What To Know For Your First Tattoo

Over the past few years, tattoos have increasingly become normalized and socially accepted. More and more people have become interested in the art of tattooing. People choose to get tattoos to commemorate something significant in their life or just for the fun of expressing themselves through body art. Thinking of getting one in the future? Here are some things you should note for your first tattoo, along with some pictures from tattoo studios and artists in the Toronto area for you to check out.

  1. 1. Find A Clean Tattoo Studio and Tattoo Artist

    This might seem incredibly obvious but many people tend to overlook this step. Finding a tattoo artist who is not only good at drawing but who also has the proper health and safety training to tattoo on human skin is incredibly important. Make sure that the tattoo studio and tattoo artist practice cleanliness, from the shop’s appearance all the way to how they do their work. Feel free to visit the shop and evaluate their sanitary practices. There should be gloves and paper towels at every tattoo station, and the tattoo artist should be wearing gloves at all times. These gloves need to be changed when they touch something that’s not on their work station. Additionally, equipment that comes in contact with your skin should come in sterile packaging and should be opened in front of you. Reusing needles, clamps, tubes and other equipment that comes in contact with your skin is a big no no. Doing all of these can save you from serious health and safety risks such as contracting an infection from unsterilized and previously used equipment.

  2. 2. Look At The Tattoo Artists’ Portfolio

    Every tattoo artist has their own unique style that shows in their work. These styles can range from blackwork, traditional, watercolor, realism and many others. Some artists are able to do more than one style. When thinking of your desired tattoo design, consider the style you would like to have it in and look for a tattoo artist that specializes in that style. It can make a world of difference in how your tattoo will look in the end. Looking at an artist’s portfolio and Instagram account containing their designs and past tattoo work are key in this step.

  3. 3. Tattoo Placement

    Try to think in advance where you would like your tattoo to be. Is your tattoo something that you’d like to see all the time? Would you like the option of having it hidden with clothes, especially if your workplace doesn’t allow tattoos? Additionally, think of the tattoo placement in relation to the tattoo size. Certain body parts, like the wrist or forearm, will be better for smaller tattoos. Your tattoo artist will be able to help you decide where your tattoo would look best if you’re unsure on the placement.

  4. 4. Tattoo Pain Index

    In relation to the tattoo placement, getting tattoos on certain parts of the body will hurt more than others. Body parts with less muscle around them and with bones close to the surface like in the rib area tend to hurt more. Additionally, it also hurts more to get tattooed in areas where the skin is more sensitive, such as your hands, feet, the back of your knees and the inside of your arm near the armpit. Consider your pain tolerance before deciding on a body part, as you will have to sit still through your tattoo session. During your session, feel free to ask for a small break if you need one, especially if you’re getting a big piece. Don’t overdo it with the breaks though! It also helps to distract from the pain if you focus on other things such as listening to music or engaging in conversation. Here’s a helpful tattoo pain map by the amazing people at the Toronto-based tattoo shop Chronic Ink to help you out:

  5. 5. No Sun, No Swimming

    Summer’s coming up and you might be thinking that it’s a great opportunity to show off your new tattoo in a bikini. Well, think again. While your tattoo is healing, you should avoid excessive sun exposure, exposing your tattoo in direct sunlight and soaking it in water. That means no swimming in pools, baths or the ocean. You should avoid these until your tattoo is fully healed.

  6. 6. Pre Tattoo Prep

    There are some things you can do to prepare yourself just before you get a tattoo. For instance, drink lots of water starting the night before your session. This will help prevent your blood from thinning out and will aid the skin in accepting the ink better. Get a full night’s rest before going in for your tattoo session. It’ll give you the energy to sit through the pain of getting your tattoo. Eat before you go for your tattoo session, especially if you’re getting a big piece. Getting a tattoo actually burns calories and going on a full stomach will help with your pain endurance and stamina. The more glucose, the better, so think carbs and sweets. Skimp on the coffee, energy drinks and over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol or Advil as they will thin your blood. Lastly, get your tattoo sober. You might think that getting drunk or high will lessen the pain but it’ll only actually increase it. Drunken movements can also agitate the skin and make the whole tattooing process longer, resulting in a tattoo that’s not as neat and well-made as it should be.

  7. 7. Post-Tattoo

    Now that you’ve successfully sat through your first tattoo, it’s time for the aftercare to ensure your tattoo heals as best as possible. You’ll come out of the tattoo session with a plastic wrap around the tattooed area which you can remove after two hours. Upon removal, pat wash the tattooed area gently with an antibacterial and unscented soap. Rinse and use a clean towel or paper towel to pat dry. Once dry, apply a thin layer of unscented moisturizer on the area and do this 2-3 times per day. This will ensure your tattoo heals nicely and the color stays vibrant. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher if sun exposure is unavoidable. During the healing process, it’s completely normal for your tattoo to scab and be itchy so avoid picking and scratching it. Your tattoo artist may give you an ointment to apply on the tattooed area for the first few days after getting your tattoo. Avoid tight clothing or scratchy fabrics that may rub up on your tattoo. Lastly, avoid situations that may wear on your tattoo while healing. This includes crowded clubs, concerts and perhaps even cuddling your pet.

There are many things to consider if you’re thinking about getting your first tattoo. Do your research and be sure of yourself before getting the tattoo you want. After all, you’re paying good money to have something tattooed on your body forever. Most importantly, get something that you’ll love. Getting a tattoo is a great experience wherein a piece of art and a memory become permanently inked on your skin and become a physical part of you.