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Tattoo Artists Divulge Their Worst ‘Tattoo Virgin’ Stories

Julia Giacomini/Unsplash

Getting a tattoo can be very exciting. Maybe you’ve been deciding on what you wanted for a long time and saving little by little to have enough for a sizable piece.

There’s nothing like the nervousness and excitement of that very first tattoo. In fact, when we experience that kind of pain, our body releases endorphins. That might be why we keep going back for more after we’ve gotten our first done.

However, some people faint during their first tattoos from that pain. That’s caused by Vasovagal or ‘reflex’ Syncope. Our blood pressure and heartrate can drop and cause us to be a puddle on the floor before we know it.

Redditor ArthurThyKing asked:

“Tattoo Artists of Reddit, who was your worst ‘tattoo virgin’?”

There are tons of first timer stories of people passing out, being rude to their tattoo artist, or having unconventional things happening to them while under the needle. We compiled this list of the best stories from real tattoo artists.

Always eat a good meal.

“One of my coworkers was tattooing a girl on her 18th birthday or something like that. She was getting script on her wrist, nothing huge but after 3-4 lines her face drained of color and she went completely limp and passed out.”

“He had caught her so she didn’t fall out of the chair but we then heard the sound of something similar to a leaky faucet as everyone realized the poor girl peed herself when she blacked out.”

“After a few minutes and a soda to get her blood sugar back up one of her friends brought her some gym shorts to change into as we cleaned the area. She finished the tattoo that day like a f*cking champ but we’ve never seen nor heard from her again.”

“I’m sure she was mortified…remember kids always eat a good meal before getting tattooed or pierced no matter how small or simple you think it is.” – Gemini_Sol

“Worth mentioning that this advice is for everyone. I’m a large guy and I felt really faint during one tattoo as I simply hadn’t eaten or drank enough.”

“Chocolate bar / sugary drink beforehand and a bottle of water for during is something I now consider essential pre-tattoo purchases.” – cat666

Trying to act tough.

“Piercer but I have seen sh*t. A very large guy came in and wanted a tattoo on his inner arm fat. Tattoo artist tried to talk him out of it because of the loose skin in the area. Guy is like ‘I have a high tolerance for pain’.”

“Well now he has a curved line on his inner bicep. They tried three times and he couldn’t sit still and the pain was unbearable.”

“He was jumping out of the chair while a needle was near his arm. And yes, when he left we sh*t talked him for about a week. Mainly because he just was acting so tough before hand and wouldn’t listen.” – I’mStillaPrick

It’s backwards!

“I’ll take this one. I had a client who got a Jesus fish with Greek letters on his chest. I put the stencil on, he looks down says ‘looks good’ and we do the tattoo. Guy sits like a CHAMP through his entire first tattoo.”

“I finish up after about 45 minutes, he checks it out in the mirror and immediately goes pale, starts to sweat and sits down. Dude looks at me and says ‘it’s BACKWARDS!’ All shook.”

“I look at his tattoo, look at him on the floor, look at the mirror and tell the guy ‘I’m gonna take a photo of it for you to see, because you don’t know how mirrors work’. A couple minutes go by as I’m handing the dude paper towels.”

“The guy stands up all quick and try’s to play it off like he was just messing with me even though for a minute there, there was a corpse on my studio floor….” – tattoosbyjerad

“Imagine you didn’t point out the mirror effect. So next time he comes in he writes/draws out the plans backwards to get the right affect hahahah.” – OutrageousFix7338

“Okay no lie, that is exactly what happened to one of the football players at my old high school. Our school logo was a capital F between two offset parentheses (it was supposed to look like a hurricane, yes it was stupid) and the moron got the tattoo done so that it looked correct in the mirror. He has yet to live it down, and that was ten years ago.” – ArchaicGeek

“Getting your high school logo tattooed really screams ‘I peaked in high school’ But getting it backwards?? That screams ‘I haven’t peaked and probably never will’.” – luckyveggie

He was impulsive.

“One shop I worked at we had a couple come in on the day we did $100 two inch by two inch tattoos, they both were getting these small triceratops outline tattoos behind their ears, nothing too crazy or detailed so maybe about 15 minutes each in the chair at most.”

“The guy is losing his mind, he’s hyperventilating, laughing, jumping up and down and yelling questions at all of us, visually very nervous. He tells one of our apprentices that this is his first tattoo and keeps asking them how bad it hurts over and over again, the owner went into the back and grabbed an ammonia packet, worried the guy would pass out the second needle touched skin.”

“Turns out it was this couples first date, he had told her he was impulsive and she tried to call his bluff and suggested they get matching tattoos. To his credit he got the tattoo and didn’t pass out, paid for them both too!” – Hellcathowl

“They later got married due to a series of escalating dares.” – MC_Hale

“FIRST DATE!? Wow. I kinda respect that though.” – casseroled

“My first tattoo was the outline of three stars behind my ear. I could hear the buzzing and feel the artist fiddling around behind my ear but was anxiously waiting for him to start, thinking that it would feel like a scalpel to my thin skin.”

“Nah, he gave a firm wipe of the ink and said ‘Done!’ I said ‘Bullsh*t’ 😂 he flew through it so easily that I didn’t believe him. So now with a dozen good sized tattoos later, I’m always wanting another one thanks to how well he did my first.” – harleyqueenzel

The ex’s name.

“Girl comes in to get her ex boyfriends name tattooed as a tramp stamp…. Comes in with friends and proceeds to scream throughout the process of doing the outline and she leaves with a half outline of her ex’s name.” – bobjones136

“… why would anyone tattoo their ex’s name on themselves?” – sixthandelm

“Because now he has to come back!” – Traskk01

The newbs story.

“It’s not the worst, but I love this one. At the expense of my very good client, I generally use this story to help newbs ease in to my chair more comfortably.”

“So it was his first and I’m getting my stencil prepped. He was so nervous, he was basically white. Kept asking if he was good. Yeah he was ok..I guess. Place the stencil on him and ask him to take a look.”

“He looks at his arm and immediately passes out in the chair lol. He’s sliding out of the chair, we get him back up and he comes to. He got over it, eventually and has his sleeve.” – -THE_ENDR-

“I was getting lettering and dude finally got to my spine. He asked me how I was doing. I said a little light headed, but keep going. He said nope we are stopping for 15 minutes. I guess he’s had a bunch of people pass out on him.” – Daggermoth

“I had the same deal. Got the crook of my elbow done. I was feeling real shit but I didn’t want to stop because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to start again.”

“The artist noticed me sweating, getting dizzy, and breathing hard. He handed me a glucose tablet and some water then got me a cool towel until I could handle it again.” – smaugismyhomeboy

He couldn’t make up his mind.

Not a tattoo artist, just heavily tattooed and have a lot of friends who are artists. Allow me to tell you the story of Danny the Dummy.”

“Danny at the time of the story was a 21 year old oil field worker who had more money than sense, he wanted to get an entire sleeve tattoo done but couldn’t decide what he wanted, he would come in for a consult, the artist (my friend) would take everything he said and draw up what he wanted, then he would come back and completely change his mind.”

“That’s not the reason why he’s called Danny the Dummy though, he’s called that because, among other things, he never once could remember the name of the animal he wanted to get. He first asked for a lion ‘pack’ on a mountain with the moon above them and them roaring into it.”

“My artist friend said ‘oh you mean like the end of lion king?’ and Danny said yes. The next time he came in he said the animal was wrong and when he showed the picture it was a wolf pack, so my artist friend drew that.”

“Danny comes back and decides he doesn’t want that, he instead wants an ‘eagle in flight’, so my artist friend draws that, and if you guessed the animal was wrong you’re keeping up, he in fact wanted an owl in flight.”

“After this my artist friend was basically done with Danny, he was going to do this last drawing and if Danny changed his mind again he was going to fire him as a customer and blacklist him in his shop. Well he drew an amazing owl in flight and Danny said he loved it, so finally a date was selected and Danny was going to come in and get it.”

“Well Danny never showed, about half an hour past his appointment time my artist friend calls him and Danny says ‘oh damn man, I’m sorry, I’m out of the country today, I’m in North Dakota’…..the artist is based in Arizona.”

“Danny thought that different states were different countries. Never saw or heard from him again and my friend ended up putting that owl on a coworker of his that loved the drawing.” – amalgamas

“I hope your friend charged him for each drawing. That’s a lot of time and effort. Most artist I’ve been too usually ask for money down to draw up the concept.”

“One, it means you won’t get a no show because they already got money into it. And two, if they no show well you didn’t waste your time drawing the art.” – Metal-Butterfly

“$60/consult.” – amalgamas


“Not the worst client. But just an unfortunate event. The apprentice at my shop who had only been tattooing for a little under a year was tattooing this girls wrist recently, her first tattoo the word ‘undefeated.’ Gets the tattoo, it goes smoothly, she likes it, walks to the lobby, shows her dad, he likes it.”

“Walks back to get bandaged up, gets bandaged, they walk back to the counter as he’s explaining aftercare she blacks out. Falls back hits her head on a giant painting hanging on the wall (an ed hardy original) the painting falls, glass breaks.”

“He runs over picks her up and is checking the back of her head. Realizes a giant piece of glass had punctured her shoulder/trap. EMT comes, tell her she needs stitches, they end up having to take her to the emergency room where she got 6 stitches.”

“The next week the girl brought him a giant tub of cookies. She wasn’t the worst, but it was an incredibly unfortunate experience for the both of them. His first time having someone pass out and her being ‘defeated.'” – tattoocaleb

“She can claim the tattoo is undefeated. It took her out.” – GloInTheDarkUnicorn

“Hey, she only fainted after leaving the ring. She’s still the champ.” – ActuallySatanAMA

He couldn’t sit still.

“There’s a few different ways you can go with worst. Is worst most reactive? Is worst most picky and unreasonable?”

“I’ve been pretty lucky in the grand scheme of things. My worst most reactive / annoying client was this dude who was very clearly a drug addict.”

“He came in, wanted a simple tribal tattoo on his stomach, I saw sure no problem but he starts haggling me about the price, at first it was $400, then he said no more than $200, we finally settled on $300 after about 20 minutes of back and forth.”

“I get all setup, we start the tattoo, within a minute he says he needs to stand up, that’s he’s in too much pain and needs to walk around. He walks around for about 2 or 3 minutes, then lays back down, gets tattooed for another couple minutes and then same thing.”

“He does this constantly throughout the entire tattoo. During this time he was constantly scratching his head, twitching all over and complaining loudly.”

“But the worst part wasn’t the fact that this 2 hour tattoo turned into almost 4 hours. The worst was that he kept going out for smoke breaks, but kept only taking 2 or 3 puffs, putting the cherry out and then putting the smoke back in his pocket.”

“So all I could smell the entire time was musty cigs, it was fucking disgusting. (The cigarettes smelled old, if you’ve ever smelled old cigs you know what I’m talking about. He also kept putting it in the pocket that was right beside my face).” – CircleK-Choccy-Milk

“No chance I’m haggling with somebody who’s about to permanently mark my body.” – Barbarossa7070

The loudest appointment.

“A friend who had never had a tattoo before wanted one on her ankle and was adamant about that. I told her several times that the ankle is a very not fun location, and asked her if maybe she’d prefer the shoulder instead.”

“She insisted on the ankle. Okay then. The moment the needle touched her she hollered. You sure you want to keep going I asked?”

“She said yes. That was the loudest appointment I ever had but to her credit she made it through.” – Odeiminmukwa

The tears just kept coming.

“Oh wow, reading this thread is bringing up some repressed client memories. My worst one by far, though, was about five years ago when I was apprenticing in a college town.”

“This girl came in with her boyfriend for a traditional butterfly above her elbow, I was still super new so it took me way longer than it should have (maybe 2hrs). I lay her down on her stomach with her arm bent at her side—this is relevant later.”

“Anyway, we start tattooing and within maybe 10 mins she starts getting a string of texts from her freshman friends, telling her they’re essentially ousting her from their group and they don’t want her to contact them again.”

“Super mean stuff, obviously she’s upset. As she’s relating all this to her BF, she starts crying, then full on sobbing. I asked her if she wanted to stop, but she insisted on me continuing, and I felt too awkward to counter her.”

“She continued to sob on and off for probably another hour, while I just kept plugging away at this dumb little tattoo. At this point she had cried so much that her tears had gathered where her arm was pressed against the massage table and had started to spill over into my lap.”

“So I’m feeling uncomfortable as hell, and now also damp. THEN, as I’m within 30 mins or so of finishing, she begins whimpering, then moaning…loudly. At one point she tells the BF ‘this is more intense than anal’ and I wanted to die.”

“As soon as I finished and checked her out, my coworkers (who had all been waiting on me to close) were like ‘what the actual f*ck was going on, and why did you keep going??’ But in the moment, all I could think was to finish the tattoo asap.”

“To her credit, she came back (a year later!) and told me she had been too embarrassed to come back but loved the butterfly and wanted another tattoo from me. Her second session was pleasant and without incident.” – More-Presentation-52

These stories are definitely unique.

Hopefully, we’re able to learn from these professionals tales so we can be better first timers.

And remember to treat your artists well when they’re putting something permanent on your body.