I think it’s pretty fair to say I’m somewhat of an expert at getting a tattoo, at last count I have a full sleeve, my right bicep, both of my feet, my right calf, my left thigh, my hand and finger, the top of my back and my chest tattooed. All of my tattoo’s tell a story, some are deeply personal and some are just fun or dedicated to those I love or lost and I adore ALL of them and have zero regrets. All of them were designed by myself with the help of my chosen artist and a lot of thought and care went into choosing the final design but I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people and I’ve seen a massive boom in laser tattoo removal treatments over recent years, with my local tattoo studio even specialising in the treatment themselves. Thinking of getting your first tattoo or adding to your collection?
1 – RESEARCH YOUR ARTIST(S)! – Every artist has their own signature style and speciality so it’s worth putting the hours in to find someone who can bring your idea to life with the same vision as you and who will also enjoy doing it, there’s nothing worse than asking a bio-mechanical artist to draw a girly butterfly on your foot. A lot of the time a studio will house a few artists with different specialities so if you approach your chosen artist and he thinks his colleague will do a better job, he’ll hand you over. Always trust artists with this, they know their strengths and weaknesses and take incredible pride in their work but if they think another artist can do a better job they won’t let their ego get in the way of you getting the best tattoo possible.
2 – Think about your future prospects. Will a tattoo stop you from getting your dream job or further in your career? I would strongly advise to avoid areas that can be still be seen whilst wearing a long sleeved shirt and trousers such as the neck and hands unless you’re in a creative industry where such things won’t be too much of an issue. Whilst more and more companies and society as a whole is becoming more accepting of body art there’s still a huge stigma about tattoos in the workplace so think wisely before you get that huge black scorpion on your neck.
3 – Be prepared to cough up – It’s common knowledge that in this day and age you get what you pay for so if Billy Bones is offering to do your full back piece for £50 I can guarantee you it’s going to be shit and you’re going to hate and regret it. An artist will give you either a quote for the full tattoo or if it’s a large piece, they will charge you by the hour. This obviously varies but if something sounds too good to be true, it is. A good artist is worth every penny when you see the final result, and remember a tattoo is for life… DO NOT BE CHEAP WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR TATTOOS.
4 – If something’s wrong, say so. An artist usually draws up the final design a day or so before your due to be tattooed and in the past I’ve been emailed the design to see what I think or if there’s something I feel needs to be changed and we can adjust it accordingly. It’s YOUR tattoo, on YOUR body and if you don’t like the way something looks, the colour of something or you think something could be done differently please speak up! Your artist will be more than happy to work with you on making any changes because once it’s there, it’s there for life and ultimately your artist wants you to be happy with what he/she has done.
5 – Mentally and physically prepare the day/night before you’re due to get tattooed. Get an early night, don’t go out partying so you’re tired and hungover because sitting in that chair whilst you’re sleepy and irritable is extremely frustrating and painful. Make sure you’ve eaten before your sitting, you’re going to be there for quite a while and you want your body to be in peak condition. DO NOT come in drunk, you’ll stink, your senses will be heightened and it won’t be fun for anyone involved plus alcohol makes your blood thinner so it’ll be pissing out everywhere. I stupidly got very drunk at a convention whilst I had a huge piece tattooed on my calf and let me tell you now I will never drink before/during a tattoo ever again. It seemed to go on forever, it hurt like a bitch and I constantly needed to go to the toilet and let’s not forget the sweating… I never knew my ass could sweat like that.
6 – THEY HURT. A LOT. Anyone who says getting a tattoo doesn’t hurt is lying to look like a hard bastard. Yes, some people have a higher pain threshold than others but even so it’s very uncomfortable having a needle jammed into your skin for hours on end, this diagram gives a rough idea of areas of the body that feel the most pain but of course it’s different for everyone. I personally found all my tattoos reasonably easy to handle, the only place I really struggled with was the inside of my bicep, I was sweating from every pore of my body and it felt like I was being burnt alive. You can buy numbing creams from eBay and other online retailers but they only work AFTER the skin has been broken and in my experience have only lasted 20 minutes or so. If you’re having a particularly sensitive area tattooed then maybe consider it just to help you soldier through but otherwise they’re not worth the expense, and everyone in the tattoo shop will think you’re a giant pussy.
7 – Aftercare is very, very important and can affect your tattoo greatly. Don’t plan to go on a sun-drenched holiday just after getting a tattoo as the sun can disrupt the design and fade the ink quite dramatically if it’s exposed to intense sun a couple of days/weeks after being done and even so, ALWAYS cover up your tattoos or wear factor 50 to keep them vibrant and looking good for years to come. Also, don’t forget to moisturise daily and if an area needs touching up don’t be scared of contacting your artist to fill in an area that didn’t quite heal right, they’ll be more than happy to do this as long as you’re looking after them properly. There’s many ointments on the market for applying to fresh tattoos but I’ve always used Bepanthen and it’s worked like a charm, easy to get hold of and it’s fairly cheap. I also like to use the unscented Palmer’s Cocoa Butter for when my tattoo is almost fully healed but still peeling as the nappy rash cream can be a bit heavy.
8 – Don’t bring every Tom, Dick and Mohammad to the studio with you. Whilst it’s cool taking selfies in a tattoo studio and having your pals there for a bit of moral support you must remember it’s a place of work and your artist needs to be able to concentrate without any distractions.
9 – Bring your artist some food! Every time I’ve gone for a tattoo I’ve popped into a shop beforehand and picked up a bag of sweets or chocolate and a drink for my artist. They need to keep their stamina and energy levels up too and if they’re working on you for a number of hours it’s only fair that they’re going to need a little something to keep them going. It’s a really nice gesture and makes it less awkward when you can’t take no more and have to bitch out and take a quick 10 minute break, you and your artist can have a drink and discuss what’s next.
10 – TIP YOUR ARTIST! – Yes the tattoos cost a lot but think about the costs your artist has to pay out, working from a shop they usually have to either rent the chair or give the owner a cut which is usually 40-50% and then there’s the cost of their ink, gun, needles and other parts of their kit. An extra £20 or so means a lot, especially if your artist has gone above and beyond your expectations.