Congratulations, you, on deciding on your first tattoo! I’m not going to lecture you about how permanent tattoos are, because you’re an adult and that’s all stuff you’ve heard before. Instead I’m going to offer up a few tips to help make the experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
Before the Ink
First, know what you want. Decide beforehand exactly where you’d like the tattoo and what size you want it to be. Payment very often depends on how large of a tattoo you want; bigger tattoos mean more time, therefore more expensive. Be open to suggestions from your tattoo artist on size and placement modifications, but do come in with a concrete idea to give them.
Also, bring photos or drawings for reference. It’s a lot like getting your hair done; they can’t read your mind, and the only way to ensure you’re satisfied is to convey to them exactly what you want. Again, be open to the possibility of changes being made. If you set up an appointment beforehand with the person who will be tattooing you to discuss the design of your ink, these are all things you’ll more than likely have to talk about with them. However, if you opt to do a walk-in appointment it’s best to still have all these things figured out. I mean, it is permanent—make sure you absolutely will not regret it.
The next thing you’ve got to do before heading to the parlor is to dress appropriately. It might seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how fast you’ll forget this bit of common sense once you’re all hyped up about your soon-to-be ink. Dress comfortably, of course, but make sure that your artist will be able to have access to the part of your body you want tattooed.
And don’t forget to feed yourself! I would compare getting a tattoo to donating blood or plasma. You’re going to feel much better and less likely to pass out during the process if you’ve had a decent meal and are hydrated.
During the Ink
You probably knew before setting foot into the tattoo parlor how clean/respectable the place is (if you didn’t research or scope it out, no tattoo for you!). While your tattoo artist is prepping the equipment that will be used for you, take note! The needles and tools that will be used on you should all come out of packages intended for one-time use, and all equipment should be clean.
Once everything is ready and your skin has been sanitized… expect the tattoo to hurt. Obviously the pain won’t be unbearable (otherwise nobody would have tattoos), but do realize that you’re about to have a number of tiny needles pressed into your skin multiple times per second. Don’t exactly expect the worst, but there more than likely will be some discomfort.
The very first time the needles go into your skin will probably feel kind of like being cut, or having your skin sliced. The artist should stop then to ask if it feels okay. After that, all you can really do is hang out. I’d recommend using some distraction techniques to keep your mind off any pain you might feel. Most parlors will hook you up with water or those little Dum Dum suckers to give you something to focus on.
If you’d like though, bring a friend to chat with while everything is going down. Or take this time to learn more about the art of inking. What does each piece of equipment do? How long has your artist been working at the particular parlor? Ask your tattoo artist about their own tattoos. Share why you want your tattoo or any special meaning behind it. It might be somewhat painful, but having other things to focus on will help the time go by a little faster and make things more comfortable.
After the Ink
Once your artist announces s/he is done and you check out your new body art in a mirror, you’ll get all bandaged up and given some tips on aftercare. Make sure you pay attention! What would the point be of spending the time and money on your new tattoo if you aren’t going to take care of it? Keep it clean and apply lotion to it, don’t submerge it in water, and don’t expose it to too much sunlight either.
And let it do what it’s going to do. Keep in mind that it is a wound. A scab of sorts will form over it and gradually shed off. Don’t panic—it’s healing. Check out online forums on tattoo aftercare to help ease your mind if you’re feeling paranoid. And please don’t pick at it. It may be tempting, but let it heal at its own pace.
You’ll definitely feel jitters and some anxiety before and during, but after your tattoo you should feel excitement. You’ve done something pretty major! Just try not to let your nerves get the best of you, and remember to try to savor the experience.