Where on My Body Should I Get My First Tattoo?

Woman's arm with 'be happy' on it as first tattoo
meegan zimmerman/Moment/Getty Images

Planning your first tattoo is exciting, but it takes thought and reflection. In terms of design and placement, the sky is the limit, and narrowing down the options can be difficult. This is especially daunting when you consider that, barring painful removal procedures, a tattoo is permanent; you'll have it for the rest of your life. Now is the time to think ahead and consider all factors of tattoo positioning.

Will you choose your back, inner wrist, hip, foot, or some other spot? Here's a brief overview of things to consider that will help you decide where on your body to place your first tattoo.

How Big Do You Want Your Tattoo to Be?

The best spot for your first tattoo has a lot to do with its design. The larger your tattoo, of course,  the more area you'll need available. Generally, large pieces look best on the back, side, and chest, where your design won't be limited by the surface area.

You don't have to get a large design done all at once, either. Once you are comfortable with the process, you can add to it as you like. If you start with a smaller design with plans to add on more later, make sure you place it in an area that will later accommodate them.

Do You Want to See It?

Another consideration is how frequently you'll see your tattoo. Although certain spots might be tempting, you won't be able to appreciate your tattoo much if you can't see it.

Especially given that this is your very first tattoo experience, getting it in a less visible spot can take away some of the fun.

Good spots for a first tattoo that you can easily admire are the wrist, arm, foot, and hand. Although hand tattoos have their challenges and many artists will not work on them, the results can be worth it if you have a solid idea in mind and can find a professional and reputable tattooist.

Be sure to consider workplace practices: Many employers have policies regarding visible modifications and tattoos.

Do You Want to Play Up a Certain Feature?

Tattoos, by nature, draw the eye to wherever they're placed. Use this to your advantage. You can really enhance and call attention to whatever parts of your anatomy you're most proud of. Remember, too, that this works in reverse: Don't place a tattoo near any part you'd like to downplay.

Not sure what these areas are on you, or whether a certain tattoo will flatter or not? Ask your artist. Once she knows your tattoo idea, she can help you plan the best placement. A professional tattoo artist will see your body as a canvas—as something beautiful to enhance. She can see you in a different way than you see yourself, and her artful eye might just mean you end up getting your tattoo in a spot you had never considered before she suggested it. If you have taken the time to seek out a reputable, talented tattoo artist, you should allow her some creative input and trust her expertise. In the end, of course, the choice is yours.

How Much Does It Hurt?

Although most artists will not steer you clear of a particular place on your body because of it, you should consider the pain factor before opting for a prominent piece.

 The thinner the skin and bonier the surface, the more you are going to feel the needle. Spots that usually inflict the least amount of pain include the arm and leg. Steer clear of the elbow, foot, and ribs for a first tattoo if you have a low pain tolerance; these areas reportedly hurt the most. In any case, your artist can calm your first-timer fear of pain by using a numbing product.

When it comes down to it, some areas of the body are simply more amenable to needles and ink than others. When going for your first tattoo, your artist will be your best source of info in deciding on its placement. Getting tattooed successfully is a complicated interplay of needles, ink, and anatomy; rely on your tattoo artist's expertise in putting all three together in the place that's best for you.