for tattooed people, and those who want to be

Your first tattoo: The beginning


josh weir, tattoo artist

Image by cjour via Flickr

Don’t you just hate people who say you have to begin at the beginning?   🙂

In the matter of getting a tattoo for the first time, though, you’ll be much happier with the results if you know where the real beginning of the process lies.   A lot of people get an idea of what they want and where they want it, and then find a design that’s acceptable and tell the artist to go ahead.   That works, but it’s not the best approach.   Here is what I would recommend, based on my own experience.

  1. Take your time.   Unless the best or only artist in town is closing up shop next week, there is no screaming hurry to go get inked.   You’re doing something that will last for years–do you want to make your decisions in minutes?
  2. This may seem obvious, but think about what you want–and why you want it.   Does that butterfly or rose or dagger have deep personal meaning to you?   Is it something that is so important that you want it on your body for the rest of your life?   Or is it something that you just think is decorative right now this minute?   Why not take some time to think of what is meaningful to you and find a design that symbolizes that?   This goes along with taking your time.   You want a design that represents something that is uniquely you.   If your’e just getting a tattoo because someone told you you shouldn’t or couldn’t–this is not a time to prove how independent you are.     Let them talk.   You can outwait them.
  3. Visit your artist and look at his/her portfolio.   Look at the kinds of custom designs that are available in addition to the flash on the walls.   If there’s more than one artist available, visit all of them.   If your friends have tattoos, talk about the artists with them.   Once you have decided which artist you want, you can visit the shop and discuss prices, but do not haggle.   There is a time for the culture of the marketplace, but getting uniquely created permanent art is not one of those times.
  4. Get some clothing that will allow the art work to be done without flashing everything you’ve got to everyone in the shop.   If possible, buy it at the thrift store, so you won’t be worrying about damage or stains.   As an example, when I got my back piece done, I bought an opaque tube bra so I could remove my shirt completely and still be decently covered up while the artist worked over my shoulder blade.
  5. Find out what products your artist recommends for aftercare.   Buy that ahead of time.   Some artists recommend antibacterial lotion or ointment, some just use regular hand or body lotion, some recommend specialized products like Tattoo Goo or Black Cat.   Many artists warn people not to put products based on petroleum jelly on new ink.   Be sure to read the ingredients on the item you plan to buy.   (I have found that Burt’s Bees Hand Salve has almost the same ingredients as Tattoo Goo and is a lot more widely available.)
  6. Get an idea of how long the artist thinks your tattoo will take to apply, and allow extra time just in case.   You do not want to be anxiously watching the clock or trying to hurry up the process because you have to be somewhere else.   And of course you want to be sure you show up for your appointment on time or even a little early.   This is simple courtesy to the artist and it will make things better for all concerned.
  7. Be sure to have money to tip the artist.   This too is common courtesy.   Good tattoo artists deserve to be supported.

OK?   Next time I will talk about the actual process of getting inked.

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Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.

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