20 Things You Need To Know Before Getting Your First Tattoo

Getting ready to get a tattoo for the very first time? Here are twenty things you need to know about getting your first tattoo.

By Rose Elementary
20 Things You Need To Know Before Getting Your First Tattoo

Getting A Tattoo For The First Time

Getting a tattoo is an exciting thing. Maybe you're eighteen and can finally go get a tattoo without your parents permission, or you're sixteen and your parents are bringing you down to the shop. No matter the circumstances, there are a few things you should know about getting a tattoo for the first time. From tattoo designs to placement to pain to preparation, here are twenty things that you need to know before you got get a tattoo for the first time.

1. It Hurts

Anyone who has gotten a tattoo will tell you that there will be pain involved. Your pain tolerance and the placement of your tattoo will determine how much pain you feel when you get tattooed for the first time. Certain locations on your body will hurt more than others, so take that into consideration when thinking about the placement of your tattoo. There are ways to curb the pain associated with a tattoo. You can use pain sprays to help but be sure to discuss this with your tattoo artist before using it because some may not want to tattoo skin that has been treated with these types of sprays. You can also take a pain reliever before you go to get your tattoo for the first but make sure you take an acetaminophen based product and not an ibuprofen. Ibuprofen can thin your blood which can affect your tattoo. Acetaminophen will help to relieve some of the pain without any negative impact. You should still let your artist know that you've taken a pain reliever before they start the tattoo. Even with a pain spray or pain reliever, a tattoo is still going to hurt. Be open with your artist about how much pain you're in. Tattoo artists will take breaks or stop the session if the pain is too much for you. If they do stop, you can go back to finish the tattoo another time. Shorter sessions mean less pain.

2. A Tattoo Is Permanent

It may go without saying, but a tattoo is permanent. Sure, you can get it removed or covered up, but those processes are both expensive and painful. Don't go into your tattoo thinking that you might want to get rid of it in the future. If you think even for a second that you don't want this tattoo forever, then you should wait until you're ready to make that permanent commitment. A tattoo is meant to be forever, and you should be ready to keep that design on your skin for the rest of your life. A tattoo is a beautiful addition to your skin, so you should understand the permanence before you let your artist start the tattoo.

3. Tattoo Healing Takes Time

You can't get a tattoo and expect healing to happen immediately because a tattoo is essentially an open wound. Your artist uses needles to embed the ink into your skin so expect that your tattoo will bleed and swell while you're being tattooed. That means it'll need healing, sometimes even a few weeks of healing, and it will take up to six months for healing to be complete. During this time, your artist will give you special healing care instructions to follow. These instructions are meant to help you protect your tattoo from losing ink or fading as well as to prevent infection due to a tattoo being an open wound. Be sure to listen to your artist completely for healing instructions so that your tattoo stays as amazing after six months of healing as it was when it was first completed. The healing process is different for everyone. The placement of the tattoo and your own post-tattoo care can change the healing process. Your tattoo might scab heavily during healing, which might look gross but it's normal. The skin on your tattoo will definitely peel during the healing process. You should avoid removing scabs or peeling the skin in an attempt to speed up healing. Let it happen naturally to protect your tattoo. Once your tattoo has finished healing, you'll have a beautiful tattoo!

4. Some Shops Are Better Than Others

When you buy clothes, you go to your favorite store. When you get your haircut, you go to your favorite stylist. The same goes for getting a tattoo. You don't want to just go anywhere to get a tattoo for the first time. Do research to find a shop that has good reviews. You want a tattoo shop that is clean, does good work, and uses good ink that won't fade too soon. Ask around to find the best tattoo shop in your area. Ask your friends who have tattoos who their favorite artist is and see if their style matches your tattoo idea. Some artists specialize in certain styles of tattoo, so if you want an Asian inspired tattoo you shouldn't go to an artist that does exclusively traditional style tattoos. Most tattoo shops have websites hosting the artists' portfolios so you can find an artist that does good work similar to the tattoo you're looking for. Read their reviews and talk to people who have used that shop. Look at recent photos of old tattoos to see how much they have faded. It's important to research the best shop because you want the best tattoo. Not all shops are the same, so find the place that will do your tattoo the best.

5. After Care

You don't just get a tattoo and that's it. You have to go through skin care routines to take care of your tattoo while it's healing and forever after that. Your artist will give you skin care instructions to follow to protect your tattoo from infection, poor healing, and fading. It's important to listen to what your artist says and take care of your tattoo so that you have an amazing piece forever. The most important skin care for your tattoo is using lotion. A tattoo will dry out your skin, so you need to counter that with lotion. Skin care is important to keep your skin moisturized and your tattoo looking fresh. It's a common misconception that you only need to follow skin care routines until your tattoo heals. You have to keep up with skin care forever if you want your tattoo to look good. Lotion is always important for your skin, but especially on your tattoos. During healing, your artist may recommend other skin care treatments like A&D ointment. The most important thing is to listen to your artist's recommendations for skin care. They know what they're talking about, and they won't lead you astray.

6. Know What You Want

Most tattoo artists will have books of tattoo designs for you to look at, like the hairstyle books at a hair salon. Some of the designs in these books are tattoos artists have already done, and others are tattoos the artists are willing to tattoo or designs they want to tattoo. These designs are there for your reference, but you shouldn't go into your tattoo appointment without knowing what you want. Don't rely on these books to give you your first tattoo. This isn't a face painting event where it'll wash away in the shower. It's permanent, and you need to know what you want. Before you even research your shop, have a few tattoo designs in mind. The internet has tons of tattoo designs you can use for reference, but make it personal to you. Pick something that means a lot to you that you'll want on your skin forever. Go into your tattoo with a few basic designs and an idea of what you're looking for. Your artist can help you turn your idea into an awesome tattoo.

7. Talk To Your Artist

Smile through the pain. Or not. #tattoo #gettinginked #gettingtattooed

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Your tattoo is going on your skin. In preparation, make sure to discuss your design with your tattoo artist. Artists love tattooing designs that they've had some creative license in drawing but if the tattoo design your artist shows you isn't exactly what you want, tell him or her. Your artist isn't going to be upset with you for wanting to change the designs he or she came up with. In fact, an artist would rather adjust the design for you before starting the tattoo than find out later that you're not crazy about the tattoo. It's a good idea to get in touch with your artist before you have your appointment. Many tattoo artists will do walk in tattoos, but that means creating the design on the fly so you don't have as much time to give feedback and get the tattoo exactly how you want it. Talk to your artist before the tattoo appointment so they can draw you a sample for the tattoo stencil and you can discuss changes you want to make. Your artist will have a final stencil ready for you the day of your appointment, which will allow you to get your tattoo on the day of your scheduled visit.

8. Think About Where You Want Your Tattoo

The placement of your tattoo is almost as important as the tattoo design. There are a lot of things to consider when deciding on the placement of your tattoo and in preparation of your tattoo appointment, you should decide where on your body you want your tattoo to be. Consider your job when deciding on the placement of your tattoo. If your job requires any tattoos to be covered, you should decide on placement that can easily be covered with long sleeves, pants, or shoes. Take into consideration, as well, future employment that may come your way. If your current job isn't picky about visible tattoos, you may have a job in the future that won't allow you to have a visible tattoo. It's important to think about your job when you decide the placement of your tattoo. Also think about pain when deciding on the placement of your tattoo. Different locations on your body are more painful than others. As part of your tattoo preparation, ask your friends and family members with tattoos about the pain. Ribs are extremely painful to tattoo, so you shouldn't go there for your first time. Any placement that is directly over your bone will cause more pain than a fattier area, like your thigh. Consider pain when thinking about the placement of your tattoo. When you're deciding on the placement of your tattoo, you should also remember that it's a piece of art so you want to show it off. There are plenty of areas on your body that can be easily covered for your job, but can be easily uncovered to show off your tattoo when you're not at work. Your arms, ankles, and collarbone are good areas that you can cover or leave showing depending on the situation. Your artist can help you decide the best placement for your tattoo. Larger pieces require larger areas, like the back, while smaller pieces can go on small areas, like the wrist. No matter what, placement is an important decision that you have to think about in preparation for your tattoo appointment.

9. Pre Tattoo Skin Care

There is some skin care required before you get your tattoo. This mostly involves things you shouldn't do in preparation for your tattoo, rather than things you should do. Your artist will go over some things that they don't want you to do in preparation for your tattoo, but there are some things they may not mention. You should have perfectly clean skin before you go to your tattoo. No lotions or other products that could cause the skin to be slippery. Also avoid shaving the area, even if you're getting a tattoo in an area that needs to be shaved. Your artist will shave the area before the tattoo. They have techniques they can use to keep the skin from being irritated before the tattoo. You also shouldn't use excessive cologne or perfume prior to getting your tattoo. Definitely take a shower and clean the area well in preparation for the tattoo. Your artist will clean the area during their preparation, but it's good to go into your appointment with already clean skin.

10. The Sun And Your Tattoo

The sun is really bad for your tattoo. After you get your tattoo, you should avoid direct sunlight on the area for a few weeks, until the tattoo has completely healed. After that point, you can go out in the sun, but you need to use sunblock on your tattoo. Your tattoo needs a higher SPF than you would normally use on your skin. They make specific tattoo sunblock that you can get and roll over your tattoo whenever you're going to the beach or you'll be in the sun for a long time. Otherwise, get the highest SPF you can find to lather over your tattoo. The sun will fade your tattoo, and sunburn on your tattoo is bad news. Make sure to protect your tattoo from the sun to keep it looking good. In preparation to your tattoo, you should avoid the sun as well. A tattoo artist won't tattoo sunburned skin, so don't go to the beach the day before your tattoo appointment.

11. Large Pieces For Your First Time

Large tattoos look awesome and they're really tempting, but it's not a good idea to get a large piece the first time you get a tattoo. Large pieces take a long time to complete, they hurt a lot, and they're really expensive. It's better to start off small than to jump in with a large piece before you know how you'll react to getting tattooed. Large tattoos also usually take a few sessions to finish. Your artist might do the outline one day and then finish with color or shading during another session a few weeks later. You don't want to commit to multiple tattooing sessions until you know if you can handle the pain of getting a tattoo. If you do go for a larger piece on your first time, talk to the artist about placement to keep the pain as low as possible. Also keep conversing with your artist about how much pain you're in. If you need to stop, tell them to stop. You don't want to push yourself too hard just to get a large piece. The artist can split the work into a few more sessions if you can't sit for too long.

12. Don't Be Stingy For Your First Time

Tattoos are expensive and the more popular the artists artists, the more money you're going to spend. The artists such as the ones you see on TV, are going to be especially expensive. Most tattoo shops charge by the hour, though some will give special prices to specific pieces. They also usually have a shop minimum, so even if your piece is super small and doesn't take long to complete, you'll be paying the minimum amount for your tattoo. Don't set your cap too low for your first tattoo. You want to go somewhere good, and that's going to cost you some money. Plan on spending more than you expect on your tattoo. This is a permanent piece that will be on your body forever, so you don't want to be stingy when paying for it.

13. Shop Around

Suspension Tattoo..

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You can avoid being stingy and still avoid paying too much for your tattoo. While you're looking for the best shop, also find the best shop for the best price. You want a high quality tattoo that doesn't cost a ridiculous amount so be sure to get quotes from your favorite shops and pick the one that is going to give you the best price for your tattoo. Visit a few different shops to find out about how much you should expect to pay for your tattoo, and then pick the one that you like the best in terms of quality of work that also doesn't go too far out of your price range.

14. Take Someone With You The First Time

You don't want to be by yourself when you get your first tattoo and this is for a few good reasons. First of all, most tattoos will take over an hour to complete, unless you're getting something really small. Your artist will concentrate on making your tattoo look good, but they'll do some small talk as well. Even so, you'll want someone to talk to while you're sitting there getting your skin pricked for a long time. Bringing a friend or family member gives you something to do during the tattoo so you don't get bored. You'll also be in pain while you get your tattoo, and having someone with you can help to ease that pain. Your friend or family member can distract you from the pain of the tattoo or hold your hand so you can squeeze through the pain. Lastly, bringing someone with you gives you an extra set of eyes on the tattoo before your artist starts. Your friend can help you decide if the stencil is exactly what you want and suggest any last minute changes. They can also proofread for you, because the last thing you want is a word tattoo that is spelled incorrectly. It's a good idea to take someone with you when you're getting a tattoo for the first time for the company, distraction, and even an extra set of eyes.

15. Disclose Medical Conditions

When getting your tattoo, you'll be asked to disclose important medical conditions to your artist and understand that this is for your own safety. If you take blood thinners, have diabetes, have a heart condition, or you fall into any other category on the disclosure sheet, make sure you talk to both your doctor and your artist. These things can change how your artist tattoos you, because it can change how you'll react to the tattooing. Your artist reserves the right to say no to tattooing you if they think your health may be at risk. If you have any severe medical problems, like heart problems, a transplant, or epilepsy, talk to your doctor first and get a note for the artist so that they can feel confident tattooing you. Also disclose any communicable diseases you may have, including HIV, because the artist will have to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of these diseases. Don't leave out any medical issues when you're getting a tattoo. Your artist wants you to be safe, that's why they ask questions about your health. You and your artist should feel good about the tattoo and make sure it doesn't impact you negatively.

16. The Day You Get Tattooed For The First Time

If it's your first time getting a tattoo, you may not know what to expect the day of your tattoo. It's exciting and maybe a little nerve wracking, so knowing what to expect may help. Once you've found the perfect shop, you'll have to make your appointment. Most shops require a deposit to save the appointment. They may require cash or accept a credit card payment. Be prepared for this when making your appointment! Be sure to eat something before your appointment. This is especially true if you're diabetic because your blood sugar may fluctuate during the appointment. Everyone getting a tattoo should eat well before going into the appointment because you'll be in pain and sitting for a few hours. The last thing you want is to be hungry as well, plus, eating will give you the energy you need to sit through the appointment. Once you get to your appointment, you'll have to sign a form and give your ID. Make sure you have a photo ID if you're eighteen or older. If you're under eighteen, bring a photo ID or birth certificate and your parent because they need to sign off on the tattoo. Once you've signed all the appropriate forms, you'll meet with your artist. Your artist will show you the stencil they've created of your tattoo if you've been talking to the artist already. If not, you'll sit down and discuss the design and he or she will draw you a sketch to look at. Once you've both agreed on the design, your artist will make the stencil in the appropriate size for the location. After cleaning your skin, the artist will apply the stencil. Your artist will then begin tattooing you. They start with the outline and then fill in any colors or shading. This can take less than an hour or a few hours depending on the size and intricacy of the tattoo. Once your artist is done, he or she will wipe the tattoo down and show it to you, then cover it up with gauze or plastic wrap for protection. He or she will then give you after care instructions. These instructions vary depending on the shop and artist. After the tattoo, you'll have to pay. Most tattoo shops only take cash, so you should be prepared for that. You should also tip your artist to let them know you appreciate the work. That's what to expect when you're getting your first tattoo!

17. Try To Relax The First Time

Take a deep breath and relax before you get your tattoo. If you tense your muscles or shiver because you're nervous, your tattoo appointment will be stressful for you and your artist. You have to be relaxed if you want things to go well during your tattoo appointment. If you're worried that you might be nervous or uncomfortable during your appointment, bring some music to play. You should have one ear available in case the artist needs to ask you questions, but listening to relaxing music can help you to relax during your tattoo appointment. This is especially helpful if you're by yourself getting your tattoo. Depending on the placement of your tattoo, you may be in a laying down position while your artist tattoos you. If this is the case, try keeping your eyes closed to help you relax during the tattoo. Sometimes watching the artist work can be more stressful than just sitting back and trying to relax. Do whatever you have to do to be relaxed during your first tattoo. You and your artist will appreciate it!

18. Dress Comfortably

No matter where you're getting your tattoo, you've got to dress comfortably. You'll be sitting for a few hours, so you want to wear something you're okay sitting in for a while. Sweatpants and a loose t-shirt are ideal for your tattoo because they're comfy and breathable. Your artist isn't going to judge you for dressing comfortably. In fact, they'll be grateful. You also have to dress for your tattoo. If you're getting your arm tattooed, you don't want to wear long sleeves. If you've getting a foot tattoo, avoid wearing sneakers. Make sure that whatever you wear leaves easy access to the area you're getting tattooed. If you're getting your back done, your artist will probably have you remove your shirt. If you're a girl, try wearing a sports bra so that you're comfortable in this position. Consider your comfort and the placement of your tattoo when you're getting dressed for your tattoo appointment.

19. Do Research Before Your First Time

No matter what, you need to do research before you go to your first tattoo appointment. This means asking around about shops and artists, finding your ideal tattoo design, and determining how much pain you're going to be in. You don't want to go into your first tattoo totally blind to what you're getting yourself into. Don't just walk into a shop and say you want a tattoo. The shop will know you're an amateur and they'll be hesitant to tattoo you. However, if you walk into your shop looking prepared and following all of the tips on this list, you'll make a great impression on the artist. Tattoo artists like building lists of regular clients, and if you do your research before you go to your appointment, you'll likely become one of those regulars.

20. Prepare For Your Next Tattoo

Most people who get one tattoo end up getting more because let's face it, tattoos are addictive! Even if they hurt, take a long time, and cost a lot of money, tattoos are worth it. You see fun designs and you realize that you want more. After your first tattoo, you're probably going to be hooked. So the best tip for going into your first tattooing appointment is to start preparing for your next one. With every tattoo, it gets easier to sit and deal with the pain. Plus, you can build a relationship with a specific artist so you can design tattoos together to add to your canvas. Once you've finished your first tattoo, get ready for your second!

Your First Time Tattoo

A lot goes in to getting your first tattoo. You have to prepare your skin and your mind in order to sit through your entire appointment. There are designs to come up with, pain to consider, and so many places on your body where you can get your first tattoo. If you're thinking about going in to get your first tattoo, keep these twenty things in mind so that you're well prepared for your first tattoo appointment. Have fun!

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