Tattoo Artists Dish On Customers Who Bailed In The Middle Of Their Tattoos

Body art has become very popular and more mainstream than in the past. But getting a tattoo still involves a mechanized needle puncturing the skin and injecting ink into the dermis or second layer of skin just below the epidermis.

As expected, being poked over and over with a needle hurts.

Reddit user Semperspy asked "Tattoo artists of reddit: Has anyone ever chickened out mid-tattoo? How do you handle this?"

Here are the war stories from tattoo artists and recipients of their artwork.

Brush it Off

My friend in high school went to go get a tattoo to celebrate graduating, and she got the first line drawn. Couldn't handle the pain very well and also had doubts about getting one at all.

So now she has what looks like a hair on her shoulder blade.

What's the T?

Didn't chicken out, but aged 13 we dared each other to give ourselves tattoos. I went with a cross on my calf. Ran out of ink most of the way through, so, over 30 years later, still have T on my calf.

Bad Dream

My tattoo artist told me a story about how he was doing a pretty large piece on one of his clients, and the guy fell asleep about 1/3 of the way in.

When the guy woke up, he freaked out and had no recollection of what was happening - he stopped the tattoo right there, and from what I hear, it's never been finished.

Long Day

Was getting a piece on my side continued since the first appointment was getting the outline done, and asked the guy to stop about an hour before the shop closed. I was booked in for the whole day and had been getting work done for about 4.5-5 hours (11am to 4:30pm, including a break) and about ten-fifteen minutes before stopping the artist said "We've done a lot more than I expected to today, so if you feel like you've had enough that's completely fine".

Leafy Greens

I only saw someone leave with a half finished tattoo once. I worked in a state where it was legal to tattoo minors with parental consent, and our shop policy left it up to the discretion of the artist. There were two who were generally okay with it as long as the tattoo wasn't vulgar or drug-related and could be covered easily. So a 16 year old comes in from out of state with her mom and wants a fern leaf on her upper rib cage. The person at the desk warns her that it can be a tender spot, but she insists that's where she wants it. Okay. Five minutes in, she starts sniffling. Five minutes later, it's escalated to full blown sobbing. Her mom was trying to talk her down and the artist was trying to push through it, but she ended up tapping out with like a third of a leaf on her. She said she was going to come back and finish it later, but she never did while I was working there.

Alcohol & Ink Don't Mix

I have tattoos into the double figures, I also got my first ones very early - which made my impressionable friends want to also get them.

The day before one of my friends got their very first tattoo, I spoke to them and advised them not to drink that night, since it thins the blood & also to make sure they have something to eat the next morning and take some Lucozade with them. As blood sugar dropping during tattooing was fairly common.

They went out and got drunk & went to the tattooist without having any breakfast, without taking a sugary drink with them. I went along with him because I was getting tattooed immediately afterwards.

The tattooist stuck the needle in his arm & blood poured out, my friend went white & had to take an almost immediate break. He was immediately offered a sugary drink. However it took a good 20-30 minutes before he was ready to continue & almost quit immediately.

Primal Screams

I was really nervous when I got my first tattoo, so the artist did a quick dot just to show me what it felt like. After that I was good. Once it was all done and I was at the counter paying he told me a story about when he'd been working for a few months and this girl brought her friend into the shop. The friend wanted a butterfly tattoo on her ankle. The girl was like, "she's got a low pain tolerance, but I think she can handle it."

He said once the needle touched her skin she started screaming bloody murder. He stopped, she said, "no it's ok, sorry keep going" and then started screaming again. She was so loud that an employee of the coffee shop next door came over to make sure no one was getting murdered or anything.

She wouldn't stop screaming so eventually the artist was like, "sorry, I can't do this" and kicked them out.

So now whenever he finds out it's someone's first tattoo, he always does that first tiny dot and if they freak out (which he said hasn't happened since) he'll refuse to do the tattoo.

It's Not Easy Being Green

My aunt has a green circle on her buttock because she chickened out almost immediately after starting. Luckily it can be mostly hidden even in swimwear.

Artist Tap-Out

I didn't chicken out but my tattoo artist did.

I was torn between two similar designs. I decided to go for the smaller one, see how it felt and go back to have it expanded if I wanted to swap to the larger design.

Went back and the shop had gone out of business.

Naval Exercises

I got some ink when I graduated from A School in the Navy. Went out with a few friends. Mine was pretty simple and small. It's a caduceus that tapers into an anchor at the bottom with my enlistment date (I later had my FMF badge added and eventually my discharge date).

Wasn't too bad.

My buddy decided he wanted his whole calf done with this incredibly elaborate (expensive) design that would have like this sea goblin rising up from waves.

the guy was bragging about this tat for weeks leading up to it. After about five or so minutes the crying became audible and he noped out officially at around the 10 minute mark. The artist got part of the outline for the sea goblin thing, so he was left with this outline that looked somewhat like the figure in Munch's The Scream.

Excessive Force

Coming from the flip-side of this as someone who left in the middle of the tattoo:

My tattoo artist decided to get into a shouting match with his boss, and was bearing down HARD on my foot with the tattoo gun. I told him to get off me and that I was done.

He handled it by saying I was a wuss (my foot was bleeding and it was my fifth tattoo, had never bled before) and then backpedaled and asked when I'd be coming back to "finish his vision."

I had paid in advance and just never went back. Still have scarring.

Gimme a K

Not a tattoo artist, but my grandfather got a tattoo of my grandmother's name on his arm years ago. He backed out when the tattoo artist got halfway through her name.

My grandmother's name is Kim.

Design Change

Not a tattoo artist but I chickened out. I've got a tattoo on my belly all the way to my sternum. I scheduled 4- 4hour sessions to complete it. In the middle of the third session I told the artist to make it looked finished because I wouldn't be back for a while. It hurt so much and was so tender that I just couldn't take it anymore. It looks good. It was designed to be mostly black with a few highlights of color but it's just black and I'm ok with that.

Young and Foolish

When we were both 14, my friends mom let my friend get a tattoo, but he immediately chickened out, so he ended up with this 1cm long black line on his shoulder.

Tickle Your Ribs

I got my tattoo done and had no idea what I was in for. My rib piece is the largest tattoo on my body and was the most painful. I only sat through half of the color and waited almost 2 years to get the other half colored in.

Location, Location, Location

I was doing a tattoo of the letter g with tiny wings on a 30 something guys pelvis right above his member. I had to shave him and everything. I did one little curve of one tiny point of the wing and he makes me stop. It was a $60 tattoo so it was tiny to begin with.

I thought he was getting the g wing tattoo cause his last name started with that letter. Nope it was a tribute to his recently dead son. To be hidden by hair once it grew back in.

He realized as the sound and pain set in that he was probably making a bad decision. Awkward. Nowhere at all did he even mention it was a child memorial tattoo. I would have immediately counseled for a better spot for it. So we stopped and he paid 60 bucks for a squiggle.


I'm not a tattoo artist, but I am 80% covered. I've seen some interesting things in the tattoo shops I've gone to. There was a guy who wanted his entire back done in one session, well...after some convincing the tattoo artist tells the client, "Lets just bang out the outline. That can take up a good chunk of day..." The guy ok'ed the idea. Leaves to grab a soda and some food(it's a bad idea to get tattooed on an empty stomach). Guy falls asleep mid tattoo, this is pretty common for people to doze off. The artist decides he wants to take a break and stretch. The client isn't waking up. The tattoo artist and a few other people in the shop have to really rustle this dude. After the guy wakes up people ask if he feels like he passed out, the dude didn't look like he was pale or super sweaty like someone who has fainted would look. The client goes and tells everyone he took a sleep aid because he wanted to get as much done and not punk out.

Start Small

From what my tattoo artist friend says it's pretty common for guys to think they have to act all tough and get it done in one go despite warnings, only to chicken out part way through due to the pain, especially in more sensitive areas. It's rarer for people to completely chicken out and be left with a permanently unfinished tattoo though. He has had a few people decide they want a smaller design part way though as they can't stand the pain. He usually tries to start in a place where he can still leave them with something decent if they back out, for example he had a woman ask for a fairy surrounded by flowers on her arm, she backed out shortly after he started but luckily he had started with the flowers so she was left with three small flowers on her arm that looked alright on their own.

In the Nick of Time

Guy I knew was getting a tattoo of his fiance's name with some design around it, artist was doing the designs first and when he got to the name, guy answered his phone and just started sobbing and told the artist to stop.

Turns out, his brother called him from their house and saw the fiance doing the deed with a mutual friend.


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