5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo
So, You Want a Tattoo...
Great! When done well, a tattoo can be a beautiful piece of art, and you get the honor of being the canvas! They can represent you, your family, your friends or your memories. They can be cool, funny, sad, serious, political, symbolic and creative. They can be black and grey or vibrant colors. They can be hidden—your little secret, or they can be displayed for all the world to see. Because they can be so many things (permanent being among them!), it is important to take a few things into consideration before you enter the wonderful world of body modification.
They Are Permanent
Yes, I realize you all know that. But, having worked in tattoo shops, I have learned that a lot of people don't *really* consider their permanence when they start coming up with ideas for their tattoos. You may think you'll always like your tribal armband or having Tinkerbell on your breast, but trust me, you probably won't. When choosing designs, think long and hard about the fact that it will *always* be there. Yes, there is now tattoo removal, but relying on this fact is a lousy idea. Laser removal is both more expensive and more painful than the tattoo itself, and it doesn't always leave your skin looking new and fresh. If you're going into a tattoo with the idea "well, I can always remove it later", you probably shouldn't get that tattoo.
Does It Mean Something?
I'd estimate that, at one of the shops I worked at, 50% of our business was covering up old tattoos. The #1 reason? "I got this silly tattoo when I was 18...". The problem, of course, isn't with getting a tattoo at 18, but with getting one that means nothing to you. Getting a tattoo with some friends on the spur of the moment may sound like a fun bonding experience, but if the piece itself holds no meaning for you, you will come to hate it.
Now, this doesn't mean you shouldn't get something fun or outrageous (I love it when people ask for weird things!), it just means you should ask yourself why you're getting it. If you can't think of any reason besides "uh...it's cool?", don't get it! The tattoos people treasure the most are the meaningful ones—a memorial piece for a parent, a piece of art you've always loved, a symbol of your favorite memory, sport, band or childhood hero, an inside joke between you and your best friend, a piece with spiritual or intellectual significance or some other symbol that would only make sense to you.
What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?
I'm 30, and I'm still asking myself this question, so don't think this is reserved for the younger folk!
While I'm glad to report the world is slowly coming around to the idea of tattoos, a lot of people still frown on them. Yeah, we'd all like to say we don't care what others think of us, but if there is a career or lifestyle that you are passionate about seeking, you may have to care a little. Certain professions still forbid visible tattoos in the workplace, so you need to consider if you may end up in one of those professions. While I absolutely love the tattoo on my forearm, I've questioned the wisdom of it more than once, as I know I will likely end up in the education field.
The good news is that this doesn't mean you can't get a tattoo at all—you just may want to consider putting it somewhere that can easily be hidden. An ankle, the back of your shoulder, your upper arm or on your ribcage are all good options for the hidden tattoo.
Timing Is Everything
A tattoo shop's busiest season is in the summer. It shouldn't be.
Tattoos need a decent amount of time to heal (expect 3–4 weeks), and should not be exposed to direct sunlight or a lot of water in that time. This means no tanning and no swimming. Depending on where you get it, you may also want to do it when you have a couple of days off work (my feet swelled up so badly, I had to just sit still for a day!). It's the artist's job to give you a good tattoo, but it's your job to look after it; make sure you get it at a time when you can care for it properly.
Are You Ready?
There's a lot more to getting a good tattoo than saving up some cash and picking a design. One of the regrets I hear most often from clients is that they got their first tattoo at the first shop they saw. In my experience, a person is truly ready to get a tattoo once they've:
- Thought long and hard about the piece they want
- Researched the shops in their area and chosen the cleanest, most experienced shop with the best reputation
- Looked through the artist's portfolios and chosen the one most suited to their piece
- Had a consultation with the artist
- Saved up enough money for at least the first session (if it takes more than one)
Tattoos are a beautiful thing. Take the time to do it right, and it will be a permanent piece of art that you can carry with you forever.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Robyn J Williams