Are you thinking of getting your first tattoo? Everything You Need to Know About
Selecting a Performer
If you haven’t yet chosen a tattoo artist to give you your first tattoo, Portland-based tattoo artist Brit Abad recommends choosing someone you trust and can envision yourself having fun with during the procedure. “Follow them on social media to get a sense of who they are as a person,” she advises. “Having a positive tattoo experience has a significant impact on how a person feels about the tattoo on their body. If you like your artist, you’ll like the art even more.”
Ariel Wei, a tattoo artist, located in New York City, recommends looking at images of healed work while completing your research. (Examples can be found in the highlights section of her Instagram.) “Fresh vs. healed tattoos are different,” she explains. Because colors fade and lines become less apparent as a tattoo heals, this research will help you fully comprehend how your chosen tattoo artist’s work ages over time.
Making a Consultation
The preferred method of arranging an appointment will vary depending on your tattoo artist. Some provide links to an online form that you can fill out with the specific information they require for booking on their Instagram or website. Others might request that you send them an email. Here’s what you should include if that’s the case:
Your preferred design is as follows: Make your request as clear as possible, including whether or not you want to color. Attaching reference images will greatly aid your artist’s understanding of your concept. Just make sure you don’t anticipate your final design to appear exactly like someone else’s. “Unless it was commissioned and you have confirmation of permission to acquire the design as a tattoo,” Wei explains, “I do not imitate designs.”
We prefer that her clients specify the proportions in inches rather than determining whether they want their tattoo to be tiny, medium, or large. But don’t worry about being precise. Both the size and the location can be estimated. “[Both] can be modified afterward,” says tattoo artist Hannah Kang of New York City.
According to Wei, another thing to be particular about is the days and times that work best for you, so you don’t have to deal with a lot of back-and-forth with the tattoo artist or their store.
Although some firms may ask for your skin tone, Toronto-based tattoo artist Thomarya “Tee” Fergus insists that tattoo artists should be able to create a design that works for you regardless of your skin tone. Find someone more accepting and inclusive if an artist informs you they don’t work with darker skin tones or gives you a list of things and colors they can’t do on you because of your skin tone. “It should never be like, ‘You can’t receive this item automatically because you didn’t try to discover what works,'” they explain. “‘OK, cool,’ I’d say. You’ve arrived. Let’s see what we can come up with.'” Fergus also notes that they have a few color pieces on their bodies to demonstrate to clients how different tattoo ink hues look on darker skin tones. Color tests are also available from some artists. They will tattoo little lines or dots of various shades on your skin during a consultation to observe how they heal before making final decisions. A nice place to ask for one is through the artist’s contact form or email.
Getting Ready For Your Appointment
According to New York City-based tattoo artist Doreen Garner, you may need to attend to the studio for a quick, in-person consultation before your appointment, depending on the design you have in mind. “If they couldn’t express their tattoo enough for me to develop an image from their words,” she says, “then it’s just embellishing on their notion.” Few of her clients also come in for a consultation so that Garner can get a rough idea of what kind of shapes they like and what region of the body they work on so that “the tattoo can match that part the best,” as she puts it.
Most of the tattoo artists we spoke with equated tattoo appointment preparation to that of a medical procedure. Before going to the tattoo studio, make sure you get a good night’s sleep, don’t drink the night before, remain hydrated, and eat something. (You can also bring goodies to eat while getting your tattoo.) “At least 30 minutes prior to the tattoo, I make sure my customers have a meal,” Garner explains.
Garner recommends informing your tattoo artist ahead of time if you have any skin issues, such as eczema, that influence the area where you want to get tattooed. You might have to reschedule your appointment if you’re suffering a flare-up. We also recommend avoiding any cuts or tans in the area where you want to get tattooed.
When You Get There
You’ll begin by cleaning your hands before filling out consent documents when you first arrive at the tattoo studio. Make sure to have your photo ID, and arrive on time to “provide the artist time to prepare, clean up, and avoid overlap with other clients — especially to comply with COVID safety rules,” according to Kang.
Putting the finishing touches on your design and placement
Your tattoo artist will display the design they sketched up for you after filling out your consent documents. All of the tattoo artists we spoke with agreed that you should not be hesitant to speak up if you wish to make any changes, as the art will be on your body for the rest of your life. Make sure, however, that your feedback is respectful. “Keep in mind that you contacted this artist because you believe in their idea,” adds Abad. “That said, it’s absolutely common and acceptable to want adjustments made to your design, but articulating this gently, without insulting or demonstrating mistrust, is critical.”
Also, remember in mind that not all tattoos may be made as small as you desire, and some lettering may need to be increased to be legible in the long run. “That’s perfectly fine, but the tattoo will not hurt any less,” Garner adds. If you want it to be on the smaller side because you believe it’ll be easier to start with, “that’s acceptable, but the tattoo will not hurt any less.” “The discomfort will not be alleviated by increasing the tattoo’s size. That is, in my opinion, a common beginner’s mistake.”