Tattoo designs are often taken from pictures on the web, books, logos or artworks available at the tattoo studio. However for my latest ink, I decided to have a go at drawing the design myself, and you can be the judge of the final result.

I wanted to get a tattoo in honour of my late grandparents, who may have not agreed with being inked up,but  would be touched nevertheless. Rather than just getting their names written in a nice font, or getting some roses to represent my Nana like a lot of people seem to get, I wanted something unique and personal and not only relevant to them, but relevant to myself (although my Nana was an avid gardener and her favourite flower did happen to be a rose).

My sister, my Nana & I on our back veranda, 2004.

When it came to actually deciding on what to get, the first thing I did was ask my family what they thought about when they thought of Nana and Grandpa. While I was able to reminisce on great memories of them, I still didn’t have anything in particular to work off; my Grandpa started and ran our well-known family hardware store, and my Nana was very creative with her pottery, her sewing and her gardening.

In an attempt to stimulate my creative process, I looked through all of my old photo albums – I am so thankful that my mum was the type of parent to photograph everything. I came across a few pictures that seemed to hit me like a brick wall – like I could remember those days like they were yesterday.

To represent my Nana, I picked my love of books; Nana passed her love of reading onto my mum, who passed it on to me, and I can recall Nana buying me the whole set of C.S. LewisThe Chronicles of Narnia for my birthday one year (in which I loved so much I got a drawing from the book tattooed on my other arm).

My sister & I sitting on Grandpa’s lap at our dining table drinking from his teacup, 2001.

For my Grandpa, I drew a cup of tea, because when I was a little girl, almost every night without fail he would come next door to our house after dinner to share a cuppa with us. In the spines of the books,  I included their very own handwriting, taken out of my old birthday cards from them.

The two birthday cards that I used, and my final design drawn in felt tip pen.

I did a number of sketches (and a lot of erasing!) before settling on a design that I was happy with and looked in scale. To help with the positioning, I actually set up some books and a mug in front of me to model off. I also scanned the cards into my printer and stuck copies of the handwriting onto my drawing, to play around with the position and avoid cutting up the original cards.

When it came to choosing an artist or particular tattoo parlour to get it done, I went with the people who did my previous tattoos, as I loved the way he’d done my other ink and I trusted his artistic opinion, particularly when it came to adding shading and making the handwriting bigger.

A word of advice for those of you seeking a tattooist: research, research, research! Ask your friends, ask your family, ask customers at work when you serve someone with an awesome tattoo! Look up places on Instagram and see what their work is like. Someone on your Facebook feed got some fresh ink you love? Ask them where! When it comes to getting high quality results, qualified artists and hygienic service, it is better to consider paying that little bit extra or waiting a little longer for a booking.

I had my tattoo done by the talented @mattbinskintattoos at his studio (Photo:


After an hour and a half of gripping the chair, this is the final result, with some minor adjustments including extra shading, bigger writing and bolder outlines:

tattoo result.jpg

I am so happy with the outcome – now I get to take a piece of both of my grandparents with me wherever I go. After this experience, I think drawing up your own design really adds to the significance of it all, and if you’re getting a tattoo in memory of a loved one, I would definitely recommend either using something you drew yourself, or perhaps an artwork or sketch from that particular loved one, if they were a creative person themselves.

Would you consider drawing your own tattoo design? Have you got a tattoo already that you drew yourself? Let me know in the comments below!