Don’t Be a “Copytat”: Why Copying Tattoos Is Deeply Uncool

What’s the Big Deal With Copying a Tattoo? 

For many tattoo artists, finding out their design has been copied (or, put more bluntly, stolen) is absolutely terrible news. But for aspiring artists or those just starting out, it may be confusing. What’s the big deal with a copied tattoo, anyway? 

For a tattoo artist, a copied tattoo is literally bad for business. It devalues their brand because someone else is out there effectively profiting off of their cool ideas and hard work. 

Copied tattoos ultimately hurt clients, too. Part of what tattoo clients are paying for is getting a unique design from the original artist. Accidentally getting a stolen design will make them feel their tattoo is next to worthless when they find out.

copied tattoo
Hilarious copied tattoo

Rip-Off or Homage? 

The world of art is a lot like the world of music. And that means there is a fine line between ripping off someone else’s work and creating an homage.

Generally speaking, it’s the rip-off designs that annoy people in the tattoo community. This is when an artist tries to recreate every aspect of someone else’s design.

However, other artists may use a cool design as inspiration for their own version of the idea. Or maybe incorporate some of the original design into a larger tattoo. Generally, this is more acceptable because it involves creating something new instead of slavishly recreating the original.

The Magic Word Is “Please”

If you’re a tattoo artist and you just really want to recreate someone else’s design, there’s a simple rule you need to follow. Just ask them!

Now, be warned: most artists will simply say “no” and that is that. However, other artists may be okay if you give them credit as the original designer. Or they may request that you refer interested clients over to their Instagram page or online portfolio.

At the end of the day, we don’t really recommend trying to duplicate someone elses tattoo. But if you’re that interested, just ask. All they can say is “yes,” “no,” or “maybe,” and like the philosopher Meat Loaf might put it, “two out of three ain’t bad!”

tattoo copying


Importance of Cool Tattoo Ideas

We’ve talked a lot about why a copied tattoo is usually a bad idea. Now, let’s shift gears and talk about the importance of cool tattoo ideas.

Part of the fun of being a tattoo artist is working outside of those traditional, boring jobs your friends have. But you still have to worry about the same marketing concepts as any other small business, including your brand.

Even the best duplicated tattoo is just a copy of someone else’s good idea. By focusing on creating your own cool tattoo ideas, you’ll build your brand and generate awesome word of mouth from all your satisfied customers!

In fact, reDRAWING the work of artists you admire is one of the best ways to learn their style, as long as you aren’t intending to sell that work or post it for credit. Repetition is the mother of learning, and if you continuously draw and study the masters you’ll eventually start to find your own “voice”.


Now you know why copying a tattoo is a bad idea and you should always be original. But do you know how you can become more creative and innovative than ever before?

Keep reading blogs like Tattooing 101 to get all the juicy ideas to help inspire your next artistic creation! Keep drawing and practicing, and meet us in the forums to exchange notes and learn from fellow artists!

Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}



Best and Worst Character Tattoos of 2019

August 27, 2019

Image from SyFy For better or for worse, comic book movies are ...

Help Me Tattoo Forum merging with Tattooing 101!

September 12, 2021

What’s up Artists, Today we’re really excited to welcome the Help Me ...

Yoji Harada: The Passing of a Tattoo Legend

April 2, 2019

Image from Oh No They Didn’t The world of tattoos is a ...

Our Community

Join the Tattooing 101 Community today and get free, instant access to tools and resources that take you behind the curtain of all things tattooing. From apprentice to shop owner, we've got you covered.