You've fantasized about getting inked for months, or even years, after observing people's beautiful (and not-so-beautiful) tattoos on your morning train commute. And when you have a design in mind, you're itching to show off your tattoo to your friends. Before all of that can happen, however, you need to do a little research about getting inked. Although it's obvious that you'll want to give your tattoo's design some thought, there are other tips from tattoo artists to know before getting a tattoo that aren't as talked about.
Getting a tattoo is much more complicated than you'd think. Because tattoos are much more common today than they were just four years ago, according to The Harris Poll, the tattooing culture is a relatively new concept to many. What some people — probably those with botched tattoos — might not realize is the careful preparation that goes into getting a tattoo. After all, tattoo artists only have one chance to get it right, so it's even more crucial to go in prepared and have the best experience possible. Getting inked can be an exciting yet terrifying venture, so to ease the process a bit more, check out these helpful tips from the people who live and breathe tattoos: the tattoo artists themselves.
1. Do Your Research
With so many tattoo artists to choose from nowadays, it's important not to fall into the hands of an artist with little experience. For the sake of your health, hire an artist who's been in the industry for some time. In an email exchange with Romper, Matthew Marcus, one of the owners of Three Kings Tattoo, warns that bad tattoo artists "don't know proper application and sterilization." At the end of the day, getting a tattoo is a medical procedure, so why take any risks?
2. Know What You're Paying For
There's a classic saying in the tattoo industry: "Good tattoos aren't cheap, and cheap tattoos aren't good." If a particular tattoo shop is pricey, chances are that its artists are fairly reputable. It's easy to want the cheapest option possible for an already costly procedure, but it's worth spending dough for something that's permanent. "Preparing and executing a custom tattoo takes a lot of time and effort," Marcus says. "The high hourly rates cover more then just the time you're in the chair. We can spend days on one person's drawing, which is time we aren't getting paid for."
3. Eat In Advance
You probably won’t want to eat right before or during your tattoo appointment, but having a proper meal an hour or two beforehand is advised. "It will give you the energy to take the pain and keep you from passing out or feeling sick,” Alex Passapera, a tattoo artist from Rising Dragon Tattoos, tells Romper by email.
4. Don't Drink Or Do Drugs Beforehand
Along the same lines of preparation, you should stray away from drinking or doing drugs for your own safety. “Most drugs and all alcohol will thin your blood, diluting the ink as the artist tries to work it into your skin,” Passapera says. "This makes the tattoo process unbearable, if not impossible." It’s also wise to mention any prescription drugs you might be on, as they might thin your blood as well.
5. The Bigger Your Tattoo, The Better
You might not think about the condition of your tattoo in the years to come. As your skin ages, however, the cells from your tattoo will die and shed off your body. What’s worse, your sagging skin will also make your tattoo fade over time. You’ll thank yourself later by getting a large tattoo and avoiding text tattoos if possible.
"The smaller the tattoo, the more likely the tattoo will become an illegible smudge of it's former self,” Passapera says. "Tiny loops and curls will eventually bleed together, creating a mush that is not only impossible to read but not too pretty to look at."
6. Stick To Black Ink
Colored tattoos may look aesthetically pleasing, but remember that tattoos aren’t paintings on a canvas. Passapera tells Romper that the colors you can use for a tattoo depends on your skin tone, but lighter inks are to be avoided since they’re more transparent than darker inks. Additionally, they’re more likely to fade faster because your natural skin tone will heal over your tattoo. If there’s one thing that all artists agree on, it’s that black ink should be used at all costs. "It will hold up the longest of any other ink, bar none,” Passapera says. "It is the structure, the bones, the framework of any good tattoo."
7. Listen To Your Artist
You can do all the research you want, but ultimately tattoo artists have the expertise when it comes to getting inked. Even if you have a solid design in mind, there are certain restrictions on the skin, so it’s best to trust the tattoo artist you hired. “We have no ulterior motives but to give you the best advice on making sure you get the best tattoo possible–a tattoo that will be drawn correctly and executed to near perfection,” Marcus says. “We provide you with proper care instructions and make sure that the tattoo lasts the rest of your life.”
8. Be Prepared For Pain
Yes, having a person drag a needle across your skin will hurt. There are places that hurt less than others, but no matter how you look at it, getting a tattoo isn’t a pleasant experience. Keeping this in mind, it’s also your job stay still when getting tattooed. “I’m amazed at all the people who come in and think it’s our responsibility to make sure the tattoo is painless or to stop and go at their will,” Marcus says. “What makes a tattoo so special is the pain — it’s a right of passage.”
9. Tip Your Artist
Just because you invested hundreds of dollars on a tattoo doesn’t mean you’re excused from tipping your tattoo artists. Not only do they have to buy their own equipment, but most artists only make around 50 percent of what your tattoo costs, according to Inked Magazine.