Getting a tattoo can be daunting. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be and the better experience you’ll have overall with the procedure. It is of course important to do basic research and decide what to get with which artist, but there are other things to consider and more insider tips that will prove helpful in your own tattoo experience. Whether it’s your first or 20th, hopefully everyone can find something useful to aid in the ever-growing art of getting tattooed!
15. See what you want everyday
Print out the design you have in mind for your tat. Hang it somewhere so you can see it every day; by your bed, on your fridge, on your bathroom mirror, etc. If you don’t want to make any changes to it and still love the idea after, say, six months or a year, there’s a good chance you’ll still love having that image on your body in the long run. You don’t have to be married to the idea for 10 years before committing, but you’ll want to make sure it’s still what you want after seeing the design every day. You’re allowed to make alterations, change your mind, or grow out of the idea over time. But, if you’re still crazy about it as you were from day one — go for it! You can also create a temporary tattoo out of your image by researching homemade methods — such as printing on temporary tattoo paper — or uploading your image to such websites as www.stickeryou.com or temporarytattoos.com, where you can order custom temporary tattoos from. That way you can test it out right on your skin.
14. Research the shop and artists
It’s a good idea to research the tattoo shop and its artists before approaching them about arranging an appointment. Make sure the shop you have in mind is safe, clean, has good ratings from other customers, and that there is an artist working there whose work and style you admire. Most shops have websites with their artists’ portfolios, and if not you can probably find examples of their work in the shop or by request. You’ll want to go in knowing who you’d like to work on you; you don’t want to walk into a shop and find an artist whose main specialty is colored flowers when you’re in search of an artist skilled in reproducing black and white animals. Know what you’re going into and that you’ll be happy with the individual style of your chosen artist.
Words are a tricky thing in tattooing. Apart from infinite fonts and styles, words tend to be long strings in design — tricky to place on the curves of the body — and have the potential to be misspelled. When you’re planning words in your body art, have several different people proofread the design. Yourself, your tattoo artist, a friend, family member, even a stranger to get as many fresh eyes on it as possible to catch any errors. Double check each letter of each word and read it aloud to make sure it sounds grammatically correct. If you’re in any way unsure about the grammar or spelling, research well before the appointment so you’re prepared and not questioning yourself when you’re in the seat at the parlor.
12. Think ahead for aftercare
Your new tattoo will need immense TLC and healing after the appointment, so think ahead a few weeks or even months from your potential appointment. Are there any upcoming events you need the tattoo to be fully healed for? Is there any case where you’ll be wearing something that will irritate the tattoo — for example, tights over a healing leg tattoo or a seat belt for an extended period of time over a brand new chest piece? Are there any planned vacations where you won’t always have access to soap and warm water to clean your tattoo, or will be in a location where there is an excess of sun exposure? If there is such an event coming up too soon after your tattoo’s planned to be completed, change the appointment. You need ample time to put your full care and attention into your new tattoo in the right environment.
11. Plan ahead on designs
Unless you have all the money saved up, the designs finalized, and the tattoo artist prepared and willing, you most likely won’t get an entire tattoo sleeve done in one sitting. Getting smaller tattoos piece by piece over time is the more common route in getting a series of tattoos. Think ahead of any future tattoos in comparison to the current idea. Think of location, size, matching design elements if desired, placement, even color schemes. Have an end goal in mind and let your artist in on the plan, if you want to continue going to them to add on each piece. It’s no good to throw an image on somewhere and later regret it when you want to add more designs. It might not all work out with the previous tat. Even if it takes some extra time and plotting to come up with, it’s worth knowing ahead of time what will go where so you’re sure it will all work together.
Tattoo artists usually have busy, demanding lives. Along with their continual barrage of appointments, they have their own lives out of the shop. Don’t demand nor expect them to have an opening for the exact day and hour you have in mind; you’ll generally need to work on openings they have on their schedule. Negotiating on price will also likely not get you anywhere; tattooing ink and the equipment is expensive — not to mention gloves, needles, paper towels, razors, ointments, plastic wrap, and all the things needed to be replaced for each new client. They will count all that plus labor into their price. If you feel it’s too expensive, either save up or look into different shops for different prices — remember cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better. You might also be able to save an additional deposit by negotiating multiple tattoos done at the same appointment, since they only need to sanitize and use equipment for one session. Lastly, if you only bring a vague idea to your appointment instead of a picture, and are having the tattoo artist design it, show patience and respect when describing what you want. Work together to come up with the right thing. You can’t expect them to nail the image you have in mind on the first try. If you can’t get the idea across, either come back with a picture, try a different tattoo artist, or have a designer create what you have in mind. And of course, negotiate for their design services!
9. Bring outline and finished piece
Unless you want to discuss the design you want with your tattoo artist, it’s appreciated if you come fully prepared for your appointment with a quality image. Even better, if you have an outlined piece, to also have a copy of the outline along with the finished design. Any notes about the image you brought should be pointed out ahead of time — for example the blue color getting a lighter shade than the one in the image, any sizing needs, any other editing needed from paper to skin, etc. Being fully prepared with a complete idea will help the appointment go smoother and faster, with the artist being confident in what they’re doing for you. A quicker appointment will also help in the cost. Not to mention, the tattoo artist will probably be appreciative that you come with the idea fleshed out already and not put the entire responsibility of the design on them.
8. Check angles
When thinking of a placement or while getting your tattoo stencil, make sure you consider the image from all sides and angles — from the back, when relaxing your body, raising your arms, bent over, standing, sitting, etc. Do you want the words and/or image facing you? Is it okay if it’s done somewhere it might change as you move your body? If possible, when you get the tattoo stencil on your body, check it out in a large mirror so you can see how it will appear over the curves of your skin as you move. If you need to, even ask your artist or a friend to take a picture so you can see better. Oftentimes when printing the stencil, artists will print several copies in case the stencil needs to be move. So if you’re not completely sure about the location, it is no problem to ask the artist to adjust or change the size or position to get it right.
7. Eat something sweet
The higher your blood sugar is, the less likely you’ll feel faint. Adrenaline and a small amount of blood loss can also add to potential lightheadedness, so grabbing a candy bar or lollipop right before or during —if allowed— the appointment will help balance your sugar levels. Just don’t go crazy with a buffet of sweets beforehand as it will just make you jittery and hyper. A soda or hard candy before will do. Especially if you get tattooed between meals or on an empty stomach. Biting down on candy can also help you bear any pain and/or help take your mind off it. This will be a good excuse to treat yourself to a chocolate bar!
6. Drink water, eat, and sleep
It’s obvious you’ll need to drink plenty of water, but it helps to be extra hydrated in order for your skin to be more receptive to the ink and again to stave off any feelings of nausea. Again, don’t go overboard; you don’t want to have to take bathroom breaks every few minutes during the appointment! It’s also important to eat a healthy, hearty meal beforehand. Many people may feel too excited or nervous to eat, but it will help if you have at least a granola bar, smoothie, piece of fruit, etc. Just have regular, healthy meals and some extra water. Try not to treat your routine differently or try new food you’re not sure will agree with you. Don’t eat a huge meal and party at a bar to celebrate, overexert yourself with exercise, change your sleeping habits or not sleep at all. Combined with adrenaline and some normal bleeding from the needle, your body most likely won’t welcome a new routine well at this time.
5. Speak up
This is pretty much your one chance to get this right. Now is the time to speak up to your artist if you’re unsure about anything. Also don’t be afraid to vocalize when you need a bathroom break, time to stretch, if the pain level is too great, or if you’re otherwise uncomfortable or have any questions. It’s fine to ask if you need to pause. It is taxing to be tattooed — and to be a tattoo artist — so it’s perfectly understandable if anyone needs a break. Also, if the artist asks you any questions, it’s better to be honest than be unhappy after it becomes permanent.
4. Bring cash, tip artist
Many parlors accept specific kinds of payments, typically cash. Make sure you hit an ATM ahead of time. To get a rough estimate or quote beforehand, describe what you have in mind or send a picture with details . You could also work the other way around and see what the artist recommends with the maximum budget you propose. Oftentimes, price is dependent upon time. There might be an initial deposit fee to keep your appointment. It varies from shop to shop, so research what kind of payment you need to bring, what the deposits for appointments are, and a ballpark price for your idea. Trust their estimate — it’s hard to know exactly how long a piece will take with different clients, so time is a variable. If you have any doubts, bring more money than you think you’ll need just in case. It’s also a good habit to tip your artist, if the shop permits. You’re trusting this artist’s high level of expertise with something permanent on your body. If you’re happy with their work, which assuming you will be, you should tip them for their services. Tattooing is a skilled craft, and tipping a percentage of your total price shows you trust and appreciate their work.
3. Be prepared for social situations
Know that a tattoo will affect your social life. You will be getting a lot of attention, questions, compliments, stares, maybe even judgement, unwanted physical contact or insults. Be ready for any kind of conversation that comes your way about your tattoo, positive or negative. It’s a choice to have permanent words or art that someone can see and voice and opinion on or speak out about. Some people may love it, some may not, but as long as you do it doesn’t matter. If you’re willing to talk about your tattoo when it’s commented on, you’ll be able to field any incoming questions or looks that come your way about your well-deserved art. This brings us to the next point…
2. You don’t need to have a deep meaning for your tattoo
A common question people have about tattoos is, “What does it mean?” Believe it or not, you are in no way required to have a significant, or story behind your design. You can simply say, “I just liked the image, there isn’t really a deeper meaning,” or “it’s a long story, but basically for my grandfather,” or any other simple answer. Or, perhaps, the “reason” behind it is more personal. In that case, it’s perfectly valid to say, “it’s a personal story.” Getting your tattoo in the first place doesn’t have to be constructed around some sort of epiphany, metaphor, or profound meaning. As long as you love the tattoo to pieces is all that matters in this case. You’re not doing anything wrong by having something you just like to look at without a tale attached. After all, it’s on your skin and for you!
1. Take care of it
It’s imperative to care after your tattoo so it can heal properly. Ink forcefully introduced into your skin causes a shock that can make you feel sick a day or even a week after a session. Take it easy and follow the aftercare instructions your artist will give you. And NEVER scratch at your tattoo; you risk of pulling the ink out. The skin will flake, peel, and itch, but never pull off the skin or scratch. If you must scratch an itch, press, tap, or dot the location lightly with your finger without disturbing the skin. It’s not unusual for your tattoo to look a bit different than it did right after it was completed. Any colors may alter or darken over time as it settles and heals inside your skin, so wait until it’s fully healed to see how it will look. It’s also recommended to gently wash the tattoo a certain amount of times a day with certain soaps — check with your artist — and warm water and pat dry. Keep the tattoo moistened, either with a recommended lotion or ointment. Showering and sun exposure should be avoided for as long as possible. Sleeping with a plastic wrap covering the tattoo for a period of time can help protect the skin and retain moisture. Take great care during the healing period, and your tattoo will remain stunning a long time. You’ll ensure your tattoos longevity by always wearing sunscreen and moisturizing often with lotions. After all the planning, time, money, and pain you went through, you want this to last and stay beautiful after all!