So you want to get a tattoo…

Okay besties, buckle up! Today I’m going to be giving you the scoop on getting your first tattoo. My goal is to you all the information you need to make sure your first tattoo goes off without a hitch.

Let’s start with the basic question that’s probably on your mind:

What should I expect when I get my first tattoo?

For starters, it can be a little uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re not used to needles. I recommend staying focused on your breathing and keeping calm. If needed, close your eyes during the process and go to your happy place. Depending upon the area you get tattooed, it usually feels like a vibrating sensation with some pricks. If things get too uncomfortable or you feel the need for a break, talk to your artist because you don’t want to pass out from anxiety or jump up randomly and startle your artist while he’s working.

For your first tattoo, I’d say start small and get a feel for things. My first tattoo was in my mid twenties, and it was a lyric from the Issues song, Never Lose Your Flames. I got it on my inner arm and was in and out in a pinch.

When it comes to finding an artist, the process can be daunting.

A great way to find an artist (or rule one out,) is by asking around and looking at real life examples on your friends and colleagues. Of course you can also defer to Yelp and Google. Personally, I like to start with word of mouth, and then look at their portfolio — especially the shots of healed work. How a piece heals will tell you everything you need to know about an artist, like if they have a basic mastery of line work.

Knowing the genre or aesthetic you are wanting can narrow down your search tremendously.

And contrary to popular belief, I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that all artists should be good at all types of design. If I’m wanting a traditional rose or a set of swallows, I’m going to someone who specializes in traditional work, not someone who specializes in portraits.

While some artists will be honest and tell you if they cannot do something, others won’t, and they will gladly take your money and ruin your body in the process.

And sure, laser tattoo removal is a thing, but why go to extremes we if we don’t have to?

When you find an artist you love, contact them to get a quote.

Most shops will give you a ballpark range, and tell you the final amount can depend on how long the tattoo takes and if you add anything at the last minute. Also, prepare to pay cash. And don’t forget to tip.

As a general best practice, don’t be cheap. If you can’t afford the artist you’re keen on, then wait until you can’t. Cheaper isn’t always better. And do not negotiate with your artist or be upset at their pricing.

Lastly, let’s touch on aftercare.

This is a subject with a variety of answers so I’ll keep it simple: ask your artist what they recommend. Some swear by Aquaphor, and others want you to use their balms they have in the shop. There is no right or wrong answer. Just avoid direct sunlight and do not pick your scabs! A fresh tattoo is like a wound. Let it heal. It’s going to ooze plasma, and flake…don’t freak out, as that’s normal!

Now go out there and don’t stress it. If you’ve made up your mind and are set on a tattoo, get it. Just take care of it. And no, in case you’re wondering, your tattoo doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. And this is coming from the girl with a giant Wednesday Addams tattoo on her arm.

Wednesday Addams tattoo done by Andrew Patterson of Avenue Tattoo Studio. Black and Gray portrait tattoo of a popular Addams Family member.

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