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Five Tips for Getting Your First Tattoo

May 22, 20187 min read

So you’re considering getting a tattoo, and why not? Beyond the simple act of rebellion they’re often perceived to be, tattoos can be a stunning and creative way of expressing your personal style and the things you love. There has even been a huge decrease in the number of employers who take issue with ink. However, none of this means that you should take the decision lightly, so here’s the best advice I, a non-expert with two tattoos and one more on the way soon, have on getting your first tattoo.

Decisions Decisions

Unless you have a very specific design in mind, before you even consider what you might want to get, I highly recommend doing some research on tattoo styles. Do you want color? What about sharp lines? Realism? It’s worth seeing where your preferences lie before getting invested in the idea of a concept that may look far better in another style — there are lots of realist portraits and traditional-style hearts for a reason.

By far the biggest concern people seem to have regarding tattoos, both pro and anti, is the worry that you might one day regret it. While this is definitely a risk, I believe there are steps you can take to curb it.

For instance, is your tattoo aesthetically appealing on a surface level and well-done by an experienced artist? If so, even if you believe less in the meaning of it, it’s much harder to one day dislike a harmless and beautiful work of art. You could also consider a less obvious placement, so your tattoo is easier to conceal, when you don’t want it on display, like on your shoulder, thigh or waist.

Finally, I think you should consider what the current tattoo trends are, and maybe try to avoid them. If you honestly like the look of something like watercolor tattoos or infinity symbols, then go for it, but it’s worth considering if you mostly want one because of aesthetically-pleasing Pinterest or Tumblr posts, rather than a genuine love for the design. Also, this goes without saying, but definitely don’t choose a symbol from a culture other than your own (such as a Hamsa Hand, a Dreamcatcher, etc.).

Booking an Artist

First of all, I would recommend getting a tattoo fairly close to where you or a friend lives. While I absolutely love my first tattoo and have no regrets surrounding it, I travelled for two hours on a train to the studio in Leeds. Taking that journey back again after another three and a half hours of tattooing proved very taxing, and it wasn’t an ideal situation.

Once you’ve found a clean and reputable studio, you should check out the portfolios of the artists working there. A convenient way to do this is through Instagram, with many artists now using it as the primary way of showcasing the pieces they’ve designed and tattooed.

In terms of price, tattoos are not an area to skimp on. You might be happy with that extra money in the short term, but for something that’s going to be on your body for the rest of your life, you want to ensure you’re getting the best possible service and quality.

On the Day

If you’re a breakfast person or not, you need to eat a meal before you go in for the tattoo. You may not notice during, but you’re putting your body through a fair amount of strain, and having that extra energy in case you need it is vital. Also, if you’re gonna be sitting there for a few hours, you might also get hungry, especially if you don’t eat beforehand!

If you’re feeling particularly scared for the experience, having a sugary drink or snack with you is a good idea to calm down the anxiety you’re feeling and give you some energy. It’s also worth noting for those frightened of needles that the tattoo needle barely goes a few millimetres into your skin and doesn’t even remotely resemble an injection. From my experience and from asking others, the closest feeling is a cat scratch.

Don’t be afraid to ask the artist for a break if you find yourself getting too tired or sore. It’ll definitely help you feel better, and the artist would far prefer that you’re comfortable, both for your sake and because it’s easier to tattoo someone who’s calm and still.


I’m not going to recommend any specific products for aftercare, as I am not an artist myself, and I’ve found that different studios suggest different creams for the healing process. But from my experience, it takes around two weeks to fully heal, and you shouldn’t go into a swimming pool or swim in an ocean, river or lake for a few weeks following this.

If your tattoo starts peeling or looks scabby, don’t worry! This is completely normal, just make sure not to scratch at or touch the area too much, or you could risk infection or even remove a section of the ink.

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of (if you’ve taken this advice) a high-quality, beautiful tattoo in great health, with the perfect placement that looks exactly how you pictured.

Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt via Unsplash.

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Zoe Crombie

Film student from Lancaster, U.K. who loves movies, old video games, Modernist art and my hamster Vlad.