‘I’m a Professional Tattoo Artist, and These Are the 5 Things I Wish Couples Knew Before Getting Matching Tattoos’
Bennifer, oh Bennifer. We’re only two months into 2023, and yet the recently reunited Hollywood duo—Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck—continues to dominate the celebrity gossip gamut as one of the world’s most closely watched couples. This week, J.Lo took Instagram by storm with a now-viral post sharing her and Affleck’s latest public gesture of love: matching tattoos, complete with J + B initials.
As expected, the comments section was aswarm with mixed opinions. Some congratulated the star-studded pair on their new ink, while others sneered, claiming that matching couples tattoos are the proverbial “kiss of death” for relationships.
If you belong to the former, you may be considering getting a matching tattoo to celebrate your relationship, too. You may even have a Pinterest dedicated to them (we don’t judge!). Before you follow in Bennifer’s footsteps, tattoo artists recommend considering these five precautions.
5 things to consider before getting a couples tattoo, according to tattoo artists
1. Not all skin tattoos the same way
Just as no two bodies are exactly alike, no two people will tattoo identically. If you’re 100-percent committed to the idea of a couples tattoo, make sure you take into account your partner’s skin color, texture, and age. Pigments won’t necessarily look the same on different skin tones, and certain styles of tattoos don’t read well on textured skin as compared to smoother skin.
American traditional tattoo artist Brandon Kemp says that different skin types yield different healing results, too. For example, while a celebratory engagement or wedding finger tattoo might heal well on some, it can fade into a black-and-blue blur on others.
“One of them might have a great experience and the healing works out well; the other one might be the opposite,” says Kemp, “and now you've got a couple who's disgruntled because one person has a really good looking tattoo, while the other one doesn't. That's just the nature of it. Everybody’s skin is different.”
2. Laser tattoo removal is expensive, painful, and doesn’t always work
If you subscribe to the “if we break up, I can just get it removed” line of thinking, here is a gentle-but-necessary reality check. The laser tattoo removal process is done in several sessions (typically six, but can be many more) over the course of 12 to 24 weeks. On average, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, one laser tattoo removal session costs $423, not including post-treatment expenses like healing ointments. Depending on the size and style of tattoo, you could wind up spending over $3,000 to get the inked memory of your ex removed.
What’s more, tattoo removal sessions are pretty quick, but they can also be incredibly painful for some. Joi Bailey, a professional tattoo artist at Genesis Tattoo Studio in Addison, Texas, says that the pain of her laser tattoo removal was incomparable to the initial pain of getting inked.
“I had a little bit of laser done on my finger,” she says, “and I didn't go back for more sessions. I was like, you know what, I think I like this tattoo now.”
Finally, laser tattoo removal isn’t perfect. Some ink colors, like pale blue and green, just don’t lift easily in removal sessions and can get left behind. Older tattoos that have been exposed to years of sunlight are easier to remove, while newer tattoos take a longer time to see results. Aftercare, if not done properly, can result in permanent visible skin damage. And unfortunately, it’s fairly common to be left with some kind of ink residue in your skin post-treatment.
3. Images are easier than script to get right
Script tattoos leave little to the imagination. A small object like a take-out box from your favorite Chinese restaurant or a bouquet of flowers from your first date, on the other hand, can tell a story that, should you (fingers crossed you don’t) break up, may be remembered more fondly after the split than the name or initials of your ex.
“I'm actually going to do a couples tattoo [like this] next week,” says Kemp. “They're doing these cute little frogs that I'm excited about doing, it's a married couple and they have a son together.”
If you’re dead set on getting “Mary Forever” tattooed on your wrist, make plans to go to an artist that’s skilled and trained in script tattoos, says Bailey. Scriptwork takes precision and an attention to detail, and without the right artist, you could wind up with a “Mary Forver” tattoo instead.
4. Get something in your own personal style
You’re going to have to look at your couples tattoo for (potentially) the rest of your life, so you may as well pick an ink style that resonates with you. If you’re already tattooed, consider picking something that meshes well with your existing body art. A complete deviation from your personal aesthetic will stand out more in the future, and will be harder to appreciate should you and your lover part ways.
On that same note, pick an artist that specializes in your preferred style, says Kemp. If you want a black-and-gray tattoo, go to an artist that specializes in black and gray tattoos. The key to getting a tattoo you’ll love for years to come, he adds, starts with hiring an artist that’s just as excited about your future tattoo as you are.
5. Resist getting one on impulse
We know, we know. Time is a social construct, love is love, and life is short. Taking into account the length and history of your relationship, though, is a healthy precaution. New love is exciting but fragile, and getting a permanent tattoo for your partner can add an uncomfortable amount of weight to it.
Even if you’re in a LTR, resist the urge to walk into your nearest tattoo parlor on a whim because longevity of your relationship aside, getting a spur-of-the-moment tattoo can be risky regardless of the reason.
“The tattoo advice I like to give to everybody is to just do your research,” says Kemp—walking into an unfamiliar studio, without any prior knowledge of the team’s skills and attitudes, could result in a tattoo you’ll regret. “If you're wanting a couples tattoo, really, really think about what you want.” Like a romantic partnership, it’s not a decision to be entered in to lightly.
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