice to but i was thinking where it says no sorrow like the loss of friends well i was just thinking having no sorrow like the loss of family or coz i lost my grandad i could have no sorrow like the loss of my grandad.x

  • matt

    July 29, 2009

    thanx mate,,

  • zoe

    July 29, 2009

    i love tattoo’s and i want the second one
    but i have a lot in my mind i dont know which one to do and where to put it…………. OMG

  • Elias

    July 29, 2009

    You always know how to keep me informed, keep up the good work.

    Much appreciated.

  • angela

    July 29, 2009

    just wandering, if you happen to have a mary jane leaf. thats what i want next. with, MI VIDA LOCA under it.or in a banner that wraps around the leaf. which means my crazy life. thanx

  • sheryl lilya

    July 29, 2009

    I just got another tattoo on my low back…entire lower half. I’ve had some close calls in my life so I had my artist draw out a beautiful, nude angel lying on her side with wings covering most of her body. I had a hard time searching for words that would mean something to me so I searched quotes online. I found an Elanor Rosevelt quote “The future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I changed the quote a little to: Believe in the beauty of your dreams”. Which has much meaning to me when I look at my children. I had it done in just black and it turned out amazing!

  • Marc

    July 29, 2009

    What if we already have a “lifetime” membership on Do we have to pay again for the new site you’re talking about?

  • alanna

    July 29, 2009

    i know what i want , now all i have to do is save up for it. like receiving your emails , thanks

  • Lynsey

    July 29, 2009

    I have plenty ideas and i love drawing so i always draw my ideas as soon as i can. Ive drawn for friends when they have wanted an idea for a tatoo and i designed my own which is on my belly. I like the pictures and just wish i could go further with my ideas. Good work keep it coming.

  • Krissy

    July 29, 2009

    Have been working on getting some custom tattoos put together for me, my husband and a couple of friends. I use all of the methods above for getting just the right unique design. Awesome advice. There are a lot of ideas swarming around but we have decided to take the design we love the most or is the most important to us and get that work done first.

  • Krissy

    July 29, 2009

    @angela, I can send you a design if you’re interested.

  • Kresha

    July 29, 2009

    I have a current tattoo that has faded after only about 7 years-I kinda want to have it re-inked and maybe add to it-do you have any ideas on how to go about correcting a tat or making a curent one look better? [Its a sun tattoo that I am thinking of making it look better.]

  • larry dickerson

    July 29, 2009

    i have an idea for a tat but only thee words who can help with design suggestions
    right forearm
    DEATH comes to all

  • Hillbilly

    July 29, 2009

    I have already taken two of your patterns and changed them around using my wife, some celtic knotwork, and on the other I turned my baby girl into an angel. My wife said I should take the wings off and add some horns on her but, to Daddy she can do no wrong…. Thank you man for the infinite wisdom from one artist to another……. When I get them on my skin I’ll send pics…

  • Hillbilly

    July 29, 2009

    @angela, Make sure thats what you want to be known by forever. I do have some stencils of the 5star leaf. One is butterfly wings and the other is plain Jane. Type in ,”free tattoo flash” and hit search, I found several websites with alot of good stuff on it, try free marijauna tattoo flash.

  • therese

    July 29, 2009

    i just love that cross and the tiger:)you have given me so many ides, im starting on my 7 tattoo on friday…..
    thanks your the best

  • max

    July 29, 2009

    @zoe, always go with whats most personal to you first.

  • stacey

    July 29, 2009

    I’m a tattoo artist myself but thanks..

  • Phyllis Masse

    July 29, 2009

    The only tatoo I am looking for is for the month of March (piecies) and Novermber (Sagarrittis) At the moment I am not looking for anything else. My mine is made up on that tatoo. Eventhough tho you Tiger head is beautiful

  • angie

    July 29, 2009

    i was just wondering i love your drawings and all n ive been looking for a really nice libra sign as a tattoo and i cant seem to find 1 if you could plz plz hook me up or help me out i would really appreciate it

    thanx sooo much

  • Robert Carson

    July 29, 2009

    that is a good idea and iit does work I have done it to an extent myself and all of them have come out looking awsome everyone has been extremly happy with them.

  • eli

    July 29, 2009

    I need translation in aramaic for tatoo. Somebody help me?!

  • Teresa

    July 29, 2009

    i think thats a great idea to get started on ur own ideas so thank you uve been a great help for me to find a great desine for a tattoo

  • lito

    July 29, 2009

    where do i get splash for editing tattoo?..please help.

  • Cindy

    July 29, 2009

    @zoe, take your time. I never thought that I would have wanted my whole back done with one nice tat, but because I was in a hurry I now have 3 smaller tats and they will interfere with the the big tat I now want on my whole back. I’m loving every tat I have, just wish I had thought it through a little longer. Enjoy and good luck.

  • Cass

    July 29, 2009

    So what’s the website for the tattoo editor that you have to pay for……I didn’t see it in the article and want to check it out

  • Gloria

    July 29, 2009

    @sheryl lilya,
    That sounds awesome!

  • cobra

    July 30, 2009


    Hi, I have some nice leafs. I’ll try to get some up if u want to check them out

  • Jason

    July 30, 2009

    i have been looking for programs to help me create a trbal sleeve or a place where i can find tribal patterns that i can mix and match to make a unique one for me

  • Deb Waters

    July 30, 2009

    My partner died November 18, 2008 (11/18/08) and I want to get a special tattoo to honor him.

    Kurt was a tattoo artist for over 30 years so you can imagine how many people have his ink. I, unfortunately, am not one of those people. We were together for 20 years but for one reason or another it never happened and now it’s too late.

    I need help! I want a custom designed tattoo of the Dead Man’s Hand (Aces & Eights). I want it on my upper arm so we’re talking roughly a 3″ x 3″ area. But, it can be bigger if the tattoo goes down the arm.

    Kurt was 20 when he got his 1st Harley, a 1949 Panhead, and that ride was sitting right next to him at his funeral. So, if there’s any way to include the Harley that would be awesome (maybe above the cards like he’s riding on the wind) Can anyone help me?

  • kevin

    July 30, 2009

    the tatts look cool but i cant find a image editor that i can use and i neat to make a tattoo with a cross and a guardian angel in front of the cross neat help realy bad to make it

  • Nikkita

    July 31, 2009

    what the program created exclusively for editing tattoo designs?

  • Syn

    July 31, 2009

    What is it? :) LOL

    I’ve found a few great alternatives though. Piknic and Splashup are two free, simple to use image editors that you should definitely check out!

    Here’s one I found that was created exclusively for editing tattoo designs. It’s isn’t free and I haven’t tested it myself but it looks pretty cool and is probably worth it (it comes with a 60 money-back guarantee so you can always get your money back if you don’t like it).

  • Lori B

    July 31, 2009

    Thank you so much Mark! I know exactly what I want and where, I just have not found the artist that makes me comfortable with the rendering I want. I have asked several people I know who are decent artists to put it on paper for me first, but it’s never been exactly what I want. I never really thought of taking a photo and re-working it. Maybe now I can get the tat that I have wanted for the last few years done the way I want it!

  • stuart

    July 31, 2009

    cheers thanks for the ideas

  • teresa heller

    July 31, 2009

    i really love the tiger my house shows it there on every wall very cool

  • trish

    August 1, 2009

    hey all,
    Mark this is a fantastic idea! Wish I had seen it a week or so ago!!
    I just got my first tattoo… FINALLY… have followed all directions from my tattooist, but it has gotten infected… have been put on antibiotics by my doc, just wondering if you have any other tips? I could use all the help I can get cos I don’t want to lose any colour or definition!!

  • mike

    August 2, 2009

    @sheryl lilya, idI’d like to see that tattoo I’ve been considering one like it for a couple years

  • Philippe

    August 3, 2009

    Hey man both of them is really sweet Ideas my Girlffriend would really like that tiger the cross is definelty me but can you see about have now a broken heart idea coming on with her name cause man we spent the last 8 years together, but hey life gones on till we die

  • Tiger Lily

    August 4, 2009

    @sheryl lilya, Can you post a pic??? I’d love to see what it looks like.

  • adina

    August 5, 2009

    i would love to have a tattoo of a boat with a banner or someting that says MY HONEYS GONE FISHING i have no idea were to start any ideas.

  • malvika

    August 12, 2009

    m still searchin 4 dat one perfect tattoo… its gona b my first so kinda bit apprehensive abt it….but u helped me out a lot…regardin da care n all required for a tattoo…\thanx n keep up da good work!!!

  • Frank Katz

    August 12, 2009

    I would like to design a tatoo.picture an eagle with wings spread.between the wings part of the American flag is visible.the eagle is stannding with one claw on the Harley Davidison Shield.coiled below the Harley Shield is the coil of a cobra snake.The rest of the snake is rose up and the eagle and the snake are giving each the evil eye and both beak and mouth open ready to strike each other.The other claw of the Eagle embedded in the snake with blood drops dripping from the snake body.The snakes body and coil is made up of drawings of womens female forms.The Idea of the tatoo worn on the upper arm is this.The Flag,the Eagle,and the Harley sheild represent Freedoms.The Foriegn snake (not a USA snake) and the body of the snake (woman)(can be in oppositition) to a mans Freedoms.

  • louise

    August 14, 2009

    it is really nice:)
    have discovered that what my next tatto should be and am.

    mvh louise

  • Dutch

    August 16, 2009

    Hey Bra, still checkin out your site with my men in Platoon. Curious. Some of us can sketch and draw, but not good enough to put on our bodies. I found a trick you might want to share, or tell me I’m lame.. Here’s what I do. Go to looney tunes or Disney, Tatoodle coloring books for kids. Find the picture you like,(suppose to print it out)but if you take fine drawing paper you can press it on your screen and trace it, point being I’m learning to draw by tracing first, then drawing it on another piece of paper cuz I already have a feel for it. There’s two guys who do tats at there home and they learned in prison, but if a girl wants something done I tell her to bring the picture then my buddy knows basicaly what he/she desires. Also know a prison same person. So have you tried this method? I just trace it quick then had what I missed and more..I’m handicapped so I can’t join your “Gig”. Very cool site, since I’ve started drawing with my time. Thanx Amigo, Adios. Dutch

  • Dutch

    August 16, 2009

    @sheryl lilya, Howdy, would love to see your Tats. Iv’e come close to death many times in my line of work. Anyways, I know what I want and it’s the names of my daughters and grandchildren, all hidden in a hammock, with some extra room. In between to Palm trees. Thanks for the Idea of fiding quotes to fit my thoughts, found out last night I can also use song lyrics the same way. Adios..Dutch

  • bill

    August 17, 2009

    I like all the info you give out….Keep up the good work.I myself have 8 tats now and looking forward to my next one….Bill

  • Makayla

    August 17, 2009

    Nice! I love the cross ^_^

    I got my 2nd wrist tattoo done by a friend, he free handed it, now I have to find someone to fix it lol

  • Melinda

    August 18, 2009

    I thank you for your ideas. I have many tattoos. Its neat how they can be changed up by simply adding onto it….

  • Lisa Lloyd

    August 22, 2009

    I like the tiger tattoo, i found a couple of tiger tattoos but they seem to look silly wen it comes to the detail in the face which puts me off. i do like the cross too, u seem to know what to recommend. thanx again.

  • Ree

    August 24, 2009

    your ideas are so helpful and creative and yout commitment to your site is amazing! Thanks for all you do to help all of us stay inspired and up on the latest and greatest info and ideas!

  • Mary Ann Knight-Queen

    August 31, 2009

    @sheryl lilya,

    I think that sounds beautiful. I had back and neck surgery and am wondering if there are artists’ that cover up scars like the ones I have?? I have been told that they do not.any ideas???

  • rose

    September 7, 2009

    @zoe, hey, i no the feelin of wantin 2nd tattoo 1st 1 jus the thrill and addiction kicks in u want more done almost straight away… dont rush tho.. think it thru, play around in ur mind of imagining wher YOU! wud like 1, and wat of? somethin will strike out at u and you’l realize thts the 1, this most likely not the help u were serchin 4 but i hpe its a different perspectiv on things..? x

  • Lady Thanatolia

    September 9, 2009

    I’ve had only one tat for over 30 years, but now it seems the time is right for another one, and then another, and then another…
    I think a tattoo should have some personal meaning for you, first and foremost. Then, find an idea you can bring to your local tat artist. For instance, I’d been looking to get an owl for my next tat, but I’ve found an artist who can replicate M.C. Escher’s artwork, so I’m going to ask him if he can create a skull in a specific M.C.E. style, sized for my shoulder. We’ll see what happens!

  • cody

    September 10, 2009

    Hey Mark , Thanks for the great ideas man. I’m looking into a half sleave ( all crazy trible) but also with my twin girls names along with my two boys names blended in with the trible. Let me know if you got any ideas.

  • harry jones

    September 13, 2009

    What’s happened to all the bald eagle tats Mark.

  • Miranda

    September 15, 2009

    Love the tiger! I have six tatts,one is a Dragon that goes from my hip bone to almost my knee.I don’t know what colors I want or if I should just leave it!! Keep sending ideas.

  • Jay

    September 16, 2009

    Thank you for your help. much appreciated!!

  • mel

    September 17, 2009

    these tats are great but could we have some girlie stuff, like flowers and that. I’m actually looking for a tat on my foot and would love some ideas.

  • Jackie

    September 18, 2009

    thanks for sending me this pic. very nice. i was wondering if you know how much it would cost to get my daughters face tattood on my shouler blade. i know size and detail have an impact but what would be the going rate for a pic tattoo? thanks a million. continue with the awsome work

  • Ashley

    September 18, 2009

    Thanks for sending the pic of the tiger. I love tigers and was thinking about my next tat being a tiger. That was a great pic. The idea of taking a photo and putting it into an image editor was great especially if someone would like to combine two pics or make one their “own”.

  • Rose

    September 18, 2009

    Thanks : ) I love working with photoshop and sketching so I’m going to try to draw up some tattoo ideas, I might post the URL here when I get some done to get some feedback : )

  • Barb

    October 2, 2009

    Great info. Nice Kitty too.

  • phenyo vincent otukile

    October 5, 2009

    thanx 4 the brilliant ideas mate,now i can get on with the ideas i have,i really appreciate what u do 4 us.kip up the good work.

  • Mark

    October 7, 2009

    @Nikkita, sorry, forgot to post the link, it’s there now.


  • Mark

    October 7, 2009

    @Marc, it’s going to be free for all existing members. Think of it as a “free upgrade” :)


  • zoe

    October 7, 2009

    yeh i wanted the next one to be on my arm but thinking that i cant wear short t-shirts @ work coz of my lovelly tat ;-) so im stil thinking of a place but i cant do my whole back lol

  • tammy

    October 7, 2009

    that is cool with the tiger im more into angels do u have any tats with angels or butterflies

  • Melinda

    October 8, 2009

    Awesome idea, T.y

  • Barry

    October 8, 2009

    Thanks for the info (Very usefull) !

  • lacie

    October 19, 2009

    what about feminine angel wings outlined in blue. can you design something like that for me to look at?

  • Donita Golden

    October 20, 2009

    I really like everything that you are doing and the tattoos that you send me. I like tattoos that are roses, wolves, and hearts and alot more. I mostly like the ones with the banners that you can put peoples names in. that shows how much you love them. I have four children and I am looking for a tattoo design that has something that is about your children and how they are your life, and has someplace to put there names

  • whoopmagsbaby

    October 26, 2009

    i realy like the tatto mark. have u any like an enchanted flower pattern. margaret

  • ashley

    October 26, 2009

    @Nikkita, Hi nikkita can u send me sme cool tattoos to my gmail account da pls i like my mom very much nd dont know hw to tell it 2 her so could u pls send me sme nice wordings so tat i can get them tattooed on my arm tat i can show my mom

  • Adrian M.

    August 3, 2010

    Just wanted add that another great free alternative to the expensive Adobe Photoshop is called GIMP which has many of the same features and layout as photoshop.

  • Rob

    August 25, 2010

    I have always thought of a sexy busty mermaid with soft curious features encircling a scuba diver, her attention is completly on him, but she is the focus of the tattoo

  • leslie

    August 26, 2010

    i”ve been thinking of getting a tat of a dogwood flower for a while now. I “m getting it as a memorial for my father who past away 3 years ago. He loved being outdoors and he used to take us hiking and stuff. I know how i want it to look but im having trouble getting it on paper. also undecided on where im putting it. Anyone have any ideas?

  • søren krejlgaard

    September 14, 2010

    I was wondering if it’s possible to make a sketch drawing of what i like to call the apprentice of death it has to be a female character

  • hey, thanks for the great tip!

    another program you might want to check out which is completely free is of course gimp which you can find at
    it’s almost as powerful as photoshop and you can do very cool stuff with it.



  • Bitan

    October 21, 2010

    I was thinking to get a tattoo done for my love whom I am gonna marry very soon.Could you suggest something Mark?

  • stephanie

    October 21, 2010

    @Stephen, yea i use photobucket all the time to, i also use which is very good once you learn how to use it.

  • This was a really great read by you hope to visit more very soon.

  • Ray

    October 28, 2010

    @larry dickerson, How about a Cobra and he is wearing the cloak of the grim reaper.

  • Team Roster

    October 30, 2010

    Best you could make changes to the webpage subject Getting a tattoo *idea* out of your head and “onto paper”.. | Tattoomenow! Blog to more suited for your blog post you create. I liked the blog post all the same.

  • nicky

    November 4, 2010

    @zoe, Hey how r u doin download a list of tattoo meanings its definately easier to relate it to yourself and your personal desires or quirks then find images related to the meaning of you! Then combine a few to get wot ur after old fashioned baking paper is awsome to trace and add this way youll be original and your tattoo will mean u!!

  • Robert

    November 10, 2010

    I like tattoo’s but I’am afraid to get more tat’s because then evre one would thank you are in a gang like to get one more but don’t know

  • kal

    November 19, 2010

    ilove that idea,it gives me a hint of what tattoo i’d like to have, thanks!

  • Jake

    November 30, 2010

    Great steps… I think this should be circulated to anyone who is doing the tattoo, and everyone interested in them.

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