New You, New Tattoo: How Much Will Your Ink Cost?

New You, New Tattoo:
How Much Will Your Ink Cost?
With January at an end, we hope that you’re making progress on achieving (or revising!) your list of resolutions. Perhaps one of those resolutions was to get a new tattoo—or perhaps with the holiday season over, you’re ready to treat yourself to some new ink, now that you’ve treated everyone else on your list. (Whoops—forgot someone? Stop by the shop and pick up a gift certificate for them!)
If you’re indeed in the market for a new tattoo, our friendly and professional tattoo artists would love to see you in our welcoming studio. You’re welcome to come chat with our artists, check out portfolios, and set up a consultation. You can also email us at to get started.
One of the questions we’re most frequently asked is how much a new tattoo is going to cost. While we’re very happy to provide you with an individual quote for your specific piece, we wanted to offer some general insight to get you started.

It Depends…
…on your artist: At Paper Crane Studio, our artists set their own hourly rates based on experience, ability, and speed. Generally, our rates range from $160-$200 per hour. That means that until we match you with an artist, we’ll wait on giving you a quote.
We pride ourselves on being home to only the best artists, which means you’ll always get a quality tattoo at our studio. With that in mind, we strongly suggest you choose an artist based on their tattooing style, not their hourly rate! You can browse portfolios in person or visit our Instagram @papercranestudio to get familiar with our individual artists’ specialties, strengths, and nuances. (In fact, we’d love if you screenshot a few of your favorite pieces from our Instagram and send them our way when you email us about your next tattoo.) That way, whether you’re interested in something colorful and intricate or extremely minimalist, you’ll pick an artist whose work truly resonates with you.

Size Matters
We love getting your emails, especially when you include pictures or descriptions of the tattoo you’re interested in getting from us. But we can’t always tell from a picture or description just how big you want your new ink to be—and a tattoo that’s two inches across is going to have a very different price tag than a piece you want to span your shoulder blade. Since our artists work hourly, letting us know approximately what you’re thinking will help us give you an idea of your cost.
Our artists are committed to working with the unique flow of each client’s body during the design process, so we’ll advise you honestly on how big or small we feel your tattoo should be in order to properly fit you. And because we want your tattoo to “read” clearly and beautifully, we’ll let you know if any adjustments need to be made in either the size of your piece or the amount of detail.
We have a session minimum of $100, even for the tiniest of tattoos. You might think that sounds like a lot to get a single word tattooed on your wrist, for example—but please remember that “simple” pieces like script are actually some of the most difficult to tattoo, as there is little to no margin for error. The minimum cost covers our materials as well as the time spent designing your piece, prepping for your session, and cleaning up afterwards.

Details, Details, Details
In the same way that size determines the hours spent on your new tattoo, the level of detail that goes into a piece can have a major impact on the cost. If you’re interested in a full-color sleeve in a photorealistic style, such a piece may involve many hours of outlining, layering, shading, and detailing to get it just right. That’s not to say that complicated color pieces are by default going to cost you more than other tattoos: Dotwork, blackwork, linework, and black-and-grey tattoos can all require a significant time investment, depending on the design. Consider some of the finer examples of the popular mandala “underboob” tattoo: Such intricate linework requires a steady hand and a lot of patience.
Whatever the level of detail you’re interested in, a quality tattoo is absolutely worth the cost. Why? Because it’s a permanent piece of wearable art—and when done right, it will reflect the truest version of yourself and provide you with joy for many years to come.

On a Budget? Let’s Talk!
As one of Southern California’s premier tattoo studios, we do not offer bargain tattoos or haggle over our rates. Tattoos are both a luxury and a legitimate art, and we’re committed to quality over quantity. But we get it if you’re on a budget, and we’re willing to work with you.
During your consultation, you can let your artist know your price threshold. We can break your tattoo into multiple sessions if that’s ultimately more doable for your budget. Typically, we spend two to four hours per session on larger pieces to get plenty of work done without putting you in too much pain. But even on a smaller piece, we can knock out the linework in one session, for example, and handle the color during a later session. Alternatively, we can approach the design in such a way that means less time tattooing in total (whether that means going a little smaller or implementing a different technique).

Available Designs
If you want to get a new tattoo but don’t have a set idea, we encourage you to check out our tattooists on Instagram and Facebook! As passionate artists, we are constantly creating new designs that either typify our preferred styles or push our creative boundaries. That means you’ll often find designs online that we’re really interested in tattooing—and you can sometimes (not always) get such a design at a special price.
If you end up picking an available design and getting a special rate, we ask that you respect your artist’s discretion when it comes to customization. You might have a couple of minor adjustments that we’re cool with—but if you end up totally re-designing the offered piece, please keep in mind that the artist’s standard rate will apply. For example: If you claim an available rose design from an artist and try to subtly turn it into a portrait of your favorite aunt, we’re going to notice.

Quotes and Consultations
We will ALWAYS discuss the hourly estimate and cost of your tattoo prior to your first session. Sometimes we can provide a quote via email—but for more complex pieces (like a sleeve or a cover-up), we prefer to schedule an in-person consultation to go over the details of your new tattoo and to give you the most accurate quote possible.
Once we get your session scheduled and receive your deposit, we start designing your new tattoo. We absolutely understand if you have adjustments to make or if you change your mind on certain elements: We want you to leave our studio with a piece you’ll love for a lifetime, so we encourage creative collaboration at every step! But remember that the quote you receive applies to the tattoo you originally requested, so major changes can impact the amount of time your artist ultimately spends tattooing you. Additionally, our hourly estimate can change based on any number of factors beyond our control.

If you’re ready to get started on your new tattoo, send us an email! We would love to see what you’re interested in and get you set up with the perfect artist, who can help you take the next step in setting up a consultation, getting a quote, and scheduling your tattoo session.
Stay tuned for our next blog on tattoo etiquette, where we’ll consider such questions as how much to tip your artist and who really owns a tattoo once it’s been inked. See you soon!

Here’s to the Year 2017

A Year to Remember
As 2017 draws to a close, we want to say thank you to our amazing clients, friends, and family for giving us the opportunity to create authentic art each and every day in beautiful Long Beach. We are truly living the dream, all thanks to you!

Flash Madness
It’s been a memorable year for the shop, for so many more reasons than we can explain. But let’s start with a universal favorite: FLASH FRIDAY! Flash tattoo events are a time-honored tradition in the industry, during which our artists design original work that we offer at a set price. At our Friday-the-13th Flash, palm-sized tattoos cost just $40 (that’s $31 in honor of 13 plus a $9 tip, in case you’re wondering)—whereas usually one of these designs at bare minimum would run $100. During our October event, we tattooed over 100 people! We’re grateful for such patient clients and artists alike, and we’re proud to say the day was a roaring success.
We did a Black Friday Flash this year as well, to give people an alternative to the insanity of shopping for discount blenders and bamboo socks. The designs were larger than at previous events, which gave us a little more room to stretch our creative muscles.
We’ll be doing more flash events in the year ahead, so stay tuned!

Giving Back
As tattoo artists, we’re extremely fortunate to do what we love for a living, all in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We care about our clients and our community, and we were so excited to be able to give back in meaningful ways this year. At our “Caring Cranes” event in June, we tattooed for a cause by offering special tattoo designs and origami cranes; the event benefited local charities like the Peter Mayhew Foundation, Long Beach Ronald McDonald House, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
We were amazed by the generosity of our local community at this event—and then just a few months later, we were overwhelmed by the selflessness of our social media followers. We asked you to help rebuild lives in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma by donating to charitable organizations, with the intent of matching your donations dollar for dollar—and we were humbled at how many people gave so generously to those in need.
Let’s keep that kindness rolling forward into the new year: If you have any local, national, or global causes you’re passionate about, let us know. We are always open to fundraisers, big or small.

Growing Our Family
We’ve been fortunate to host some amazing guest artists this year, like Keik Balcazar, Buddy Love, Erna Von Pentz, and Annabelle Luyken (who does some seriously artful vagina tattoos). In 2018 we’ll be hosting another round of internationally-renowned artists, so be sure you’re following our social media for big announcements! (And if you’re interested in visiting us as a guest artist, be sure to send an email our way.)
We also are so thrilled to have welcomed two new artists to our team in September. Steven Seng specializes in black-and-grey, photorealism, dotwork, and Asian-style tattoos, and he is currently expanding his creative horizons to experiment with new styles. The extremely versatile Jade Quail excels at both traditional and neotraditional designs, but she’s also a master of woodcut-style tattoos and intense dotwork pieces.
All of our artists have experienced major growth and achievements this year. We’re working constantly to better ourselves as professionals so that we can offer you the best tattoos in the industry, all in Southern California’s friendliest tattoo studio.

Looking Ahead
As New Year’s Day approaches,  we encourage you to jot down one last resolution: Come see us at Paper Crane. We mean it: We’d love to finish that tattoo you started last year or to fix that piece you’ve been hiding since freshman year of college. (It’s okay. We’ve been there.)
Remember that tattoos are a way of expressing on the outside how you feel on the inside. Whatever that means to you, we embrace and accept it. Whether you want to cover a surgical scar, memorialize a loved one, finish off a sleeve, or simply celebrate a new chapter of life, we’re here for you. size.
We’ve got big things in store for the new year, from special events at the shop to exciting videos with our artists and more. What would you like to see from us in 2018? Drop us a line at to let us know! size.

We wish you safe celebrations on New Year’s Eve and a joyous New Year’s Day. We’ll see you in 2018!

Style Check: From Traditional to Trash Polka

Style Check: From Traditional to Trash Polka
Have you ever wondered what separates neo-traditional from new school? Illustrative from watercolor? Do you love koi tattoos but aren’t quite sure what Irezumi means, or did you perhaps think that Trash Polka was a hipster dance craze?
The good news is you don’t need to know what a tattoo style is called to know what you like: A skilled artist can work off of your verbal descriptions and reference photos to figure out what aesthetic best suits your vision. But having a working familiarity with some of the more prominent or popular styles of tattooing can help you to refine your idea before you go to the shop—and most importantly, it can help you choose an artist who is experienced in the aesthetic you’re interested in.

American Traditional: Also known as traditional or old school, American traditional tattoos feature bold outlines and a limited color palette. Some of the most common subjects done in this style include roses, sharks, pin-up girls, swallows, stars, anchors, and hula girls. When you think of Sailor Jerry or classic tattoo flash, you’re thinking in a traditional vein. American traditional owes its enduring legacy in large part to Norman Keith Collins (aka Sailor Jerry himself), who popularized the style in the 1900s at his shop in Honolulu.

(Tattoo by Tan Vo)

Neo-Traditional: As the name implies, neo-traditional tattoos evolved from the traditional style. Like their predecessors, these tattoos typically feature vibrant colors and bold lines. But neo-traditional uses a wider range of both colors and line weights, which gives tattoos more depth, detail, and realism. Popular subjects include traditional imagery with a unique spin as well as animals and scenes from nature.

(Tattoo by Chelsea Jane)

Illustrative: Illustrative tattoos are also rooted in the traditional aesthetic, and they have a lot of similarities to neo-traditional tattoos in that they feature an expanded color palette, variety of line weights, and more realistic shading. But whereas neo-traditional tattoos typically still have the look and feel of American traditional tattoos, illustrative pieces resemble an actual illustration. For some artists this includes linework that looks like pencil or brush strokes, whereas others let the depth of shading and range of color gradations lend a tattoo that particular quality. The sky is the limit as far as subject matter goes. (Don’t worry if you can’t tell if a tattoo is neo-traditional or illustrative: It can often be a subtle difference, and sometimes the answer would depend on who you asked.)

(Tattoo by Justin Tauch)

Watercolor: Becoming increasingly more popular with every social media post you see, watercolor or painterly tattoos often look more like something you’d see on your wall than on a human canvas. These tattoos imitate brushstrokes to varying degrees: Some may have bold strokes or paint “splatters,” whereas others have a softer, more blended look. They tend to feature a softer color palette, often incorporating pastels or subtle color variations. Watercolor tattoos can have zero black lines for an almost ethereal look, but there is some concern that a lack of darker linework might cause such tattoos to lose shape over the years, so some artists prefer to incorporate a base or framework to hold the colors in place. As with illustrative tattoos, the watercolor style is used for a variety of images, with some of the more popular choices including fish and flowers.

(Tattoo by Mikey Vigilante)

Blackwork: On the opposite end of the spectrum from watercolor is blackwork. Whereas black-and-grey tattoos feature shades of both black and grey (using either watered-down black ink or prefabricated grey ink), blackwork tattoos have zero shading. Sacred geometry, bold patterns, and large swaths of solid black typically characterize blackwork pieces, but this style can also include extremely detailed subjects that have an illustrative quality to them.

(Tattoo by Joy Shannon)

Dotwork: As you might have guessed, dotwork tattoos consist solely of dots—lots and lots of dots, depending on the piece! Dotwork tattoos require the artist to precisely place tens, hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of dots into a pattern to achieve the desired image, whether that’s a sacred symbol or a portrait of an animal. These tattoos typically are done in shades of black or red, and the end product can be a simple design or have an almost three-dimensional look to it. Dotwork can be incorporated into other tattoo styles such as blackwork to give a piece depth without resorting to color variation.

(Tattoo by Mikey Vigilante)

Realism: Like watercolor tattoos, realism is extremely popular in the current era, whether you’re interested in black-and-grey or full color. Realistic tattoos implement expert linework and shading to create a style that is extremely true to life—almost like looking at a photograph, which is why you might hear it called photorealism. Meticulous planning and attention to detail can make a photorealistic rose look like you could actually pick it off of someone’s arm or a butterfly look like it might fly away at any second. Unfortunately, a lack of expertise can make realistic tattoos some of the biggest disasters in the industry, as evidenced by the many examples of horrific portrait tattoos. We always encourage you to scrutinize any artist’s portfolio, but that goes double for realistic pieces!

(Tattoo by Adrian Franco)

Irezumi: Irezumi is the proper term for traditional Japanese tattoos. Originating in Japan in the 1600s, this style still focuses on classic themes from folklore, legend, and history: Dragons, samurai, phoenixes, geishas, cherry blossoms, koi fish, kitsunes, kappas, and other subjects both mythical and mundane serve as common subject matter. Although you can get an Irezumi-style tattoo anywhere you choose to, the traditional bodysuit covers the arms, back, upper legs, and chest (leaving an untouched channel down the center of the body).

(Tattoo by Mikey Vigilante)

New School: Originating in the 1970s, new school tattooing evolved from the traditional (or old school) style. You can see new school’s old school roots in the bold lines and heavily saturated colors. But new school incorporates exaggerated or cartoonish elements not typically found in traditional tattoos. Bobble-headed characters from your favorite Disney movie or outlandishly dressed animals in unlikely situations are some of the common images associated with this style.

Trash Polka: Created at Buena Vista Tattoo Club by Simone Plaff and Volko Merschky in Würaburg, Germany, Trash Polka has a collage-like quality that incorporates both realistic and abstract imagery in a fine-art style. Random bits of lettering, detailed silhouettes, geometric patterns, and smudges of ink characterize Trash Polka tattoos, which are done exclusively in back and/or red ink. Trash Polka is full of chaos and movement, with an extremely unique aesthetic that is not for everyone. It’s interesting to note that “true” Trash Polka tattoos must be done at Buena Vista Tattoo Club—but if you’re interested in this style and can’t make it to Germany, you can find artists in the US who are proficient at this emerging style.

At Paper Crane Studio, our artists excel in a number of styles, and we each have our own unique specialties. We pride ourselves on our professional integrity, so we are always up front about what we feel most comfortable tattooing—and an artist will happily refer you to another artist if a project isn’t a perfect fit.
And remember: We love to think outside of the box and tackle new challenges! We’d be thrilled to bring your wildest vision to vivid life, whether that means working within an established aesthetic or creating something totally unique.
Please feel free to email us at with any questions on style. If you’re still unsure of how to choose the most suitable artist at our shop, we’re happy to guide you to the right match!

Know Your Needles

Know Your Needles: A Basic Guide
We’ve found that clients fall into two main groups when getting tattooed: the ones who stare down the tattoo machine, watching the needle pierce their skin hundreds (if not thousands) of times—and the ones who keep their eyes firmly fixed on the wall, floor, or ceiling, stealing maybe a peek or two (and clearly regretting it by how quickly they turn away).
If you’re in that first group, then you’ll love today’s blog: We’re breaking down some of the different types of needles your artist might use to tattoo you, so next time you get inked you’ll have a better understanding of the tools of the trade. And if you’re squeamish about the process, it’s our hope that a little knowledge will take some of the fear out of your next session!

Needle = Needles
Unless you’re getting a single-needle tattoo specifically, the tattoo “needle” your artist is wielding is actually multiple needles soldered together. Just how many needles are we talking about, you ask? It depends on what your artist is up to: For blending color, your tattooist might choose a stacked magnum with eleven needles grouped tightly together, then for outlining s/he might switch to a round liner with just three needles. (Don’t worry—we’ll explain what stacked magnums and round liners are below!)
As for those single-needle tattoos, you can get hand-poked or machine-tattooed with these by an artist with a steady hand. The end results can be super fine and elegant, with ethereal strokes that look almost hand-drawn. Some artists use them for tiny tattoos, whereas others appreciate the single-needle aesthetic and incorporate it into their work regardless of size.

Liners, Shaders, and Magnums—Oh My!
There’s an endless variety when it comes to tattoo needles, especially considering that a number of artists make some or all of their needles by hand. (We use pre-manufactured disposable needles when we tattoo, but Mikey Vigilante knows how to make tattooing needles and likes to share that craft with our artists.)  For now, we’re going to look at some of the main varieties you might find your artist using:
Round Needles: Soldered together around a central shaft, round needles look exactly like their name implies. They can be used as liners, in which case they are called round liners, or as shaders, in which case they’re called—you guessed it!—round shaders. You can commonly find round needles with anywhere from three to eighteen needles. Depending on how loosely or tightly the needles are grouped and the desired result, your artist can use round needles for basic shading, small details, or bold outlines.
Flat Needles: As you might have figured, flat needles are soldered together in a straight line. This configuration is often used for textural effects, like doing fine strands of hair or giving a tattoo a “brushed” look. Similar to round needles, the actual number of needles varies greatly, but between six and ten is standard.
Magnum Needles: When it comes to shading or filling in large areas of color, magnum needles get the job done. Why is that? Magnums are by design flat configurations with every other needle woven and slightly separated from the adjacent needle. This extra space between the individual needles means magnum needles deliver a lot of ink in one go, which in turn means your artist doesn’t have to pass over your already-tender skin as many times as with other needles. Magnums come in an ever-growing variety, including single stack (one row of needles), weaved (two loosely-grouped rows of needles), and soft edged (which are slightly rounded on the end and used for smooth gradients or black-and-grey). If you’re wondering what separates a single stack magnum from a flat needle or a round magnum from a regular round liner, it’s largely the way the needles are grouped and configured. Some artists feel magnum varieties are more flexible, cause less damage, and/or deliver smoother ink flow. You can easily find magnums with anywhere from five to forty-nine needles. And if that second number sounds intimidating, here’s an interesting observation: The more needles you’re being tattooed with, the less pain you tend to feel! That’s why a little round liner can feel like you’re getting nicked with a razor, whereas a larger magnum grouping creates more of a dull burn.

A Sterile Setup
A reputable artist will have the right tools for the job, which includes the proper gear for his/her individual needs. For example, if your artist uses a machine that requires needle cartridges as opposed to a standard setup, s/he’ll have that all ready to go. Or if your artist is using bugpins (a type of magnum made with extremely thin needles), s/he’ll have the smaller tubes needed for this setup.
Most importantly, though, regardless of what needles or devices your artist implements, a professional artist will have a totally sterile setup. That means disposable, single-use needles so as to avoid the transmission of blood-borne pathogens between clients; autoclaves to sterilize any non-disposable equipment; ink cups that artists fill with ink from larger bottles and throw away after each session; and a number of behind-the-scenes protocols that ensure your comfort and safety.
Remember, if you’re ever in doubt or just want to put your mind at ease, you can always ask your artist to explain their setup. Whether you want to know more about the kinds of needles being used or the safety precautions in place, a reliable artist will have no problem giving you detailed information.

If you want to delve deeper into the world of tattoo needles, stay tuned! We’ll be sitting down with one of our artists soon to get into more detail about what a weaved magnum is used for, why some tattooists prefer a Cheyene Hawk Pen or a Mickey Sharpe T-Dial, and why it’s called a bugpin when we’re not entomologists.

If you’ve got questions in the meantime, drop us a line at!

Ritual Tattoos

Ritual Tattoos
Whether you’re going on a whim or for deeply meaningful reasons, getting a tattoo is a kind of modern-day ritual: A tattoo can be a rite of passage, a revelatory experience, an affirmation of personal truths, a sign of commitment. In tattoo studios around the world, people get inked in order to express their innermost selves or to connect to something bigger than themselves.
Tattooing has a rich history that spans the globe—and it is a history firmly rooted in the concept of ritual. From tribal peoples like the Maori and Celts to highly advanced ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, tattoos were (and in some instances still are) performed with meaning and intention. Rites of passage, invocations to the gods, magical symbols of protection—all of these and more were potential reasons for getting tattooed.
The ritual element of tattooing has largely fallen away in most modern societies, especially as tattoos become more and more mainstream. But some artists are helping ritual tattoos make a comeback by offering services that focus on the intention behind the piece and the process as a whole.
Joy Shannon of Paper Crane Studio is one of those artists. She gives us her unique perspective on the renewal of this ancient practice.

Traditional Intentions
“Sometimes I wonder to myself about the classifications of tattoo styles,” Joy said when we asked what separates a ritual tattoo from a traditional one. “It’s true that ‘traditional’ can refer to the Sailor Jerry style of old-school tattooing, but what I would say is even more traditional is the immense tribal history of tattoos. Generally speaking, traditional tattoos in tribal cultures often seemed to be created with some sort of meaningful ritual. Doing ritual tattoos is basically bringing that meaning back to the process.”
Any tattoo can be meaningful, regardless of whether or not it was done as part of a ritual. We hope at our studio that you always experience an authentic connection with your artist—but we’re aware that you can sometimes get an awesome piece done by someone who don’t quite vibe with. Does that take away from your tattoo’s meaning? Of course not! What, then, makes a ritual tattoo particularly different?
“It’s more than just a meaningful tattoo,” Joy explains. “The whole process of the tattoo is done with intention and meaningful-ness in mind.”
Each ritual tattooer has their own unique process, informed by their personal beliefs, cultural ties, and life experiences. Joy begins with a consultation in which she discusses the meaning of the tattoo. It’s here that she goes over both the tattoo design and the actual tattoo session, in order to create a truly personalized experience for each client. “The session itself often consists of Reiki, or energy healing work, combined with an intention set for the tattoo. Then we do the actual tattoo, and sometimes energy work after the piece is done.”

Highly Personalized…
Just as with any other form of tattooing, the reason behind a ritual tattoo varies immensely from person to person. “Generally the pieces can be for big life transitions, new beginnings, honoring the end of an era, or a memorial tattoo for a loved one,” Joy tells us. “Some of my clients want to get a ritual tattoo experience every time they come to me, or they are working on a large multi-session piece with intention that we keep focused on every time. But I do find that clients tend to use this process for very special occasions more often than not.”
Joy is very aware of just how personal these tattoos are (which is why she never shares the details of a ritual session)—and for this reason, she maintains a very neutral approach in regard to cultural influences, despite being intimately familiar with the history of ritual tattooing. “I design the process with each client in mind and what they ask for. I never want to put anything I believe onto someone else, and I deeply respect their own personal beliefs. I feel that all cultural traditions of spirituality are describing the same life force of energy and love, so I try my best to work from that basic, neutral place.”
Whatever your beliefs or personal reasons for a ritual tattoo, you can rest assured that Joy will create an experience that is an authentic reflection of yourself and your intentions.

…and Deeply Personal
Ritual tattooing is meaningful on a personal level to Joy as the artist as well. She herself has been tattooed by by ritual Nordic tattooer Kai Uwe Faust at Kunsten På Kroppen in Copenhagen. “I am very influenced by Kai in my own work, and that tattoo is very special for me: It helps me in my own ritual tattoo work every day.”
With all of her tattoos (including non-ritual ones), Joy feels a sense of personal ritual at work: “I find that I focus myself with my own sense of intention for all of my tattoos, whether or not my client asks for me to verbally create a focus or intention for the piece I am doing. And I always set my tattooing space up like it is for a ritual tattoo, because I focus on making the space clean, comfortable, and quiet for each client. I prepare my space for what I would love to have when I get tattooed: a safe space, without judgment, with kindness and acceptance and peace. Since all tattoos are painful to some varying degree, I want to always be sensitive to each client’s needs.”
Tattoos in general are demanding on a physical and mental level. Ritual tattoos can have an added intensity, vulnerability, or emotional intimacy that Joy finds can be particularly draining. “I do have to limit how many I do per day and take care of myself,” she explains, “but honestly, I feel so lucky to have the clients I do, because even when I do a light-hearted or fun tattoo without a ritual, we have the loveliest time! My ritual tattoos are especially meaningful, though, and I am so grateful for those clients’ trust and openness with me. I learn so much every day from doing this professionally.”

Come As You Are
There is no special preparation that Joy asks of her clients before a ritual tattoo: Life in general has usually prepared a person for the experience, she has found. But she does stress that emotional aftercare is particularly important, in addition to proper physical aftercare. “I always tell clients, especially those who are getting memorial tattoos, to bring a loved one with them during the appointment if they need support.”
As for the physical aspect, Joy shares an interesting insight: “I have heard from some clients that the ritual tattoos heal faster or heal the best out of all their tattoos. I cannot prove this, but I love to think the energy healing work helps the body heal itself after the session.”

If you’re intrigued by the concept of a ritual tattoo, please send us an email to get started. You’re welcome to come in for a consultation to see if this unique offering is right for you. Whatever your background, beliefs, or intention, Joy can create a tattoo you’ll love for a lifetime and an experience you’ll never forget.

Too Taboo to Tattoo? Hand, Neck, and Face Tattoos in the Modern World

Too Taboo to Tattoo? Hand, Neck, and Face Tattoos in the Modern World
At Paper Crane, we’re all about self-expression—and we’re here to help you feel like your most authentic self through tattoos that reflect your unique personality. When it comes to extreme body modifications (whether for other industry professionals or our clients), we fully support your vision.
The fact is that you’ll find few places as accepting of extreme body modification as a tattoo shop. Although the outside world has come a long way—your local barista can proudly show their ink now!—we still live in a society where certain types of tattoos are given a sideways stare.

Today we’re taking a look at hand, neck, and face tattoos to get an idea of why they carry certain negative connotations, how they’ve evolved over the years, and whether one of these taboo tattoos is right for you.

Cultural Perspectives
Across the world and throughout history, tattoos have held many meanings—symbols sacred or profane, markers of privilege or of servitude, an ancestral tradition or a way to stand out from the crowd.
Ancient Rome serves as an excellent example of the rich, often contradictory meanings tattoos can embody. Slaves and convicts were often branded or tattooed on the forehead to mark their status. Roman soldiers also received tattoos—but the ink on their hands was a badge of honor, one that signified the completion of their training. In later years, certain Christian groups came to adopt the forehead tattoos that had previously been considered a stigma.
But despite (or perhaps because of) the efforts of the extremist Christians of late antiquity, most of the modern world has yet to embrace facial tattoos. The same goes for neck and hand tattoos: In the US and many other countries, ink on the hands, face, or neck is considered a sign of gang affiliation or prison time. For example, ask anyone—tattooed or not—what they think a teardrop tattoo means: Chances are they’ll say it’s a sign the person has killed someone, done hard time, or lost a fellow gang member.
In Japan, it’s not uncommon to see “no tattoos allowed” signs at pools, gyms, and other public places, due to their association with the yakuza. “I was discriminated against most in Japan,” our founder Mikey Vigilante recollects. “As rich a the history and art of tattooing is in Japan, the Japanese do not like to see tattoos. You will be politely discriminated against.”
Although the US is decidedly more tolerant of tattoos, ink on your hands, face, and neck can still make you a target of discrimination. Take the military: Although it has relaxed its tattoo policy to some extent (sleeve tattoos are now allowed in the Army, for example), hand, neck, and face tattoos are still prohibited (with the exception of one ring tattoo per hand).
And it’s not just government jobs that don’t go for these placements: Starbucks finally realized that no one cares if their baristas have tattoos, but they still don’t allow employees to have tattoos on the face or throat. Many organizations have a similar policy, often adding hand tattoos to the list.
But in both ancient and modern times, there are some cultures that fully embrace tattoos on every inch of the body—and facial tattoos are among those particularly revered by certain peoples. In Africa, the women of the Peul and Fulani tribes of Mali get facial tattoos to celebrate adulthood, beauty, and marriage. The Ayatal tribe in Taiwan similarly still practices facial tattoos (for both men and women) as a sign of maturity.

“Pacific Islanders are very enthusiastic about tattoos,” Mikey observes, and it’s an enthusiasm that continues to thrive: The Maori moko is arguably the most famous example of facial tattoos, both traditionally and today. Maori men and women alike to this day receive “Ta moko” as a rite of passage into adulthood. Carved rather than inked with a needle, the moko can be found on both the body and face—but the fearsome warrior with a heavily inked face is typically what we think of when we hear the word “moko.” Far from being a stigma, the moko was traditionally a marker of a high social status, and it is now a way of proudly expressing cultural heritage.

Changing Times
While the Pacific Islanders have always been cool about tattoos, the rest of the world is just starting to adopt a more tolerant (and at times accepting) attitude when it comes to hand, face, and neck placement. As mentioned already, once upon a time you would not have seen a bit of ink on your Starbucks barista. Today, though, it’s not a shock to see a hand tattoo on the nurse taking your blood sample. “Lawyers and professors also tend to be able to get away with more visible tattoos,” Mikey has noticed. “It’s often the more successful independents that can get blasted and still pursue their careers. The employed tend to have a harder time because of antiquated company policies.”
But as companies begin to shift their policies, our artists are getting a lot more requests for hand tattoos in particular. Neck and face tattoos continue to be more of a rarity, but we still get the opportunity to do these pieces on occasion. Typically with all of these placements, our clients tend to have an existing tattoo collection. “Sometimes we’ll get a brazen eighteen year old asking for a tattoo in a highly visible spot,” Mikey notes. “But I’ve found that typically it’s either the young-and-rebellious or the middle-aged-and-over-it crowd.”
Interestingly—but perhaps not surprisingly—the majority of people getting these tattoos are in the tattoo industry themselves. “I don’t have my face or neck tattooed, so it’s hard for me to talk about that kind of discrimination,” Mikey tells us. “But I do have my hands and fingers blasted. I tend not to give a enough fucks to notice any intolerance, though. I think people find it interesting, actually, when a tattooed, successful, articulate, and sociable person is communicating with them. The tattoos become mystic because the stigma of tattoos and the derelict expectation are both crushed.”

As artists and individuals, we’re all about crushing stigmas and negative expectations—and we’re proud to say that we’ve got tattooed clients, family, and friends who do exactly that every day.

Your Body, Your Call
It’s true that some artists will refuse to do certain tattoos. Finger tattoos in particular have become so mainstream that you most likely won’t have a problem there, but the career-ruining potential of neck and face tattoos may make the occasional artist understandably uncomfortable.
As for Mikey, he doesn’t typically refuse, unless a tattoo isn’t a good fit for him aesthetically. “I will advise, though,” he adds. “It’s not my place to make decisions for clients, but my dad-self still needs to say some words based on my experience and wisdom.”

So what words would Mikey give to those thinking of a face, neck, or hand tattoo? “These tattoos are not for the faint of heart,” he wants you to know. “They will make getting a job more difficult. You are about to enter a world of self-reliance. People will hate and will judge. You will have to be better than them—or you will get crushed.”

With those words of wisdom in mind, we invite you to reach out to us if you want to talk more with Mikey or any of our artists about the pros and cons of these particular tattoo placements. If you decide a hand, neck, or face tattoo is for you, we’d be happy to work with you to design a custom piece.
Already have one of these taboo tattoos? We’d love to know your story! Tell us about any triumphs, difficulties, or surprising moments that you’ve had sporting your highly visible ink by dropping us a note at We look forward to hearing from you!

Cultivating Creativity
At Paper Crane Studio, we’re fortunate in that we come to work each day to do something we’re passionate about: Tattooing is our job, but it’s also our art, one that we’re dedicated to both as professionals and as people.
If you’re a creative type, you know that it’s easy for one passion to bleed into another: If you’re a muralist who loves the outdoors, for example, you probably find yourself painting a lot of breathtaking vistas, perhaps inspired by ones you’ve seen in the real world.
The same is true for our artists. You can see Mikey Vigilante’s love of Japanese mythology come through in both his tattoos and his paintings—and if you stop by our Instagram or Facebook, you can see our artists’ individual personalities and esoteric interests forming a theme in much of their work.

Today on the blog we’re talking to Tan Vo about the intersection of two of his passions: tattooing and gardening.

A Natural Inclination
“I’ve had an affinity towards nature my whole life,” Tan tells us of how he got interested in garden. “Along with my impulse to collect things, that was the catalyst for my hobby today.”
And collect he does: Tan has an Instagram account dedicated solely to his orchids, succulents, and carnivorous plants. In his artistic photos and detailed descriptions, you can get a feel for his love, knowledge, and a wonderful depth of curiosity—all qualities that in turn make him a stellar artist.
Drawing is another passion that Tan has always had a natural inclination toward. His sketches—especially those of flowers—reflect his reverence for the natural world. “The first images I tried to create as a tattoo apprentice were of flowers,” he explains. Flowers were familiar to Tan, significantly more so than traditional tattoo imagery, which he didn’t have a real opportunity to ingest growing up. Chrysanthemums became the first object of his tattoo sketches because of their dynamic petals: “They seemed the hardest to draw.”
Tending Tattoo Gardens  
The meanings associated with plants are rich and varied, from Victorian “talking bouquets” and the language of flowers to the medicinal or ritualistic properties of herbs. Plants have been and continue to be used to express emotions, treat illnesses, enhance spiritual/religious practices, mark significant occasions—we could go on endlessly. (And hey, sometimes they’re just used to make a room or yard look pretty—and that’s great, too!)
Take Tan’s three favorite flowers to tattoo: Chrysanthemums symbolize joy and optimism; peonies are used to attract good luck and prosperity; and roses can be used medicinally to treat headaches or induce sleep!
Plants also have extremely personal meanings. You might know nothing about the symbolism or properties of petunias, but perhaps they were a favorite of your grandmother’s. The significance you attach to a specific plant makes it tattoo-worthy.
“People come in with meanings for most of their tattoos,” Tan says, meanings that are both personal and traditional. “It’s my job to focus on the aesthetics and how to create the best looking image for you.”
So don’t worry: Tan isn’t going to suggest tulips over tiger lilies if you come in with a tattoo in mind.
But there are times when he might suggest altering your choice: With regard to the human anatomy, there are a lot of unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to placement. The right piece positioned the right way can make a huge difference in the final outcome of your tattoo. “The challenge is learning composition and scale relative to the body,” Tan explains on this subject. “What looks good where, how much skin to leave open—that sort of thing.”

We’ve talked in past blogs about the fact that a good tattoo artist will help you to choose the best size and placement for your piece, and Tan is no exception to that rule. “But I always try to accommodate your vision so long as it keeps the integrity of our work,” he adds: You can trust him to work with you to design a piece that is perfectly placed and properly sized. “After that, you can do anything with flowers.”

A Little Patch of Heaven
“When I’m not tattooing, I like to grow plants,” Tan says. “When I say like, I mean love.”
Tattooing is a demanding discipline, one that requires an intense level of focus and energy. “It’s hard not to take it home and everywhere else with you,” Tan explains. And although his passions for plants and tattoos overlap, the energies involved contrast in important ways: “With my greenhouses, I can feel like I am somewhere else and completely disengage. It’s a separate ritual that I’m able to throw myself into.”
But even so, at the end of the day, Tan gets the same kind of joy from gardening that he does from tattooing: “The satisfaction of raising healthy plants is similar to knocking out a great tattoo.”
Let Your Vision Grow

Whatever plant-based piece you have in mind, Tan will be happy to put both his artistic and botanical skills to use. He’s equally fond of color and black-and-grey floral pieces, and he’s adept at incorporating leafy elements into designs in both traditional and unexpected ways. Whether you’re coming in for a simple rose or your fifteenth floral tattoo, he wants you to feel totally at ease: “It’s our job to make it look good,” he explains—and at Paper Crane, that means creating an authentic piece of art that you’ll be proud of for years to come.

If we’ve planted the seed in your mind for a new tattoo, drop us a line at!

Don’t Make Aftercare an Afterthought

Don’t Make Aftercare an Afterthought
Congratulations! You found the right artist, you co-designed an amazing piece, and you got the tattoo of your dreams.
But your journey to a tattoo you’ll love for a lifetime doesn’t end there: Aftercare is a crucial part of the process. No matter what a gorgeous job your artist has done, you can inadvertently ruin your new tattoo if you don’t properly care for it, especially during the first couple of weeks.

We always take the time to go over aftercare with you at our shop, but we know that it can be a lot to process when you’ve just finished up a tattooing session. So today we’re breaking down our approach to aftercare, to help you have a happy healing experience.

No Peeking
When you leave Paper Crane, you’ll walk out with a bandage covering your tattoo. We know, we know: You want to show it off right away! You might be tempted to peel that bandage off, even for just a quick Instagram picture, but please resist the urge. Leaving the bandage on overnight both protects your tattoo and helps sweat our excess plasma.
In the morning, you can go ahead and unwrap your tattoo. Hop right in the shower—and keep the water warm, not hot! If the bandage is stuck, you can let the water run over it until it falls off on its own. We suggest an unscented antibacterial liquid hand soap to wash your tattoo—very gently, using only your fingertips. Once you’ve gotten it fully clean, blot it dry with a clean cotton or paper towel.
After your tattoo has air dried, you can apply a small amount of Aveeno Daily Moisturizer or Aquaphor. When we say small, we mean small—don’t soak your tattoo. If it still feels wet after you’ve massaged the lotion in, you’ve used too much.
For the next ten days (or until your tattoo has completely peeled), wash your new piece daily and reapply lotion three times a day. This will speed up the healing process and help with any itchiness.

Although you should not re-bandage your tattoo after you’ve unwrapped it, it’s important to keep it protected. Wear comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing—clean clothing, as you’re dealing with a fresh wound. Cotton is preferable, but be sure you’re not wearing anything abrasive that could damage your tattoo or otherwise irritate your skin.

Leave It Alone!
Your tattoo will start to scab, flake, or peel after about four days or so. We know it’s hard to resist, but DO NOT PICK AT YOUR TATTOO! The scabs and flakes you’re seeing are part of your body’s natural healing process—yes, even the scabs that remain after the initial peeling. But if you pull at the flaking skin or scratch off the scabs, you’ll prolong the healing process. Moreover, you’ll potentially pull the color right out of your tattoo, essentially flushing your money and your artist’s work right down the drain.
Just keep up your lotion regimen. If your tattoo gets really itchy, you can gently slap it to get some relief. But again, do NOT scratch or pick!

Remember: Your new tattoo is essentially an open wound. Your skin has been pierced many, many times with a needle and injected with ink. Scabs are your body’s way of protecting you and of healing. It’s totally normal to see scabs for up to two weeks after your session, and you will be re-opening the wound and starting from step one if you pick those scabs off. Not only will you risk losing color, you’ll also be exposing yourself to potential infection (neither of which is the responsibility of your artist).

Baby Your Tattoo
We’re in the last days of summer, but if you live in a sunny clime like Long Beach, you get to enjoy summer just about year round. That’s great when it comes to getting a nice tan on the beach or practicing your high dive at the pool—but if you’ve just gotten a tattoo, you’re going to need to re-think your plans for the next ten days.
Whether in a pool or a hot tub, the sea or a river, swimming is absolutely a no-go when you have a fresh tattoo. Pools and hot tubs are full of chlorine, which is extremely caustic. When that chlorine hits your new tattoo, it can cause it to get extremely dry and flaky—or it can even cause it to break out in red bumps or an itchy rash. This can wreak havoc on the healing process and ultimately ruin your tattoo.
Have a friend with a private pool that doesn’t use chlorine? Again: DON’T DO IT! Without chlorine, the water is host to a slew of bacteria and germs that can cause infections.
So what about the ocean? Although salt water has healing properties, it is too drying for a new tattoo and can lead to skin irritation. Moreover, the ocean is full of bacteria—and whether it’s naturally occurring or from a man-made source like a sewer, that bacteria can turn your new tattoo into a disaster. The same goes for rivers and lakes, which can feature anything from animal excrement to man-made pollutants.
Sunbathing is also out during your healing period. The UV rays of the sun break down the pigment in your tattoo as your skin absorbs them, which can cause your tattoo to fade prematurely. We recommend using SPF sunblock AFTER your tattoo is fully healed to prevent this. But while your tattoo is healing, we suggest keeping it out of direct sunlight for a full two weeks. This doesn’t just mean keeping it covered at the beach: Remember that you get daily sun exposure just from walking around outside, so keep your tattoo shaded until it is fully healed. At that point, you can start using a quality sunblock with a high SPF and show it off wherever you go.
We hate to limit your fun, but keep in mind that you’re going to have your tattoo for a long, long, long time. By being careful for a couple of weeks, you give your tattoo the best possible chance to heal beautifully.

In that vein, we recommend avoiding ANY activities or environments that could harm your tattoo for the ten-day healing period, including (but not limited to) camping, gardening, tanning, working out (especially at a public gym), swimming, or any particularly strenuous activities. Don’t let people or pets rub up against a new tattoo, and while you’re at it avoid unclean surfaces, dirt, chemicals, abrasive clothing, standing water, and your own unwashed hands.

Ask for Advice
If you think you’ve damaged your tattoo or have an infection, don’t hesitate to get professional input. You can always stop by the shop to have our founder Mikey Vigilante or your artist take a look. If you notice red streaks, increased soreness, puss, bumps, blisters, or a foul odor, you might be dealing with an infection and should seek medical attention immediately.

Whether you get tattooed at our studio or elsewhere, your artist will go over aftercare with you and typically provide a care sheet. Keep in mind that they might have their own unique approach that differs slightly from our guidelines (such as a preferred brand of lotion), but one thing is universal: We want you to reach out if you have any questions about your healing process.

Think of yourself as the curator of your own personal art collection. Aftercare is a way of protecting your investment and of ensuring that your tattoo is a work of art for years to come. Happy healing!

Our Best Friends, Forever

Our Best Friends, Forever
What would we do without our pets? Whether they’ve got paws or hooves, scales or fur, wings or fins, animals are our constant companions, our confidantes, our sources of comfort and strength. We’re at times fortunate enough to experience a bond with an animal that is almost magical. These animals leave an indelible mark on our hearts–and when they are gone, we want to honor them in an equally permanent way.
For many, that means getting a memorial tattoo. For our artists, it’s an honor to get to be part of such a special experience: We get to celebrate your beloved pet with you while we forever commemorate the imprint they left on your life.

We sat down with our very own Chelsea Jane to discuss this unique area.

An Emotional Experience
Loss is necessarily an emotional subject. When approaching a pet memorial tattoo, Chelsea tries to keep the consultation and tattoo session positive, lighthearted, and loving. “I focus on the happy memories and best parts of having that animal in their life,” she explains. “There is no escaping the grief of losing a loved one, so it is always a part of the memorial, and tears might come–but that’s a necessary part of healing. Many times, I even get watery eyes because it is such a bittersweet experience”

With the tears come valuable lessons: “Our animal companions teach us about love,” Chelsea reflects. “I’ve always felt it easier to be vulnerable and open with animals because they don’t carry the baggage that we do as human beings–and in turn that helps me become closer and more loving to mankind. I mean, have you ever loved something so purely and as much as your own pet? Without any fear of that love not being reciprocated? To love without abandon is so brave, and it’s their greatest gift to us.”

Reflective Design
As artists, part of our job is to sift through the strong emotions and help you design a custom tattoo that reflects your unique bond with your pet. There are endless possibilities in how to approach this, and Chelsea encourages clients to delve into their personal experience and relationship with their pet to find the most fitting memorial elements: “A great memorial tattoo can be an actual image of the animal, a token or item that reminds you of them, or one of their favorite objects or toys. Your tattoo can be super unique, just like your relationships with your pet. What was their personality like? Were they wild and wolf-like or a princess? Tiny but strong? What images pop up when you stop and think of them?”
By exploring these questions and listening to client stories, Chelsea has gotten to design a number of truly personalized pieces that honor pets–from Loki the rat to Scooby the mystical Siamese cat.
A Favorite Piece
In our experience, a pet memorial tattoo is often the favorite or most meaningful piece of a client’s collection. Chelsea has even done multiple memorial tattoos for clients, typically with pets that were loved during the same time period. Typically, though, it’s a single pet that’s memorialized. “Clients love all their pets dearly,” Chelsea explains, “but one usually sticks out because they were the first love or best friend or because they had them during a transformative time in life. Sometimes the pet is what actually prompted the transformation or got them through it if it was painful.”
We asked Chelsea to share one particularly memorable story on the blog, to help our readers see why a tattoo might be the perfect way to memorialize a special pet: “Katie the showgirl was a huge part of my client’s life and her family’s life. They said she loved to dress up. Even in her old age, when she was not as mobile as her puppy-self, if they put an outfit on her she lit up like a performer. That was her greatest memory of Katie, so we tattooed her in a very fancy headdress and jewels. Not only does my client smile whenever she sees her Katie tattoo, but so do her loved ones. And the tattoo is forever! So she and her family can have a quick smile and remember Katie any time because she is always with her.”
A tattoo can never replace your beloved pet, but it can be an incredibly unique reminder of the bond you shared–a way of keeping them with you always. If you’re interested in a memorial tattoo, please give us a call to set up an appointment with Chelsea or any of our talented artists. We’d love to be part of this special way of honoring your dear friend.

Think Before You Ink: Volume II

Think Before You Ink: Volume II
You’ve done the research and picked the perfect artist for your next tattoo. It’s a piece you’re passionate about, something deeply meaningful that you know you’ll love for a lifetime. You’ve called to book a consultation, and now you’re eagerly waiting for the day to arrive when you can start collaborating with your artist.

Whether you’ll be coming to Paper Crane Studio for your tattoo or another shop, we want to help you make the most of your experience. So while you’re checking off the days on your calendar, join us for another installment of Think Before You Ink. Our professional insight can give you an inside edge when you go under the needle.

Trendy Tattoos
Whether you like to keep up with the trends or set them yourself, clothes aren’t the only thing that can be in vogue—but whereas you can always donate those neon yoga pants and matching crop top, your tattoo isn’t so easily discarded. (Don’t we all have the Facebook friend with “YOLO” or a tiny mustache inked on the inside of their middle finger?)
As with fashion, tattoo trends come and go. Right now it’s finger tattoos, but some years back it was all the rage to get tattooed on the inside of your lower lip. With both finger and lip tattoos, they are more likely to fade than others, so if you get something you truly regret you’re more or less in luck.
One trend in particular that has taken social media by storm is “3D” tattooing. Intricate patterns “carved” into a person’s arm, objects pushing up out of the skin, even sinkholes disappearing into nowhere—these are just some of the tattoos you’ll find through a quick Google search, along with butterflies and flowers that cast their own tattooed shadow.
Mikey Vigilante warns you to take a second look at the 3D tattoo trend before you set your heart on such a piece: “Many of these tattoos are designed and photographed to appear three-dimensional only from very specific angles,” he explains. “Often they’re even digitally edited for the express purpose of creating hype on the internet. Seeing these tattoos in real life is an entirely different experience, when a person isn’t posed and lit a certain way.”

That said, if you’ve got a talented artist who is experienced with this particular trend, a 3D tattoo doesn’t have to be a disappointment. Just make sure that you either like the way it looks from multiple angles or that you can live with it if it looks wonky when you’re not specifically showing it off. We advise you to get it for more than just the special effect, though, so that you’ll still enjoy it once the novelty wears off. Photorealistic tattoos are a good alternative to straight-up 3D tattoos, as they provide a similar eye-poppingly realistic look from multiple angles. Although subtler than some of the trendy tattoos you’ll find online, photorealistic tattoos can ultimately be a lot more wearable.

Ink Matters
Another trend we’re seeing involves glow-in-the-dark ink, used to create blacklight tattoos. Glow-in-the-dark ink can be used to add details that only show up under UV light, or this special ink can be used exclusively for a tattoo that is relatively invisible until seen under blacklight (whether that’s at a rave or on the Winnie the Pooh ride at Disneyland).
But while this might sound like a really unique body mod, we strongly suggest you hold off—for now, at least. The fact is that the dye used in glow-in-the-dark ink has been approved by the FDA for use in fish, not humans. You can see this dye at work in patented GloFish, which hold the dubious distinction of being the only genetically modified animals available for purchase by the public. Because this ink is not approved for human use, toxicity is a very real concern, and most major and/or trusted ink manufacturers don’t supply it for tattooing.
So what does it mean if you do find an artist willing to do a glow-in-the-dark piece? Toxic risks aside, you’re getting injected with ink made by a not-necessarily-reputable company, which means there is a greater risk of substandard quality control.
This brings us to another important point: Ink quality matters! If you needed another reason not to get tattooed by someone working out of their mom’s garage, consider the fact that a “budget” tattoo artist might not spring for higher quality (and therefore more expensive) inks. This means that you’re likely to get tattooed with ink that isn’t produced according to the highest safety standards, so you can experience everything from an allergic reaction to an infection if the ink has been contaminated. At the very least, your tattoo might fade more easily if cheap ink is used, even if you’re diligent about protecting it from the sun.
Whether you’re a tattoo enthusiast or totally new to this art, you might have heard the red ink—even of the highest quality—has a tendency to cause skin reactions in a way other hues don’t. You may also have heard that red ink has a difficult healing process, with a propensity to scab over more crustily than other colors. This is one rumor that Mikey feels there’s some weight to: “Red is a little tricky. I have noticed more skin reactions to red than any other color.” But don’t fret! Even with red ink’s trickiness, our artists agree that it is usually only one client in several hundred that experiences any side effects.
What’s the deal with red? “Red dyes are inherently more translucent,” Mikey explains, “and as a result, reds are more difficult to saturate the skin with. An inexperienced artist might work the skin too hard while trying to saturate and thereby create a trauma that is hard for the skin to recover from.”

Our experienced team is never heavy handed when it comes to tattooing—but if you’re prone to skin sensitivity, we recommend two sessions (with healing time in between each one) in order to minimize any potential irritation on a red-heavy piece.

So…Where Do You Want It?
When you go in for your consultation or first session, your artist will help you with placement. A good artist will honestly advise on the best way to position your piece, with size adjustments as necessary. At Paper Crane, we carefully consider your individual anatomy before we get started, to be sure your tattoo fits the unique flow of your body.
One question we often come up against is whether a tattoo should face you or the rest of the world. Can a tattoo be upside down versus right-side up? You might have heard that it’s a bit of a faux-pas to get a forearm tattoo that faces you when you look down at it, for example—and it’s in fact considered to be upside down.
“If you are getting a single tiny tattoo and it’s facing you, it isn’t a big deal to go against the flow of the skin,” Mikey says on the placement of forearm tattoos in particular. “It’s when you are starting to get larger tattoos and build a collection that it starts looking strange if your forearm tattoo is facing you. It doesn’t flow well and appears amateurishly designed.”
Consider this: If you get a fox tattooed on your forearm and it is oriented to face you, what happens when you want to add a stag on your upper arm as part of a sleeve? If you want the stag to flow with the fox, it would technically be placed upside down on your upper arm. But if you have the stag done right-side up, the fox is then clearly going against the flow of the overall sleeve.
When it comes to placement, do what feels right to you, but we recommend thinking about whether or not you’ll eventually want to expand your tattoo. That opens up new considerations as well: Do you want thematic/stylistic unity on your sleeve? Or do you want to choose individual tattoos to fill in an area until it organically becomes a sleeve?
“I personally love tattoos that are designed as a whole,” says Mikey. “That’s the aesthetic that initially drew me to the study of Japanese tattoo design. But either approach is valid, and both have entirely different resulting looks.”

Remember that an experienced artist has done a lot of tattoos, both that go with the flow of the body and that don’t (since, after all, we’re not going to force you to orient your tattoo our way!). We’ve seen people who regret not listening to professional input. So please, talk with your artist to see their perspective, then make a decision from there.

If you’d like further insight on tattoo trends, inks, placement, or any other subject, drop us a line! We’d love to know what topics you’d like to investigate in our next installment of Think Before You Ink. Until then, check out our Instagram to see some of the great pieces our artists are creating every day in our studio!