Tattoos are wildly popular these days and they are a great source of inspiration and also a fantastic way to express yourself. But if you’ve never had a tattoo done before, how do you prepare for one? What is the process like? What should you expect? Is there anything you should know before having it done?
The First Thing You Need to Know
The thing about permanent tattoos is that they really are permanent. Once the ink is under those layers of skin, the pigments sit there. It is therefore very important to be sure you want the tattoo in the first place. Although there are ways to remove a tattoo, including laser treatment, they are generally uncomfortable and don’t completely get rid of it anyway.
So, before you go and see a tattoo artist, be completely sure that you do actually want one. If it’s going to be permanent and last for the rest of your life, you really want to make sure it’s exactly what you want.
What About Temporary Tattoos?
It’s normal for any first timer to be a bit worried about whether they’ll be happy with the tattoo or not. In fact, it’s always better to approach your first tattoo not just with an open mind, but with some solid questions too.
So, what happens if you’re not completely sure that a tattoo is going to be for you? What if it doesn’t suit you? What if you happen to choose the wrong design or the wrong location for it?
In these cases, it’s not a terrible idea to look into having a temporary tattoo done. Temporary tattooing, such as Henna or Jagua, can give you some sense of what the final tattoo will look like. In the case of a Jagua tattoo, it will even look like the traditional bluish-black ink of real permanent tattoos.
With the correct care, these types of temporary tattoos can last for several weeks. This will give you a good idea of what a permanent tattoo will look like on your body and how it will make you feel. Depending on the complexity of the design, you can even have the temporary tattoo look almost the same. This way, you can look in the mirror and see what you’ll look like with a real tattoo.
Dealing with the Pain
The other thing you should know is that having a tattoo done can range from being a bit uncomfortable to quite painful. The kind of pain you experience really depends on how big the tattoo is, where it’s being placed on your body, how skilled the tattoo artist is, your level of preparation, and your overall health.
So, what does it really feel like to have a tattoo inked on your body? Here’s how many people describe it:
- They can feel the vibration of the machine as it deposits the ink
- It can also feel like stinging, burning, or scratching
- There may also be a feeling of numbness or dullness of the skin
So much of the discomfort depends on what kind of tattoo it is, where it’s being done, and the skill of the tattooist. If you choose to have a tattoo done on an especially tender part of your body, then it’s going to hurt a lot more.
If you want as little pain as possible, one thing you can do is choose an area on your body where the pain will be minimal. The forearm, upper arm, shoulder, calf, chest, and thigh are often the least painful areas to have tattoos done.
There are also some other ways you can prepare for your tattooing session to minimize any discomfort:
- Make sure you drink plenty of water in the lead-up to your appointment, as this will ensure that your skin is less sensitive.
- Make sure that you’re not sick, as being ill can make you more sensitive to pain.
- Distract yourself during the process, like listening to music.
- Make sure you don’t take any pain killing medication in the 24 hours leading up to your tattoo, as any anti-inflammatories can thin your blood and make the process more difficult.
- Always make sure that you’re comfortable speaking with your tattoo artist so you can let them know when the pain or discomfort is getting to be too much and you can take a rest.
- Definitely don’t drink alcohol in the 24 hours before your tattoo appointment because it can make you more sensitive to pain.
- Always make sure you have a good solid meal beforehand.
Choose the Right Tattooist
Even if you have a great design in mind, the one thing you should absolutely do is research a good tattooist. Remember this: not all tattooists are the same. Anyone with the equipment can hang out a shingle and call themselves a tattoo artist. It doesn’t mean they’ll do a good job.
You should also definitely never skimp on the money when it comes to your tattoo. Some people get tempted by an inexpensive price only to find out that the tattooist just isn’t good. Remember that you’ll be living with this permanent tattoo, so you have to get this right. It’s not a time to be cheap.
So, how should you go about choosing a tattooist for the job? Here are some tips:
- If you have friends who have tattoos, ask them where they had them done, or if you really love a tattoo on someone else, ask who did it for them.
- Always ask to see a portfolio of the artist’s work in photos so you can get an idea of what their final designs are like.
- Make sure you feel comfortable with the tattoo artist, and if you don’t, then don’t feel obliged to use them.
- Make sure you can communicate easily with the tattooist. Be sure they’re willing to listen to you and offer solid advice based on their experience.
- Always look around the tattoo shop first to make sure that it’s clean and well-maintained.
Choose the Right Design
Sometimes, you have a strong idea of what design you want. Other times, you’re not sure until you get to speak with the tattooist and have a look through their work. Given that this is going to be a permanent tattoo, you should definitely do your research first.
For example, tribal tattoos are very popular designs and are often great tattoos for first timers. The problem is that they all have cultural meanings and some people feel uncomfortable with this. If you’re not from that culture, or you don’t have any profound connection with it, then it may not be the design for you.
There are also some other tattoo designs you should probably avoid unless you really have a hankering to get them done:
- The name of partners, especially if there’s a chance you won’t be together for the remainder of your life.
- Japanese or Chinese sayings that are misspelled or flat-out wrong.
- A design that might look good now but will likely have very little meaning for you in the years to come.
Ideally, you should choose a design that has meaning for you. Make sure it’s something you can relate to and has some meaning in your life. While it’s true that lots of people have tattoos done in the form of their favorite anime character, is this really what you want for your very first tattoo?
Just remember that you can always have a small tattoo done in the Micro style if you want something unobtrusive. This is also good if you’re not completely certain that the tattoo you choose will always have special meaning for you.
Lots of people go into tattoo parlors with their friends too. It might make them feel less nervous, for example, and even give them some courage. The problem is that opinionated friends can get in the way of your personal tattoo design choice. You must always ensure that it’s what you want, first and foremost.
Choose the Right Tattoo Style
There are lots and lots of tattoo styles to choose from. Everything from Micro to Surreal is available. But not all tattoo artists are proficient in all styles. Therefore, if you have a strong design in mind and want it to look a certain way, make sure you choose a tattoo artist who knows that style very well.
Choose the Right Body Placement
It should really go without saying, but you must ensure that you have the tattoo inked in the right place. Some tattoos demand to be placed in certain areas. For example, large tattoos will need a large space to really shine.
Unless you have very strong preferences, it’s always wise to listen to the advice of your tattooist. They will have the experience to know what works best and why. Sometimes a design simply looks better on one part of the body, and other times one part of the body will stretch and be prone to wrinkles over time.
How Does the Tattooing Process Work?
There’s a lot to do even before you sit down and get comfortable in the chair, including choosing a design, choosing the best placement, and preparing for any pain. But once you’ve finally sorted all of this out and you’ve paid for it, it’s time to sit in that chair and go through the process step-by-step. So, what should you expect? Here’s how it works:
Depending on the setup, you will have a private room or be seated in an open working area. The chair you sit in will look like a dentist’s chair in most cases, but this is not a rule. The important thing is that you’re comfortable. A good tattoo artist will always ask if you’re comfortable before starting.
Before any ink gets under the skin, the skin itself is properly prepared. It will be rubbed down first with rubbing alcohol to clean it.
Then any hairs will be shaved off. This may take a little while, as it’s important to ensure that all of the body hair in the area is removed first.
The Thermal Stencil
Once you’re ready, the tattooist will take the thermal stencil of your tattoo design and place it on the area where you want the tattoo. The design is transferred from the thermal paper onto your skin.
Doing this saves a lot of time, and it also gives you a good idea of what the final tattoo will look like. This is when you have a chance to approve both the design and the placement before going ahead with the final design. A good tattooist will always ask you before they proceed.
Once you’re ready to go, the tattoo artist will carefully prepare the machine.
They will pour out the necessary inks into small cups from sterile pouches.
They will also get out needles and tubes from sterile pouches ready for the inking process.
Inking the Lines
Take deep breaths if you need to during the tattooing process and try to hold as still as possible. The artist will do their best to make it comfortable without cutting any corners. It’s always the most painful for the first few minutes, but after this your skin tends to get used to the discomfort and the sensations.
Once all of the line work is complete, the tattoo artist will prepare for any shading that needs to be done. They may use a different machine and prepare this. They may even use different colored inks, depending on your design.
Always Follow Care Advice to the Letter
Once this is all done, you can finally look at your tattoo! You can breathe easier now and talk with your tattoo artist. They might even want you to have a photo done for their portfolio, but it’s entirely up to you.
Once done, the tattooist will dress the wound in ointment and bandages. This is vital, as it will protect the new tattoo and allow it to heal more quickly.
At this point, you should also receive after-care instructions, and these must be followed to the absolute letter if you want the best result possible.
Having a tattoo done is exciting, but it also requires lots of research and personal preparation. From choosing the right design to choosing the right tattoo artist, it’s not a one or two step process. In the end, you must be comfortable with everything. You must be comfortable with the design, the tattooist, and also the process you’re about to go through.