As someone who has already accumulated over 25 tattoos at the age of 23, one of the most common questions I get asked is, "How did you decide what your first tattoo should be?". I'd be lying if I said my first one was based on anything other than teenage impulsivity. And I think many people with tattoos would agree that while they wouldn't go to the effort of removing it, they probably wouldn't get the same first tattoo again if they had a do-over.
But with every tattoo you get, you tend to become more self-assured (or more reckless), and because of that, a little less fussy. Many ink lovers believe that whether you'd choose the same tattoo again is irrelevant — you liked it at the time, and that's all that really counts. Our bodies don't last forever, anyway.
But not knowing what your very first tattoo should be is usually the main hurdle people struggle to cross, and the reason why many don't end up getting them. And despite my own history of spontaneity, I know that the pressure of the first design can certainly be overwhelming. So, to get you going on your tattoo journey, we've put together a list of some of the most harmless, inoffensive first tattoo ideas that you'll be unlikely to regret.
1. Initials of someone you love
No, I don't mean your boyfriend of three months, for obvious reasons. And of course, you never know what will happen to any of the relationships you commemorate with tattoos in the future. But if someone has been an important person in your life, now or in the past, getting the two letters of their initials in a discreet place can be a great way to start. If you're still worried, maybe you could even start with the initials of your pet!
You could also just opt for one letter to be safe, as it's an ambiguous enough design for its meaning to evolve into something else, should you ever want it to.
Other than this, I'd generally steer clear of words and letters until you're a few tattoos in — but, if you're really sure of a word or quote, go for it! Just triple-check that you and your tattoo artist have got the spelling right...
2. Minimalist lines or dots
There are not a lot of reasons you'd ever come to hate three little thin lines or dots on your ankle, and because of this, minimalist lines can be a great first tattoo design.
As well as fitting in with a much more modern approach to simple tattoos, it's also something that can probably be covered up very easily should you ever need the real estate back for something bigger.
While the design might not be groundbreaking in the slightest, it can help you get used to the feel of getting a tattoo, and easily breaks the ice that comes with getting your first one.
3. Small flower or plant
One of my first tattoos was a small head of hibiscus with some minimal shading, and it's still one of my favourites to this day. Flower and plant tattoos can get quite extravagant and complicated when they're bigger and include shading or even colours. For a first tattoo, however, the simple outline of a flower or plant is a great idea.
To mix it up from the standard designs you might see all the time, try opting for a more unusual flower or plant. If there happens to be one that has a special meaning to you, then that's a no-brainer.
4. Star, moon or heart
A classic star, moon or heart outline, or even a small one shaded in, is about as inoffensive as it gets whilst still feeling like a more solid design compared to minimalist lines.
For something else in this territory, I have a small, very simple smiley face on my hand — it's fun, and cute, and I usually forget it's there, which makes it safe for a first tattoo in my opinion.
(Note though, that while hand and finger tattoos can be very tempting for a beginner, they will fade and stretch in strange ways, so it's best to have a good chat with a tattoo artist about it before you hang your hopes on a specific design.)
The butterfly — a classic and easy tattoo to introduce you to the world of animal-related designs. Of all the animal tattoo designs out there, which include things like panthers, tigers and eagles, the butterfly is by far the sweetest and most inoffensive.
Thanks to the butterfly's diversity as a design, depending on your preference, you can range from super detailed patterns to just a simple outline. Speaking as someone who has a butterfly tattoo across her chest, I can confirm it's a cutie!
6. Your star sign
If you're into astrology, getting your star sign tattooed might be the perfect first tattoo for you. And even if you're not into astrology, if you like the shape or animal that represents your star sign, it's still a simple, easy tattoo design with just the right amount of meaning.
Depending on your preference, you can opt for either the traditional zodiac symbol or the animal, giving you a bit of variety whilst still remaining a pretty easy first tattoo choice.
7. Your favourite tattoo artist's flash
This might be on the more adventurous side of first tattoo designs, but if there's a particular artist who you really love, a flash tattoo can be a perfect and super fun way to start.
If you're not familiar with the concept, flash tattoos are designs that a tattoo artist draws up first, which you then get to claim, as opposed to you bringing in a custom design for them. When doing flash, most artists will usually do a bunch of small, relatively simple designs which you can choose from. Note that once a flash design has been claimed, the artist will usually not do that exact one again, so it's best to get in quick if something catches your eye.
If flash tattoos intrigue you, we highly recommend you follow your favourite artists on Instagram and make sure to keep checking their Stories, as that's often where they post their flash pages.