Hopping on the tattoo trend? Here's everything you need to know

At some point, every college student has the realization that they’re actually kind of an adult. One perk of  adulthood is being able to permanently decorate your body with piercings and tattoos, and no one can stop you. Most teenagers have some kind of experience with piercings, but tattoos are a thing of their own. College becomes the time when people start exploring the world of tattoos.

For anyone thinking about getting their first tattoos, here are some tips.

  1. 1. Know what you want

    set of minimalistic tattoos on a person's ribcage

    The first step to getting a good tattoo is knowing what you want. Not every tattoo has to have some deep, profound meaning. It's your body; get whatever you want. Issues can arise, however, if you walk into your first tattoo appointment and start to think about what to get once you get there. You don’t need a concrete idea of what you want; many tattoo artists will help you nail down the details of a tattoo. Just have a concept at the very least.

    Some other things to keep in mind are size, placement and color. Once you have a design you want, figure out how large or small you want it. It helps to decide where you want to get the tattoo first, and then decide how large you want it depending on the placement. Some places, such as the feet and ribs, are more painful to get tattooed. It's also smart to know whether or not you want your design colored/shaded in or more of an outline.

  2. 2. Do your research

    Find an artist whose work you like, or visibly have a good amount of experience. For more intricate or detailed tattoos, this is super important. There are different styles of tattoos, and some artists specialize in certain styles. Social media makes it easy to look at an artist’s work, since most will post other tattoos they’ve done. 

    After finding an artist you like, book an appointment or call the shop they work at to get an idea of pricing. If you’re getting something small and fairly simple, make sure to ask about the shop/artist’s minimum. In San Luis Obispo, most tattoo shop minimums land in the $85-$100 range. 

  3. 3. Don't be cheap

    Woman with tattoos holding a mug

    At the end of the day, you’re paying for permanent art to be put on your body. This is not something to be cheap about. Understand the artist’s pricing before committing to the tattoo, so you don’t end up regretting the amount of money you’re putting into it. It's also important to remember that tattoo artists are actual artists. They deserve a tip for giving you a tattoo you hopefully love. For small, cheaper tattoos, there isn’t exactly a set amount you should tip, but 15% is usually a good place to start.

    For larger tattoos, pricing depends on how long they take. Your artist will give you a range the price will land in, but be prepared to spend some serious cash on large pieces.

  4. 4. Speak up

    So you’ve made it to the tattoo shop, and the artist is showing you the design they’re about to permanently etch into your skin. Right then is the time to speak up if you don’t like it. If you have anything you want to change about the design, tell the artist right away. At the end of the day, your tattoo, especially your first one, should be something you think is perfect. 

    Be as specific as you can with your artist; it helps them know where to go with the design. Also, don’t be afraid to ask them for suggestions. Tattoo artists will often have ideas about how they can execute the design you want, and these are good to listen to. 

    It's also important to let your artist know if you’re having second thoughts about your tattoo. There’s no shame in letting your nerves get the best of you, but at least try to back out before the artist wastes too much of their time prepping for the tattoo. It's also important to remember that the pain from tattoos is completely manageable (or else not as many people would have them).

  5. 5. Aftercare

    tattooed hand

    Congratulations! You’re officially no longer a tattoo-virgin. Now it's time to take care of that tattoo so it doesn’t get infected or fade prematurely. Most tattoo artists will tell you specific aftercare procedures, but here’s a few of the basic ones.

    Moisturize your tattoo daily while it's healing (about the first two weeks). My favorite moisturizer for tattoos is Aquaphor, which can be found at basically any drug store. Make sure to keep the tattoo from being submerged under water during the healing process as well. This means no swimming or baths until it's healed. Getting them wet in the shower is pretty much harmless, as long as you’re gentle with them.

    Also make sure not to accidentally scratch it or let it be in direct sunlight while it's healing. This can alter the appearance of the tattoo, or make it fade. Once it's completely healed, always use sunscreen to keep your tattoo vibrant.