If you’re new to tattooing, there’s no shame in starting small. Give yourself a chance to learn the process, how your skin takes ink, and how your body heals.
2. Know your pain tolerance.
Nothing wrong with pushing yourself, but on a first tattoo it’s more than fine to respect your body’s limits. If you’re very sensitive, avoid choosing ribs, backs of knees, elbows, or groin areas for your first tattoo.
3. Consider timing.
Sun exposure and water submersion can damage a new tattoo, so beach bums in particular will want to avoid getting a new tat in the summer. Spring and early autumn are the most practical. You won’t burn, but you can also leave any arm or leg tattoos exposed rather than covering them up with irritating fabric while they heal.
4. Don’t do it on the cheap.
Unless you have several trusted friends who can vouch for a suspiciously cheap tattoo parlour, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You’re altering your body for life. If that’s not worth a decent investment, I don’t know what is.
5. Research your artist.
Look into who you’re trusting your body with. Choose an artist at least a week in advance, and look over their portfolio before committing. Make sure you’re happy with their work and that their style fits yours. Shots of their work should be available in the parlour and online, and reading reviews of parlours and artists on Facebook, Yelp, etc. will help you determine if you’re comfortable.
6. Choose wisely.
No matter how madly in love you are right now, putting your S.O.’s name on your body is a risky choice. Be 100% sure that you can stand behind your choice for the rest of your life. As a tattooist of mine once said, “You want it removed? OK, let me get the saw.”
7. Keep your face out of it.
Your cat’s face anywhere on your body but your face is totally fine
8. Don’t stress.
During my first tattoo, my tattooist said he’d had a lot of girls cry and hyperventilate during their firsts — before the needle even went in! Panicking will only ruin the experience, which should make a good memory, so take a deep breath, prepare for a little pinch and a little scratch, and know that it’s not worse than that.
9. Take a buddy.
If you’ve got any nerves, don’t go alone. If you can, bring a friend who’s been tattooed before (and had a good experience!). Having someone to talk to, and someone you trust to walk you through the process as it’s happening will work wonders. It’s especially helpful to have a friend if you’re getting a tattoo done on an area you can’t see, so they can keep you informed on the progress!
10. Ask questions
It’s your body, so take control and get all the information. If you’re not sure what an instrument is, or if any cream or ointment is being applied to your skin, don’t be afraid to ask what’s happening!
11. Other people will make your tattoo their business.
If you’ve got a visible tattoo, people will ask about it. They’ll probably judge it. I got my first tattoo because I wanted it. End of story. It’s not meaningful except for the fact that I have a strong memory of getting the guts to do it, I was proud of myself for following through, and I did it for myself. This is hard to explain to people and they’ll still ask, “But what does it mean?” Get your tattoo for yourself and forget what other people will think of it. (So I guess if you want to tattoo your cat’s face on your face and your ex-boyfriend’s name on your bum, go for it.)
13. If it’s right for you, it’s right.
You’re the one who has to live with it the rest of your life. So if you want it for yourself, give it to yourself.