Everything You Need to Know Before Getting Your First Tattoo

If you had told me last summer that I would already have a tattoo by my second month of college, I would have laughed in your face. Although I always knew exactly what I would get if I ever decided I wanted one, I was always hesitant to commit to something that would be etched into my body forever. Luckily, I couldn’t be happier with my decision and have no regrets. If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, here are some things to keep in mind before making it official.


Conduct thorough research on where to get your tattoo. Deciding where to get your tattoo requires more thought that deciding where to book dinner reservations. You will want to ensure the place you go has a reputation for being clean, efficient and friendly. Make sure to conduct a deep Yelp investigation before making any final decisions, and get ideas from friends if they have tattoos that you like. I got my tattoo at Fatty’s Tattoo and Piercings in Dupont Circle after hearing raves about their designs. I would highly recommend Fatty’s to a friend, but I would suggest looking into multiple different places to find one that best fits your needs.

Make sure you are 100% certain before making the appointment! In case you didn’t know, tattoos are completely permanent. This means there is no going back once the first line is made, so be sure that your design is something meaningful and can be shown off years into the future. A lot of places require a non-refundable down payment, so there really is no going back once you book the appointment.

Consider where on your body you would like the tattoo to be. Similar to spending time deciding where to make your appointment, it’s essential to also be sure about where it’s going to make its appearance. I chose to get mine on my ribs because it’s a spot that can be easily covered up, but not so concealed that I can’t show it off when I want to. You may want to be aware of keeping your tattoo hidden for future jobs or internships, but today, most employers won’t care.

Don’t worry too much about the pain! My biggest concern about my tattoo was how much it would hurt, but in hindsight, it’s nothing to worry about at all. It all depends on where your tattoo is located and your pain tolerance. Places where the skin is thicker and more fatty tend to hurt less, while areas close to the bone or nerves will be more painful. I experienced an intense vibrating sensation on my ribs, but it felt more uncomfortable than painful. However, the feeling varies from person to person and it really comes down to your overall pain tolerance. In my opinion, a few minutes of pain are worth it for a beautiful design that will be on your body forever.

Get to know your tattoo artist. Many places will give you a choice about which artist you would like to have do your tattoo. You will have the option to look through an array of reference pictures that will show their past work to decide which one has the skills to fit your needs. You will then have the chance to sit down with them for a consultation, where you’ll show them pictures of what you’d like to get and discuss sizing and pricing. This is a great time to address any questions or concerns you have and get to know them on a more personal level, which can help alleviate some of the unknowns surrounding your tattoo.

Show up for your appointment on time and ready to go. Right before the appointment, be sure to eat a nutritious meal and stay hydrated to keep your skin nourished and prepared for the ink. Avoid drugs and alcohol well in advance. Depending on the length of the appointment, you may want to bring snacks and bottled water to stay energized. You can also bring headphones to keep in during the session if music will help keep you calm, and make sure to bring extra cash to leave your artist a nice tip.

Get excited!! While you may have many fears going into your appointment, focus on the outcome and the meaning that your tattoo holds for you. Getting a tattoo is a huge step toward independence, and there couldn’t be a time better than college to make decisions like this. Have fun and get ready to show off your new design with pride!