Image: Media Outrage
Many people will tell you that once you get your first tattoo, you are also gaining admission into an exclusive club whose members all have one important thing in common: they’re all inked. Once you join this club, all kinds of doors are opened (mostly people will think you have street cred and women will, without any hesitation, strip and show you their own exotic tattoo). But besides staring at tramps’ stamps, you are also making an important personal statement about yourself and appreciating the fine art of body modification.
However, there are some important aspects to consider before marching into a shop, plopping down on a bench and rolling up your sleeve. There are five basic steps to getting your first ink and, if followed correctly, things will go smoothly and you’ll be showing that new ink in no time.
Image: Russell Trebor
1. Think it out!:
The first, and probably most important, step is always choosing the mark you want to get. Is there a special song lyric that is your eternal anthem? Do you have a sports team that you’ll cheer for until you’re six feet under? Or, is it just a simple symbol that has always caught your eye?
Whatever the significance, seriously do some soul searching and make sure there is significance. There is nothing more disappointing than a rushed tattoo that means nothing. Stay away from things that you don’t want to display in public or something that you’ll be ashamed of later. Remember, this is something that you should be proud of and ‘I’m a Rape U’ etched across your knuckles or lyrics to Cannibal Corpse’s ’A Skull Full of Maggots’ on your forehead are not things that are gonna go over well at the office or on a first date.
If you’re going to get words, think about them. Do you want them going straight across your chest? Or, do you want them going diagonal down your spine? And, for God’s sake, SPELL EVERYTHING CORRECTLY! Another idea, why not use no words at all? Think about an illustrative message that evokes words with some kind of picture or symbol.
Image: Chelsea Oakes
You really need to think about where you want to put this thing too. Regardless of where it’s going to go, it’s not going to feel great. The inner arm hurts more than the outer arm, the chest hurts way more than the leg and, I’m assuming, the groin hurts the most.
Think about what you want and where you want it before going into the shop. Your tattoo artist will love you if you have a plan and if it is something you absolutely want, it will make getting it all the more sweeter.
2. Choose your Man/Woman:
Now that you have your idea and where you want it, you need to find someone to do it. Despite popular belief, it’s not a good idea to just walk into a place and get it done. The person you are not only paying, but entrusting to make a personal mark on your body, should be the best.
Start by talking to your already inked friends. See where they got theirs and gauge the quality of the work. Take note of their use of colors and if the ink is faded. Can they make good circles? Is it straight? Does the pin-up girl have a lazy eye or a mustache?
After you have a couple of names, do a few Google searches. A good artist has an online portfolio that is available to the public. A Myspace or Facebook page is great, but an actually working, user-friendly website is the best. Study the work you find here in great detail.
If your tattoo artist works in a shop with other artists, and he probably will, see if anyone else in the shop is as good as him. A lot of times, shops will have apprentices on staff who are in the training process. If you’re daring, you can take a chance and use the apprentice and possibly get a quality tattoo for a lot cheaper – just make sure you see their portfolio first!
Image: Micael Tattoo Faccio
3. Talk it out:
So, you have your design and your artist. The time has now begun to plan. A wise first step would be talking to the artist. He or she will let you know their rates, the best time to get it done and, most importantly, if they can even do what you’re asking or not. A lot of times, a design may be too intricate for an artist to complete.
Image: Will Keightley
Your artist of choice will make up a design and tell you what he or she is thinking. Take this design as a pretty firm example of their working style. This is also a good time to check out the shop, the other staff and the overall feeling of the business. If the shop is dirty, you may want to think twice. If the artist is jumpy or fidgety, you may also want to think twice. You want someone with a firm hand and an eccentric, yet bright attitude. Not a mixture of Charles Mason and that history teacher from your senior year of high school.
If you have ANY apprehension at this point you should probably back down. At the end of this appointment you’re probably going to have to pay a deposit of about 20% of your total and it’s usually non-refundable.
Image: Shannon Archuleta
Every tattoo needs some time to heal. It’s an open wound and it needs to heal. However, you can’t just slap a band-aid on it. It would be wise to go out and purchase some provisions beforehand, because after spending two or more hours under the needle, the last thing you’re going to want to do is go out and buy stuff.
Tattoos need to be under constant moisture for up to the first two weeks after getting inked. We’ll cover more about care later, but for now, you’re going to need to get something initially to keep it hydrated and then something to keep it fresh later. Aquaphor, which can be found at almost every supermarket and drugstore, is by far the best skin care cream on the market for tattoos. It can be pricey, and you’re going to go through a lot of it, so buying the schwag, store brand is fine as well.
After the first week or two, you should continue to put some kind of lotion on it. At that point, it’s going to get itchy and any kind of non-scented, lotion will work. You’re also going to need unscented soap to clean and disinfect the area. There is NOTHING worse than an itchy or infected tattoo!
By no means purchase SCENTED skin care products. This is absolutely the worst thing for a tattoo and you will be throwing away your money. Stick with something simple and clean.
Image: Ned Raggett
5. Get it on!:
This is pretty self explanatory. Just get plenty of sleep, try not to drink the night before/be hungover the day of and eat a good meal. Drinking alcohol before a tattoo leads to excess bleeding during the process and, for whatever reason, they say eating a good meal decreases pain.
Image: Arup Kamal
It’s good to carry on a conversation with the artist as you would with a hairdresser or a mechanic. They are human beings after all and they tend to have some really great stories. Next to bartenders and psychiatrists, tattoo artists are the most likely individuals to have people express their inner most feelings to them – the difference between a shrink and a tattoo artist is that the tattoo artist will then tell you these deep, dark feelings for fun.
So, just sit back, try and relax and be prepared to hear a few funny stories. A good tattoo artist knows when to let up – take a break if he suggests it! If this is going to be a long tattoo, it is better for them to rest every now and then so they stay sharp and with it through to the end.
Image: Shannon Archuleta
6. Cool off:
After it’s over, take a few deep breaths. You have just gotten your first tattoo! You have joined the ranks and aligned yourself with some of the greatest individuals in history! Just make sure to take a good, long look at your ink before leaving the shop! Nine times out of ten you’re going to get charged more, unless otherwise stated, if you go home and then come back a few days later complaining that the tattoo is not how you wanted it.
If you’re happy with it, make sure to complement the artist on his work too. They did, after all, just do something that is very important for you. This would also be the time to slip them a tip; yes, you should tip your artist. A good rule of thumb would be about 20% of the total. This is also a good way to get in good with them if you ever see yourself coming back for another.
Once you leave, it is now time to care for the tattoo. The most important thing is keeping it clean and hydrated. Use the cream you purchased before and try to keep clothing and other material off of it as much as possible for at least the first 4 or 5 days. Clean it with unscented soap at least 3 times a day and also while in the shower. It cannot be stressed enough to keep any scented soaps and lotions away from your ink! Once you’re ready to dry, rather than wiping, use a patting motion to remove moisture.
It’s going to itch, a lot! It may not start until the third or fourth day, but it will. You must refrain from touching it, because not only will it hurt, it will also mess with it! It’s also going to peal, but don’t pick it! Save any and all excess skin removal for when you’re cleaning.
It’s going to be a weird feeling at first, but by following these rules it will also be a positive one. Tattoos are a great way to express yourself and if you have a positive experience you will be saving your money and making the trek to the tattoo shop again. Just always keep these ideas in mind:
-Think it out!
-Choose your man/woman
-Talk it out!
-Get it on!