So you’re thinking of getting your first (or second, or third) tattoo?
Here’s my best advice to make sure you don’t end up on Tattoo Nightmares.
Choose Your Artist Wisely
You Yelped the last new restaurant you went to to make sure they got good reviews, asked your friends for recommendations on what movie to see, and spent a mind-numbing amount of time comparing floorplans while apartment-hunting. So why are so many people okay with simply walking into the nearest tattoo parlor and working with the first artist who greets them?
Ask around and do your research. Schedule a consultation to go in and look at the artist’s book and discuss what you are thinking of getting. See how comfortable they make you feel and don’t hire them just to be nice. If you’re mature enough to make a lifetime commitment to inking your body, then you need to be able to voice exactly what you want and don’t want, even if that means looking them in the eye and saying,”Thank you for your time, but I don’t think we are the right fit.”
Know What You Want
This isn’t a haircut. You can’t just walk in on a whim with little or no idea of what you want and tell the artist to just “pick something” or “do what you think would look best” (well you can, but it’s a terrible idea). You don’t need to have every line cemented in your mind (creative license is great, and most artists can come up with things I could only dream of) but you should at the very least know what kind of image you want and where you want it. Then, it’s up to the artist to interpret your vision.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Revisions
So you’ve met with your artist, explained your vision, gave them time to sketch it up, and now you’re sitting there staring at a piece of paper that is good but not great or maybe totally not what you had pictured in your mind. Your first instinct may be to give a fake smile and pretend you like it (“if you don’t have anything nice to say…”) but now is not the time to hold back. Politely voice your true opinions. What changes could they make to suit you better? Or, is it so off base that you need them to start over? It’s totally natural to feel uncomfortable telling them you don’t like their sketch, especially if they invested a lot of time into it, but trust me, your artist wants you to be happy, and a good one will be able to tell when you are not being sincere. Study it, choose your words carefully, and ask for what you want without being bitchy. If you’re not sure how to improve it, try brainstorming with them, i.e. “How can we make this more ethereal?” The bond between artist and client is based on trust and respect, and your artist expects to have to make revisions.
Give it Time
The good thing about meeting with your artist and asking for revisions is the passage of time between when you decide you want a tattoo and you actually get tattooed. Maybe you’ll get an even better idea while you are waiting, or change your mind about a detail. There’s no need to rush things, and art takes time. Make sure you are 100% sure with your final design, even if you have to sleep on it. Better to be safe than sorry. The worst thing you could do is make a drunken decision to get ink, rush into a shop before you sober up and then walk out with regret.
Be Sure About Placement
We all know the stigma surrounding lower back tattoos. But you’re already a reader of Slutty Girl Problems, so hopefully the words “tramp stamp” don’t bother you. Still, it could potentially bother your future husband, who may not be thrilled about the idea of the mother of his children being branded that way. And 99% of the time a face tattoo is just not a good idea. Consider the career that you hope to have and what is and is not acceptable in the workplace based on what you would be doing and wearing, then go from there when it comes to placement. I personally did not want any visible tattoos in my wedding pictures, so I got the back of my neck, and my feet and legs tattooed first and then started in on my arms after the wedding.
I don’t care how long you’ve been together or how much you think you love him, getting your man’s name (or star sign, or DOB or whatever) is a curse which almost always ends in a breakup before the tat even finishes healing. Don’t do it. Don’t think you’re the exception the rule, don’t think of laser as a fallback plan, and don’t be surprised when the shit hits the fan if you disregard my advice.
No Pain, No Gain
Everyone has a different levels of pain tolerance and their own maximum length of time they can sit for before tapping, with the average being between two and four hours. If possible, start with a smaller piece to determine your pain tolerance and save the larger pieces for later. Then plan to break the larger pieces up into multiple sessions. Remember, wiggling, screaming, and being overly dramatic is only going to make your artists job harder. Do your best to sit still and bear it. If you are concerned that your pain tolerance may be low, avoid the more painful areas such as your ribs and feet.
Whatever you decide, I hope you love your new tattoo! Prepare to get addicted because tattoos are like Lays potato chips, you can’t just have one! Good luck and don’t forget to tip well!