I waited a long time to get my first tattoos. I wanted to be sure that it would be something I wouldn’t mind seeing on myself when I got old and wrinkly. I didn’t want any of them to be passing fads of mine. For a while, I really wanted “I Am Walking On Air” or something about MoonChildren in tribute to the singer Kerli. I thought it was a great idea at the time because I adored her. I’m pretty glad I didn’t get any of that tattooed on me because it was extremely trendy music. I hardly ever listen to Kerli anymore. So when I finally got my tattoos, I was 23. I didn’t get any words, just symbols. They weren’t original shapes, just generic. But I liked them all the same. Those were my first three tattoos. I was thoughtful and meticulous when choosing them. For my most recent tattoo, I decided on a slice of pizza. Nowadays, while I still crave tattoos with meaning behind them, I also just want tattoos that I like. Regardless of their background story. But regardless of that, getting tattoos can be complicated. And I kinda wish I knew half the stuff I do now.
1. Think about it
It’s only been two years since I got my first ink, but I am glad I did it the way I did. I thought about what I wanted to be done. I didn’t rush into anything. I found a tattoo artist I trusted. The way I look at tattoos, they are forever. I don’t want names, words, or images stabbed into my skin that I’m not going to love. In choosing my first tattoos, I probably wouldn’t change the method I had. I thought about it a good long time.
2. Beware of tattoo fever
Getting inked up for the first time is new and exciting. It’s exhilarating to feel the ink being drilled into your skin. But just be aware that it might make you wanna have more and more tattoos. But it’s important not to get carried up in those feelings. Your body is here. It’s not going anywhere. Tattoo artists are not going extinct. There will be plenty of time to get ink. You don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating on whether or not to get a tattoo. But you do want to be careful of getting ink on a whim. You may end up regretting it.
3. Not everything will make a good tattoo
Trust your tattoo artist. If you bring them a design and they tell you that it won’t fit well as a tattoo, don’t argue. Work with them to find an alternative. This is their job. They know what looks good as tattoos. Just because you had a friend draw something up, doesn’t mean that art will look good as another form of art. Skin and human bodies are completely different from a sheet of drawing paper.
4. Don’t be afraid to tell your tattooist exactly what you want
At the same time, don’t hold back when your artist shows you an image of what they’ve come up with for you. When I went in for a slice of pizza tattoo, it was particularly difficult because nobody in the shop spoke English. The artist had to run next door to grab someone who could translate Chinese to English and vice versa. But it just emphasizes the fact that communication is so important. The artist wanted to ask me if I wanted the actual slice of pizza that I had sketched as a tattoo or if he should just use my drawing as a reference point. I wanted the latter. He set to work drawing up his own styles of pizza slices and googling what they looked like. He drew up three different slices. Surprisingly, it took quite a bit of time despite how minimalistic I wanted the tattoo to be. At one point, he brought a picture to me and I agreed that it was fine. My partner argued that the crust wasn’t what I had in mind. I realized that at that point, I felt like I was being a bad client. I wanted the art to be what I wanted but I also felt like I was being too picky. It’s important to not feel like that. You shouldn’t be embarrassed. You’ve simply got to understand that it’s their job to draw things up that will be on your skin for potentially forever. Do you really want to have something that you merely settled for instead of a piece of art that you absolutely love? Be patient. Art takes time. Don’t feel guilty for asking the artist to revise their work.
5. Be patient during the process
You may be at the tattoo shop getting inked and start wondering when they may be done. I’ve never experienced this due to only getting small, subtle ink. From the tattooist’s point of view, everything takes time. Some tattoo artists spend up to ten hours a day sitting in the same hunched over position going in tiny circles with the rotary machine over and over again. Why? Because they love it. They take pride in their work. And they also take time doing their work. Especially if you want a large thigh piece, shoulder piece, or get your sleeve started, you must be patient. It may even take several sessions before it’s complete. And between those sessions, you’ll have to wait for your ink to heal up before you go back. You must avoid the sun. Apply ointment. Treat the tattoo gingerly and patiently. It’s a craft which takes time on both sides. So if you are all hyped up to get inked, you must be ready for the commitment. It’s no small thing.
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6. Not all tattoos have to mean something
I meet people who have tattoos in honor of lost loved ones and close family members. They put a lot of meaning behind their ink. But not all tattoos have a touching backstory. You may want to get a specific flower or symbol simply because you really like how it smells or looks. It doesn’t have to have an intense meaning. As long as the art makes you happy, then it’s fulfilled its purpose. It doesn’t have to impress others or start a long emotional story when you talk about it.
Tattoos are not for everyone. The last thing you should do is to get a tattoo because you feel like you’ll be liked or appreciated more by your friends or coworkers. Oftentimes, people who are inked up look like they’re more adventurous or intimidating when it could actually be the complete opposite. I have friends who are gentle souls and complete homebodies, yet they have full sleeves and countless tattoos. If you’re feeling uncertain about getting a tattoo, try starting out with getting piercings first. They are a lot more straightforward, though piercings still require proper aftercare. Whether you want something in your cartilage, your nose, your navel, or something else, piercings can be taken out and heal up pretty quickly if you change your mind down the road. If you decide against ink after getting some, it’s a little more complex to erase them.