There are many things to know before you get your first tattoo, but I think the most important thing to start by saying is that it’s your body and if you want to modify it then it’s your right and your privilege. Tattoos are many things, but I think that fun, personal, and important are adjectives often left out of the conversation. So, if you’re wondering what are the things to know before you get your first tattoo, look no further. These are things I learned after getting a few tattoos.
1. It Will Hurt
I was scared of how much it would hurt before I got my first tattoo, but it was actually okay. The anticipation is much worse than the actual thing. That being said, one of the things to know before you get your first tattoo is that placement really matters. For instance, I’ve never gotten a tattoo on my ribs, but I’ve heard it’s pretty bad. My personal experience was that getting a tattoo on the inside of my wrist felt like having my arm sawed off: terrible sensation, but worth it in the end. On the other hand, when I got a chest tattoo I actually kind of enjoyed the sensation.
For placement, Consider how much tissue there is on the place you’re getting the tattoo. There tends to be a lot of tissue on the chest, especially for women, so that’s a less painful place. Elbows, ribs, wrists, ankles, collarbones, shoulder blades, and other bonier places will be much, much worse. Maybe start off with something less detailed if you choose one of these places, or if you disregard this advice, be warned that it will not be a very pleasant experience.
2. Position Your Tattoo Around Existing Birthmarks
One of the things to know before you get your first tattoo is that tattoos last forever. Yes, this is obvious, but you know what isn’t? The fact that your skin is always changing. Even if the ink is permanently on your skin, a birth mark could still change beneath that ink. This is a problem for skin cancer reasons, and should be an extra consideration for paler people when getting tattoos, although everyone should keep this in mind.
Maybe you really want a bird on your arm in a specific place, but think about that freckle in that very spot that you’ve had since you were a kid and that might have actually grown since then. This freckle might keep growing. This freckle might change shape or color. This freckle might one day become cancerous. Wouldn’t you like to know that? You don’t have control over what happens in the future, but if you have existing beauty marks, you should probably take them into consideration.
3. Go Well Hydrated And Well Fed
Even if you aren’t typically a fainter, you will want to be at your best when you’re getting inked. The pain could make you feel light headed, or the needles, or the noise, or whatever. Even if none of these things sound like something that would ever happen to you, your body will thank you for taking good care of it. I personally like to bring a lollipop for some just in case sugar.
The healing process will be easier if your body is in a good place when you’re getting your tattoo done, which is why you shouldn’t drink or smoke before or after getting your tattoo either. Not only will the healing process be easier, but your body will be able to heal itself better with calories and hydration. One of the important things to know before you get your first tattoo is that you should take care of yourself beforehand. It’s the least you can do.
4. You Won’t Like The Same Things Forever
Are you surprised to hear this? Do you still love Teletubbies or Dora the Explorer, or does they annoy you now? Obviously, one of the things to know before you get your first tattoo is that the design will probably be with you forever unless you choose to alter, fill, or remove it. Therefore, you must carefully consider if you will really want the exact design that you are getting forever.
Yes, it is obvious, and yes, there are plenty of people who don’t care if they have a cartoon character on them forever because they actually love that cartoon so much. If you don’t think you are one of these people, consider going with something a little more timeless like plants, animals, celestial bodies, or abstract designs. That being said, timeless is subjective and your idea of timelessness may be very different than my own!
5. There Might Be An Adjustment Period
I have an arm tattoo that a dear friend did for me that I really enjoy. That being said, it takes up a lot of space on my arm, and it was jarring to see myself with this new tattoo after I first got it done. When I looked in the mirror, my reflection didn’t look like me, which makes sense because I literally altered my appearance in a significant way. There was a bit of cognitive dissonance between what I perceived to be myself and what I was seeing before me, and that’s okay and perfectly normal.
Just because you don’t love your tattoo when you first see it doesn’t mean you don’t actually love it or won’t love it in the future. You chose to do this for a reason, and you should trust yourself. Even if that reason ends up being different than the one you initially held to be true, you can still love and appreciate your new ink. Of the things to know before you get your first tattoo, I think this is a really important one.
6. Not All Tattoo Artists Are Created Equal
You might have a really specific image in your head, but that doesn’t mean that any tattoo artist in the whole world would be able to bring that imaginary image to life. Your idea needs to match up with the style that the tattoo artist is able to draw in and even enjoys doing. Not only would they like to include an image in their portfolio that fits their style, but that style is what they have refined their skills in. Wouldn’t you like to have an expert of the style you want draw and then do your tattoo?
7. Appointments Are Better Than Walk-Ins
Some things to know before you get your first tattoo are that artists need time to draw and they will do a better job if you give them enough time to get it right. Also, artists don’t want to be under the pressure of a time constraint; artists want to do the best job they can, and you watching them draw from a little couch in the lobby will not make them particularly happy. This makes sense, no? Plus, if you’re getting a forever image, wouldn’t you rather refine it until it’s perfect?
That being said, walk-ins are a lot of fun. Definitely try a walk-in after you’ve gotten a tattoo or two, but know that you should go in with a set image. You can also choose a flash tattoo if that’s your thing!
8. You Have Limited Space
Your body is only so big. If you have lots of tattoo ideas, remember that you can only really use each space once, unless you get creative and start layering or whatever. Perhaps start with something small and build from there. If you end up really liking tattoos, you might want to have a larger canvas to work with in the future, and you will appreciate that young, excited you didn’t take up all the space with some random spiritual animal tattoo that you culturally appropriated from Native Americans before you knew that was wrong. Future you will be thankful for this foresight.
9. You Can Almost Always Lay Down
You should be comfortable when you’re getting your tattoo, and you have control over that comfort. Wear comfortable clothes, keep yourself warm, wear something your tattoo artist can access your body canvas in, but also, physically move so you are comfortable. One of the things to know before you get your first tattoo is that you can choose to lay down as opposed to sitting if it is better for you. Whether for pain, fainting, or just plain comfort, laying down is an option.
Your tattoo artist doesn’t want you to be tense or fidgeting because they won’t be able to do a good job, so it is in everyone’s best interest for you to be comfortable. Don’t get too nervous to ask for your own bodily comfort.
10. Proper After Care Is Essential
One of the things to know before you get your first tattoo is that how you take care of your tattoo after you get it will help determine how well it heals and whether or not it scars. My first two tattoos, which I love anyway, I did not care for perfectly so they scarred. I left the saniderm on a little too long, and then I over moisturized my tattoos. Sure, it’s possible the artist might have gone too deep or something else, but I also know that I didn’t care for them well enough. Be warned. You don’t need to over protect your tattoo. Just don’t submerge your self in water until it is all the way healed! A little bit of care goes a long way.
Have you already gotten your first tattoo idea or are you still browsing? Let us know where you are on your journey below in the comments!
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