Everything You Need to Know Before Getting a Tattoo


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How many hours have you spent doodling in a notebook creating designs you desperately want tattooed on your body forever?

Yes, That’s a Lot of Hours!

But before you get ahead of yourself, there are a few things you should know. In our 101 guide to everything you should know before getting a tattoo, we’ve put together all the essentials in one place. After chatting with professional tattoo artists and ink addicts, we’ve answered all of these ultimate questions and put together a guide—including an FAQ for everything you should read before getting a tattoo.

Who is This Guide for?

We created this tattoo guide for complete beginners. There’s even a section that reviews exactly what a tattoo is and what it entails! There are no stupid questions, so if you have a question that this guide hasn’t answered, please don’t hesitate to drop us a note at the end.

What if You Are?

·       Planning Your First Tattoo,

·       Not Sure if a Tattoo is Right for You,

·       Nervous or Uncertain About the Tattooing Process,

·       Just Curious About Tattoos in General,

This is a guide written just for you, covering what you need to know about before and after care.

Tattoos for Dummies – a Quick Review

Tattoos are permanent. We’re dealing with the lifelong kind, not the henna or clinging kind. A tattoo is body art created by embedding ink into the dermal layer of the skin. This is done by piercing your skin repeatedly with needles to reach the second skin layer and deposit the color there.

Once the wound has healed, the color and design will show. This is permanent and will stay with you for the rest of your life unless removed through surgery or laser (more on that below). So, in the US, you need to be at least 18 years old to get a tattoo.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo

Like all things, there are pros and cons to getting a tattoo. Pain is the most immediate concern for most people, but there are a few other things you need to consider before you start…

Do Not Forget

Here are some facts you need to know before you consider finalizing your design:

·       Tattoos can be painful (although the adrenaline rush helps),

·       Not cheap

·       The whole process takes time, not overnight!

·       At 90, your tattoos will still be with you

·       Removing a tattoo can be painful and expensive.

Removing a tattoo, even a small one, can cost a fortune. Some tattoos are more difficult to remove than others. For laser removal, the national average cost is $463. For an entire sleeve, you’re looking at thousands of dollars.

Before deciding to get a tattoo, please read the sections below that describe the tattooing process and read the Health line guide to tattoo removal. If you can live with both, you’re good to go.

Design Choice

A tattoo can be very meaningful, so take a moment to think about what you want. This is not something to rush.

Your tattoo style and the tattoo artist’s skills should match, especially if you rely on them to take the design from your head to paper. In-demand tattoo artists make appointments well in advance, so if your dream is to get the perfect tattoo from tattoo artist icon, be prepared to be patient.

Do your research! Check out tattoo artists on Instagram or visit a tattoo parlor to browse the portfolio in person. It’s a great way to find inspiration и see what a design looks like when it’s on skin instead of paper, which brings us on to…

Position and Size

To put it bluntly, the bigger the tattoo, the longer it will take (more sessions), the more expensive it will be, and generally the more damaging it will be.

But location is also an important factor to consider, especially if you’re concerned about the pain of your tattoo. The skin is close to the bone with very little flesh and tends to be painful. The same goes for particularly sensitive areas.

Common places where your pain tolerance will be tested:

·       Trunk

·       Rib Cage

·       The Elbow

·       Inner Thigh

·       Under the Upper Arm

Once you have decided on the general location of the tattoo, a tattoo artist can help you determine the location and size.

Pain and Care

Getting a tattoo can hurt — there’s no denying that. The degree of pain depends on the size and location, as well as your pain tolerance. If you cannot tolerate pain of any kind, the tattooing process may be too difficult for you.

You also need to take the before and after care of your tattoo seriously. An impromptu trip to a tattoo parlor is great, but with your first tattoo, it’s best to be prepared. That means doing research, booking lessons in advance, and following advice on caring for your new ink.

Reasonable Budget

Tattoos don’t come cheap. Even if you just want to put a little ladybug on your toe, tattoo artists still need fresh ink, clean needles, gloves, and then all the sanitization that needs to be done on the equipment. That’s why prices range from $50 to around $100 regardless of the size of the tattoo. Oh, and you need to tip.

This is part of the reason why you shouldn’t haggle with a tattoo artist. Another reason is that they are really artists and you pay for that person’s skills and talents. If tattoo offers seem cheap, that should be a warning sign!

In fact, finding the right tattoo artist and reputable tattoo parlor is a very important decision. So next we’ll walk you through what to look for and how to find it.

Find a Good Tattoo Artist/shop

The style of your tattoo will determine which tattoo artist and shop you contact first. If your tattoo is super simple (like your mom’s initials on the inside of your wrist), then it doesn’t really matter. However, if your goal is to recreate a modern Mona Lisa tattoo on your shoulder, it’s important to find a tattooist who is proficient in the style you want.

The Most Common Tattoo Styles Are:

·       Japanese and comic book style – Vibrant colors, sharp outlines and a unique style.

·       Shades of Gray – Usually very detailed, involving many shades, but only one color.

·       Portrait – Similar to Realism, but usually a category of its own. Not all tattoo artists can capture portraits in ink.

·       Realism – it looks just like a photo! Again, not all tattoo artists can reproduce this effect.

·       Surrealism – If you want an abstract, unique tattoo, then you need a confident and experienced tattoo artist to draw one.

Once you know what style you’re aiming for, you can create a shortlist of tattoo artists and parlors that will suit you. But before you get stitches, you need to check the safety of the tattoo parlor.

4 Signs for a Safe Tattoo Parlor

Do some research! Going to every tattoo artist and shop isn’t very practical in 2021, especially with COVID-19 keeping us all indoors. Due to the pandemic, you may find that some tattoo artists haven’t had much work done this year.

This will make your job a little harder. You need to research online, not visually inspect a tattoo parlor. Places to research and discover all your dirty secrets include:

·       Online Reviews – TrustPilot, Google Reviews, Reddit and all social media platforms.

·       Referrals – Ask friends and family where they got their tattoo and their experiences.

·       Reach out to clients – Send a DM online to the tattoo staff at the shop you are considering asking for their opinion.

·       Call or email the tattoo parlor yourself – you can ask them about the following factors.


Very important! You don’t want to get a tattoo from a grim tattoo parlor. If you get a bad vibe from the store (or images of the store), avoid it. Not worth the infection.

Hygienic tattoo artists don’t handle any equipment without gloves—a new pair of gloves is prepared for each client. Every surface you touch needs to be sanitized before and after you touch or sit on it. It’s also good to cover the seating area with tissue paper that can be discarded after the meeting.

All needles should be single-use and sealed prior to use. If they’re not… run away!


Tattooists are cool people, but they should still be professional. They should not rush you into doing anything, and if this is your first tattoo, they should guide you through what they are doing and what to expect.

Professionals prefer to do a consultation first, to discuss your needs and make sure everything is clear – including the price of their work.

Live to the Fullest

This is especially important if you want a stylized tattoo, such as a portrait of your cat. You’ll get the best results if you choose a tattoo artist who has experience with similar designs in the past…and can attest to this with their portfolio or clients willing to chat with you.


Experience tied to price – more experienced tattoo artists may charge more for their expertise. In our opinion, it’s totally worth it, but you’ll need to work within your budget. Even if you don’t plan to get a tattoo there, ask the tattoo parlor for a quote. This will help you compare tattoo prices and detect when you’ve been overcharged or if a cheap quote has been made.

How to Prepare for a Tattoo

Before you get anywhere near the needles, you’ll want to sit down with your tattoo artist to go over some paperwork (i.e. proof of age and payment) and finalize the design. If you have a simple design ready, you can probably do this in one session. Or it may take multiple negotiations. You will also need to make an appointment to get the tattoo done.

If your tattoo artist didn’t give you pre-treatment instructions, ask them directly what you should be doing during the day and night before your treatment.

General Advice Usually Includes:

·       No alcohol, caffeine, aspirin, or any blood thinners. Avoid these substances within 48 hours of getting a tattoo to prevent excessive bleeding.

·       Stay hydrated and eat well. Maintain your strength so you can survive the long tattooing session, and your body will recover faster if your body is in top shape.

·       Moisturize, but not before a session. Gently moisturize your skin a week or a few days before your tattoo.

·       Shave the tattooed area the night before. When you get there, some tattoo artists like to run the razor across the area again. But don’t cut yourself, or you’ll need to call off the date entirely.

·       Get plenty of rest and a good night the night before. Being alert will help you stay calm and still while inking.

When you go to your meeting, make sure you are wearing comfortable clothing that easily exposes the area being tattooed. You don’t want tights in that area afterwards.

Tattoo Process

It’s time! This is the expected result.

·       Sit comfortably in a chair and discuss with the tattoo artist what is going to happen, and if you have a long tattoo, prepare a book, movie or music.

·       Your skin will be shaved to remove any fine hairs, then disinfected with rubbing alcohol to prevent infection.

·       Next, make a stencil out of the tattoo and apply it to your skin so you can see where and how it will look before you get permanently inked.

·       The artist will now prepare all equipment, open new needles, and prepare the tattoo machine/gun.

·       A salve can be applied to your skin to help the ink transfer well, and then it’s time to start. Breathe slowly and consciously as the needle touches your skin. The first few minutes are the worst, and then you get more used to the feeling.

·       The lines will be done first, then the tattooist will switch needles and do the coloring work – this may be done in several sessions if the tattoo is large or you need a break.

·       When finished, the area is gently cleaned and artists can be photographed for their portfolio. Then apply ointment and bandage the area.

To help you visualize what it all looks like, watch this cool video from Smarter Every day. It shows how a tattoo machine works, what a needle looks like, and captures a slow motion tattoo of a needle piercing the skin.

What Will Happen After That

Any decent tattoo artist will give you a list of things you should and should not do after the tattoo.  They may also want to contact you for inspection within a few days and weeks after your tattoo, so please continue to share contact information with them.

The General Aftercare You Need to Do Includes:

·       Keep the bandage for a few hours ( no matter how eager your friends are to see it ).

·       Clean the area gently with mild antibacterial soap and warm water.  Wash the area of blood, mucus and ink with your hands instead of abrasive towels.

·       Dry with paper towels —— don’t slide or drag!

·       Apply some tattoo glue or ointment.  You can ask your tattoo artist to recommend their most trusted brand.

·       Wash regularly to keep the tattoo clean with warm water.  Shower frequently as needed, but do not soak the tattoo in water.

·       When/if scallops are formed, soak them gently with a hot compress until they soften and fall off.  Resist the urge to pick them.

·       Wear loose clothes and do not rub the tattoo before the tattoo heals.

Once healed, it is best to apply sunscreen to the tattoo to prevent sunburn.  Exposure to ultraviolet light will make the tattoo fade faster.

You may need to consider tattoo modification immediately after the first treatment or a few years later.  This will include checking the tattoo to sharpen it, or repairing any gaps/errors, or enhancing the color.  Remember, the same rules for finding safe tattoo artists/shops from above will apply!

Are You Ready?

Until now, you should be excited to get your first tattoo, or make sure that the tattoo is not for you.  It’s ok! They are not for everyone.  If you decide to reconsider, be sure to bookmark this page and check the FAQ below for more basic tattoo information.

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