In the past two or three years, one of my newfound passions has been tattoos. I love having them, the culture surrounding having ink on my body, and goddamn, it is just addicting, so even if I did not feel strongly, I would still continue getting artwork embedded into my skin.
While I have plenty of friends who do have tattoos, most do not. I always get asked questions because not only do I have some, I have done extensive research on the topic. Whether that is watching or reading interviews with artists or asking questions when I go in for an appointment. Since I know many people without any might also want answers before sitting down and going through pain for a few hours, here are some beginner’s tips for tattoos.
1. Don’t go for something too small
Over course, it depends on what you want to get, but it is best to not get something too small for your first tattoo. You should experience the whole process as a whole, even the pain. A lot more goes into going into a shop and getting a tattoo. The artist will speak with you about your idea and draw something up, then get your approval for that concept. After the consultation, the tattooer makes a stencil, an inked outline that goes on your body that they trace during the linework. Finally, they get to add all the details, color, and/or shading to your piece (if you are getting something that is more than lines, that is up to what style you want, but we will get to that later).
Depending on what you want and where you want it, your artist may advise something bigger than what you had in mind. The smaller then, the harder it is to create detail for your piece. Personally, I go for a lot of detail for both the artwork that I get and follow on Instagram. If I wanted something two or three inches, then I would limit the tattooer.
The other problem comes later down the line as your tattoo may not age properly if it is too small. A lot of factors go into aging, and size sometimes can affect how things look in the future.
Finally, you should get something that fits that part of your body. I have a cardinal sitting on a branch with some leaves and acorns on my inner bicep. It fills the area without unnecessary space left open. If it did not, then it would look awkward or limit other ideas and placements for those potential tattoos.
2. Research, Research, Research
If you take anything away from this article, let it be that you have to research two major things.
For one, you should look into the plethora of styles that are out in the wild. Most of the time, people go for black/grey (no, it is not black and white or whatever people call it) or traditional/American traditional. Getting one of these two is totally fine because the beauty of art is there is no right or wrong on what you like. You should know the variety in what you can get goes beyond what you see on an average day. A few of my favorites include colored realism, surrealism, and new school.
Once you find out some styles that you like, you need to find the right artist. Look up every shop in your area that you are willing to travel to, then look at each artist. A shop may have a website with people’s portfolios, or you can visit people’s Instagram, the magical land of finding good tattooers. If you like 80 percent or more of their work, then they might be right for you.
3. Contacting Artists
When contacting artists, you may e-mail them or DM them on Instagram; it depends on their system. Regardless, you need to make sure you include certain details. After a pleasant hello (you would be surprised by how many people message “tattoo?” or some bullshit), you will explain what you want, if it is color or black/grey, approximate size, and the placement.
Like I previously said, when you have your day of the appointment, you will be walked through a process with the artist. If you have any concerns since it is your first time, then bring it up to them as they are there to make this easy as possible for you.
4. Be Open-Minded
The best experience for a client and ink master, you need to have a balance between getting what you want and what they want. You will lay out a foundational idea of what you want, like a rose, which is a classic piece many people have. The artist will elevate it by adding maybe a bee sitting on it. Of course, they will bring up ideas to you, and you will work together to come up with the final product.
Listen to what their ideas are and be open to what ideas may come about. For me, I say what I want and then let them run wild. When I got my cardinal, I wanted a cardinal in color. Alex Fiore, the tattooer who made the piece, asked if she could add some leaves and acorns, so I told her to surprise me.
5. Things not to say
You will piss someone off if you say the wrong thing, or at least they will think about you negatively. To have a good relationship if artists, here are things not to say:
- “Tattoo gun.” It is not a gun; it is a machine.
- “How much?” There are so many factors (we will get into it) about pricing, so if you have money, then get a tattoo. If you don’t, then wait.
- “Are we almost done?” Be patient and don’t rush the artist. It takes a while, so you have to settle with the commitment.
- It is okay to express your pain, but ease up on it to not to annoy everyone in the shop.
Like I said, there are so many factors into pricing, making it hard for an artist to give you how much it will cost before you even started or finished. The style you get, how much the person charges, time, color or black/grey, etc., go into calculating how much you will pay.
7. Bringing People
Every artist is okay with you bringing a buddy, family member, or significant other in my experience. However, you should only bring one person. Most would not want you having more than one person, especially depending on how big their workstation is. It is a good idea to bring someone, especially for your first time, as emotional support can carry you through the hours of pain.
You are thinking, “where should I place my tattoo? Apparently, the placement will determine the level of pain or how the tattoo will look?” Then let’s break those questions down.
While I believe you need a decent-sized piece to take up a good three to four hours for your first experience, you need a spot on your body that will be less excruciating, especially if you have a low pain tolerance like myself. I would recommend the top of the thigh, upper arm, and most of the outer parts of the arm make it easier. Do know that you will still face some, but that level of anguish is up to the individual client.
Secondly, where you place, it can disrupt the flow of future pieces or not sit well on that part of the body. Luckily, your artist will take care of that for you. If you want a snake on a part that will flow awkwardly, then the tattooer should offer an alternative. Be open-minded and not set on where you want your snake or flower or whatever, as what you have pictured may not look good.
An additional bit of information is to not get your tattoo upside down. When I put my arm forward, people see my train right side up. If it was facing me, then showing it to people would be upside down. Any respectable artist will not make something facing towards you because across the industry, it is the wrong thing to do.
9. What if you get something bad? Laser? Coverups?
Even if you do your research, some unethical artists post work they did not do or modify it with a program or filter. It happens to clients who do all the right things. Maybe it was nothing on the artist, you end up not liking it anymore, or it does not resonate with you as you got it when you were too young. You have a few options.
Depending on what is done, you can get it fixed. This is not guaranteed, the tattooer you go to may not know how, but some may know how to fix up the problems with your bad ink. Somethings cannot be saved, so that is where you may have to go down another road.
Covering up your regretful choice or getting fucked over by someone who gave you something ugly on your body may or may not be possible. The darkness of it, color usage, size, etc., will determine if you cannot get it covered, but if you come across someone who does it well, then get their input to see if it can happen.
Maybe you can get that coverup, but you may need to get it lasered. It does not mean completely removed, sometimes getting enough laser work to make it light enough to bury under a good piece of ink. Also, like anything in life, do your research. Not all tattoo removal technicians are the same; make sure you get someone good at their job.