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Baby’s First Ink: Tips On Getting Your First Tattoo

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SFU chapter.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are considering getting your first tattoo. Whether you are envisioning a delicate, penny-sized heart behind your ear, or the Grim Reaper holding a flaming scythe across your back, keep the following tips in mind before you make an appointment!

Don’t Fall For Trends

While tattoos often hold a significant meaning for some people, sometimes it doesn’t have to symbolize anything at all. Being open with stylistic choices, however, is when people tend to fall prey to the current trends. Just like clothes, hairstyles, or makeup looks, different tattoo designs and styles come in and out of fashion. 

Take the infinity symbol for example – it was all the rage in the early 2010s (I saw so many photos of them on Tumblr) – but it is now seen as an outdated trend. Not that there’s anything wrong with outdated trends (as long as you like it, that’s all that really matters!), but unlike TOMS or galaxy print leggings, you can’t toss out or donate an unfashionable tattoo. If you aren’t sure you’ll love your tattoo ten, five, or even two years from now, perhaps hold off on making an appointment. 

That said, if you do end up getting a trendy tattoo, perhaps you’ll take some comfort in knowing that just like any other trend, tattoo designs come back into fashion years later too. Just look at barbed wire tattoos, for example!

Avoid Bargain Hunting

Tattoo pricing depends on multiple factors, including where you live, what design you want, and how in-demand your artist is. Large and/or colourful pieces may require multiple sessions and lots of time. Although I love me a bargain and consider haggling an Olympic sport, I never, ever cheap out on a tattoo. Tattoos are artwork, and whether it’s an original design or not, someone is creating art for you. Pay them as you would any other commissioned artist. Also, a tattoo will be on you for the rest of your life – it’s a one-time payment for something that is yours to keep forever!

Research Your Artist (And Be Open To Other Artists, As Well)

I honestly don’t know how people managed to find their tattoo artists before social media, but Instagram is a fantastic way to find the right artist for you. Be sure to go through an artist’s account thoroughly and check their tagged photos as well to see if any former clients tagged them in a “healed” picture! Keep in mind: a more popular artist with tens of thousands of followers on Instagram will likely have limited availability or an extremely long waitlist, so avoid your disappointment by finding multiple artists you like with a similar style. Bonus tip: check to see if your desired artist works out of a shop with other artists – they will likely have similar styles!

Anticipate Pain, But Don’t Sweat It

Everyone has different levels of pain tolerance. On a scale from 1 – 10 (1 = walk in the park, 10 = I’m seeing stars), I would say that the most discomfort I’ve felt while getting a tattoo was about a 7.5 (45-minute session on my inner bicep, if you’re curious). In general, getting tattooed hurts; some areas – like the ribs, feet, and hands – are particularly sensitive. But as someone with ten tattoos and counting, I would say that it usually doesn’t hurt as much as you think it will. Depending on the size, design, and the amount of experience an artist has, the process can go by in a flash. Sometimes, placing the stencil takes longer than the actual tattooing part.

Book Your Appointment!

Once you have a design in mind, a few artists whose work suits your style, and a budget set aside (don’t forget to tip – in B.C., at least 15% is the standard!), go ahead and send that request email! Most artists usually post when their books are open to take on new clients or projects. If you’re not sure, it doesn’t hurt to email them or their shop and ask about their availability. Include specific details in your email, such as any reference photos, sizing, colour, etc. Let them know what days/times work for you, how they would like to be paid, and any other questions you may have.

Camille is a Communication major at Simon Fraser University. As a kid, she wanted to be like Miss Honey from Matilda and entered post-secondary with dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher. After teaching preschool for three years, she realized that she enjoyed connecting with people of all ages and decided that studying communications would open up more creative doors for her future. When she is not typing away at her MacBook, she can be found making TikToks with her cat or re-watching Mamma Mia! for the 700th time.