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A Guide To Getting Your First Tattoo: With Advice from a Tattoo Artist

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Ottawa chapter.

From a girl who has three tattoos (and wants fifty more), getting your first tattoo can be an exciting and stressful experience. It’s very important to prepare before heading to your appointment and to have a strong understanding of what you’re getting yourself into. While a tattoo is a great way to express and invest in yourself, it’s also expensive and permanent. This guide will go through a step-by-step process of everything you need to know before getting your first tattoo and will give you feedback from a tattoo artist!

research & choosing A tattoo

First and foremost, it’s really important to do some research before getting a tattoo. You need to choose a tattoo style (fine line, realism, patchwork etc). This is a very important step—yes, you can find some tattoo styles pretty but it doesn’t mean it’s for you. Find the style that you can connect with the most. Personally, I prefer the fine line style because I think it fits my aesthetic the most and it’s small and delicate. Not that I don’t love big tattoos, but fine line works best for me!

In addition, do some research about tattoo artists in your area. I don’t suggest just showing up at a random shop. Choose your artist wisely, because you really want to be comfortable with them on your first session. Find someone who understands the piece that you want to get, and who specializes in the specific style you’re searching for. Make sure to also look into pictures of healed tattoos by the artist, since this shows they have the proper technique to avoid ink blowout.

Tip: I suggest going on Pinterest to get inspiration for your tattoo (or tattoo style)! Also, in my opinion, I would suggest getting a smaller tattoo for your first because you don’t know if you’ll like the process.

choose a tattoo artist

When you find a tattoo artist that you like, try to find reviews about them. You want to know your artist before heading to your appointment because you want to make sure they are the right fit for you.

Tip: I chose a tattoo artist that friends went to before at her studio. That way, I knew what to expect going there and I felt more ready for my tattoo.

prepare for your appointment

When you find the right tattoo artist and you’ve made an appointment, you can now prepare for your tattoo! I draw the design that I want on my skin to see what would it look like, and I typically go one day with the drawing on me. Sometimes, you may realize that it’s not in the right placement or size that you want.

Tip: Before your appointment, it’s important to have a good night of sleep, hydrate and not go on an empty stomach.

tattoo session

Now it’s time for your tattoo session! Arrive early (I’m a last-minute girl, but I try to be early for a tattoo)! Once again, be sure to be hydrated and feel ready before going in the studio. At the appointment, the tattoo artist will go through the process with you. They will probably make you sign some papers, a waiver, etc. When they put the stencil on, don’t be shy about saying you don’t like the placement! You’re paying for this piece and it will be on your skin forever, so don’t be afraid and tell them you want to re-do the stencil! Throughout your session, it is absolutely normal to be sweating. Your body is going through a lot. Finally, be sure to drink water after your appointment.

Tip: Grab yourself a bottle of Gatorade beforehand! I drink that after my session just to be sure I’m feeling good and fully hydrated.


Aftercare may not seem like an important task, but it is. While the exact aftercare steps depend on what your tattoo artist tells you, there are some basic to take care of your new ink.

Typically, artists will wrap your tattoo in a second skin bandage—a clear plastic-wrap type material that completely covers and protects the fresh ink. This normally stays on for a few days and is often painful to remove. I suggest removing it in the shower with unscented soap. After removing your second skin, it is important to clean your tattoo daily (again, with unscented soap) and put a small amount of moisturizer on afterwards. The moisturizer should be unscented and for sensitive skin (Aveeno often works well).

Tip: If you got your tattoo in summer, be careful to avoid direct sunlight and always put SPF on your tattoos when fully healed.


Here’s some advice from Jade, my tattoo artist! I recommend her to anyone getting their first tattoo in Ottawa. I was anxious before getting mine, but the moment I walked through her studio door I felt comfortable and safe. If you want more information on Jade, follow her Instagram @gilltytattoos.

Her Campus: What advice do you have for someone considering getting their first tattoo?

Jade: I would recommend the person to do research on what they want to get. Especially if it’s a specific word or meaning, to check if what they are getting is correct. I’d also advise people not to do it spontaneously because it is permanent and you want to make sure it’s something you’re committed to and won’t regret.

HC: What are some common misconceptions or myths about getting tattoos that you often encounter?

J: I’m a woman of colour and tattoo a lot of people of colour. And I often hear that it’s harder or a lot more difficult to tattoo deeper skin tones, which I don’t find true. I also hear that some people of colour don’t look good with tattoos, which again is so wrong. Tattoos also don’t always have to have a meaning for them to be worthy of you getting it.

HC: Can you share a memorable experience you’ve had with a client who was getting their first tattoo?

J: I was tattooing a woman for the first time and she was getting her late father’s hand writing on her arm. When she was done she started crying because she was so happy, which made me really happy to share that experience with her.

HC: What factors should first-timers consider when choosing a design and placement for their tattoo?

J: Sizing, design composition, placement. Also making sure the artist they chose will execute the tattoo they want in the style they want so that they are happy with the results

HC: What do you enjoy most about working with clients who are getting their first tattoo?

J: I love how excited they are and how happy they are once it’s done. I try really hard to make my studio a safe calm place so that it’s not overwhelming.

HC: What was your experience getting your first tattoo and did it encourage you to become a tattoo artist yourself?

J: My first experience was okay! I wish I had researched the artist a bit more because they did my tattoo bigger than I wanted. That’s not why I became a tattoo artist, but now that I am I always make sure my clients are happy and satisfied without making them feel bad if I have to re-stencil or re-size because it is permanent. And I hear a lot of horror stories about bad tattoo experiences so I want to change that narrative.

Tattoos are a fun way to express yourself, and over time they show the journey of your life! Your first tattoo can be stressful and seem like a daunting decision, but afterwards you’ll want to get plenty more! Good luck!

Amélie Bouthillier is a author at Her Campus UOttawa. She loves to write about the entertainement industry, tips, movies, books recommendation and more. Beyond Her Campus, Amélie is currently in her first year in general studies in art at UOttawa. Not only that she love to write articles, Amélie wrote a poetry book that centers mental health (lost poems). In her free time, Amélie enjoys reading romance and poetry. She also enjoys music (mainly Taylor Swift).