• Sheryl Lake

What to expect during your first tattoo

So you decided you want to get your first tattoo? Now what do you do? Well, getting your first tattoo is a great experience when done correctly and with proper knowledge on the process. Most people who talk about having a bad experience typically didn't do their homework first. The first place most people typically go is the internet to find ideas of what they like. This is a good place to start, you can see the different concepts big and small other people have come up with. This can narrow down what it is you like by style and design ideas. There are different types of tattoo styles and some artists specialize in particular styles. For instance traditional tattooers typically try to stick with tattooing in this style, some people specialize in photo realism, or even stippling tattoos. This is important to keep in mind when you begin to shop for an artist. Some tattoos are pretty versatile as far as artists are concerned. If your tattoo is small and simple it is something that most artists are capable of doing. Things to think of when picking a design idea, size, detail, and placement. If you are getting a small tattoo it is important to know if the amount of detail you want will stay well in the tattoo years after you have it. If you are getting a tattoo in an area like your hands or feet realize not every artist is willing to tattoo these areas. The fingers for instance, can only have a very simple design and these designs will typically fade a lot during the healing process and require a touch up. The feet are very similar in the fading aspect depending on the location you choose. If you are visiting from out of town and would like to get a tattoo it would be wise not to choose an area that will need to be touched up. Touch ups are typically honored by the artist that tattooed you but if you go somewhere else to have it touched up you will have to pay what the shop charges you. Keep in mind when planning a tattoo that the tattoo artist knows what is best, which brings me to our next step, finding an artist and scheduling a consultation.

So, you have your idea, pretty sure about placement, now you need to have your design drawn up. How do you find an artist to work with? Well, word of mouth is one of the first ways to find an artists. If you know people with tattoos and they are similar to what you like ask them about their artist. Another way is to look at tattoo shops online, you can read reviews, look at websites, and their portfolios online. From there you can typically call the shop or email them to begin setting up a consultation. Now you can meet your artist, which helps a bit with the nerves for sure. You can ask questions regarding your tattoo and what they suggest for the day of your tattoo. Typically you make your appointment from here and leave a deposit, which is a requirement for most artists.

The day of your tattoo its important to be prepared for the experience. Dress appropriately for your tattoo. If you are getting something on your thigh wear something that is comfortable with easy access to the area. If you are getting a wrist tattoo don't have a bunch of bracelets or a watch on that area. You get what I am saying? You want to be comfortable and you want the area to have easy access. Another thing is to be sure to eat a good meal. A candy bar does not qualify, you want a nice balanced meal. This will keep your blood sugar stabilized and lessen the chance of you feeling sick or wanting to pass out. Is this common? Yes and no. If you have ever passed out when giving blood or getting a vaccination it is more likely that this will happen during a tattoo experience. This isn't bad, it is just how your body reacts initially, most artists are experienced with this and will know how to a handle this if the situation arises, just be sure to let them know ahead of time.

How much will it hurt? Well, pain is experienced differently with each person. Some areas of the body can hurt a bit more as well. I hear many different discriptions of how a tattoo feels so just realize what one person feels may not be how you will feel. I think they feel annoying for the most part. The pain itself is pretty tolerable, and since you are choosing to have it done it’s a bit different than an injury.

On appointment day you will be asked to fill out a consent form. The form typically asks you health related questions and goes over shop procedures. You are then asked for your ID to verify your age and it will be either copied or a picture will be taken to store in the shop records. This is for liability reasons and may vary from state to state. When you are done with your paperwork your artist will then take over.

Now you are going to start the process of getting your tattoo, but there are quite a few steps that will be done before you start. Your artist will go over your design and will check the size and placement. When a good size has been found a stencil will be made. This is cool because you will be able to begin to see the tattoo on your skin. You will be able to make sure the placement is good and if it needs to be adjusted, the artist will move it until you are happy. As the artist sets up their station you will see that they cover a lot of it in plastic. This is to protect the work space and create a clean space. If you want to ask questions during this process you should. Most of us have no problem going through each step with you so you know you are safe. Typically when an artist starts the tattoo they will just give you a little stroke first, just so you can feel it and set your mind at ease. I find that for most people it never feels as bad as they think it will. Once that is done they will begin working on your design until it is done. It’s important to note, getting a tattoo is exciting, but you will be sitting in one place, as still as possible for awhile- depending on your design. Be mindful of doing things that will move your body too much. Bringing friends is okay, but too many of them will just pose a distraction to the artist. Be mindful of their space as well. You want your artist to feel comfortable with what’s going on around them. On that note, I love kids, but while you are getting tattooed it is not the right place for them. This is for their safety and ours.

When you are done, your artist will go over their healing instructions. This may vary from different artists so just listen to what your artist says. They know how their tattoos heal the best. They will apply some sort of wrapping on it before you leave, anything from a paper towel, seran wrap, to bandaging material. You are now part of the tattooed tribe!

The last step is paying for your tattoo. You will usually know the price of your tattoo or a ball park range prior to your service. A lot of places take credit and debit cards, but some are cash only. I also do want to point out that it is customary to tip. The amount will depend on the type of work you had done, but just remember that your artist worked hard on your design and letting them know you appreciate their work is important.

I hope this helps anyone looking for advice on getting their first tattoo. I hate hearing stories from clients about bad experiences and I’d like to help prevent some of those!


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