The Phases of Getting a Tattoo

For those of you who are new to the tattoo scene or considering getting one, here’s a list of phases that you might, or rather probably, will go through along the way. 

1. Realizing you actually want a tattoo 

This is obviously the first phase everyone will go through when deciding to get a tattoo. You might have seen a friend’s tattoo or always thought about them in the back of your mind, but now you have officially decided that you actually want to ink your body. 

2. Coming up with an idea 

I think this phase tends to be one of the hardest. So you decided you want to get a tattoo, but now what the hell are you actually going to put on your body? Sometimes a tattoo idea will instantly pop into your head, but other times it may take over a year to come up with something you want to have on your body permanently. I got my first tattoo the day after I turned 18, because I had known what design I wanted to get since I was 15 years old, but my second tattoo was much harder. I decided about three months after getting my first one that I wanted to get another, but my mind was completely blank. I knew I wanted another, but I had no idea what to get and I wanted it to be meaningful like my first one that was a tribute to my mom. I finally came up with a cute star design, but it took me 2 full years to decide. 

3. Finding a tattoo parlor 

Now this phase is possibly the most important one for anyone thinking about getting a tattoo. There are thousands of tattoo parlors, but you need to make sure you find a reliable one. I ended up going to a parlor in my town that had excellent reviews. Also, my sister and a couple of friends had previously gone there and had great experiences. I would definitely recommend hitting the internet and checking lots of Yelp reviews before deciding to make an appointment. I know in the heat of the moment you might want to walk into a sketchy parlor because it’s right there and you have to get a tattoo right then, but trust me, it's worth the searching and a little extra money to get a reliable artist who knows what he/she is doing. 

4. Making an appointment 

Once you’ve decided on a good parlor, you need to make an appointment. Some places will take walk-ins, but for the most part it’s a good idea to call and book a time slot. This phase always gives me anxiety, even after already having a tattoo. When you make an appointment, they will make you pay a deposit so if you wimp out, you lose anywhere from $30-$70 dollars. Once you pay your deposit, the thought of actually getting a tattoo becomes much more real. 

5. Going to the parlor 

So, you’ve booked an appointment and the day has finally come. I would recommend getting there a few minutes early to make sure you have ample time to check in and the artist has time to prepare. Walking into the parlor, especially if it’s your first time, can be insanely intimidating. All the artists have head-to-toe ink and a majority of the clients I’ve seen do as well. The stereotypical blasting rock music will also do nothing to help ease your nerves as you sit in a chair waiting to be called back. 

6. Getting the tattoo 

By now your heart is probably racing and your palms might be a little sweaty, but it’s time to finally get the tattoo. Depending on where you’re getting it, you will either be sitting in a chair or lying down. The artist will tell you that at any point you can take a break if you’re feeling dizzy or nauseous, but so far I’ve been lucky and done my tattoos in one sitting. Once you’re ready, the artist will prep your skin and then you’ll hear the loud and echoing noise of the needle. Unless you know you’re a pain expert, I would highly recommend bringing a friend or sibling with you to help you through the process. My sister came with me for my second tattoo and held my hand the entire time. 

The first time the needle hits your skin, you’ll probably experience pain you’ve never felt before and probably cannot even describe (I still can’t to this day). However, after a few seconds, your body will start getting used to it. Now that’s not to say it won’t hurt at all, but you will become more accustomed to the sharp, dragging pain on your body. At this point, you can hold a hand, try and have a conservation, or even try to meditate a little to ease your mind.  Depending on the size and design of the tattoo, yours could take anywhere from 5 minutes to a couple hours. Both of mine have only taken around 10-15 minutes and the time honestly flew. Both times when the artist told me he was done I was shocked that it was over. 

7. The Aftermath 

Now that the constant stabbing is done, you can actually focus on the fact that you have a tattoo. They will let you look at your tattoo before they wrap it up and this is always my favorite part. Once the pain subsides and you look at your tattoo, a feeling of happiness and accomplishment usually follows. My last tattoo artist was such a cool guy, and he sat there listening to me explain what my design meant. 

8. Healing 

Now that you got your tattoo, you need to properly take care of it. I’m not a professional and neither are many of the authors you will read online, so listen to your artist when they describe how to take care of your tattoo for the first couple days and weeks. You might get scared when you look at your tattoo in the next couple of days and it has formed scabs over the design. This is completely normal and they will go away as long as you follow the artist’s instructions. If anything looks seriously wrong, you can call your artist or go see a doctor, because it is possible to get an infection. 

9. Post-Healing 

Now that your tattoo has finally healed, the ink will be vibrant and your design will look flawless. You can wear fun clothes that show off your new ink and it’s a great conversation starter when you meet new people. To this day, I never get tired of having people ask what the constellation on my shoulder is or what the stars on my wrist mean. Getting a tattoo may be terrifying at first, but they are definitely worth it.