Don’t be a Tattoo Copy Cat

Imagine you come up with a really great concept for a new piece.  You’ve done your homework, found an artist you really love, pitched the idea and booked the appointment.  You trust your artist with your idea and wait until the exciting day your appointment arrives.  The design is perfect, even more than you imagined!!  You get your wonderful new tattoo applied and take a photo to show off to your friends or to share over instagram or pinterest.  Your artist is proud of their work, and they too, take a picture and add it to their portfolio & share it online!  Very exciting indeed, they’re so stoked on the piece, they want to show it off!

Everything is roses.

Fast forward a few months, sometimes only a few weeks or days, and you come across your tattoo on the internet again, though, it’s not on you.  It’s heart breaking, someone has ripped off your EXACT IDEA!  Not only that, but the artist ripped off another artists work, entirely, claiming it to be there own!!   There are differences of course, probably most are negligible, it may have some new script added to it, or some colours & placement are different, but it’s definitely not applied as well.

What do you do?  What does your artist do?

Unfortunately, this happens ALL the time.  And sadly, there is not a lot that can be done, other than educate.

What we try and tell clients when they come in with a picture of a tattoo they want is “We do not copy tattoos”, period.  We follow with telling them that particular tattoo belongs to someone else, and we can design something original and unique for them.  We try to persuade them in a positive manner, most of the time, they totally understand.

The fault of copy cat designs is not entirely on the client, often, they don’t know any better.  For the most part, it is the copy cat artists fault as they DO know better and it is their job to help educate the client.

Things to keep in mind if an artist is willing to directly copy a piece:

  • The artist has zero integrity, they are being lazy and taking your money that is not earned in honesty.
  • They are taking advantage of you as an uninformed client and also taking advantage of another artists hard work.
  • Their art & skill are also not up to snuff.  Any true artist would want to put their own spin on a piece, a little bit of themselves into a tattoo.
  • Pride of craftsmanship, if you encounter an artist that has no qualms with copying another artist’s piece, you know you’ve encountered someone who does not care, do you really want to be tattooed by someone who doesn’t care?

Mitch Allenden was kind enough for me to use some images of his work being plagiarized.

Ultimately and sadly it comes down to plagiarism and after you’ve been tattooed with a copy cat design, you are branded for life as a copy cat.  The world is both very big and also very small.  What would you say if you walk into a coffee shop while on vacation and someone comments on your tattoo, you’re stoked, but it turns out the person commenting on your tattoo is the original owner.  They’re choked and you’re left embarrassed.

Copy Cats

Tattoos are a wonderful form of expression.  If you see a design or style by an artist, see if you can get tattooed by that artist!  Sometimes it requires travel (what an awesome souvenir!), or sometimes they travel to conventions that are close to home!  If you find a design you like, investigate local artists with a similar style, bring your reference into them and see what they can spin out for you!  You will be far more happy with an original piece, done just for you, than a poorly executed copy cat job!  Your artist will be thankful to have a chance at a fun new piece as well!

Here are some great links coming from an artists perspective!  Give ’em a read through!

Follow my tattoo boards on pinterest!


11 thoughts on “Don’t be a Tattoo Copy Cat

    • It’s a real bummer how much this happens. Maybe that artist figured they had changed it enough because the floral is different. Maybe the client was dead set on that design and was pushy. It’s a shame and is more and more of an issue. Artists want to share their work out of pride, to get recognized and hopefully garner new clients. Meanwhile unethical tattooers or overly entitled clients feel they can help themselves to someone else’s art. I feel bad for both the artist and the original client when pieces are ripped off.

  1. Pingback: Thinking of getting a tattoo on your finger or hand? | Margot Meanie

  2. Pingback: first time tattoo advice | Margot Meanie

  3. I’m working on a thigh piece of a leopard, and I am looking through Pinterest Google and Instagram and saving pics for the purpose of placement taking real photos (I want it colorful and realistic) meshing together an album to serve as inspiration only. Is this okay? But discuss HOW we can turn it into an original masterpiece.

    • Building a group of reference is strongly encouraged and the best way to go about it. Once you have found an artist you want to work with, take it in and tell them what it is you like about each piece. Then leave it with them and trust that they will come up with the best art for you!

  4. I almost always have a reference piece or two for the idea but let my artist run with it. He hasn’t failed me yet. Proud to say none of my five are copy cat tattoos.

  5. So you only really talked about if the client brings in photos of tattoos. I have a friend who drew me this really cool picture that I want to get done as a tattoo. If I have the original drawing and the artists permission, is that fine to get done?

    • That’s definitely ok, though I would allow your artist to make changes if they suggest it, as not all art is ‘tattooable’. They can take the original art and tweak it to make it the best tattoo possible that will hold up over time! cheers!!

  6. I want to get my first tattoo soon and get a sleeve. There is one tattoo that someone has that I really really like. If I took it to the artist, could he help come up with something like the one I like while keeping it original? I’ve been getting a bunch of pictures of similar tattoos that I like as a reference for when I finally do go.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s