What to Expect When Getting Your First Tattoo


Tattoos have been around for longer than we think. They have evolved through history and taken many different forms and meanings. Nowadays, though, tattoos are mainly a way to express ourselves. Tattoos decorate our skin and tell the story we want to tell through the art we’ve chosen to imprint on our bodies. Love them or hate them, their rising popularity doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.

If you happened to stumble upon this article, you’re probably contemplating getting a tattoo or you’re full on determined to do it.  The idea might be totally exciting or completely frightening to you. Whatever the circumstances, you definitely want to find out more about the whole experience. You’re not alone. But if you are reading this, it’s very likely it’ll be your first one. Don’t worry, I intend to give you a clear view of what it might be like.

1.    Really, don’t worry about the pain. Of course, everyone has a different tolerance to pain. We’ve all heard stories of people fainting right then and there; personally, I believe those are extremely rare cases. Why do I think this way? Before I got my own tattoos, this was a major turn off for me. I am abnormally scared of pain and will avoid it at all costs, since I’ve always believed I have a low pain tolerance. I REALLY wanted a tattoo, but the prospect of pain kept me from surrendering to my impulses. When I finally got the courage to get my lovely Hamsa, I almost ran away. Being in the waiting room and hearing the buzzing from the needle next door made it all too real for me. I really was seconds away from cancelling the whole thing. “You’re here already so suck it up.”

I sit on the chair, and the artist starts prepping his gear to permanently print my design on my back. My heart kept pounding harder every second (expect yours to do so as well). As the needle started to touch my skin, first thought on my mind was “is THAT it?” It really wasn’t that bad. But I’m not gonna lie, as time is passing the pain becomes a little more evident. Is it bearable? Yes. Is it worth it? Totally. There’s only a reason why we want to keep doing it.

2.    You should think about it long and hard. Newsflash, a tattoo is permanent. Whatever you decide to put on your body will be on it forever, so try to choose something you’ll love forever. In today’s world, nothing is irreversible. You can always get a laser treatment to remove it, but it’s really not pleasant. Some say removing a tattoo is actually more painful than getting it. So, if you’re going to get a tattoo you’ll end up regretting and painfully removing or covering up anyway, might as well not get it in the first place. It’s always best to choose a design that means something to you. Some people like to homage a loved one, a period in their lives, or even their beliefs. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you’ll want to see on your skin for years and years to come. Just don’t get a lover’s name tattooed on your skin. Please.

3.    Tattoo studios are not what you’d imagine. If you’ve never been to one before, you probably think all the guys working there are inked up, dirty tough guys listening to metal all day. Of course, there might be some exceptions, but this couldn’t be further from the truth (except for the “inked up” part; they do love ink!). Actually, the ambience and feel seemed very calm and soothing to me. This is probably done with the intention of making the customers feel relaxed, which actually is very helpful. Tattoo studios are also extremely professional and very hygienic. If you don’t get this impression from the studio you’re visiting, run fast and never look back. Tattoos are open wounds and require cleanliness and a proper technique.

4.    But, not all tattoo studios are adequate. Like everything else in this world, there’s good and bad. As much as there are some excellent artists out there, some others really lack the skills. I cannot tell you just how many horror stories I’ve heard and even seen. As said before, tattoos are an open wound. This means, that if not done right, they could lead to serious complications, such as infection. If somehow you manage to avoid an infection, the complication could be purely aesthetic (which is also a nightmare). You might have a stunning design planned out only to have the reality of it crushing down on you like a ton of bricks. It really must suck to have a tattoo removed just because your tattoo artist or studio were not competent enough. So that’s why my advice would be to do your research. Think about the kind of tattoo you want and find someone who has the proper technique to fulfill your desires. Also, it’s very important to consider the type of ink being used. Good ink will stay looking good for a long time. Bad quality ink will begin to fade very quickly; trust me, it’s not attractive.

5.    You’ll probably have to save up a little. Tattoos are not cheap. Well, at least not the ones worth getting. You’re probably asking around about prices for your huge, colorful, very detailed tattoo. You found a studio that will do it a very low price. Unless these guys are your best friends, I’d say stop being cheap and get ready to spend. With tattoos, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. A cheap price probably means that a poor technique or ink quality will be involved. Remember, this will be on your skin FOREVER, so turn off your saving mode for this. I’m not saying you should pay for an overpriced tattoo (because that’s also a thing), just don’t go for the cheapest option. In a few years, when your tatt is still looking fresh, you’ll be thankful you spent all that money.

6.    Where your tattoo goes matters. You’re probably dying to get that cute little peace sign on your rib. This is probably THE spot you want it to go on. But there is an extremely important thing to consider: healing. The healing process of your tattoo could be very short and easy or very long and complicated. It all depends on how big or detailed it is, and also how well your skin heals. This process lasts for several days, in which you’ll have to be extra careful if you want it to look its best for a long time. The rubbing of clothes against a fresh tatt can be very harmful to it; and don’t forget the pain. Be ready to make some wardrobe adjustments if you’re thinking about getting it on a tricky spot. So before you decide on a placement for your tattoo, think about what kind of clothes you like to wear, your sleeping habits, and such. Tattoo aftercare is something your artist will discuss with you, but only you are responsible for how much it could affect your own lifestyle.

7.    It’s okay to need breaks. Even though the pain is not excruciating, it can get very tiresome to sit there for several hours having a needle piercing your skin a thousand times a minute. As time passes, the pain increases and the exhaustion kicks in. This is extremely normal, especially if you’re getting a large, elaborate tattoo. Some artists even schedule several sessions to finish a tattoo. Don’t feel embarrassed if you need to take breaks in the middle of your tattoo, it’s completely normal. This exhaustion and increasing pain is a common complaint among tattoo lovers; even the most experienced ones. Most tattoo artists are very patient and very much concerned with making your experience a pleasant one. Feeling pain and exhaustion and not speaking up about it can ruin your impression of getting a tattoo done. If you’re feeling tired or the pain is really starting to kick in, request a 5-minute break, get yourself hydrated and you should be able to keep going.

8.    Sober up for your tattoo. Although the idea of getting drunk enough to not feel the pain of your tattoo might be appealing, IT’S A BIG NO. Most artists won’t agree to inking your skin if you’re under the influence. Alcohol liquefies your blood, which will cause you to bleed a lot during the process. This can make the artist’s job a little more complicated, and could cause problems in your healing. Also, these substances could impair your judgment, which is something you really need when you’re permanently marking your body. If you’re worried about the pain, you could probably take some painkillers. Enjoy the experience and be present for all of it!

9.    You’ll want more. “Before you know it you’ll end up looking like a public bathroom”. “Tattoos are totally addicting.” “You can’t get just one!” Before I got my first tatt, I had already heard all these statements from my friends and acquaintances. Although I thought it could be entirely possible, I didn’t really believe it would be my case. If it really is so painful, why would I want to do it again? Truth is, tattoos really can be addicting. As soon as the needle stopped, I was already thinking about the next one. Seeing your vision finally imprinted on your skin is surprisingly quite satisfying. You won’t want to stop looking at it and you’ll start visualizing the next one right away.

Tattoos have been around forever, and they will continue to be. As time has gone by, the acceptance towards them has grown significantly. You’ll rarely meet someone who doesn’t have at least ONE, no matter how small it is. With this art form growing exponentially, people have found more ways to express their beliefs, memories, or appreciation for a loved one. Whatever your reason for getting it, a tattoo can be a way to show your individuality and lifestyle. It’s a permanent accessory that has a great meaning and emotion behind it. And, since it’s on your skin forever, it’s important to be serious about what, where, and by whom you’ll get it done. Don’t take a tattoo lightly, as there’s usually no turning back. Tattoo removing procedures are very painful and expensive; which is completely avoidable if you just think it through and do your proper research. Take your time to decide on what you want, make sure your tattoo brings back thoughts and memories you’ll want to relive forever. And don’t worry about your awesome pieces on your wrinkled skin someday. After all, how cool is it to see the wild side of the elderly?