Getting your first tattoo is almost a rite of passage. Unfortunately, no one teaches you about getting a tattoo in school.
If you’re getting ready for your first piece of body art, then try these top 30 things to do before getting a tattoo below first.
Consider also reading up on how to tip your artist, how aftercare is handled, and so on. Truthfully, there are a lot of things to learn and fully understand before heading to the tattoo shop.
Want to get under the needle faster? Take a minute to shave the area that you’re going to have worked on. Yes, your artist is going to do it anyway but it’s always better to do this on your own time.
2. Brush your teeth
You’re going to have a perfect stranger in your personal space for a good bit of time. If you want to make his or her life better, brush your teeth. The artist didn’t do anything to deserve your bad breath.
3. Take a Shower
No one wants to deal with B.O. in a tattoo parlor. Make everyone happy by taking a shower directly before you go in. As a bonus, this should get rid of some of your nervous sweat.
4. Do your research
What do you know about getting a tattoo? Unless you’re an expert, it’s time to hit the internet. Look up information about reactions to tattoos, healing regimens, and how your body might be impacted.
5. Test your pain tolerance
For some, a tattoo is the most painful thing in the world. For others, it’s a relaxing process. Test your own pain tolerance with the tip of a needle. Can you stand that? If not, you’re going to be in for a very bad time.
6. Test your range of motion
You should always know how your body moves when you stretch. Move around the body part that you’re having tattoed to figure out what’s going to hurt during the healing process.
7. Check the law
Different states have different laws about tattoos. Figure out when you’re allowed to get one (probably not when you’ve been drinking) and if you need a parent’s consent (if you’re under 18). It’s better to find out before being turned away at the shop.
8. Talk to your boss
Your tattoo can have a huge impact on your career. Check with your boss or with HR to see if your place of work has any rules about tattoos. These rules have largely been relaxed over the last decade, but it never hurts to check.
9. Talk to someone in your field
You might also want to ask someone else in your field about your tattoo. If having ink is a no-go in their office, you might want to reconsider your choice. Always double check before you impact your career prospects.
10. Talk to your partner/spouse
It’s also a good idea to get some input from the most important person in your life. If that person hates tattoos, you’re going to be shoving a reminder of your lack of care in front of that person every day. Have a quick conversation about what you’re going to do before stepping foot in the shop.
11. Search for meaning
Double check to make sure your tattoo means what you think it means. The last thing you want is something spelled badly in a foreign language or something that has a bad meaning in prison. The internet is your friend in this search.
12. Be sure
Seriously, make sure you want a tattoo. They can be removed, but it’s a long and painful process. Don’t put yourself through this if you aren’t sure you want ink.
13. Sketch something
Do you have a basic idea of what you want? If so, try sketching it out. Even if you aren’t an artist, it will give you a good idea of what might go on your skin. Go wild with the sketch, especially if you are looking for something abstract.
14. Talk to an artist
If you can’t draw, make sure to talk to someone who can. Have a professional sketch something out for you. Bonus points if this professional is actually a tattoo artist – they tend to have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.
15. Look at good tattoos
Take some time to look at good tattoos online – see these tattoo ideas. Figure out what makes them look good and how you can apply those same concepts to your own artwork. Don’t be afraid if they look detailed – you may have to go back more than once.
16. Look at bad tattoos
Take some time to look at bad tattoos. This will not only help you figure out what to avoid, but stop you from going someplace with a bad reputation .
17. Look up artists
Once you’ve got your sketches, start looking up local tattoo parlors. Find a place with a good rating and with well-regarded artists. Don’t be afraid if the outside looks sketchy, but make sure the inside is in good shape.
18. Get referrals
Never go in blind. Always make sure your artist has a good portfolio and that he or she comes recommended by others. If you can’t get a recommendation in person, make sure you can get one online.
19. Ask for a quote
Once you’ve got an artist, get a quote on the price. You shouldn’t be trying to find a bargain tattoo, but you don’t have to pay top dollar for every piece of art.
20. Look at specials
If you really don’t care about your tattoo, look at specials. Some shops have specials on dates like Halloween or Friday the 13th. You can also get special tattoos to celebrate causes close to the hearts of the artists.
21. Buy healing products
Your tattoo is going to need a fair bit of aftercare. Go ahead and buy the products you need now to avoid the markup at the shop. Don’t cheap out on this – your skin will thank you later. Too make life easy, get an aftercare kit like this one from Tattoo Goo.
Read our guide to tattoo aftercare to find out what you need.
22. Look at your schedule
You’ll also want to look at your schedule before getting your tattoo. As you need to avoid extreme temperatures and direct sunlight, you’ll probably want to avoid any beach vacations in the near future.
23. Schedule a day off
If this is your first tattoo, you’ll probably want to schedule a day off for the day after the ink is done. This will give you a little time to deal with the pain of healing and get used to the aftercare routine.
24. Go to sleep
This is something you should definitely sleep on. Never get a tattoo on the spur of the moment.
25. Get a ride
Have someone else drive you to the shop. A little emotional support is a good thing. Having a ride home is even better.
26. Psych yourself up
Finally, psych yourself up before you go in. Everyone there knows you’re nervous, but don’t let it shake you. This can be a lot of fun – and it’s worth it in the end.
27. Eat a big meal before
Of all things to do, eating a big meal before going in the chair is without question, the most important! It’s fairly easy to get lightheaded while getting a tattoo, and getting tattooed on an empty stomach only makes things significantly worse. In fact, there are numerous studies out there that show how a full stomach can actually lower your sensitivity to pain, thus making getting tattooed less painful! It makes sense when you consider just how irritable most people get when their hungry. Every little thing bothers them to death!