2018 in Long Beach: One for the Books!

2018 in Long Beach has brought tremendous growth for Paper Crane Studio. As the final days of the year go by, we want to take a moment to reflect on this most recent circuit around the sun. We’ve had a lot of fun, made beautiful tattoos, formed authentic connections with wonderful people–and we’ve also said goodbye to some of our favorite artists. Through it all, we are grateful to be part of your journey and to have you be part of ours.

2018 in Long Beach brought Paper Crane Studio amazing growth!

Hello to New Faces

As a studio, we pride ourselves on creating incredible tattoos while providing superior customer service. 2018 in Long Beach brought many new resident tattoo artists to our studio–and we are pleased to say that each new member of our family is dedicated to both our craft and our clients. Our new artists include Lindsey Morehead, who draws inspiration for her whimsical art from American Traditional tattoos and vintage style; Owen Juarez, who is a master of Irezumi tattoos and loves large-scale projects; and Suzanne Shifflett, whose talents include animal portraits and fine-art floral tattoos.

We also had the honor of seeing Mikey Vigilante’s apprentice Jackie Siu take flight as a fully fledged artist at our studio. With themes ranging from Red Dead Redemption 2 to kawaii designs and tarot cards, Jackie has spent 2018 in Long Beach honing her tattooing skills and personal style.

Goodbye to Good Friends

With another chapter closing, we want to be sure to acknowledge the artists who left us this year and thank them for their special contributions to Paper Crane. Chelsea Jane, Adrian Franco, Jason Paul, and Grace Chun set off for new journeys in 2018, but they remain part of our studio family. (You’ll still find Jason on our website, as his travels periodically bring him back to LBC!)

Guest Artists Galore

2018 in Long Beach featured a number of incredible guest artists. David Leon, Zach Black, Anna Pavlovitz, Matt Manning, Sof PMA, Q, and Anna GK (all the way from Australia!) are among the talented individuals we had the opportunity to host. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know our guests artists, and we loved seeing our clients leave the studio with their one-of-a-kind pieces.

If you’re a tattoo artist or would like to see someone in particular at Paper Crane in 2019, send us a message so we can connect for a guest spot.

Best of Long Beach Awards 2018 Nominee

We were very honored to have been nominated as a studio for a Best of Long Beach Award. We were exceptionally proud that Joy Shannon was nominated as an individual artist, as she embodies Paper Crane’s commitment to artistry and authenticity. These nominations were because of clients like you, so thank you for your faith in us.

Tattoo Flash from 2018 in Long Beach

Our flash game was stronger than ever this year! From Star Wars designs on May the 4th to adorable Christmas tattoos, our artists had a blast creating unique flash sheets for our wonderful clients. Some of our flash was specifically offered during events like Friday the 13th or Black Friday, while other sheets were offered on a seasonal basis.

2018 in Long Beach saw lots of tattoo flash at Paper Crane!

If you’re ever in the market for a tattoo but don’t know what you want, we often have flash sheets you can check out. Some are unique in that an artist will only do a certain design once or for a limited time, while others are available year round!

Tattooing at Large

Although Paper Crane is home, we are always excited for opportunities to travel. Destinations this year included Chicago, the Pacific Northwest, Ireland, England, and Denmark, where our artists shared their talents with friends new and old.

We love tattooing around Southern California as well. Mikey Vigilante got to be part of a live tattooing demonstration at Catalyst in Westminster, where many of our artists had tattoo flash on display.

In January, Tan Vo and Justin Tauch will be at the Golden State Tattoo Expo in Pasadena. We will keep you posted about other upcoming travel plans and conventions!

Paper Crane Pride

In 2018, we added new merchandise to the shop! Our tees and hoodies are all of the highest quality, featuring work by our very own artists. Stop by the shop to show your Paper Crane pride in the new year!

Here’s to 2019

As we say goodbye to 2018 in Long Beach, we want to say thank you to you personally for giving us the opportunity to create tattoo art and to be part of your story. We look forward to sharing another great year with you in 2019.

Why Skincare Matters to Your Tattoos

You already know how critical aftercare is to the final outcome of your tattoo (and if you don’t, we’ve got lots of information to share with you!). But did you know that daily skincare plays a huge role in how your tattoos look? From scrubbing down in the shower to protecting yourself from the sun, you can make the most of your ink with just a little bit of effort.

Skincare can make a huge difference in how your tattoos look.


Skincare = Exfoliation

If you’ve been diligent about aftercare, you know how great a tattoo looks during those first few weeks. But after time has gone by, some people might notice that their tattoo has started to look a little dull–even though they’ve practiced proper suncare (more on that later!).
Don’t fret: That dullness could be the result of dead skin cells that have built up over time. Because out skin is constantly regenerating, we have cells that die off and need to be shed. These cells can make your skin in general look dull–and it’s especially noticeable on tattoos.
Rinsing off might get you clean, but consider working exfoliation into your skincare routine to see real results. You don’t need any major tools: Just give your fully healed tattoo a good scrub the next time you’re in the shower. You’ll see colors brighten up and black-and-grey/blackwork regain much of its crispness.
Contrary to what some believe, exfoliation will not fade a healed tattoo. Tattoo ink is injected into the dermis, and we only deal with our epidermis during the course of normal skincare.
Remember: This is only for healed tattoos! Don’t scrub at a tattoo that’s still peeling!

Skincare = Moisturization

Exfoliation isn’t the only way to tackle dry skin–and aftercare isn’t the only time that moisturization matters.
Once your tattoo is fully healed, moisturization is an important part of daily skincare if you want to keep your art crisp and vibrant. This is especially true of areas that get a lot of exposure to the elements like your hands, arms, feet, or legs. But even a stomach tattoo that’s always covered can benefit from the soothing effects of a good moisturizer.
The top layer of your skin (the stratus corneum) is a network of skin cells, fats, and oils. When you apply a moisturizer, you help the stratus corneum lock in moisture that keeps your skin from drying out or cracking. This means you’re also protecting the dermis from infection by ensuring your epidermis is healthy and whole.
Think of your skin as a living canvas. When it’s hydrated with the help of a moisturizer, your skin is smoothe to the touch. That means your tattoos have a better surface on which to shine.
We suggest using moisturizers that are free of chemical irritants to best protect your tattoos. All-natural options are typically our favorite!

Skincare = Suncare

We can’t talk about suncare enough when it comes to tattoos. If you want to prevent fading, you absolutely must use sunscreen or protective clothing with built-in SPF.
An easy way to be sure you protect your tattoos is to make suncare a step in your daily skincare routine. Many moisturizers include SPF, so you can always just apply one of these to your tattoos when you start your day. If you’re going to be out in direct sunlight, consider sunscreen as an additional step to keeping your tattoos looking great.
Proper Skincare = Radiance
If you’re free of skin conditions that require special medication or attention, proper skincare in and of itself can make a huge difference in your overall glow. Washing your skin gets rid of pollutants and irritants that build up throughout the day, as well as those dead skin cells that can cause itching and redness. Moisturization can prevent infections that can destroy your tattoos, simply by keeping your epidermis from developing fissures that let in bacteria. A little bit of sun protection can help you avoid a nasty sunburn that ends with blistering and peeling (which can in turn lead to infection or color loss).
Again, your skin is a canvas. When it’s healthy and happy, you’re more likely to avoid irritations like rashes or scaly spots that can impact how your tattoo looks. If your skin is radiant, your tattoos will be, too.
Please note: If you’ve got a condition that causes you to have irritated skin (dryness, hives, etc.), we suggest talking with your doctor about what you can do to help your tattoos look their best if your condition impacts them.
We know your tattoos are your best accessory, so we urge you to take care of them through daily skincare. If you’ve done any damage to your ink, we would love to help you get it looking great again with a touch-up (or even a cover-up if necessary), so get scheduled with us today!

Best of Instagram: Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween from Paper Crane! For this month’s “Best of Instagram” feature, we are pleased to present you with some of our most spooktacular tattoos from October. But be warned: These pieces are so good it’s scary!

Jade Quail is the mastermind behind this dapper pair of skeletons. We love the details that give you a real sense of these ghouls’ personalities!

Halloween flash sheet by Jackie Siu

Shop apprentice Jackie Siu designed this Halloween flash sheet, which featured special tattoos that were only available through October 31st. If you got one of these, send us a picture so we can share!

Raven by Joy Shannon, just time for Halloween!

Joy Shannon does beautiful tattoos that often draw from mythology. This raven is inspired by the Morrigan, the “phantom queen” of Irish lore. What better animal for Halloween than one associated with a goddess of destiny and death!

Creature from the Black Lagoon tattoo design from Suzanne Shifflett for Halloween

With her fine art background, Suzanne Shifflett elevates movie monsters to new heights. She did an entire sheet of some of cinema’s most classic creatures for Halloween, so pop over to our Instagram to check them out!

Halloween gal by Lindsey Morehead

We can’t let Halloween go by without mentioning Lindsey Morehead. Lindsey did so many adorable tattoos that celebrate the holiday season this year, many of which were limited edition. This might be our favorite of hers yet!

We hope you’ve had a fantastic Halloween with family, friends, and fun! We have gotten to do so many spooky tattoos this year, both from our flash sheets and from ideas our amazing clients brought in, so thank you for making it a frightfully fun month.

If you want to get a Halloween tattoo even though the holiday is over, you can get scheduled with any of our talented artists by visiting our scheduling page. Please note that some tattoo designs were offered on a limited basis–but we would love to create something unique just for you!

Would you like to be featured on our social media? Just email us at info@papercranetattoo.com with well lit photos and any details about your experience so we can share your art!

The Long Beach Tattoo Scene: A Brief History

Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, our muti-faceted city holds something for everyone–food, music, art, and of course tattoos. Founded in 2012 in the East Village Arts Distract, Paper Crane is proud to be part of the Long Beach tattoo scene. Tattooing is in fact an integral part of our colorful community, one with a history that reaches back into the early 1900s. To get the full picture, though, we need to step even further back into our city’s storied past. Come with us on a little history lesson–and learn why the Long Beach tattoo scene has always been destined to thrive!


Long Beach’s Founding

Long Beach was first settled in 1784 as part of a Spanish land grant to Manuel Nieto. In 1866, a 27,000 acre section known as Rancho Los Cerritos was sold to the Bixby family, who began to develop the area. With a seven-mile stretch of pristine beachfront, it’s no surprise that visitors flocked to Long Beach, which was originally known as Willmore City. The introduction of the Pacific Electric trolley in 1902 led to a massive boom for the area: For the next eight years, Long Beach was the fastest growing city in the US. The resort atmosphere and bustling commercial industry made Long Beach a popular destination at the turn of the century–for families and more.

A Family Destination–and a Sailor’s Refuge

In 1902, the historical boardwalk known as the Pike came into existence, which over the years came to boast everything from kiddie rides and sideshows to photography studios and cabarets. In 1911, the Port of Long Beach was established in close proximity to the Pike. Families, sailors, and sea merchants alike could turn to the twinkling lights and boundless entertainment of the Pike for an escape unlike any other.

Because of the easy access to shipyards, the Pike became home to the original Long Beach tattoo scene. Numerous shops sprang to life to accommodate sailors on leave. American Traditional tattoos–also known as “Sailor Jerry” style–flourished, and many sailors and merchants left Long Beach sporting nautical-themed tattoos. Many legendary artists tattooed out of the Pike over the course of its ever-evolving history, including Lyle Tuttle, Bob Shaw, and Bert Grimm (one of the fathers of American Traditional style). Grimm’s World Famous Tattoo Studio (now known as Outer Limits Tattoo) holds the distinction of being the sole business still in operation from the Pike.

Destined to Thrive

With a steady influx of tourists, seamen, and investors, Long Beach was destined from its inception to thrive as a city–and with it, so was the Long Beach tattoo industry. The fact that a tattoo studio that opened in 1954 is still in business today goes to show that tattooing has long been an important part of our city!

We’ve continued to grow tremendously as a premier destination for arts and culture over the years. The Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Long Beach Museum of Art, Museum of Latin American Art, and Cal State Long Beach are a just few of our outstanding locales for everything from classical opera to avant-garde visual art. A casual trip downtown can lead to dynamic discoveries of local musicians, culinary masters, and more.

This continued growth is important to the tattooing scene because it helps to make Long Beach a destination city. We love our local clients, but “tattoo tourism” is a very real phenomenon: Tattoo collectors and enthusiasts are willing to fly all over the world to connect with talented artists. At Paper Crane, we are very fortunate to have people travel from other countries specifically to see our artists–but the fact that there are beautiful beaches, fantastic bands, unique galleries, and incredible food definitely sweetens the prospect of a six-hour plane ride!

Thanks to our city being such a multicultural epicenter, we also get to tattoo a lot of tourists who are visiting for other reasons–so if you’re just stopping by but decide you want to take home a piece of the Long Beach tattoo scene, give us a call!

Long Beach Tattoo Artists

Long Beach’s expanding focus on art and culture is uniquely important for tattoo artists as creative individuals, as it presents us with out-of-the-box opportunities to showcase our work, connect with others in our community, and push our creative limits. Whether that means a live tattooing demonstration or an art exhibit featuring tattoo flash, we’re excited to be part of the Long Beach tattoo scene in ways that incorporate other aspects of our city.

The East Village Arts District is one of the pockets of Long Beach where you can find a variety of cultural interests, from unique restaurants to galleries featuring local artists. It’s also home to Paper Crane Studio, the first tattoo shop to open in the downtown area since the decline of the Pike. We’ve been an influential part of the Long Beach tattoo scene since Mikey Vigilante founded the studio in 2012–and we are committed to being part of our city’s legacy of outstanding tattoo art for many years to come.

Whether you’re a long-time local or a tattoo tourist, we invite you to stop by our studio the next time you’re in the East Village Arts District to meet our artists, browse our portfolios, and get a feel for our friendly vibe. We’d love to help you be part of the Long Beach tattoo story by getting a flash tattoo or a custom original!

Best of Instagram: Vol. 1

For our first installment of the “Best of Instagram” feature, we’re excited to share some of our favorite picks from the last month! We are fortunate to work with incredible clients on one-of-a-kind designs on a daily basis, so be sure to check out all of our artists to see what new tattoos we’ve been creating lately in Long Beach.

We may just be over our fear of clowns thanks to Lindsey Morehead. We love her vintage take on traditional style. Lindsey would love to tattoo more clowns or any of the pieces from her limited-edition Halloween flash!

Owen Juarez specializes in Irezumi designs. In Japanese culture, snakes represent protection, wisdom, luck, and strength. We love seeing a drawing come to life!

The colorful piece below is a multi-session project by founding artist Mikey Vigilante. Mikey paired American Traditional roses with unexpected octopus tentacles for a tattoo that is truly unique!

Some projects require more than one session–which can benefit both you and your artist, as it gives your skin time to heal and allows your artist to tackle your piece in different stages. If you’re on a budget, spreading your tattoo out across several sessions is an option you can discuss with us.

For our final pick of this month’s “Best of Instagram,” we present you with another take on octopus tattoos. This delectable design by Justin Tauch is what we call brain food! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for a look at the final product.

What recent tattoos on our social media have been your favorite? Let us know–or send us shots of your ink so we can share next time! You can email us at info@papercranetattoo.com with well lit photos and any details about your experience. We look forward to hearing from you!

Long Beach’s Premier Destination for Tattoo Art

We know you’ve got a lot of options in Long Beach for tattoo studios–and that’s one reason why we are so appreciative when you choose us. Whether it’s your first tattoo with us or you’ve gotten a piece by each of our artists, you are an important part of our shop.

Custom tattoos in Long Beach with talented artists and friendly service.
We’re proud to offer both authentic works of art and outstanding customer service. Our reviews speak for themselves when it comes to our commitment to each individual tattoo and experience. That’s why on today’s blog we’re sharing some Yelp testimonials from customers like you to show why we’re Long Beach’s premier destination for tattoo art.

Your Experience Matters

A tattoo is about more than the final product: It’s about the experience you have at a studio, the connection you make with an artist, and the memories you carry with you long after your new art has healed. We strive to ensure that your experience is comfortable and meaningful.

“I can’t say enough about Paper Crane and their staff. I went in this week for my first tattoo ever. A friend of mine was with me and wanted to get her tattoo she already had recolored. Tan and Mikey were ready and willing to help and we made appointments for the next day. Tan was my artist and he took my idea and ran with it and it came out beautifully and the experience was super comfortable and I felt very safe and relaxed. So much so I even got another small one while there. My friends experience was similar and she now knows this is where she’ll be going from now on. Her tattoo looks better now than when she originally got it at another location years ago. I’ve heard this becomes addicting so will see how soon I return.” –Erika K.

“Just got my first tattoo ever done by Justin Tauch. This tattoo studio is very clean and comfortable and all the artists there were friendly and made you feel comfortable. Justin did an amazing job and definitely exceeded my expectations as I did not know what to expect it being my first tattoo. But the whole process was very smooth. I know I picked the right place and I am picky too and wanted it to be perfect. I would recommend this shop to anyone no doubt.” –David A.

“And truly, the overwhelming benefit of having artists that are easy to talk to is that you are going to be happy with the tattoo you are getting. If you’re comfortable communicating what you want, and you’re understanding each other, there’s no reason for you to walk away unhappy. The artists are understanding, and of course, while everything is ultimately your decision, they will be sure to advise in the right direction to ensure your tattoo will be looking great 5, 10, and 15 years from now.” –Kellee N.

Authentic Art in Long Beach

Our tattoo artists are among the best in the industry. We are constantly exploring our craft, whether that means investing in innovative tattooing tools and design technology or pushing our creative limits with new styles and approaches. We specialize in custom tattoos and original art. Many of our artists have flash tattoos available that are 100% original, while every single artist in the studio excels at designing one-of-a-kind pieces based on your unique vision.

“I had a very positive experience and great outcome from my first appointment at this particular shop. Owner Mikey V reworked a 25-year-old medium-sized praying mantis shoulder piece which was first inked in by the late John Joyes. The tattoo had faded significantly over the last couple of decades. I think Mikey V came up with the perfect solution to fix it and I like it much better than the original… The healing process went much smoother this time, too. I gave Mikey V complete creative control over this project and I’m a firm believer in trusting the artist. My best advice is ‘Listen to your tattoo artist.’ Mikey V has staffed this shop with artists specializing in various styles. If you have a concept in mind, then you will be paired up with the artist who has a style that best fits your concept.” –David R.

“I got my tattoo from Triple Goddess (Joy) here! She was so amazing. She gave me exactly what I wanted. I came in not knowing exactly what I wanted but during my appointment I feel like she helped me find out! I came in with a few scattered ideas and she put them all into one piece that I am forever in love with. Very kind staff!” –Nicole E.

We Genuinely Care

We get that a tattoo is incredibly personal. We have experience dealing with difficult pieces–whether that means a memorial tattoo for a loved one or a scar cover-up from a traumatic event. Our artists are welcoming, supportive,and sensitive. It’s an honor for us to be part of your journey at any stage, both when it’s fun and when it’s rocky.

“My Golden Retriever Logan passed away recently and I decided to get my first tattoo in remembrance of him. I decided to do just a simple paw print tattoo. Wanted to get my tattoo done in Long Beach as California was what my dog knew and loved. After doing a little research I decided upon Paper Crane. Mikey was awesome to work with. Not only was he sensitive to the situation, he was very upbeat and patient. The studio is inviting, clean and the staff is professional. Would highly recommend without hesitation. I plan on visiting again my next visit. Exactly what I wanted. Thank you.” –Scott D.

“Paper Crane is seriously the best tattoo shop I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve experienced quite a few. The entire staff is friendly, nice, professional, welcoming, and most importantly, non-judgmental. The shop itself is in a great location and very clean and also welcoming.” –Kristin F.

Big or Small, We Do It All in Long Beach

We know that many studios have an elite vibe that can make you feel you don’t belong for one reason or another–but at Paper Crane, you are absolutely welcome. You want a micro tattoo of a circle? Got it. A nouveau art rendition of Princess Peach? Let’s make it happen. Matching martini glasses with your best friends? On it. Whether it’s cute and fun, serious and artsy, soft and beautiful, or frighteningly bad ass, we welcome you to bring your favorite tattoo ideas to our Long Beach studio.

“From start to finish – a class act. Having dealt with other tattoo artist studios, this place is head and shoulders above the rest. They place the clients’ wishes and satisfaction above their own egos, which cannot be said about other establishments. Tan provided my girlfriend and myself with matching tattoos that were EXACTLY what we had envisioned. Their cleanliness, preparation, attention to detail, follow through and follow up, are professional, VERY fair in price, and worth whatever it takes to get there. Everyone was friendly, positive, and relaxed. This was an amazing experience, and i WILL be back again.” –Robert D.

“I’ve typically only been tattoo’d by close friends. This time however, my besty friends and business partners picked this local joint to go get our company logo tattoos, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable. Very clean, very classy, private, professional establishment with high quality execution. I am hard to please and 100% satisfied.” –Booky C.

“I recently returned to Paper Crane to get a custom piece done by Mikey. I was able to get in for a consultation pretty quickly and I got the piece done just a few weeks after the consultation. The process was really smooth and when I went in for the consultation everyone who was there was really nice. The consultation was great because Mikey was able to give me some advice and really help me figure out what I wanted. I later emailed him and asked if he would be able to fit my mom in as well for us to get matching tattoos and he had no problem with it. The artwork he created was absolutely amazing; I am in love with it.” –Ashley D.

We’re so glad to have you at our shop, whether it’s just once or often, and we’re proud to be a historical part of the Long Beach tattooing scene. Speaking of history, be sure to check out next month’s blog where we’ll be looking at Long Beach’s storied relationship with tattooing!

The Art of the Tattoo Cover-Up

We’ve all seen ugly tattoos: Whether it’s something that hasn’t aged well or a piece that was executed poorly to begin with, some tattoos just are not a joy to show off. As a result, a tattoo cover-up is something you or someone you know may have considered. On today’s blog, we’re sharing some of our inside perspective on the art of the tattoo cover-up–so if you’re wearing long sleeves to hide a piece you hate, read on!
Tan Vo takes his time designing and applying each tattoo to ensure you'll love your piece for a lifetime--no tattoo cover-up required!

Consideration 1: Tattoo Cover-Up vs. Touch-Up

Sometimes tattoos fall victim to circumstances. If you’ve experienced significant sun damage or have never moisturized your tattoo post-aftercare, you may be sporting a tattoo that is faded and/or blurry. Depending on the degree of damage, it’s possible that your tattoo can be salvaged! A touch-up is potentially an easier process than a full tattoo cover-up because it means an artist is able to work with the existing lines, colors, and details rather than against them.

If you can’t see your original tattoo artist for a cover-up, we’re always happy to take a look and see what’s possible. A touch-up is often a good time to add to an existing piece, so feel free to bring your favorite ideas to our studio!

Consideration 2: The Workaround

In the course of collecting tattoos, many times people “outgrow” certain designs for one reason or another. Perhaps a small piece is taking up valuable real estate on your personal canvas, or maybe your aesthetic has dramatically changed.

If you’ve got a piece that you don’t hate but you’d like to alter, a potential alternative to a tattoo cover-up is a workaround.  This might involve adding to an existing piece: For example, if you’ve got a small rose on your upper arm, an artist can create a design incorporating thematic elements like birds, butterflies, or more flowers to create a half-sleeve that “reads” as a coherent design.

Sometimes with a workaround, an artist can sometimes blend an old piece into a seamless tattoo cover-up. Imagine a paisley design being reshaped into an intricately detailed petal on a lotus blossom, for example, or a butterfly becoming part of a woman’s dress.

With a workaround, it’s particularly important to consider the overall style of the tattoo cover-up. If you your existing tattoo is American Traditional, it may be advisable to stick to that aesthetic in order to avoid a choppy final product.

Consideration 3: Salvaging Design Elements for Your Tattoo Cover-Up

If it’s not possible to work the entirety of your old tattoo into your new one, another option is to salvage specific elements of your existing ink. This might mean keeping one specific piece of your tattoo: For example, if you have a terrible portrait tattoo of your grandmother but the script for her name is well done, an option might be to cover the portrait with your grandmother’s favorite flower while leaving the script alone.

Another way of salvaging design elements is to allow your artist to work with the existing lines of your tattoo. Do you have a shabby lion tattoo you’d like to get rid of? Imagine working with the underlying structure of the tattoo to create a fierce dire wolf. Makes sense from a design perspective, right? Now imagine trying to overlay a design of a swallow over the lion instead. Not necessarily as straightforward! (Even so, such a dramatic transformation is potentially possible, if you’re open to the artistic perspective of an expert cover-up artist.)

Consideration 4: Total Tattoo Cover-Up

We understand that for some pieces a total tattoo cover-up is just what you need. Maybe it’s an ex’s name, maybe it’s a cringe-worthy rendering of a Disney princess–we feel your pain, and we’re here to help.

In such instances, it might not be a matter of transforming one animal into another, as with the lion-to-dire-wolf example above. But the same rules apply: The more you allow your artist to work with structural elements, the better your tattoo cover-up will turn out. Even a name has a framework that lends itself to certain designs: Cursive script has soft, rounded lines that easily flow into flowers, for example, while block lettering may require a different approach. Similarly, the particular morphology of that tragic princess tattoo can potentially shape your cover-up options.

Other factors to consider in your tattoo cover-up include color, depth, and detail. Depending on the original piece, certain colors might not fully cover the existing design, which can limit your cover-up possibilities. A pale pink dahlia might be out of the question in one particular case–but a dahlia in a deep purple could potentially work. A complex tattoo cover-up that involves shading and multi-layered details can help to cover or obscure your old piece. Animals with detailed scales or fur, trees with gnarled bark, intricate mandalas–these can potentially serve your tattoo cover-up better than simple or one-dimensional designs.

Consideration 5: Tattoo Cover-Up Expectations

We’ve got zero judgment when it comes to your tattoo cover-up. Whether you didn’t do your research or just hate your existing ink, we have a number of artists who are experts in tattoo transformation.

One of the biggest ways to succeed with your cover-up is to manage your expectations. In some cases, you might not be able to get exactly the design you want over your old piece, with no sign of the original–and that’s great! Other times, though, your existing ink might not work with the cover-up you have in mind, or certain elements might show through no matter what an artist does.

If you go into your cover-up consultation with an open mind, you’ll be amazed at your results. Collaborative design and creative freedom can give your artist the ability to totally transform your piece, perhaps in ways that you yourself hadn’t even considered. We encourage you to bring a number of ideas you’re interested in rather than a single concept–and we would love if you’d let us suggest alternative strategies in turn.

We value our clients and our professional integrity, so we will be honest with you about what’s realistic with your tattoo cover-up. If we can’t agree on a design or if your tattoo just isn’t a candidate for a cover-up, we will always be upfront with you. In some instances, a few sessions of laser removal can make a big difference in your options.

Remember that a cover-up is a complex process with numerous factors at play. Depending on the project, you might need several sessions for us to do the absolute best job possible with your transformation. We treat every piece we undertake as a priority so that you’ll have a finished product you’re proud to show off–and that means we never rush any tattoo, whether it’s a cover-up or a custom original.

If you’re interested in getting your old ink redesigned, send us an email to get scheduled for a consultation! Please include pictures of your existing tattoo as well as any ideas you have for covering it up. We can connect you with one of our cover-up experts and get you scheduled for an in-studio consultation that will give you a full picture of what to expect. We look forward to helping you love your new tattoo!

Sun Damage and Your Tattoo

With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time to show off your ink and catch some sun! But before you hit the beach, be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen if you want your tattoos to look good all year long. Today we’re considering the ways the sun can impact your tattoos, whether they’re brand new or decades old—and we’re offering some easy solutions both to prevent and deal with sun damage.

Phase 1: The Sun and Your New Tattoo

Aftercare is a critical time for your new tattoo, for a number of reasons. A fresh tattoo is essentially an open wound, which means that cleanliness is imperative; moisturization is likewise important in helping skin heal with minimal itching and irritation.

But did you know that protecting your new ink from the sun is just a important as keeping it clean and moisturized? A sunburn on a fresh tattoo is particularly damaging: Because recently tattooed skin is already tender, a sunburn can significantly inflame any redness, itching, or dryness. It can even lead to blistering of the exposed tissue. A mildly irritated tattoo can become a weepy, swollen, painful disaster if exposed to the sun—all of which can lead to increased scabbing and even infection, which in turn can cause the ink to “fall out” of your tattoo.

To avoid irritation and help your tattoo heal beautifully:

  1. Keep your tattoo covered up when you’re outside with light, clean clothing that is not itchy or otherwise irritating. Clothing with built-in SPF is a plus!
  2. Minimize your time in the sun if you can’t keep your tattoo covered for any reason.
  3. Don’t use sunscreen on a new tattoo: It’s an open wound, and sunscreen can be extremely irritating!
  4. DON’T SWIM! We know it’s the perfect way to cool off on a hot day, but don’t do it. Go enjoy the A/C inside or drink an iced tea instead.

Phase 2: Sun Damage and Long-Term Maintenance

Once you’ve gotten through the initial healing phase, you’re in the clear for a number of activities (including swimming!). You don’t have to alter your daily routine in terms of physical activity or clothing, and you don’t need to worry in general about infection or irritation.

But sun damage is still a significant threat to your tattoo—and it will be for the rest of your life.

The sun’s threat to your ink is two-fold.

      1. UV rays break down the pigments found in tattoo ink. This can cause them to fade more quickly than if protected from the sun.
      2. A sunburn causes your skin to peel in order to get rid of damaged skin cells. This accelerated peeling can pull out tattoo ink, which can contribute to your tattoo looking faded.

You may have considered how your tattoo will age when you first got it done. There is a lot of back-and-forth in the industry about the types of tattoos that age well, but there’s one thing that we all can agree on: A properly protected tattoo will age significantly better than one that is exposed to sun damage, regardless of the style of tattoo. It’s arguably true that color tattoos can appear to fade more quickly than blackwork or black-and-grey pieces, especially if the colors were particularly vibrant to begin with—but even a blackwork piece can lose its crispness if not protected, especially considering that black ink attracts the sunlight more than lighter colors. In any case, all pigments are susceptible to UV damage and peeling, which means that sun damage on any piece can lead to a muddying of details and make a tattoo difficult to “read.”

Placement can be a factor to consider when thinking of long-term sun damage. If a tattoo on your side won’t see the sun as much as a tattoo on your forearm, then naturally it will age more gracefully even without taking precautions. Foot tattoos in particular are a good example of this: In sunny California, it’s easy to throw on flipflops or sandals without stopping to think of sunscreen, and a tattoo on the top of the foot can fade significantly before you realize just how much sun damage it’s gotten over the course of a summer.

But don’t let that limit you! If you’re interested in a tattoo in a highly visible area, you can keep it looking fresh with a little bit of effort:

  1. Wear sunscreen or a cover-up when you’re in the sun! We can’t stress this enough. Choose a sunscreen with a good SPF, preferably one that won’t irritate your skin, or look for clothing that has SPF built into the fabric.
  2. Apply sunscreen or wear a cover-up even when you don’t think you need to. Sun damage is cumulative, which means all of the little trips outside add up. If you walk your dog several times a day, for example, you’re adding to your sun damage incrementally.
  3. Think about your sun exposure—and act accordingly. If you’re a weekend warrior when it comes to fun in the sun, you probably need to be more careful about sun damage on your days off than during your nine-to-five life. But if you’ve got a long commute during the week, that’s another story: You’d be amazed at how much sun damage you can get through the window of a car or bus.

Phase 3: The Sunburned Tattoo

It happens: We all make mistakes. Maybe it was at a friend’s barbecue, maybe it was during some unplanned yardwork—but you’re now looking at a tattoo that is lobster red from the sun.

If your tattoo is still in the aftercare stage and the sunburn is significant, we encourage you to reach out to your artist. Depending on the situation, we can advise you how to best handle the sun damage. In extreme cases involving blistering, it may be advisable to see your doctor.

If it’s an old tattoo, you’re not dealing with an open wound, which is good news—but you’re still at risk of damaging your tattoo, which is not such good news. Depending on how bad the sun damage is, your tattoo may or may not suffer from a single burn. Even if it looks damaged, a sunburned tattoo can possibly return to its usual condition once the skin has fully regenerated.

To help ease the pain and encourage your tattoo to recover, you can try the following—but again, these suggestions are for existing tattoos, not new ones:

  1. Cool your skin down with a cold shower or compress.
  2. Moisturize your tattoo. When you get a sunburn, your skin peels as damaged cells die off. This can pull out ink, which contributes to fading. Proper moisturization can help your skin recover from sun damage while potentially preventing ink loss. Choose a non-irritating moisturizer that is free of chemicals, or go all-natural with coconut oil or aloe.
  3. Drink plenty of water to help your skin re-hydrate. You’ll be surprised at how helpful this can be.
  4. Keep your tattoo covered. You might think that your sunburn is as bad as it can be—but trust us, it can get a lot worse. Throw on a cover-up of some kind while your tattoo recovers from the sunburn. If you can’t cover it up and it isn’t too irritated, use sunscreen.
  5. Don’t do it again! Once your tattoo has recovered, do what you can to prevent future burns. Again: Sun damage is cumulative. If your tattoo has bounced back from one bad sunburn, it might not fare so well the next time.

Please note that even if you’re dealing with an old tattoo, a serious sunburn might necessitate medical attention. If you’re blistered, nauseated, feverish, or dizzy, call your doctor!

Phase 4: Sun Damage and Significant Fading

Whether it’s from one major burn or years of sun damage, sometimes a tattoo just doesn’t look the way that it used to. Color, blackwork, and black-and-grey tattoos all can look blurry or faded after too much time in the sun. If you’re dealing with a piece that just isn’t up to snuff, there’s still hope in the form of a touch-up.

Our artists can give your tattoo a refresher that helps it look brand new. This might mean re-doing color, adding new lines, or touching up details in other skillful ways, depending on your artist’s perspective. In some more extreme cases, we might suggest a full-blown cover-up. We’ll be honest with you about what’s possible in your unique situation, and we’ll work with you to get your tattoo looking great again.

With a little bit of care, you can enjoy the summer without risking your ink—so grab your sunscreen or cover-up and go enjoy yourself! If you’d like to talk about your touch-up options, email us today to get scheduled for a consultation.

When Good Tattoos Go Bad: A Guide to Poorly-Aging Ink

Getting a new tattoo is a major investment: Even if it’s just a small piece, we know how much time, effort, and emotion go into choosing an artist, creating a design, and–of course–actually getting inked. Whether your new tattoo is deeply meaningful or something you got just for fun, you want it to age beautifully.

Mikey Vigilante tattooing a client's back in Long Beach, CA.

We’re all familiar with “tattoo fails” like misspelled words and hideous portrait pieces. There’s not much we can say for these ugly tattoos if a person didn’t do their research beforehand.

But what about when you walk out of the tattoo studio with something gorgeous only to have it look not so hot after it’s healed? What about when good tattoos go bad?

If your tattoo has turned on you, keep reading to find out what might have gone wrong.

Not All Inks Are Created Equal

Because there is no quality control for tattoo ink, it’s possible to get tattooed with inferior pigments. Even in a professional shop that is 100% hygienic, you might cross paths with an artist using cheap ink to save a few bucks. (If you’re getting tatted by someone out of their garage, you can read all about why that’s a bad idea here.)

Poor quality ink can cause severe allergic reactions. Excessive itching, scabbing, and swelling can cause a tattoo that looked great in the studio to heal poorly.

If you don’t experience a reaction, it’s still possible for inferior ink to mess up your final product when it comes to how your tattoo will age. Cheap ink is more likely to fall out or to fade. This is particularly true of especially vibrant colors, which can quickly lose their luster–but even black can fade to a watery grey if the ink itself is not good quality.

At Paper Crane, we use only the highest quality tattoo ink, so you can breathe easy.

Skin Type Impacts How Your Ink Will Age

Because your skin is our canvas, it’s an important factor to consider when thinking about your long-term tattoo needs. Everything from the skin tone to the size of your pores can impact the tattooing process, which in turn impacts the final product.

At Paper Crane, our artists have tattooed a variety of skin types. We can advise you with confidence on what shades and styles will look good for years to come by taking into account the unique nuances of your skin.

We’d like to note that although reactions to ink are rare, it’s important to be upfront with your artist if you have any skin conditions, allergies, or immune disorders that might impact your body’s reaction to the introduction of tattoo ink. The more we know about your skin, the better we can do our job.

Style and Composition

You’ve probably heard the expression “bold will hold” in the tattoo industry. This refers to the time-honored belief that a design with bold outlines will typically age well. Consider the Traditional American pieces you see on the hands of weathered sailors: If done right in the first place, the bold lines and colors of these tattoos can hold up for decades with minimal retouching, even in the face of the elements.

But if you’re not fan of Traditional American style, is your tattoo doomed to age poorly in a short span of time? There is a lot of back-and-forth on this topic within the industry, especially in light of the wild popularity of watercolor tattoos. Some artists implement illustrative techniques that allow for some bold lines to help hold the tattoo in place over time; others add black shading and fine lines to color tattoos for the same reason. You’ll find some artists who refuse to do watercolor at all, just as you’ll find many who will take an outline-free approach.

At Paper Crane, we as a studio support the unique visions of our clients and artists. If you want a color tattoo that’s totally devoid of black outlines, we’ll be honest with you about the possibility that it might not age well–and if you’re concerned about that, we’ll work with you to find a creative solution that still captures your vision.

Composition is another major factor when it comes to a tattoo’s longevity, which is why we take our design process so seriously. A microtattoo with a ton of detail might look incredible when you first get it done–but ultimately, any tattoo that is too detailed for its size or that lacks clean lines will begin to look muddy as it ages. You might be better served with a larger piece if detail is important–or if it’s your goal to stay small, a simpler design will be your best bet. We use both hand-drawn approaches and iPads to ensure that your custom piece is composed in such a way that it will look great long after you leave our studio.

Aftercare and Beyond

A tattoo can only be as good as your aftercare routine. Even the most beautiful work of art can be destroyed if you don’t treat it like an open wound that requires special care.

It’s not a bad idea to get your aftercare products in order before your session to ensure that you have everything on hand. An antibacterial soap that is perfume-free is a must. We suggest Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve as our go-to aftercare lotion–and we carry it in our studio for your convenience!

Jars of Ora's Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve on the wooden counter of Paper Crane Studio in Long Beach, CA, part of our aftercare routine to help your tattoo age beautifully.

Before you leave the shop, be sure that you are 100% clear on your artist’s recommended instructions–and be sure to actually follow them! (You can find our general guidelines here if your memory is fuzzy.)

Proper aftercare during the two weeks following your session is critical–but if you want your tattoo to continue to look great, it’s equally important to care for it on a daily basis. Use SPF lotion if you’re going to expose it to the sun–or better yet, keep it covered if possible. On a regular basis, you should moisturize your tattoo to keep the ink looking fresh.

Give Your Tattoo Time

Did you get your tattoo within the last couple of months? Is it looking dull or just not as crisp as you’d like? Do you find yourself staring longingly at photos from the day you got it done, wishing it could be so vibrant and clean?

Don’t panic! It’s entirely possible that your skin is still recovering. The tattoo process is traumatic, and not everyone heals at the same rate. Even different areas of your body can heal differently, especially depending on your typical attire, daily routine, etc.

It’s amazing what a little love and care can do for a tattoo that is technically past the two-week healing window. Try applying a quality lotion like Ora’s Tattoo Salve throughout the day to see a major difference in a short amount of time. You might consider upping your water intake as well, as proper hydration can do wonders for your skin!

If time has gone by and you’re still concerned, we suggest reaching out to your artist about the possibility of a touch-up. Remember that a professional will be able to tell if you’ve picked at your tattoo or neglected to care for it, so be honest about your experience for best results.

Full sleeve in Irezumi style, full color, chrysanthemum, waves, and koi, by Owen Juarez of Paper Crane Studio in Long Beach, CA.

At Paper Crane, we take the long view with our tattoos. From the selection of our inks and aftercare products to the composition and tattooing of your piece, we want you to leave our studio with a tattoo you’ll love for a lifetime. So if you’re worried about how your tattoo is going to turn out, know that you are in good hands with us–and know that we’re here to walk you through every step of the process.

How Much Will My New Tattoo Hurt?

For many tattoo enthusiasts, the pain of new ink is part of the ritual. While some find it to be almost as addicting as the finished product itself, at Paper Crane we know that for some clients there is a lot of apprehension about just how much that tattoo needle might hurt. There are numerous factors to consider when it comes to pain, so we’re sharing our industry insight to help you decide how much you can handle for your next session.

Foo dog half sleeve with cherry blossoms by Mikey Vigilante, on the upper outer arm, which is one of the best places for a tattoo if you're worried about pain.

Pain Factor 1: The Tattoo Needle

If you’ve checked out our blog on tattoo needles, you know that your tattoo artist is actually using multiple needles (called “pins”) grouped together to achieve a certain stylistic goal.

Typically, the smaller the pin grouping, the more painful the tattooing experience. Most clients agree that the outlining of a tattoo is the most painful aspect. This is because a liner features as few as three pins–and even when it has more, the pins are grouped very tightly together.

With larger or more spread-out groupings, the pressure is distributed over a larger section of skin, which can result in less pain; this is true in the case of a magnum needle, as it features as many as forty-nine pins widely spaced out. Conversely, with a liner needle, the pressure is being applied intently to a smaller area, which equals sharper, more intense pain.

Interested in a fine-line or single-needle tattoo? Be prepared for some next-level ouchiness, depending on where you’re placing your new piece.

Pain Factor 2: The Intensity of Shading

We sometimes hear clients describe the pain from outlining as “cutting” and the pain from shading as “burning.” In the case of a tattoo that features some simple black-and-grey shading, it may very well be your experience that the outline is the most painful part of the session.

But consider the depth of shading that goes into a photorealistic rose or an illustrative owl: To capture the nuanced complexities that make these tattoos pop, an artist must go over the same patch of skin numerous times. This is equally true of black-and-grey and full color, as both approaches require careful blending during multiple passes.

A tattoo is an open wound, as the needle deposits ink by piercing the skin. Over the course of a two-hour session that involves heavy shading, an artist will apply layer upon layer of ink to the same patch of skin. That means the tattoo needle will be continuously poking your open wound. So although shading might not initially hurt as much as lining, the continued work on tender skin can prove to be pretty painful!

Pain Factor 3: The Heaviness of Your Artist’s Hand

At Paper Crane, we’re very proud of that fact that our artists are among the best in the industry. Our seasoned professionals know exactly the right amount of pressure to apply when tattooing to ensure that your tattoo looks as beautiful as you’re imagining.

Many tattoo artists struggle with this crucial aspect of tattooing. A heavy-handed artist is one who applies too much pressure. This results in the needle going too deep, which is considerably more painful than when the proper layer of your dermis is pierced. Moreover, it can result in displaced ink and shadows.

It’s important to note that there are a lot of reasons that a tattoo can scar or otherwise not heal well, including improper aftercare. You can read our tips on proper aftercare here. When you work with an artist at Paper Crane, you can rest assured that heavy-handedness won’t be an issue.

Pain Factor 4: Tattoo Placement

Truth time: Some tattoo placements just hurt more than others. You may really want to get some sacred geometry tattooed on your throat–but if you’re nervous about the pain, you should know it’s among the most sensitive areas on your body, whereas your outer arm is much less sensitive.

Although everyone’s body is different, this is a general breakdown of what to expect with tattoo placement:

  • Worst Pain Ever: Head, face, throat, spine, inner upper arm, wrist, hand, groin, inner thigh, knee cap, behind the knee, ankle, foot
  • Still Pretty Awful: Neck, collarbone, chest, rib cage, stomach, torso, lower back, inner elbow, inner forearm
  • Not Too Bad: Hip, outer thigh, mid back
  • Least Pain Possible: Shoulder, upper back, outer upper arm, outer forearm, butt

Pain Factor 5: Topical Anesthetics

So you really want sacred geometry on your throat, huh? Well, even if you’re terrified of the pain, there’s hope! We proudly carry HUSH topical anesthetic sprays and gels to help you manage pain. Sprays can be applied by your artist during your session to instantly numb your skin. HUSH’s long-lasting gel must be applied an hour before your session–and it can only be used after your first session is completed, as it can potentially interfere with the ink from our transfer paper.

“I always encourage my clients to feel the tattoo in its full experience at least once,” shop founder and senior artist Mikey Vigilante says. “But after a two hours of tattooing–especially on a sensitive area–your body can get overwhelmed. HUSH is a great alternative to splitting a tattoo into multiple sessions.”

Pain relieving gels and sprays for a relaxing tattoo session, courtesy of HUSH topical anesthetic.

Everyone has different sensitive spots, so your experience might be totally at odds with these insights. In any case, we hope that we’ve relieved some of your apprehension–and if not, we’d be happy to talk more with you about HUSH or to suggest alternative placements for your new ink.

We’ll leave you with this final thought from Mikey: “It’s important to ultimately choose your tattoo location without making pain your top consideration. While a tattoo can be intense, we will help you get through it. Choose a place that you will be happy with for a lifetime, as the pain is only temporary, while the tattoo is forever.”