Help for First-Timers: Guide to Getting Your First Tattoo

Getting inked can be an intensely exciting experience. You will always remember your first tattoo, who it was that did it, and how you felt while getting it done. It’s something that will stay with you forever, as indelibly etched into your mind as the tattoo is on your flesh.

Getting the right tattoo, the first time, can be a bit more stressful. A lot of time and effort should go into the process of getting your tat (yeah it does involve work on your part). If you take a few careful steps along the way, you’ll end up with a piece that you can be proud to wear.

Planning Your Tattoo

Most of the steps involved in planning your tattoo assume that you are going to have a custom designed piece, and that you are going to make an appointment to have a reputable artist working with you. These two very basic, essential things will make you much happier in the end. My first tattoo was a simple kanji piece, but it was something that I drew myself and turned out so well that both my sister and I had the same piece done. No one else will ever have this tattoo, because it is unique and original âÂ?¦ it means something to me beyond the design itself. That’s what you should always look for.

Plan your design: If you aren’t an artist yourself, don’t panic. Many tattoo artists will work with you to plan a great design that works on your skin. There are also artist boards, like, that contain members who will work with you to create something just your style. However, you need to have something for them to work with. If you have nothing other than an idea, but you can’t show someone examples, it’s going to frustrate everybody – including you. Your idea might seem obvious and clear-cut to you, but there are limitless variations on any theme. So, do some searching through magazines or the Internet, and provide reference photos. Pinpoint what you do and do not like about these photos. If you can come up with rough sketches – even something as simple as stick figures – the design process will be much easier.

Research artists: When you’re looking for the artist to actually tattoo you, spend some careful time. Start out with your friends. If they have tattoos, they will be more than happy to tell you which artists are good and which you should avoid. Visit a few of the shops in your area and ask for portfolios. Any good tattoo artist proud of their work will have dozens and even hundreds of photographs of their work. Take some time looking at the portfolios – is their art well done? If you have your sketch or design already, take it with you and ask questions. How much would the artist charge to perform this design? Do they see any difficulties in creating it where you want it?

Most important of all, though, is comfort level. If you walk into a shop and it is not clean or you just don’t feel comfortable being there, leave. Tattoo shops cater to specific types of customers, so the shop on the next block might have a completely different atmosphere than the one you’re in. If you’ve gotten through all this and still like the place, find out if you can get a consultation with an artist. This is the time to show your drawings, get to know the artist, hear their feedback, and get a general idea of price and time. After this, you can make an appointment. Many shops will require that you make a small deposit when you set your appointment, so come prepared.

Before the appointment: Make sure that you moisturize your skin really well throughout the week before your appointment. The better health your skin is in when you’re tattooed, the easier it is to have done. Drink lots of water – definitely get your 8 glasses a day. This makes things easier for the tattoo artist, because hydrated skin is easier to work with. Finally, don’t neglect your vitamins. Eat well and keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

Appointment day: When you set your appointment, make it for a day when you have plenty of free time. You’ll want to get to the shop a bit early, if possible. If you feel like you’re on a time crunch, you’re going to be even more stressed and after all – things happen, and can take longer than planned.

Appointment Day!

So let’s say that you decided to jump into things and haven’t made an appointment. Alright, it’s not the best way to approach things, but at least make sure that you call the tattoo shop (the one you’ve selected after visiting several) to make sure it’s not a booked day. Beyond this, I’m going to assume that you’ve done your homework and made the appointment.

Cancellations or being late: Call the shop. As soon as you know that you are going to cancel or will be late, call them. If you’ve made a deposit, this is the only way you’re likely to get your deposit back. Rescheduling is also much easier if you call before you’ve already stood the artist up.

Get lots of rest: Definitely go for your full 8-12 hours of sleep the night before your appointment, and eat healthy on that day. Do not drink alcohol, caffeine, or take any aspirin before your appointment. These things will thin your blood, making you bleed more, which will push ink out. Many artists will refuse to work on you if you’ve been drinking – it’s a waste of their time and your money.

Shower and shave: Let’s face it, you are going to be wounding your body. You don’t want a needle going into dirty skin. Make sure that the area where your tattoo is going to be done is well shaved. Seriously, save yourself the embarrassment of showing up without doing this – the artist will shave you. It’s just a must-do thing.

Meditation material: Tattoos really, honestly, don’t hurt that much. It is about the same as a bad sunburn. Having said that, though, keep in mind that it will be uncomfortable. Bringing something with you to preoccupy your mind helps a lot. If the position you’re being tattooed in allows you to hold something, bring a book or video game. Headphones are another great idea to help you kind of zone out and forget the discomfort. Personally, I like the whole experience, and discard my book as soon as I’m done waiting to be tattoed. I like being able to watch and listen and feel the whole process, but I’ll admit to being weird like that.

Ask about money: Before you ever go in, find out what kind of payment the shop will accept. Not everyone accepts credit cards, or maybe just not the brand you carry. Also, make sure that you bring a bit more money than what you should need, just in case it costs a bit more than what was quoted to you.

Getting Your Tattoo

Honesty is the biggest thing when you arrive at the shop for your appointment. Bring ID, even if you’re many years past the legal age. If you’re underage but your state allows tattooing minors, have the right paperwork on hand – usually birth certificates or notarized forms. When you’re filling out paperwork, be honest and thorough. If you have a latex or shellfish allergy, the artist needs to know. They will wear gloves that are often latex, and the A&D ointment many artists use contains shellfish derived ingredients – by just writing down this info, you’ll avoid any problems.

Stencil placement: Don’t worry about offending the artist if you don’t like where a stencil is placed. It’s your body – you get the tattoo where you want it. Artists will usually have ideas about what will work best on your body, and what will cause the least amount of pain âÂ?¦ but in the end, it’s your call and you’re not going to hurt their feelings by letting them know where you want the tattoo done.

Sit still: Think of going to the dentist. The artist knows you’re not having fun, it is uncomfortable, but if you can hold still the artist will be able to keep a steady hand and create a tattoo you’re happy with. Besides, the more you wiggle around, the longer your discomfort lasts. An exception to this rule? If you need a break, let the artist know. They’re happy to let you get a stretch, some water, or just take a breather. AndâÂ?¦ well, it’s really hard to hold still if you need to run to the restroom.

After the Appointment

If your experience was great, let the artist know. An artist will always receive thanks gratefully, and be even more thankful for the tips you put their way.

Once you get home, follow your aftercare instructions to the letter. You need to be careful so that you heal well. Besides, many artists will offer free touch-ups on your tattoos if they can see you’ve cared for their work well. Part of helping yourself heal is to continue taking your vitamins and drinking plenty of water – all those nice things you did for your skin before getting your tattoo are just important to its healing.

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