Tattoo Artists' Worst Customers

Inking people is no easy task. A tattoo artist requires more than just creative vision and a steady hand; they also need a poised disposition to deal with problematic clients.

From screamers and squirmers to the downright difficult, these people should’ve gotten the boot before the ink was dry.

1. The Branding Of Princess Bubby

I had a couple come in—the girl had just turned 18, and the guy looked to be in his late 30s. She said that he was going to pick whatever he wanted for her tattoo.

He chose to have his name and then “owns me” written across her lower stomach. Nowadays, I'd turn something like that down, but this was when I first started tattooing. The whole experience was cringey enough—but it got even worse. 

I was working in a really sketchy shop where my boss was just a massive money grabber, so I didn't really have much of a choice but to do it.

So, she was getting the tattoo done, and all the while he was saying how they were coming back the next day for him to get her nickname. You'll never guess what it was...he wanted to get “Princess Bubby” on his neck.

He kept going outside on his phone, and when he came back, she was saying, “I know you're talking to other girls, don't lie to me,” and he was just laughing in the cockiest way.

Towards the end, she looked at him with big puppy dog eyes and said, “I love you,” and he just replied, “I know”. Needless to say, he never came back for “Princess Bubby”.


tattoo artist  wearing black and yellow plaid shirt

Maria Geller, Pexels

2. Some Inky On His Dinky

An artist friend of mine was putting some art on a biker dude who was surrounded by other biker friends. They were all older and really cool, and they started talking about their weirdest tattoos.

They all took turns, and then the oldest guy of the bunch got up and he shocked everyone in the room—without warning, he whipped out his twig and berries to show that it was all tattooed to resemble a turtle with a shell and a face.

My artist buddy said he would have a hard time complaining about any of his clients because there's a tattoo artist out there somewhere who had to tattoo a turtle on some rowdy biker's junk.


Tattoo artist doing a tattoo

cottonbro studio, Pexels

3. More Than What I Bartered For

Years ago, I had ink on the inside of both biceps, and I decided to start on at least a half sleeve on each side.

I was making good money doing web design at the time, but being the cheapskate that I was, I ended up trading a website for tattoo work at what I assumed was a shop in a city a few hours away from where I lived.

I did half the website work up front, then, having already approved the artwork for each arm by email, headed to the "shop" to start that zapping. I should've headed home when the address ended up being a house, not a shop.

I should've headed out when the artist showed me his unlicensed dog breeding operation in the backyard. I should've hit the road when the stencils didn't really match the approved artwork. But I didn't—and that was the worst decision ever.

I had the line work get started over each arm. About halfway through the first arm lines, we were zapping away in the studio, which was a small bedroom in the house.

We were having a nice conversation, where I was learning the big, intimidating dude doing the tattooing learned his craft in the pokey, from which he was currently on parole.

Suddenly, the ink-slinging was interrupted by hammering on the nearby front door of the house, followed by unintelligible screaming. The dude told me to chill and went to answer the door.

I listened to screaming, and a huge argument broke out for ten minutes, escalating quickly. The front door suddenly slammed shut, although the yelling continued outside.

The guy suddenly came running into the "studio" and told me to get up; he needed my help. He yanked a cheap HP multifunction printer off the computer desk in the corner and shoved it into my arms, then told me to wait a minute.

He left the room, and I heard doors slamming, and cabinets banging, all competing with the fracas in Caracas coming from the front porch.

He came back into the "studio" a few minutes later and balanced on the printer were multiple plastic grocery bags stuffed to capacity with pistols and ammo.

He told me to take my load of value-priced office equipment and ammo, go around back to my truck, hide them inside, and go hide a few miles away for 30 minutes, and he'll text me when it's clear.

His look made it clear this was not optional. I did as instructed. While hiding in an alley, I looked at the start of my tattoo and realized I was not impressed.

I wasn’t sure what to do in this situation. I hid the stuff well in the backseat of my truck and called my brother to tell him what happened. At least somebody would know where I was in case, I'm caught somehow with what I assumed to be hot goods.

Eventually, I got bored, found a good parking spot, and wandered into a nearby bar to calm my nerves. Finally, the text message came in, and it was clear to head back to the house/tattoo shop.

I carefully drove the speed limit back to the house, and all was quiet.

I headed inside to the "studio" with my loot, dumped it on the couch, and asked him what was going on.

It turned out the altercation at the door was with a 70-something-year-old lady. She had come to him last week to schedule and arrange payment for a tattoo session for her boyfriend, an 80-year-old guy.

He had all of his ex-girlfriend's names tattooed down his arm throughout his life. She traded him an HP multifunction printer to have lines tattooed through all of the previous girls' names on his arm and add hers to the list.

When the guy came in, he was fine with adding his current girlfriend's name to his arm but not with crossing out the names of the old ones. My ink-slinging buddy did what the guy told him to.

The lady had just seen the tattoo, was not happy with the results, and showed up at the house/studio furious with the artist, demanding her printer back.

He apparently got angry during the argument, and she called the authorities. He panicked—being on parole and all—and couldn't have any arms in the house, which was where I came in.

I was pretty mad, not wanting to be involved in any of this in the first place.

I just wanted to build my website and get my tattoos. You'd think I learned my lesson, but I had him finish up the arm we started that same day, and I ended up going back a second time to outline the other arm.

I’ve been working on fixing them ever since.


Man in red t-shirt in a car

Harrison Vásquez, Pexels

4. Too Much To Handle

I have an intricate sleeve on my left arm that took several years to finish. One time, I was getting work done, and someone a few booths down from me started whispering, which turned into screaming, then crying, and more screaming.

Finally, I saw the tattoo artist just walk out shaking his head and walk down the hall saying, "I'm out". Another artist went and checked on the client, who was crying, and she had to be shown out while she was hobbling.

She was getting a small butterfly on her ankle and apparently could not handle it. It was really uncomfortable for everyone involved.


master tattoo artist prepares tools for tattooing

Mikhail_Kayl, Shutterstock