9 Things to Consider Before Getting Your First Tattoo

Getting your first tattoo can be both an exciting and daunting experience. With various styles, designs, and tattoo artists to choose from, it is essential to do thorough research and consider several factors before committing to this permanent form of self-expression.

Keep reading to learn how to make a well-informed decision before embarking on the unique journey of getting your first tattoo.

1. Choosing the Right Design

When it comes to getting your first tattoo, selecting the perfect design is crucial. This decision involves considering not only the image to be inked, but also how the tattoo will age over time. A few key factors to take into account include:

  • Personal meaning: Ensure the design holds personal significance or represents something meaningful to you.
  • Visibility and placement: Think about whether you want the tattoo to be easily concealed or prominently displayed, and how the image could be distorted based on the chosen body part.
  • Size and complexity: Smaller, intricate tattoos may not age as well over time compared to larger, simpler designs.

Adding an individual touch by incorporating your own ideas or modifying a design can help make the tattoo more special. It’s also important to choose a design that you’re certain you’ll be happy with for the rest of your life.

2. Finding a Trustworthy Tattoo Artist

Male tattoo artist working on client.

One of the most important aspects of getting your first tattoo is finding a reputable and trustworthy tattoo artist. Do your research before committing to any artist or studio.

Begin by asking friends or family members who have tattoos for recommendations. They can share their personal experiences and, if possible, show you the work their tattoo artist has done.

Next, browse through the portfolios of various tattoo artists online. Look for artists who have experience in the style you’re interested in, and make sure their work is consistent in quality. Additionally, read reviews from clients to gauge the artist’s professionalism and skill.

Once you have a shortlist of tattoo artists, visit their studios in person. This will help you assess the cleanliness of the establishment and the artist’s work environment. The studio should follow all necessary hygiene practices, such as using disposable gloves, sterilizing equipment, and having a clean workspace.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions during your visit. A trustworthy tattoo artist will be open to discussing their experience, sterilization procedures, and any concerns you may have.

3. Setting a Budget

Before getting your first tattoo, it’s essential to set a budget for the entire process. The cost of a tattoo can vary depending on factors such as the size of the tattoo, the complexity of the design, and the location where you plan to get it done.

Professional tattoo artists usually charge by the hour and most tattoo shops have a minimum charge even if the tattoo takes only a few minutes to complete. Keep in mind that more experienced artists may charge higher rates.

And don’t forget about the cost of the tattoo itself, as well as tip money, aftercare products, and touch-ups or adjustments.

4. Determining Tattoo Placement

Tattoo on a woman's upper back.

When planning your first tattoo, determining the right placement can greatly impact your overall satisfaction. Don’t overlook how the image could be distorted when you move the part of the body it’s on.

Since skin is not like paper, it’s important to think about how the design will adapt to the shape and movement of the chosen body part. Discuss this with your tattoo artist during your initial consultation to avoid any surprises.

You also want to consider the visibility of your tattoo. If you prefer a more discreet design, areas such as the inner arm or back can offer more privacy. Of if you want to showcase your tattoo, opt for more exposed body parts like the forearm or calf.

5. Researching Tattoo Styles

A wide range of tattoo styles exists, from traditional to watercolor, geometric to blackwork, and many more. Understanding the characteristics of each style will help you determine which is best for your first piece:

  • Traditional, also known as Old School or American Traditional, feature bold lines, solid color palettes, and iconic symbols such as anchors, roses, and nautical themes.
  • Watercolor tattoos emulate the look of a watercolor painting with soft colors, smooth gradients, and less-defined edges. This style is perfect for you if you are looking for a delicate or free-flowing aesthetic.
  • Geometric designs consist of shapes, patterns, and repetitive elements, often incorporating icons from nature, such as animals or flowers.
  • Blackwork tattoos, involve heavy use of black ink and typically consist of solid shapes, bold linework, and intricate patterns inspired by tribal or ancient art.

Other popular tattoo styles include:

  • Realism: This style aims to replicate real life as closely as possible, often featuring portraits or landscapes.
  • Dotwork: Uses numerous small dots to create detailed patterns and images, often seen in mandala or geometric designs.
  • Tribal: Inspired by indigenous cultures from around the world, this style often features bold black lines and intricate patterns with symbolic meanings.
  • Japanese: Rich in symbolism and history, these tattoos often feature traditional mythological creatures, nature motifs, and bold colors.

6. Considering Pain Tolerance

Small tattoo on outer wrist.

Pain during the tattooing process varies from person to person, as well as depends on the location of the tattoo on the body. Areas with lots of nerve endings, thin skin, and bone typically experience more pain during the procedure.

Here are some more tips for managing pain during tattooing:

  • Schedule the tattoo appointment in the morning when the body naturally has a higher pain tolerance.
  • Ask the tattoo artist to apply liquid witch hazel to the skin during the process, as it could aid in providing relief.
  • Selecting a tattoo location with less pain, such as areas with more fatty tissue or larger muscle groups.

Keep in mind that, ultimately, understanding your own pain tolerance and preparing accordingly will make the tattooing process more enjoyable.

7. Understanding Tattoo Aftercare

Proper tattoo aftercare is crucial for preserving the quality and longevity of your new tattoo. It’s essential to follow the guidance provided by your tattoo artist and take necessary precautions to avoid infection and maintain the vibrancy of the design.

During the healing process, it is essential to:

  • Avoid direct sunlight on the tattooed area
  • Refrain from swimming in pools, hot tubs, or other bodies of water
  • Stay away from picking or scratching at the tattoo, as this may damage the design and cause scarring
  • Wear loose, breathable clothing to prevent irritation

For more, check out our top picks for tattoo aftercare.

8. Potential Allergies or Skin Reactions

Cups of yellow, red, blue, and green tattoo ink.

Before getting your first tattoo, it’s important to be aware of the potential for allergic reactions or skin issues related to the tattooing process. One common issue for people with tattoos is an allergic reaction to the ink used, particularly red, green, yellow, and blue dyes, which can cause itchy rashes at the tattoo site.

Some potential signs of a severe allergic reaction to a tattoo include difficulty breathing, a racing heart, tightness in the chest, dizziness or lightheadedness, intense swelling, serious pain, flushing, or hives.

In addition to allergic reactions, skin infections are another risk associated with getting a tattoo. Signs of an infected tattoo can vary depending on your skin tone but may include redness, dark brown or purple coloring, bumpy or raised skin, swelling, pain, itching, or rashes.

9. Reconsidering the Decision: Tattoo Removal

As you ponder over getting your first tattoo, it doesn’t hurt to understand the ins and outs of tattoo removal as well.

First: tattoo removal is not guaranteed. Consult a laser treatment expert or a dermatologist to discuss expectations and results. The success of the process varies based on factors like age, size, and color of the tattoo.

There are three common tattoo removal techniques:

  • Laser surgery – Among the most popular methods, laser surgery works by breaking down ink particles into smaller fragments, allowing the body to remove them naturally.
  • Surgical removal – This technique involves cutting out the tattooed skin and stitching the remaining skin together. It works best for smaller tattoos.
  • Dermabrasion – This process involves the abrasion of the tattooed skin, which removes both the ink and the top layers of skin.

And while we’re talking removal, bear in mind that generally, its not cheap! Learn more about the costs associated with tattoo removal.

Second: be aware that scarring or skin discoloration that may occur after tattoo removal, regardless of the method.

And finally: it will take time. Depending on the tattoo and the chosen removal method, you may need several sessions spaced weeks or even months apart to achieve the desired results.

Do Your Research Before Getting Your First Tattoo

Closeup of tattoo artist using tattoo gun to ink design.

While getting your first tattoo can be both nerve-wracking, doing thorough research beforehand can help turn those nerves into excitement. And if you’re still unsure, remember that a local tattooist can be knowledgeable and trusty resource!

Ready to get inked but aren’t sure which design is right for you? Check out these tattoo ideas.

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