Besides reaching the decision to have a tattoo at all, the next big decision is what design to choose. Tattoos can look really cool, provided a lot of thought has gone into choosing your design, and based clearly on the understanding that this is a permanent marking on your body. Removal is expensive, painful and not always effective; thus, it's best to make the right choice from the outset, to avoid tears and regrets later.
Hopefully you won't just wake up and think to yourself, "yeah, let's get tattooed today." If you do, then rethink, and fast. The more planning that goes into your design of choice, the more likely that you will enjoy your tattoo now, into the near future and through to much later in your life.
Avoid making any rash decisions. The bad body art comes from making spontaneous decisions to go and have a tattoo done on a spur of the moment. If you're getting a tattoo because you're drunk or high, rebellious or your friends are goading you, then you're getting a tattoo for all the wrong reasons and the choice you make is likely to reflect this lack of forethought. Things you will regret include:
Any tattoo that looks like genitalia. Think about that, very carefully but not too long because the answer is simple: Just don't do it.
Anything to do with high school or college (you do realize that it's over soon enough, right?)
Anything that mars your wedding dress, upstages your honeymoon, or gives your children an odd impression of you...
Anything written in a language you're not fluent in. Those Chinese characters might look sexy until a native Chinese speaker tells you what it really means is "object for sale", "I like mold for breakfast" or "horny goat"
Anything with the current squeeze's name on. It might feel like the two of you will last forever but if the tattoo has more chances of success in lasting the distance than the pair of you, this is plain dumb. The number one tattoos that artists are asked to cover up, after homemade tattoos, are names. If the person is not dead, or your child, names are usually not the best idea.
Anything faddish right now. A band, TV show, cartoon or comic book character you love today may not be something you want to carry around forever on your skin. It could date you more than your Botoxed skin will ever give away...
Slow down. You have your whole life to look at this tattoo, so some good reflection before getting it makes absolute good sense. Most of all, will you be happy with this design in 5 to 10 years time? Think well forward, too. Is your tattoo going to look good even when you're old and wrinkled? Chances are, a tribal dragon, Disney character or Hello Kitty won't.
Think about how big of an impact the design has on you. If you've fallen in and out of like with other designs like this before, then wait a few years before you decide to get it.
On the other hand, if a design you're thinking about is something that represents or has given you hope in a rough time in your life, perhaps helped you find out who you are, or something along those lines, then it might be the right choice, as that monumental self-change is going to guide much of the who you become for the rest of your life.
Consider where you want the tattoo. This will have some influence on the design, especially if it's an intimate design. For any parts of your body that you show regularly (and that is a lot of body if you're a bikini or board shorts wearer), then that doesn't leave much space for intimate tattoos that you don't want your grandmother seeing.
Consider how likely it will be that you will need to cover the body area where your tattoo is to go with clothing, or otherwise, at some point. For example, if you're a female, will you feel comfortable wearing evening wear such as backless or strapless dresses if you have a back tattoo?
Think about future career options. Is a tattoo likely to be an issue or even a liability if it's showing with the expected work clothing or uniform? This may well depend on what industry you intend to work in but remember that with increased fluidity, people are changing careers constantly, so you may not ever be able to be sure what you'll do down the track. Keep this in mind when choosing placement of a tattoo.
Think before you ink. Think about it a lot. When you are certain, wait some more just to make sure. Ultimately, a well chosen tattoo design can be a thing of beauty and a confidence enhancement. A poorly chosen one done on a whim can leave you unhappy for all time. Which outcome will you choose?