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From stick-and-poke sets to sessions with the professionals, tattoos can make great gifts

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In need of an out-of-the-box gift idea for your edgy friend or spunky aunt? Get the gift that lasts—like, forever.

A tattoo! That's right y'all—ink.

From cheap stick-and-poke tattoo sets to personal tattoo guns to sessions with San Luis Obispo's professional artists, tattoos of all kinds make for thrilling and customizable gifts.

Tattoos are becoming increasingly popular across the globe, and according to a Dalia Research survey conducted in 2018, roughly 38 percent of the 9,054 individuals surveyed in 19 countries said they had at least one tattoo. And it's not just the young 'uns, according to Eric Jones, tattoo artist and owner of True West Tattoo.

"Everyone gets tattooed now," Jones said. "It's crazy."

STICK-AND-POKE Home stick-and-poke tattoos like this one take time and research but are fun to give and receive once you get the hang of it. - PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
  • Photo By Kasey Bubnash
  • STICK-AND-POKE Home stick-and-poke tattoos like this one take time and research but are fun to give and receive once you get the hang of it.

He might be biased, but Jones thinks tattoos make for great gifts.

Large tattoos can cost hundreds of dollars, but he said the price flexibility inherent to gift cards allows buyers to spend within their means. Some customers go all out and put hundreds on gift cards, he said, and others do $50 or so—money that couldn't cover an entire tattoo but could definitely contribute to the cause. With True West's minimum price for a single tattoo set at $80, which is enough to buy what Jones calls a "college Pinterest size" tattoo, he said most customers stay somewhere within the $100 to $150 range.

The gift of a tattoo is also a great way to incentivize those on the fence, Jones said of those wary individuals who might want a little ink but are nervous about the pain or bothered by the cost. Better yet, True West is giving out one free item of apparel—shirts, hats, patches, etc.—with every tattoo this holiday season.

But, Jones said, this kind of present has to go to the right person.

"I'm not buying lingerie for my grandma," he said.

At San Luis Tattoo Company, owner and tattoo artist Daniel Derrick offers private, one-on-one sessions at a $200 an hour minimum, and his wife and business partner offers cosmetic tattooing services at varying prices. It's a higher than average rate, but Derrick said it's worth it for the highly personalized experience. And, he said, gift cards are available online, so you don't even have to leave the house to buy one.

If you want your loved one to unwrap something a little more exciting than a gift certificate, however, maybe homemade tattoos are the present for you.

DIY TATTOOS Tattooing kits like this one are sold on Amazon and have everything you need for a great tattoo (except the professional artist, that is), and at a fraction of the cost of a professional session. - SCREENSHOT FROM AMAZON.COM
  • Screenshot From amazon.com
  • DIY TATTOOS Tattooing kits like this one are sold on Amazon and have everything you need for a great tattoo (except the professional artist, that is), and at a fraction of the cost of a professional session.

Home tattooing kits—which typically include ink, needles, gloves, a tattoo gun, and a power source—are available on Amazon for as little as $46. Home stick-and-poke kits cost even less.

Like all things DIY, these kits require a lot of research into safety practices and tattooing techniques, but if you think your giftee has the patience and creative skill to tattoo, home tattooing can be the hobby of a lifetime. Literally. ∆

New Times Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash has tattoos of all kinds, including those in the "regrettable" category. She can be reached at kbubnash@newtimesslo.com.

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