I have lots of experience taking care of my tattoos—first to heal them and then to keep them looking good.
Ahh the First Time...
Whether it’s good or bad, the first time you do anything is always a memorable experience, and getting your first tattoo is no different. As I’m a pretty inked up lady, I feel qualified to offer some advice to all you newbies out there sitting on the fence about your first tattoo. Consider it a helpful nudge towards inky glory.
This really is the hardest part for most people, deciding on something to have permanently etched onto your skin is a daunting task. My advice, don’t waste time looking at tattoo books filled with flash you might see on hundreds of other people, you’re an original so think outside of the box. I have the best luck finding my tattoo designs at arts and craft stores. Anything from stamps to stain glass design books can be great springboards for your tattoo masterpiece. I also love looking in vintage magazines for cool designs. Don’t be afraid to put the word out to friends and see what they can come up with for you. Offer a free beer or puppy to the winning design.
The Colour Question
A lot of tattoo collectors go all colour or stick with strictly black and grey. I say it depends on the piece. But know this, all tattoos fade and require upkeep, colour more so than black and grey. If you’re ready to rock the sunscreen and avoid the sun then feel free to turn yourself into a rainbow. But if you’re a sun worshiper and can barely remember to put on pants, let alone sunscreen, stick with black and grey.
Find an Artist
The best way to find a great artist is to walk up to someone with a fabulous tattoo and ask them where they got it done. Other important questions like price, shop details, do they do custom designs are all worth asking. I also like to find out how old the tattoo is that I’m looking at to see how the work holds up.
So much fun! So you’ve narrowed it down to a few artists and now you get to check out their shops. If you’re an ink nut like me this is heaven. People’s shops say so much about them. Obviously cleanliness and safety are paramount, but then hang out for a bit and check out the vibe of the place. Find out where you will be tattooed—is it a private doors-closed affair or is it wide open? If the artist you are scoping out is cool with it, see if you can watch him/her work.
Lay Your Money Down
Once you’ve made a decision on the artist of your dreams lay your money down and make a date. Deposits vary depending on whether or not you want to have a custom drawing done or you have a set design in mind. Either way, expect to put some coin down when you book.
Tattoo Support Team
Never get tattooed alone. You may need someone to drive you to the hospital if you have a bad reaction, hold your hair back if you blow chunks or talk you out of that sudden urge to get Foghorn Leghorn tattooed on your butt. And you so need photographic evidence of your epic bravery and awesomeness. So find one or two people that you love, or at least owe you a favour, and force them to come. If your artist isn’t cool with your bringing at least one person in with you for moral support then they aren’t the right artist for you.
Your Special Day
I know this sounds corny, but it is a special day so why not go all out? Go out for a nice meal with your tattoo support team and take some fun “before,” pics of your naked arm, back or leg or whatever part you are getting inkified. Word to the wise, don’t have more than one glass of wine or a beer. You’ll bleed a lot more and a lot of places won’t tattoo you if they think you are even remotely impaired.
The moment of truth, hopefully you’ve shown up on time and are wearing clothes that let the artist easily access the area you’re getting tattooed. At this point, it wouldn’t hurt to toss back a few ibuprofen to help with the pain and future swelling. Don’t get me wrong, this in no way gets rid of the pain of a tattoo, but it might help a bit. Also, be sure to have a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated and fight nausea. Before the needle goes in be sure to confirm the design and price. If you’re having a word tattooed on you, for the love of Cheebus, have the spelling double and tripled checked. You don’t want to end up as one of those sad people you see photos of online sporting a misspelled tattoo.
Breathe, and breathe some more. Most people tend to hold their breath when they feel pain which is the worst thing you can possibly do. Just take slow deep breaths and relax or risk passing out like my 6’3 brother during his first tattoo. Don’t be afraid to ask for a break if you need it, but don’t avoid the needle for too long, it is way better to just power through.
You’re masterpiece is finished! You survived and now you are convinced that you’re a rock star for getting that ladybug the size of a dime on your shoulder…and maybe you are, so take care of it! Read the aftercare instructions the tattoo artist gives you and follow them to the letter. Don’t over cream and DO NOT PICK! In about a week your scabby, painful puffed up skin will transform into inky awesomeness and you will finally be a card caring member of the anti-social inked up misfit club. WELCOME!
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.
© 2012 Catherine Taylor
ariemay on April 20, 2016:
I'm 49 and getting my big #1 in June. I've got the "think about it" thing down :D
Ron on December 15, 2015:
All fine and dandy until the "anti-social inked up misfit club." part. Now I am having 2nd (really 250,002nd) thoughts.
Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on October 01, 2012:
LightInDarkness, glad you found this hub helpful. Some people have adverse reactions to the ink, which can cause infection and lead to a hospital visit and some potent I'VE drugs and some possible scaring. It's pretty rate, but if you are prone to infection or diabetic you should chat with your doctor.
LightInDarkness from Smyrna, Tennessee on October 01, 2012:
You have inspired me to finally get my first tattoo! Can you elaborate on reactions to the ink?
tamron on September 24, 2012:
I saw a lady with a tattoo that looked like a beautiful butterfly but if you really look at the tattoo it was a naked lady.
That would be the tattoo that I would get.
Great Hub vote up and share!
Casimiro on September 22, 2012:
Like others here, I never knew that tatoos need maintenance. Something to think about if you think you'll barely get through the pain of the first time. Great hub, voted up, and love the writing style, light and flows like warm honey.
Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on September 17, 2012:
What a great intro for anyone thinking about getting a tattoo. Iv'e always contemplated will I won't I . . . . . as a creative art lovin gal I think it's up my street and yet . . . . . You have given me great tips and advice so you never know!! Cheers, voted up, interesting and useful . .sharing on!
Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on September 11, 2012:
I had an ASCII art dragon (I had made it myself) picked as a tattoo. But the tattoo artist said it wouldn't work well in the long run. The tattoo would blur and lose the look of being ASCII art. That would have spoiled it for me and she knew how important it was for it to look right. So I'm glad she was honest about it rather than just going ahead and doing it. She tattoos a lot of people here in town, our whole group goes to her.
A K Rao on August 28, 2012:
I used to always wonder about these tattoos as different people have different opinions about this! Thanks a lot for providing first hand information about them in details. I am happy to gather many facts about the tattoos by an expert in the field there by increasing my knowledge!
Fotinoula Gypsyy from NYC BABY on July 25, 2012:
I love tattoos. I have two, and that's probably as far as I'll go, I actually want to get one fixed up a little but I'm terrified of the pain! So I don't know if I'll do it...yet. Voted up and more!
George from Ohio on July 24, 2012:
I think everyone of us has had that said to us :). I thought my first was going to hurt once the machine hit my arm it didn't feel bad at all, I was prepped for way more pain. Great hub!
Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on July 09, 2012:
Mary, thank you so much for reading and the vote up. My Mom often says the same to me about how I will look as an old tattooed woman, my response is "pretty cool."
Mary Hyatt from Florida on July 08, 2012:
I have four daughters and they all have small tattoos. I tease them and say, "How's that going to look when you are old are wrinkled like me?" They don't care, they love tattoos. I think they are very pretty, too,to be honest. I never knew the ink faded after a while, though.
I voted this Hub UP.