How to Go About Getting a Tattoo

There was a time when tattoos were associated with ex-convicts, bikers, and eccentric leftist political activists. Now, it seems that most people have at least one tattoo, usually on the bicep for guys or small-of-the-back for girls. Those with the money to spend are paying out thousands of dollars for intricate pieces of art that rival anything you would find at a gallery, and television shows such as Miami Ink have explored how tattoo artists go about their work.

But for all the knowledge the public shares about tattoos, there are still so many people who are ignorant to the tattoo culture.

Not only do some groups of individuals (mostly conservatives and professionals) still view tattoos as having no place in the serious adult world, but many people who want a tattoo rush into getting one, and often end up with a piece of artwork permanently affixed to their body that they are not satisfied with.

tattoo artist on work
tattoo artist on work

Getting a tattoo is like any other purchase in that you should do plenty of research before you pay any money; it is not like any other purchase in that not only is there is no return or refund policy, but there’s no way at all to be rid of your purchase; you can’t exactly sell a tattoo on eBay. The only way to be rid of a tattoo is by expensive surgery, so the research process should be more extensive than ever.

The first step in getting a tattoo is deciding what you would like.

This sounds obvious, but all too often people simply go into a tattoo parlor and look around at the designs available until they see one that they are willing to settle for. This is not the proper way of getting a tattoo; more than likely you’ll end up with a tattoo that you’ll be less than satisfied with. You should already have an idea of what you would like before you walked into the parlor. By being more focused on what you want, you’re less likely to go with a design that you’ll end up being unhappy with, and since tattoos are costly and permanent, then it’s wise to not get one just to get one.

Be especially careful as to what you decide to be your tattoo.

A significant other’s name might be romantic, but should that relationship come to an end, you’ll have a constant reminder of that person. The best tattoos are symbols or images that reflect you as a person. If you are proud of your Irish heritage, then a shamrock is a fitting tattoo. If you are a musician, then music notes or the instrument you play would make a fine tattoo.

A family member’s name (such as a child or sibling), or the name of a dear friend who has passed away, would be fine; especially if the name is worked into an image of some kind. Whatever you decide, it wouldn’t be wise to be set on a specific design. When you talk to the artist doing your tattoo, they may have suggestions as to how to improve your vision.

tattoo design
tattoo design

You should deliberate on your choice for no shorter than three months and ideally up to a year. This may seem like a long time especially if you’re anxious about getting your tattoo-but again; tattoos are permanent: it’s imperative that you take your time in choosing your design.

Once you have an idea of what you would like to do, it’s important to find a good parlor to get your tattoo done at. While most tattoo parlors frown on people just hanging out in their place of business, many artists (just like artists of the canvas and clay variety) are flattered when somebody takes an interest in what they do, so there’s no harm in going in and taking a look around.

The first thing you should notice is how clean the tattoo parlor is, especially the area where the artists do their work.

A tattoo parlor can never be too clean, and the cleaner the better. Even if you’re not usually bothered by the sight of dirt, you should avoid a tattoo parlor that has cobwebs in the corners and dust on the counters: a dirty parlor is a strong indicator of dirty artists, and those artists are using instruments that will go underneath your skin.

Secondly, you should notice how the artists work.

tattoo artist work
tattoo artist work

They should use latex gloves at all times, form the moment they enter their work area to the moment they finish with a customer. They should use fresh needles on their tattoo guns frequently and should clean out their tattoo guns every time they load new paint into it. Artists should use an antiseptic spray, not just hot water, to clean the area that they are tattooing. The artist should not be smoking while they are working on you, and they indeed should not appear intoxicated. Also, take note about how much direction the artists give their customers about how to care for their tattoo. If they offer little or no guidance, don’t patronize them; you should not be expected to find out how to care for your tattoo. They are the experts after all, and you are not.

Cleanliness is the most important factor in choosing a tattoo parlor, but the quality of their work is almost just as important.

You do not want to be stuck with a tattoo that looks like it was drawn by a kindergarten student. Portfolios of the parlor’s artists’ previous work should be easily accessible; if you don’t see one then ask for one. If the parlor doesn’t provide a portfolio, then don’t go there. Of course, if you have friends with tattoos that you like, ask where they got their work done. There’s no better judge of quality than first-hand experience.

tattoo artist safety
tattoo artist safety

Once you’ve found a parlor, it’s time to make the final step: finally get the tattoo.

Realize that the tattoo process takes a while, so be prepared to spend at least half a day at the parlor. If you only have a vague idea of what you want, then take a look at the designs on display. For example, for my first tattoo, I knew that I wanted a dragon, so I looked at the dragon designs until I found one I liked.

If you have an original design in mind, or you see a design that you like but want altered to fit your tastes, ask to speak to an artist. They will often work with you. Be sure to listen to their suggestions. Don’t be afraid to ask for a price, but realize that it will not be cheap, especially if their work is of high quality.

Now there’s nothing left to do but to face the inevitable: tattoos hurt.

More muscular parts of your body can absorb the pain better, but there’s no tattoo that doesn’t hurt at all. Tattoos with lots of long lines hurt especially bad. Also, if your tattoo is large, you may have to return for several settings: keep these in mind if you’ve traveled a great distance to get your work done.


You won’t exactly be able to read a book while the artist is working, but they will likely play some music.

And don’t be afraid to chat with your artist while they are working. Many of them enjoy learning about their customers and will happily answer questions about what they are doing, But know that tattooing takes a great deal of concentration, so don’t take it personally if your artist doesn’t seem very personable. And respect what they are doing as a serious artistic endeavor; compliment their work, be sure to thank them, and if they ask you to pose for a picture to add to their portfolio, do so.

Be sure to follow the instructions your artist gives you for the proper care of your tattoo, and follow them to the letter. In the area you just had tattooed, it will be raw and especially prone to pain. Be careful about exposing it to sunlight (so as to avoid sunburns) or any abrasive material.

Once your tattoo has fully healed, you can enjoy it.

Be proud of your tattoo; barring any workplace dress codes or indecent exposure laws, never be afraid to show it off. I have four tattoos and I love every single one of them; I’ve never had any regrets and have never faced any medical complications. It’s all about smart research and respecting the people who do the work.

tattoo on back
tattoo on back

Source of images: https://www.pexels.com

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