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What to Expect When You Get Your First Tattoo

I got my first tattoo last week and I had no idea what to expect beforehand. That didn’t sit well with me because I am extremely type A, and I wanted to know exactly what would happen through every step of the process.  Now, with a little bit of experience under my belt, I have some insight into what you should expect when you get your first tattoo!

The process won’t be the same for every person, just because different artists and shops have slightly different procedures. But in general, the main steps are the same. The first thing you should do is figure out what you want to get. When you’re doing that make sure to think about placement and how big you want the tattoo to be. I got a quote on the inside of my arm so I looked up tattoo fonts and went through hundreds of them until I found the one I wanted. I saved the tattoo in the font I wanted to my camera roll and I was able to send that to my tattoo artist when I was at the shop so she could print it. After figuring out what you want you should find a tattoo shop. I did a week or two of research before I decided on one. Because my tattoo was pretty simple, I was okay with just doing a walk-in appointment with whatever artist could fit me in. If you have something more intricate, or really large, you should also research what artist you might want to do your tattoo. You can also do a consult with shops and they can tell you who would be best for it. You will probably need to make an appointment, instead of being a walk-in. Something to keep in mind is that not all tattoo shops take walk-ins, so look into that before you go. 

Once you’re at the shop you’ll either check-in for your appointment, or let them know you were wanting to do a walk-in. The artists will pretty much take it from there. My experience was that I walked in, asked if they had time for a walk-in tattoo and an artist took a look at what I wanted to get done. She told me she could fit me in, and so she printed out the picture of the tattoo I wanted and told me she would call in a few hours when she was done with her other appointments and she had drawn up my tattoo. Unfortunately, she ended up not being able to fit me in that day but scheduled me for an appointment the next day. I showed up for my appointment and went back with her to her workstation. She showed me the stencil of my tattoo she had drawn out and then put it on my arm. The stencil had ink that stained onto my skin so I could see exactly how the tattoo would look. After a few placement adjustments I was satisfied and so she cleaned my arm and had me lay down on her table. She made sure I knew that if I needed to take a break at any point or didn’t feel well that we absolutely could do that. After that, I just laid there and let her work! Once she was done she put an ointment over the tattoo and wrapped my arm in cellophane. She then let me look in the mirror and took pictures for her portfolio. Finally, I paid and she walked me through the aftercare instructions. One thing to be aware of is that different artists and shops have you pay in different ways. For example, I had to pay entirely in cash and didn’t know that until I was there. Luckily, I had enough and there also was an ATM in case I didn’t, but it is something to ask about. 

I’m now about a week post-tattoo and it seems to be healing well. I’ve just been washing it every few hours or so with water and antibacterial soap, and then moisturizing it with unscented lotion. The flaking is beginning to happen, and it has been itchy so I know it’s healing! 

I had a really great first-tattoo experience and so I wanted to share how things went for me to ease the anxiety of anyone else who might be wanting to get a tattoo but is intimidated by the process. 

Taylor Wells

Oregon '23

Hi, I’m Taylor! I’m from Bend, Oregon and I’m a sophomore human physiology major at the University of Oregon. I’m passionate about traveling and exploring all of the wonders our world has to offer us. Airports are my favorite place to be, so much so that every year I go to the airport for my birthday dinner. I love reading, spending time with friends and family, and watching movies. I’m so excited to be a part of an inclusive, women-inspired environment!
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