While I may not have the utmost authority on the topic of tattoos (as I’m not a tattoo artist), I really do love them and always have. I got my first tat at 18, have been semi-steadily acquiring more ink since then, and will continue to do so. So today I thought I’d share some advice I’ve picked up along the way and wish I’d had before getting my first tattoo.
Actually, this post is perfect for my mom to read because she agreed to get a matching tattoo with me. YES. Liz, the founder of this blog, has agreed to get her first tattoo. You heard it here first, folks.
Before the tattoo
Deciding what you want tattooed
If it’s your first tattoo, you should have an idea of what you want before you walk into the shop. Tattoo shops do have walls of pre-drawn images called flash you can choose from, but I’ve heard tons of stories about flash tattoo regret. Come up with an idea of what you want, then go to the shop and let the artist draw something up for you.
If your idea is complicated, you might want to contact the artist via email so they have time to create something for you, then make an appointment to have it tattooed once you’re both happy with the design.
Does it have to be meaningful?
A common question people ask about tattoos is “what does it mean”? I have a few thoughts on this. First of all, tattoos don’t have to be meaningful. They can simply be images you find beautiful, funny, clever, or whatever! If your tattoo idea does have a deeper significance, great! But if it doesn’t, that’s okay too because tattoos are a form of art and self-expression.
Oh, and if your tattoo’s meaning isn’t something you want to get into with strangers, feel free to say it doesn’t mean anything and you just liked the design. What your tattoos represent is none of anyone’s business and you don’t have to share if you don’t want to. 🙂
Size matters and so does placement
Your tattoo should be an appropriate size for the body part you’re getting it tattooed on! I got my first tattoo at age 18 and it was a super tiny (like quarter-sized) symbol in the center of my back. I spent a long time considering it before I got it and at the time I was so proud of it, but it looked pretty ridiculous to have such a tiny tattoo in the expanse of my back. I later got it covered up with a much larger piece that looks better in that spot.
You should also be careful about where you place your tattoos on your body, making sure they’re easily concealed if you are in a career or family situation that prohibits them. Yes, it stinks that people still care what other people decorate their bodies with, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. It would really be a bummer to miss out on a great career opportunity because of a tattoo!
I had to remove my nose piercing and keep my tattoos covered in my previous career, and it was pretty lame. But the career was an important stepping stone for me, so I did what I had to do. Now that I’m a freelancer and don’t have to worry about HR and dress codes, I proudly sport a tattoo on my forearm. And I put my nose piercing back in!
Research your artist
With Instagram it’s really easy to check out a potential tattoo artist’s portfolio. Check out the websites of the shops in your area, then look up their artists on Instagram to see if their work looks like your style. There are tons of tattoo styles and each artist typically has a “pet style”. If you want a portrait, don’t go to someone who specializes in simple line work. If you want a watercolor tattoo, don’t go to a black and grey artist. That brings me to my next point…
To color or not to color?
Color vs. black and grey is totally a matter of personal preference. Whichever you prefer, again just make sure your chosen tattoo artist is experienced in it.
Getting the tattoo
How to prepare and what to bring
Eat a solid meal beforehand so you don’t get lightheaded from pain or nervousness. Don’t drink or do drugs beforehand — your artist may refuse to tattoo you if you do, and come on, people…just don’t.
Bring money! Check ahead of time to see what forms of payment your shop accepts.
If you’re nervous, you may want to bring something else to focus on, like headphones and music or just a friend to hold your hand.
Yes, it hurts.
Like I said, maybe bring something else to focus on. Tattoos do hurt, but how much they hurt is different for everyone. It usually starts off bearable, but the longer your session, the more painful it gets because of increasing inflammation.
Tipping your artist
You should tip your artist. I recommend at least 20% of the price of the tattoo.
After the tattoo
How to heal your new ink
Do whatever your artist tells you to do! Some will recommend dry healing, and some will recommend that you keep the area moisturized with unscented lotion or a product like Hustle Butter or Tattoo Goo. Avoid moisturizing with products containing petrolatum, lanolin, and of course, anything you’re allergic to.
Taking care of it once it’s healed
One word: sunscreen. Just like UV rays damage your normal skin, they damage tattoos as well. UV light causes premature fading, so it’s best to lather your ink up with SPF before going outside.
I hope advice for your first tattoo was helpful to you, and please let me know down below if you have another question I didn’t answer! Happy inking!