A Newbie’s Guide To Getting A Tattoo: The Hows And Whats

Posted on December 25, 2011

By Savera Mehta:

So you think you’re ready to get your first tattoo. You’ve obviously come of age for it to be legitimate. You’ve had a few glimpses of the tattoo studio and wondered how to go about it.

The few questions puzzling your mind are:

  • What tattoo design/illustration/text would satisfy me?
  • How safe is getting inked?
  • How much is this going to cost me?
  • How do I pick my artist?
  • And last but not least, how bad is it going to HURT?

Being a part of the ‘ink-clan’, let me tell you, your fellow clan-members will not shy away from showing off their tattoos and sharing their experiences. Getting your first tattoo is almost like an orientation of some sort. You will have to do your share of research and once you are ready, let the ink flow!

For starters, I would recommend that you find someone who has already had the enthralling experience of being inked. It is quite valuable to learn from someone who has been there and done that.

Every coin has two sides to it, and in this case, you’ll find two kinds of people:

  1. The ones who regret
  2. The ones who don’t

The ones who regret are rare to come across but surely do exist. Even in this category, there are sub-divisions.

The guy/girl who out of pressure or being plastered love-drunk, got a silly looking heart with his/her ‘then’ spouse’s name on it. The tough guy across your street who watched ‘American History X’ 28 times!! The person who walked into the tattoo studio because he/she thought it was cool; hastily picking a cliché design and later coming to the conclusion that he let his adolescent mind take over his rationale. I could go on about them but let’s get straight to the point; needless to say, they should’ve read this article.

On the other hand, the ones who don’t regret are a lot easier to find and have a great story to tell. The difference between the two lied in one thing only, they planned!

A tattoo is going to stay with you. You are going to look at it every single day of your life. It is going to bring back memories of what you once believed and hopefully what you still do.

Which is why, take your time and think it through.

I want you to do this — whatever your tattoo idea is, be it an illustration, a lyric, a name, a picture of some sort – think of what it means to you at this point in time. Write it all down in that little book where you confide. Think of what it will mean to you ten years down the line. Will you still abide by it?

Another thing that helped me was visualizing the design and actually sketching it out on my body and just living with it for a week. Yes, I showered; I just redid it every day. Try it, it works!

So let’s hope that takes care of the first question.

This brings us to the second question. How safe is it getting inked? Well, this is one of the most important aspects that you should take into consideration.

Locate and walk into a studio to get an idea of their work ethic. Go through the portfolio of every artist. Ensure that the studio is completely hygienic and that they maintain a high-quality code of conduct. Be aware of the kind of skin diseases and other medical threats that are probable (Herpes, forms of hepatitis, Tetanus, HIV etc). Although, in America, there hasn’t been a record of HIV being contracted due to ‘commercially-applied tattoos’, it’s always best to be safe. If you did or do have allergies or any kind of blood deficiency its best to consult a doctor before moving forward. You could also ask your artist. Make sure you take at least 3-4 opinions.

How much is this going to cost me?

The cost of tattoos can vary from one studio to another or one artist to another. Also, a lot of it depends on the design and how elaborate it is. In studios, you will usually find a hierarchy of artists starting from the apprentices going up to the head of studio. Choosing whichever artist suits you will define the price. Then comes in your design. If it’s simple text, it’s unlikely that it should take more than an hour. However, if you have an elaborate design/illustration with added colors, it’s going to take longer and the cost is obviously going to increase. You can be expected to pay anywhere from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 5000 ($80 – $100)/hour. Before you plan to cut cost and settle for an apprentice, read the next topic being addressed.

How do I pick my artist?

It is my duty to direct you in right path, and if you’re choosing an artist solely based on cost, DON’T! Body art, the way I see it, is quite a sacred-journey. No, I’m not a tree hugging hippy (I wish) but I know one thing; I’ve never forgotten the various people who have tattooed my body. I always made sure the artist clearly understood what exactly the tattoo meant to me and how much I believe in it. Construct a healthy relationship with your artist and expect excellence from his/her side. In a non-intrusive manner, put your point across about how much this means to you and how thankful you are that they will deliver. You are the canvas so make the whole journey worthwhile for the artist and you.

And the biggest question! How much is it going to hurt?

“No pain, No gain”. Yes, it hurts.

How much it hurts differs from person to person. As you already know, everyone has a different threshold of pain. Getting a tattoo on your arm (bicep) isn’t as painful as getting one on your chest. A tattoo down your spine could be quite throbbing. The human body has a very efficient nervous system and the second that needle starts doing its thing, your nerves will graciously inform your brain. Make sure you are stocked up with a good amount of water and other hydrants such as glucose. Try shifting your focus to your respiration. If you feel like you need a break, ask for it. A good artist will make sure it is as easy on your body as possible (which is why, create a good relationship with him/her).

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Plan it at least a couple of months in advance
  • Read more about tattoo safety (precautions)
  • Ask your artist what they suggest for after-care
  • Be sure to take as many opinions as possible
  • Beyonce wouldn’t have been down with ‘I got 99 problems but a b**** ain’t one’ on Jay-z’s arm
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