There is currently a big trend with little tattoos. You see it all the time on social media, pictures of these small pieces no bigger than an inch yet absolutely packed with fine lines and tiny details. While these are beautiful works, unfortunately they tend not to work.

We hear it here quite a bit: “I want small and delicate, with lots of detail.” One of the fundamental rules of tattooing, which you can bend a little but never totally break, is the greater the level of detail, the bigger the piece needs to be. As a tattoo ages, the ink will disperse and settle to a small degree, spreading out in the skin, which means the smaller the tattoo the more noticeable this dispersion becomes. So that tiny one inch sunset on your ribs now looks like a permanent bruise a year or two later.

Now as I said before there are ways to bend the rules, but that depends on your artist. A talented artist can determine necessary details and simplify an image to have a similar appearance while maintaining the integrity of the tattoo, though often this can’t work with text. When it comes to text there is no way to maintain legibility if you go too small because eventually all the spaces between the lines of each letter will blur together, those e’s will close right up and don’t even get me started on g’s! So while you may be able to shrink a face down and keep it looking like a face with some clever lines and shading there is no way to make the word ‘faith’ only a quarter inch long and keep it legible a year later.