Five tips to help you get a great tattoo

Recently I watched a show on the TLC network called America’s Worst Tattoos, which featured some of Amurikuh’s most prized inhabitants displaying some of the most poorly thought-out and terribly executed tattoos I have ever seen.

As someone who is fairly new to the tattoo world—I have seven tattoos in my collection so far— I know firsthand that getting a tattoo can sometimes be a pretty scary and intimidating experience, especially if it’s your first time getting some work done. So, to help make your tattoo experience a bit less painful (see what I did there?!), I’ve put together a few tips based on lessons I’ve learned through getting tattooed myself.

Hopefully by following these steps—and not picking a dumbass design concept—you can avoid being featured on national television getting your playboy bunny tattoo covered up, and instead spend a lifetime looking at a beautiful work of art.

#1 – Consider and reconsider your idea

Not every tattoo has to have some deep and meaningful story behind it, but it’s important to take some time to consider your idea and make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re putting on your body because, well… it will be there forever.

Can you see yourself still enjoying your tattoo in 25 years? Are you getting the name of a significant other tattooed on your neck? Does the acronym YOLO come to mind when thinking of your design?

Spontaneous tattoos can be fun, and often tattoo artists will have a stock of flash designs to choose from specifically for walk-in clients. However, an impromptu tattoo means you’ll need to be flexible about what you get because often you will be forced to choose an already drawn-up design rather than having a tattoo that is custom-made for you.

#2 – Don’t get hung up on the price tag

While getting a tattoo can be an expensive endeavour, paying top dollar for a tattoo does not always necessarily ensure the quality of the finished product. There are many talented, experienced tattoo artists who have very reasonable hourly rates.

That being said, a tattoo is not something that you should cheap out on – the saying “you get what you pay for” certainly applies in most cases. If you can’t afford a tattoo from an artist that you really want to work with then save up, or talk to the artist about splitting the tattoo into multiple sittings to spread the cost out over a longer period of time.

Most tattooists are willing to work within a budget, but be clear about what your budget is prior to being tattooed. When negotiating don’t forget that your artist has invested years into perfecting their craft and tattooing is likely their livelihood. Nobody likes a cheapskate.

#3 – Choose a tattoo artist wisely

No two tattooers are exactly alike, so when choosing an artist do your research. Check out tattoo shops online, add tattooers on Instagram, or even pop into a few shops to check out some portfolios.

Often tattooists are skilled in many styles of tattooing, but most of the time an artist will have a focus or a specialty – one style that they particularly excel in and enjoy tattooing the most. Often, deciding what style of tattoo you’re looking for and then searching for an artist who specializes in that style or has tattooed that specific idea before can help. For example, if you’re looking to get a realistic portrait of a family member you might not want to go to the artist who specializes in traditional tattooing, but if you want a 50s style pin-up, that same artist might be a great choice.

Rule of thumb: if you’re not sure then book a consult – they’re free and it provides an opportunity to meet the artist and get their feedback on the idea you have in mind.

#4 – The artist knows best

Sometimes we have a really firm idea in our head of the tattoo that we want, how it should look, where it should be placed, and what size it should be. Often we’ve been thinking of this idea for years and when it comes time to actually get the tattoo we can be reluctant to accept feedback on our design idea.

It’s important to remember that when getting a tattoo, the artist knows best. If your artist makes suggestions relating to placement, size, and content, my advice is to seriously take it into consideration when making your final decision. Ultimately it’s your call because you have to live with your tattoo for the rest of your life, but just remember that this is what your tattooist does for a living, so any advice given is well-informed.

#5 – Prepare yourself for the big day

Don’t drink alcohol the night before your tattoo and get a good sleep. Hydrate yourself with plenty of water prior to, and drink a sugary beverage during the session. Eat a hearty meal before your appointment, rather than eating only a bowl of cereal for breakfast, getting tattooed for six hours, and then spending the evening trying not to puke because your blood pressure is super low. Not that I did that myself or anything…

And most importantly, tip your artist!

Photo by Dwayne Larson.