First timer’s tattoo checklist

Before you get your tattoo, make sure that the following items have been completed. Feel free to copy this list and use as a guide.

About Your Artwork

Sometimes the hardest decision is what to get. Since tattoos are very personal only you can decide what you’ll want on your body forever. I usually suggest a client begin by making a list of things that appeal to them and place it in a position where it’s visible on a daily basis. Over a short time things get added and removed from the list and the order of importance changes. Once you are happy with the list bring it to your artist to determine what the best visual interpretation of that list is. Often the artist can render a quick sketch to generate further ideas.

Just as what you get is a personal choice, so is how it’s illustrated. Illustrative styles of tattoos are as varied and as personal as an artist but there are some traditional styles that have established themselves over time. Use descriptive words like Old School or New SchoolFine Line, tribal or Photorealistic for some examples of tattooing styles. Print and annotate things you find so you can bring it into your artist to look at. The more information you give your artist the better they are at creating something you’ll love.

The third part of the tattoo equation is where to put it. Like the what and how from above, the where is also a personal choice. Just remember that there are certain parts of the body that offer better presentation to others as opposed to being more personal. Visibility is important also for social considerations, specially in a more conservative workplace. You have to keep in mind that a tattoo will outlast every single job and relationship you ever get.

Not all tattoo artists are adept at all kinds of tattooing styles. Most have one or two specialties, styles they love working in, that is their strong point. Finding an artist that can easily render a tattoo in the style you want will make things smoother and avoid misunderstandings and regrets later. Just be careful, Some artists have big egos and won’t admit they can’t handle a particular style. Look closely at their portfolios.

I have met some really talented customers whose drawing abilities are enviable. If you have drawing skills, consider doing the ultimate personal tattoo by designing your own. Just realize that there are some very specific considerations when it comes to tattoo art. Your tattoo artist will likely have to tweak your drawing to make it a renderable tattoo or to give it a little bit more professional polish.

With the proliferation of tattoo imagery available online, internet search engines have been the primary source for tattoo inspiration over the past decade. If you find something that strikes your fancy that you want your artist to implement into your tattoo, simply email them the image or a link to the image, with a short note detailing what you like about that particular image.

It is always best to consult with your artist well in advance of your appointment to make sure they understand exactly what it is you are looking to get. Larger pieces will require advance time to pre design the tattoo and allow for revisions and modifications. Don’t just show up for your first appointment with a complex concept and lots of notes expecting them to just whip one out. It doesn’t quite work that way most of the time.

With all that work being done prior to your tattoo appointment, you don’t want to show up for the tattoo only to find out the artist did not draw quite what you were expecting. Conversation during development is important and you’ll want to approve that final copy well before sitting down in the chair, not on the day of.

About the Shop/Artist

There are often many choices of shops and artists to select from in any community. There are also other considerations beside how far they are from your house. Above all else, you need to be able to connect with the artist on a personal level in order to make the whole experience a pleasant one.

Word of mouth is the best guide to judge how reputable a tattoo parlor is. Just remember that word of mouth is only as trustworthy as the source. If a bunch of kids who care less about quality than price find a hack shop meets their needs, they’re going to give that shop high praise. That doesn’t mean that is the shop for you.

The best way to gauge an artist’s ability is by looking at past work, usually by means of their portfolio. Now days most portfolios are found online in a website of social media gallery. Just be aware that tattoos always look their very best when they are first done.

There is nothing more gut wrenching than getting a tattoo expecting it to cost one thing only to find that the price is much higher. Pricing needs to be discussed right at the very beginning and that price needs to be monitored any time you request any changes to your tattoo. If you have a budget, let your artist know. Often they can design exactly what you are looking for while keeping it within your price range. Just remember that you can do a tattoo in stages to get a great tattoo in the end without breaking the bank in one shot.

The tattoo industry has move to disposable products over the past decade, but there are some old timers who still prefer the old school method of packaging and sterilizing their own equipment. Always insist on having your artist show you sterile tools. Not just a wave-by either, have them show you and explain their sterility indicators and to open the packages in front of you. If they pre assembled their tattoo machine with needles without you present how can you really know those are safe needles?

Tattoo artists can be very colorful people. Often they can present themselves in a very loud, scary or imposing manner. The same goes for the shop’s atmosphere. Getting a tattoo in itself is stressful, let alone having to deal with people or environments that make you uncomfortable. If you don’t feel at ease being in the shop, your best bet is to just walk away.

About Yourself

As an artist, there is nothing more aggravating than to have to deal with inappropriate clothing choices while trying to render a tattoo. Don’t wear skinny jeans for a leg tattoo. Don’t wear a long sleeve shirt for an upper arm tattoo. Don’t come in for an upper back tattoo and not expect to take your shirt and bra off, or a lower back tattoo wearing tight pants. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that gives the artist easy access to the body part getting tattooed. Bring a sweatshirt to cover your arms and front if you think you’ll be cold.

It’s amazing how much pain is associated with lack of sleep or lack of food. Even though your body is just sitting there, internally there is a lot going on and resources are being used. Make sure you come to your appointment well rested and well fed. The thought of, “if I don’t eat I won’t throw up,” is so far from the truth and often works just the opposite. Also come in fresh and clean for you artist. Don’t come and get a foot tattoo after being in heavy, stinky work boots all day. Or with bad body odor because you worked outdoors in the sun all day. Or bad breath. Unfortunately while we are doing the tattoo we are in a hostage situation and really can’t leave. Just beware, there are some artist who have no qualms of embarrassing you about your body odors in front of everyone in the shop.

Heavy bleeding during a tattoo is quite detrimental to the successful healing of a tattoo. Too much bleeding can actually wash out pigment, resulting in spotted or faded color. If you are on blood thinners consult with your doctor about your plans of getting a tattoo. They will advise you on the safest method to pause your medication prior to getting the tattoo.

Life happens. We are all aware of this. If you run into an issue where the money you thought you would have for your tattoo just isn’t there, talk with your artist and plan a budget. Don’t just show up the day of and give a sob story. That’s the fastest way to lose an artist. Once  you have an established history with an artist, that’s another story.