Getting Geek Inked: Geeky Tattoo Tips

Powered by Geek & Sundry

Call me biased, but as a visibly tattooed geek, I think that putting ink to skin is one of the coolest ways to express passion and fandom. That said, the process of putting ink into skin and coming out with a tattoo that you’re proud to show the world is one a lot of people may not be familiar with, so it’s not exactly a new thing, either. Still, going the permanent route can be scary, so here are some tips for all the geeks out there looking to wear their geekiness on their skin but don’t know where to start.


Photo Credit: Istolethetv/Flickr (CC 2.0 License)

Many geekdoms are filled with stunning and inspiring imagery and there is only one person who is responsible for capturing it permanently on your skin: your artist. Even if you have the exact drawing of what you want (a specific comic image, for example) each artist carries with them a unique skill set, so it’s important to do your research. Some work better with colours, others excel in greyscale. Some artists specialize in realistic imagery, while others translate imagery well into other specific styles.

In short, you wouldn’t recruit a Barbarian warrior when you need an Elven healer. Treat your artist the same; find the artist with the skills you want.

There’s a number of ways to find an artist. The best way is to ask people you know who have tattoos with a style you like and ask them first—they can tell you a lot about their experience. Another way is to visit local shops and flip through the portfolios available (every artist should have one—if they don’t, go elsewhere). 

You can also look online. A lot of tattoo artists now keep a portfolio of their work (and work in progress) on various social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and the GeeksterInk app.


Most shops charge for tattoos two ways: with a shop minimum and an hourly rate. Shop minimums apply when tattoos are generally both small and simple (a true-size meeple, for example). Larger pieces are generally charged at an hourly rate. Talk to your artist about what you want and ask them how much the piece will cost before you start and be honest about your budget constraints. Chances are they can work with you to break your piece down into sessions and make it more affordable for you and so you can work in installments.

Be aware that some artists book months in advance and may ask for a deposit when you first book. But don’t fret; that deposit should be applied to the cost of your tattoo when you do get tattooed.

Be sure to budget for a sizable tip for your artist. At least 20% of the cost of your tattoo should be a tip. It may seem costly, but most artists pay half of their fees to the shop to pay for shop supplies (gloves, bandages, and all the materials used to disinfect the tools, as well as rent). Your artist has also put in a lot of time into your piece before they put a needle to your skin. Sketching your piece and consulting with you is time for which they do not get paid.

If you tip your artist well, they’ll take care of you too: supplementary color touch-ups after a few years or waiving future reservation fees are all within their purview.


Photo Credit: Roxanne Ready/Flickr (CC 2.0 License)

As much as it stinks, sometimes expressing yourself and your passions through tattoos affects the way the world sees you, including the employment world.  If your tattoo needs to be covered up for whatever reason, be sure to tell your artist this so they know where the hard boundaries for your tattoo are.

Placement also affects pain. The question I get most often asked about my tattoos is if they hurt. The long answer is that every person processes pain differently and some people feel it more than others. The short answer is yes, it hurts. Getting ink stabbed into your skin with a needle over and over isn’t a comfortable experience.  

Placement can affect pain—the more nerve endings there are in the area, the more you’ll feel the needle. Sensitive areas include hands, feet, and anywhere that feels ticklish or where the bone is close to the skin (as a general rule).


How well your tattoo heals is as important to the final result as the skill of your artist. Every shop will suggest a slightly different way of healing tattoos, but most shops will give you an aftercare guide. Follow it!

All instructions will say not to remove the bandage (particularly to show it off) until just before you wash it for the first time. It is an open wound and you risk infection by exposing it and then reapplying that old, gross bandage.

Other general guidelines include avoiding skin irritants (including highly scented products), keeping your tattoo moisturized when it gets to the dry and flaky stage, and the most important tip: do not scratch your tattoo when it itches as it heals.


Photo Credit: Malloreigh/Flickr (used with permission)

When you first talk to your artist, ask them what their policy is on touch ups. Most substantial pieces will require touch ups and many artists include this in their cost as there’s a certain amount of ink fallout that’s a given on large pieces. Keep your tattoo looking fantastic by keeping it out of the sun (or putting sunscreen on it when you do have it exposed). Ultraviolet light breaks down the ink pigments—protecting it from the sun will keep your tattoo looking fresh and vibrant.

Check out the gallery below for folks who have shared their geeky ink!

Do you have a geeky tattoo? Have other tattoo tips? Let us know in comments!

Header Image Credit: Teri Litorco

Top Stories
More by Teri Litorco
Trending Topics