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Tattoo commissions

I’ve been chewing on the idea of getting a tattoo for quite some time now, and after hearing my best friend got one done, I’ve decided to finally go for it myself. I’m not entirely sure what I want my first to be of, but all of my ideas involve trademarked characters. The problem is I want my tattoo to be unique, and the only way for that to happen is to have it drawn specifically for me, so I’d have to commission someone. And, last I heard, paying someone to draw other people’s characters isn’t legal. And while I know this doesn’t bother some artists, I’d like to keep my hands clean, especially since I want to work as a pro someday and who knows if that can come back and bite me.

However I was wondering if there were different rules for tattoos, since tattoo artists themselves are basically being paid to draw someone else’s character occasionally, like when they take a famous picture of a video game character and use that. So I didn’t know if the copyright law applied to tattoos. I’m assuming there is no difference, and this is just a shot in the dark, but I thought I’d ask because my options are limited. I can’t draw it myself, because a few years down the road I’ll (hopefully) be a better artist and be stuck with an old, flawed piece of art on my body, permanently. I toyed with having a contest, but that’s not guaranteed good results. So, I just wanted to know if there was a legal way I could get this done without having to track down Konami, Disney, DC comics, and whoever else it is that owns these characters I want done for permission.

Edit: Since some people were raising concerns, I wanted to clarify. Believe me, when/if I get this tattoo, it's going to be very well thought out. It took me quite a while to get my first lip piercing just because I wanted to wait until the right time. This isn't something I'm going into blindly, although I do appreciate the concern.

Again, the only reason I don't want to draw this myself is because I'm pretty hard on my old artwork (aren't we all?) and I'd rather trust someone else I know can get it right, so I don't look back on it years from now and think, "What terrible anatomy!", etc...

And just as an FYI, I've been considering getting a Lion King tattoo. It's been my favorite movie since it's been out (what, 13 years now?) so I don't think that's going to go changing anytime soon, and it's not like I'm not personally involved with these characters. It's always been an important movie to me in many regards, I don't think it's ever not going to be relevant to me.

Yeah, so, hopefully that addresses some of your questions. Thanks everyone.
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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 23rd, 2007 04:01 pm (UTC)

I would suggest asking the tattoo artist to design it for you as part of the tattoo process. Most artists won't lend their art for this because it's common for tattoo parlours to steal it for use on future clients and any tattoo parlour worth their salt should be able to make a custom flash piece for you.
Jun. 23rd, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
I second that.

Another concern I have is that if the tattoo is complicated enough, it's possible that the particular tattoo artist can't replicate it and you will end up with some permanent thing that looks nothing like how you want it.

I know that most tattoo artists are incredibly replicators, but still it's better to be 120% safe about this.
Jun. 23rd, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC)
I agree.

It's also a good idea to talk with the tattoo artist in regards to how you want the tattoo placed and the picture arranged. They'll be able to give you good advice on if your design idea will work at the size you want it and where you want it as well :}.
Jun. 23rd, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC)
Really? That wasn't even something I had considered. That's pretty...trashy.

I suppose, at this point, that's likely what I'm going to do, after reading everyone's replies. Thanks for the suggestion.
Jun. 24th, 2007 12:07 am (UTC)

Unfortunately it happens all the time, I've even had people steal art from me to take to the tattoo parlour since many parlours will do the tattoo for free if they can keep the art, they don't care if it's stolen or not.

I've been bugged by tattoo parlours to sell fanart I've done to them, apparently they think "it's not my character to sell" magically means that if they offer more money I'll hand the flash over.

I've been majorly into Tattoos for years, there's some murky sides to the business. Personally I suggest if it's your first tattoo, try to make sure it's reasonably small and somewhere you can cover up. Yes, you'll want to show it off who doesn't but if anything goes wrong, ie scarring or fading because not everyone reacts the same to inks, you'll want to be able to put it under wraps until you can get it seen to. Try not to go for large areas of black, if you change your mind later and have it covered with another one then it'll make it harder to cover.
Jun. 25th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
If you go to a decent tattoo parlor they can photocopy your image onto a specific type of paper that will transfer (SAFE) ink onto your skin, and they can just trace over it. I would suggest going to an Ink Link if there is one in your area.
Jun. 23rd, 2007 04:02 pm (UTC)
"I want my tattoo to be unique"

"but all of my ideas involve trademarked characters"
Jun. 23rd, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
What I meant was, I want it to be a unique scene/pose, not from official concept art or something like that.
Jun. 23rd, 2007 04:03 pm (UTC)
A lot of people will argue it with you but no, drawing copyrighted and trademarked characters without permission of their owners is not allowed.

I suggest having a long hard think about what you really want in a tattoo, it will probably be more personal and meaningful if you can decide on something you've come up with entirely by yourself, and at least then it will be unique in every way.

At least, unless someone rips you off, which is a whole new can of worms >_>
Jun. 23rd, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I agree with the thinking long and hard about it. I've wanted a tattoo for a while, but I told myself that if I found a design I liked enough, I had to make myself wait a year or two first. If I still liked it just as much after that, then I could get it. So many people get tattoos of stuff that they don't even like anymore in a few months, even if they're wild about it when they first get it . . .
Jun. 23rd, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
All I'm doing in this post is going around agreeing with people XD.

I waited two and a half years to get my tattoo. By that time, I still wanted it, and I still wanted the design I had first thought of, so I figured I was good to go XD. I want two more tattoos now, but I'm making myself wait at least another two years just to make sure I really want them (plus, there still seems to be the occassional problem with blacklight ink and I want to give people time to fix it XD). Maybe the OP's already been waiting this long though. Didn't say. *shrug*

If paying someone to do art of a trademarked character makes you uneasy, how will you feel when you've had that art on your skin for 5, 10, 20 years?
Jun. 23rd, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
I can understand that, it's just that I don't trust myself to draw it. Like I said, it's like having an old piece of your artwork on your body for the rest of your life. Some of you better artists might not have that problem, but I know it'll give me grief in a few years ^_^
Jun. 24th, 2007 07:58 am (UTC)
If you have an original idea you could always commission any artist you like to draw it, maybe make a sketch so they know exactly what you want :)
Jun. 24th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
I have three tattoos by three different artists. I looked through two of their books while waiting and both of them had work of fanart variety in there.

A lot of tattoo artists are also artists themselves. I would suggest going in and seeing about having it specifically designed for you. At least that way, you'll also know that your tattoo artist CAN draw as well. :3
Jun. 24th, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
Short answer: No. But pretty much any tattooist will do it anyway. And lilenth is right, they should be able to draw it for you, and it'll give you an impression of how well things might go(drawing looks good, good sign, drawing looks like shit, errr keep shopping). Ideally they won't reproduce it either, I don't, but I've worked with a lot of total sleazebags.

If you get someone *else* to draw if for you before you go in and you really want to be sure nobody else will have it, you can make sure you take all copies of your drawing with you, and your stencil, and don't let them take a portfolio picture.
Jun. 24th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC)
I know enough people have told you this but as someone with a tattoo I too will say it- think LONG and HARD about it. Even once you have the design you think you'll use, put it away for a few months and then look at it again. If you still feel strongly aboutit after a few months, then go ahead. :)

Me- I always knew I wanted a tattoo. Years ago when I discovered the ouroboros symbol in 3 of my fave shows (X-Files, MilleniuM, and Invisible Man) I knew I wanted THAT *concept* as a tattoo but I couldn't find a design that I was satisfied with, then I met Fullmetal Alchemist. The design was instant love, but I still waited and chewed on the idea for nearly a year before taking it, tweaking it, and getting it.

Now my next tat will definetly be of my own design. :)

I wish you luck. And do share your tat once it's done. :) Since it'll likely be furry it sounds like, go to furrytattoos
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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