Tattoo stigma has gone way down (thanks millennials!) so practically every person over the age of 18 has at least thought about what tattoo they would get. However, I know for a fact that the logistics of actually getting a tattoo has stopped many in their tracks. So to put your mind at ease, as someone with two tattoos who got my first at 19, I’ve collected my best tips for your enjoyment.
1. Start simple.
There is obviously no shame in wanting an incredibly elaborate tattoo and if that’s what you’ve decided go for it. However, I had a long list of tattoos I was interested in getting and something I spent a long time debating was which to get first. The thing is, you can always add to a tattoo, but removing anything from a tattoo is difficult and expensive. Plus, if you ever decide to cover something up, the less intricate, complicated, and colorful it is, the easier the coverup will be. So if you’ve got some simpler tattoos on your list, I’d start out with those.
2. You’re (most likely) going to freak out and that’s okay.
The first time tattoo I got, once the adrenaline wore off, I spent the rest of the day in a state of “Did I make a mistake? Am I going to hate this? Does this suck? Do I regret this?”. Over and over in my head, I kept thinking that I’d “permanently disfigured” myself. Eventually, I reasoned with myself that a) life is a series of disfigurement, this one I chose for myself; b) I’ve gotten plenty of piercings and scars, which are also permanent and also ‘disfigurement’ and I love all of those; and c) there’s a lot of beauty in mistakes and in choosing which scars I want to permanently have on my body. Obviously you might not share this specific brand of panic, but the likelihood is that you’ll have some kind of doubt or fear and trust me when I say it’s normal and that you’ll relax soon enough.
3. Look up local artists beforehand.
Most tattoo shops have listings of the artists who work with them and most tattoo artists have an Instagram where they post pictures of their work, so look for the shop you’re interested in or a local artist and check out their Instagram. Depending on what you want, find an artist that has done (and posted) some work that is similar and that you like. Typically artists specialize in something, whether it be shading, portraiture, lettering, or line work.
4. Contact the shop ahead of time.
Tattoo shops can be super intimidating to walk into. Knowing what you’re in for ahead of time is probably the most reassuring thing you can do for yourself. Give the shop a call (during business hours) and let them know that you’re looking to get your first tattoo. If they’re nice (which they should be and if they’re not, go somewhere else because ew) they’ll probably walk you through what the process is going to look like in their specific shop and will most likely set you up with an appointment. If you don’t have a specific artist in mind, they may be able to point you in the right direction. If you’re not looking to call the shop directly, you should definitely find some contact info for your preferred artist and give them some info on what you’re looking for.
5. Don’t bring too many people with you.
Not only is it inconvenient for the artist (and usually the shop doesn’t have enough space for more than one other person), but it can make the entire experience performative. The pain and process of getting a tattoo can be really intimate and it’s a really vulnerable position to be in. Even if you do want all 5 of your closest friends to see you in that position, I honestly think that bringing that many people in is taking some of the richness of the experience out of it (and, look, obviously, this is my opinion and this isn’t necessarily true for you, or true past your first tattoo but just give it a shot if you’re so inclined).
6. Give yourself some time to adjust before you blow up social media.
Obviously you can take as many pictures and videos as you want (my friends took close up slow-motion videos of the needle), but my recommendation is that you wait to post on social media about your new addition until the next day. Again, tattoos can be vulnerable and intimate, and you might be freaking out, so give yourself space and time to get used to your tattoo without the judgment or worry of social media (even though everybody is obviously going to love your tattoo and be super jealous).
Alright so I’ll just say it: This is all about my experience and my feelings towards the tattoos I’ve gotten. You may have a totally different experience, you may relate to some of this but not all, and you may think that I’m 100% right. But that’s kind of the fun of tattoos – they’re so personal and unique to every individual which is awesome. And once you’ve got your tattoo, you can give your own 6 best tips.