I knew after getting my first tattoo that for the rest of my life I’d always be on display so to speak and I would get some questions and some touching. Turns out, I get an endless barrage of questions, complete strangers approach me and touch my skin trying to look at it under the right light. Andrew from accounting, who I’ve never spoken to, tells me about his sweet sleeve he has planned (dragons and fire and skulls etc.etc.) and how his cousin twice removed as a gnar barbed wire/rose/awful tattoo that’s faded blue on his left butt cheek. I always get the same questions, and after spending the last 10 years of my life getting tattooed, I’ve come to a few conclusions. So next time you want to ask me, just consult this handy blog post.
Yes. It hurts. By and large, the most common question I get for some reason. Like people need to verify that 4 needles going into skin at a repetitive motion was painful. However, it’s not insurmountable pain. It’s more so annoying, and you want it to stop. Wait for it! YES! There are places that hurt more than others. Anywhere you’re ticklish (ribs) and where the skin is thinner than other areas (tops of feet) are probably a bigger whore to get tattooed. I’ve come to the conclusion that the more you get, the more they hurt. I used to be able to sit for 6-7 hours, and now I’m a pussy and can’t get through 2. Remember your pain experience differs from the average person, so no I actually don’t know how much it’ll hurt for you and how long you’ll be able to sit. Shocking!
Spend a good amount of time researching a REPUTABLE tattoo artist. In a basement? No. Not listed? No. Reference drawings are drawn on the back of a bar napkin? Stop. Some people say this research isn’t necessary unless you’re getting a big, customized piece. But I think thats a god damn lie that needs to stop being perpetuated. Why? You need to stop giving garbage shops with even garbage-ier artists money. K? A good artist should have a few things like experience, a half-decent mentor, a reputable shop to back them, a GOOD portfolio. You know the kind that you buy from like, an art store. The photos should be in FULL god damn colour, taken at different angles. You should also consider things like how every artist probably has a certain style they like to specialize in. American traditional is very different from portraits which is even more different from pointillism. If you have to travel a bit to get to someone awesome, please do. Also consider basic things like making sure your artist isn’t a jackass. A good artist should be someone you actually want to hang out with. He’ll/she’ll be less likely to accommodate your requests if they are born and bred of the asshole variety. Which leads into:
The most important point: A good artist will listen to you, and accommodate changes you might like to make. (Within reason) If they draw something up for you and you don’t like it, TELL THEM. Don’t be passive and worry about hurting their feelings. You have that shit for life! A good artist will work with you to come to a final drawing you like. However, it’s a fine balance between accommodating your requests and being a good enough artist to tell you when you’re wrong. Which leads into: (See what I did there? Twice?)
Your tattoo artist knows better than you. (A good one, that is) I know that seems contradictory to what I just said but… it’s true. When he tells you that your idea probably won’t look good, it won’t. He/she has a buttload of experience not only doing them, but seeing how they age over time. Which is why when he tries to talk you out of your watercolour tattoo, let him. They don’t age well. They also know how to draw things that work well with the curvature of your body. They know how skin reacts to ink, light and dark. They KNOW things you DON’T. Just once, don’t be arrogant. Your idea for a tattoo on the inside of your bicep is a bad one, the skin is thin and it’ll probably bleed, let him/her tell you that, and LISTEN.
Good tattoos aren’t cheap. Cheap tattoos aren’t good. There is a reason that obnoxious saying is plastered in a ton of shops. A quality artist will have a high fee. It’s the fee for quality. These things last forever, I promise you over time the sting of the cost will be worth it. The cost and pain of tattoo removal is WORSE than the actual tattoo, so be smart. It’s like a good investment.
Take care of it. As if I have to tell you this. Infected tattoos are fucking gross, and they heal horribly. Don’t be dumb. Leave the bandage on for as long as your artist suggests (it varies from artist to artist), don’t submerge it in water, it hates it. Shower with it but don’t put your $100 eucalyptus tingly soap on it, it’ll hate that too. Don’t fucking pick the scabs/dead skin. You’ll pull the colour right out and it’ll look shitty.
Did you know? You need to take care of it after it heals too. Put sunscreen on, you animal. It’ll fade if you let it get a tan. A good artist will give you free touch ups for a lifetime. (Yes.) Get that shit touched up. They’re not impervious to life, they will fade over time (light colours first), so you need to maintain it.
Tidbits that don’t require paragraphs of hatred:
- As I mentioned above, watercolour tattoos are fucking stupid. NO, I’m not a tattoo artist, but every artist I’ve talked to has told me that tattoos require a border (of black) so that they age better. Your stupid watercolour lily will be a poop shaped blob of colour in 10 years. (HA I LIED ABOUT THE PARAGRAPH HEY)
- Don’t get a tattoo on your belly. For both genders. You will expand there. Women, you might get pregnant, men you’ll get old and fat. It’ll once again be a poop shaped blob of colour once your girth grows.
- Don’t get names unless they are: Children or pets. (Same thing goes with wedding ring tattoos) Tattoos 100% last longer than relationships. Don’t be fucking hasty.
- Make sure your artists uses new, clean, sterilized needles. Obviously.
- Don’t get shit in a language you don’t speak. Yes your Chinese characters are stupid and probably mean brown rice instead of “courage” and “hope”.
- Don’t fall into the trap that it has to “mean something” in order for it to be considered valid.
- Nautical stars, feathers that turn into birds, anchors, arrows, infinity symbols, script text, “believe”, “Live, laugh, love”, “this too shall pass”, butterflies, tribal, celtic, wings, skulls, stars… are you seeing a trend? They’re not only super common, but SUPER tacky. You’re better than that.
Flash tattoos are just the worst.
Yes. People will perceive you differently. I have them all over my arms and I often get weird looks from people. It’s an unfortunate reality depending on where you live and how much of an “alternative” appearance you have. It doesn’t bother me, most people are just curious over judgemental, but it does occur. I keep mine covered until I let my personality be the determining factor when I meet someone new.
REMEMBER: Any Tom, Dick or Jones can open up a tattoo shop. (In Canada – which is where I’m referencing from) There is no accreditation process. There’s no fuckin’ board of fancy artists that reign supreme. The only thing a shop has to adhere to is health standards. Clean needles, sterile work space, etc. For every 50 shops, 49 of them aren’t good enough to go to. Be smart.
**Think about your tattoo before you get it, but if you think too long, you’ll never get it.**