10 Important Ways To Prepare For Your First Tattoo

Photo: Dmitriy Nushtaev on unsplash
How to prepare for your first tattoo
Self, Health And Wellness

It’s 2020, and tattoos are far more socially acceptable than ever before. Seen as more an act of personal expression than of delinquency, it’s no wonder all of the coolest people on your Instagram feed are showing off their ink.

And along with the rising popularity of more casual tattoo collecting, new techniques and technology have risen in the ink world. These innovations have led to even more design options, leading to an influx of creativity.

But even though everyone seems to have at least one tattoo, it's important to know exactly how to prepare for your first tattoo — including knowing where to place your tattoo, the proper tattoo after-care and even as far as knowing how much to tip your tattoo artist. 

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Whether you’re simply entertaining the thought of getting a tattoo, or if you’re on the way over to the parlor for your appointment right now, these are a few tips for how to prepare for your first tattoo, so that your first ink experience is a good one.

1. Remember that although tattoos are permanent, they also change as you age.

How your tattoo looks when you leave the shop is not how it will look five years from now. Because of the composition of human skin, some blowouts and seeping are normal when ink gets deposited into it. That means that you should expect the thinner line work to appear somewhat bolder or a bit blurrier over time.

Blowout is more common in certain areas of the body, like your hands and feet. If your design requires thin, precise lines, then maybe it’s best to avoid those areas your first time around.

After a while, certain colors on your design may fade, as well. Additionally, your tattoo can start looking a bit patchy because of the unpredictability of the healing process. Most tattoo artists offer low-cost or free touch-ups of their work, so don’t be afraid to request another session.

2. Sometimes trendy tattoos are not the way to go.

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Whenever there’s a particular tattoo design that becomes fashionable, think critically about the actual science behind how it would settle into skin. For instance, fine line tattoos are all the rage now, the aesthetic delicate and elegant. However, they leave little room for human error and fade more quickly than more traditional tattoos.

Another trendy style, watercolor tattoos, are a point of some contention in the ink community. The issue with them also comes with aging. Watercolor tattoo designs tend to lack bold lines, and as they age could lead to color fading and blurring in a way that looks, well, ugly. Before coming up with your design, do ample research on the particular look you want to emulate in order to avoid these concerns.

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3. Your tattoo design doesn’t have to be “meaningful”.

Your tattoo is only as permanent as you are, as dark as that sounds. Don’t be afraid to be a bit frivolous in what you get. As long as you’re happy with how it looks, then it doesn’t matter if it has a deeper meaning or you just think it’s kind of neat. Sure, you’ll change interests as you grow older, but a tattoo can always serve as a reminder of who you used to be and how passionate you once were for something that has escaped you. It’s okay to experiment and to have fun, and doing so certainly decreases the pressure of what to get on your skin first.

4. Avoid tattoos above the collar bone and below the wrists.

Although tattoos are more acceptable in work environments than they used to be, don’t push it on your first go around. Tattoos on your fingers and neck are visible most of the time, and being able to cover up is sometimes necessary. Moreover, many artists are hesitant to ink first-timers on these areas, and your skin is very sensitive there.

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5. Listen to your tattoo artist.

Even if you’re getting a smaller, simpler tattoo, it’s okay to want to speak to your artist about it beforehand. And if during a consultation, they make any edits to your original design choice, do what you can to take those into consideration. Artists are better trained than you are, and they’re more familiar with their abilities than you ever will be. Your tattoo will end up looking better in the long run if you heed your artist’s advice.

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6. Take into account your body proportions when knowing where to place your tattoo.

The thing about a tattoo design is that it looks different on your body than it looks on paper. Understand that most of your body is not a flat canvas, that you have curves and contours that must be understood before getting inked. Some designs will look better in certain areas than others.

Additionally, if you lose or gain weight in a certain area, your tattoo will stretch and change along with your skin. It may be advisable to choose an area you know won’t change much with age the first time you get a tattoo.

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7. Don’t be afraid to spend money.


Wondering how much it costs to get a tattoo? Tattoos are long-term investments. No matter what you get, you want it to look good and to continue looking good. Save up enough money for a tattoo artist you know has the skills you’re looking for, and be willing to spend more money as time goes on regarding retouching and upkeep.

8. Tip your tattoo artist well.

This may not seem like the kind of service that requires tipping, but tattoo artists do expect to get tipped for their work. Tattoos are expensive, yes, but artists definitely do not receive all of the money that you actually pay for your design. Think about how stressful this kind of job is and how much expertise it requires, and then consider the fact that they aren’t even receiving the cost of their art in revenue. It’s polite to tip about 20%.

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9. Know how to prepare for tattoo pain.

If you have a low pain threshold, maybe getting a tattoo is not for you. This activity isn’t for the faint of heart, as you’re literally getting poked with needles continuously. You may bleed. If you think you can handle the pain but don’t want to overdo it, then choose an area that’s less painful.

10. Bring a friend when you get your first tattoo.

The act of getting tattooed is quite stressful, and friends offer a good distraction. All of the parlors I’ve been to have allowed a friend in the room with me while getting art done, but I wouldn’t bring more than one other person along. You don’t want to end up distracting the artist. Moreover, if you don’t want to spend too much time alone with someone who you don’t know, it’s good to have a friend along to help break the tension.

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Vanessa Wolosz is a writer who focuses on feminism, sustainability topics, art and media.