What to expect with your first tattoo – A Tattoo FAQ from an inked girl

carpe diem

Carpe Diem – My first tattoo

So, this is a bit off topic (well more than a bit); but I thought some of you out there would benefit from my experience with getting tattoos. I was very hesitant to get the first one and mostly due to fear of the unknown. I asked trusted friends all my tattoo-related questions before getting inked, but I thought publishing this information could help someone else who, perhaps, doesn’t have a tattooed friend to talk to.

Keep in mind I’m not:

  • A tattoo artist
  • An expert in tattooing
  • A professional in the tattoo industry

What I am:

  • A picky but loyal tattoo customer
  • A nurse
  • A blogger with 6 tattoos

With that said…..let’s get to the meat of the FAQ!

Will it Hurt?

This is the question I get most often. Obviously, needles poking you for any period of time doesn’t feel great. I think most people want to know if the pain is tolerable. For me, it’s all been very tolerable. At this point, all my tattoos are confined to my arms and hands. When I’m in pain, I shut down…..stop talking, and focus only on getting through the pain. With the exception of the very sensitive skin underneath my arms, I’ve been able to chat through all my tattoos. What does this mean? It’s very tolerable for me. What makes any and all pain worth it for me is the art that I desire from the experience. I do get a bit of an endorphin rush during and after the tattoo which is a nice perk as well.

If you’re still unsure about your ability to make it through the pain of a tattoo, I’d recommend going small to begin with and working your way up. My first tattoo was a short 15 minute session; this allowed me to gauge my tolerance for future tattoos while not committing to a long session.

How did you pick your parlor/artist?

Three words: word of mouth. If I can find a great doctor, dentist, hair stylist, etc… via word of mouth then why wouldn’t the same apply to a tattoo artist. I found a friend with tattoos that I liked and asked who they went to. I asked about why they chose their artist and what they liked about the store. I also chose a shop that only does tattoos – no piercings or other services provided. I did visit other tattoo shops in my search and spoke with the artists there regarding my concerns/wants. If I didn’t feel comfortable about all aspects of the shop and artists, I didn’t consider them for my tattoo. A first tattoo is a big deal and you want someone you have trust and a good rapport with.

When I walked into the shop I chose, I decided to go with a different artist than the one recommended to me; but, honestly, I would be comfortable with all the artists at the store I frequent. I am very loyal and go to the same artist for all my tattoos. I’m very confident in his abilities and trust him with the permanent appearance of my skin. I encourage everyone to search out that artist that you feel the same about. This is probably the most important decision you will make in the tattoo process – don’t rush it and pick the appropriate person!

How do you pick out the tattoos?

This is very individual. It taook quite a while to pick out the first tattoo, but after that, the ideas came faster and faster. I recommend that whatever you pick, you think about it thoroughly. Think about how you’ll feel in a few years. Envision yourself with the tattoo and decide if that’s really what you want. Also, think about how this will affect your life in other ways. For instance, I knew with tattoos on my wrists and forearms that I’d be required to wear long sleeves to work forever. This was something I was willing to accept. Not everyone is accepting of body art but the only one who really has to love it is you. Most of my tattoos has personal meaning but some don’t – they’re just reminders or images I associate with myself.

Personally, I think of what I want in a tattoo then do research to get some examples of art for my tattoo artist. Sometimes I will get popular tattoo images but I try to stay away from this. Afterall, I want my tattoos to distinguish me from the rest, not to blend in. Just LOVE the crap out of whatever you get. LOVE it!

How will the tattoo affect my life?

Well, for starters, you can’t swim for a few weeks after the tattoo. It is an open would and you must care for it properly. So, be prepared for that. As far as long-term, I elaborated slightly on that in the last question. If you work in a conservative atmosphere, be prepared to cover the tattoos. This means getting them on somewhere ‘un-coverable’ is not ideal. For example, I want all my fingers tattooed, but that’s not happening. I refuse to wear gloves everyday to work. 🙂 I do wear long sleeves on a a daily basis but proudly show my tattoos when not at work. I do get odd looks sometimes but 90% of the reactions to my tattoos are positive. If you ask me, the heart of body modification is not giving a crap what the next guy thinks; so, as long as I don’t lose my job, I really don’t care what anyone thinks.

How can I be sure my tattoo artist is following appropriate technique regarding health and disease?

Talk to your artist. This is why it’s important to be able to ask your artist questions freely and not feel intimidated by doing so. With my first tatoo, I straight up asked my artist the following:

  • “are the needles brand new?”
  • “have the tubes been autoclaved?”
  • “is everything sterile?”

Being a nurse, these questions were very important to me (of course, all the answers were yes). Before my frist tattoo, I researched proper technique for safe tattooing and that’s how I generated these questions. Not only did my artist answer my questions to assure me (in a non-judgemental fashion),  I have actually seen my artist set up for my tattoos and I KNOW I’m in a healthy shop with safe practices. Safety is very important and I encourage everyone to observe and ask questions in order to feel comfortable.

How do I know if I”m ready for a tattoo?

I knew because I had been wanting ink for a long time. I knew because I wanted to be different. I knew because I reached a point in my life where I was confident and didn’t give a flying crap what anyone thought of me. This is very individual. In my (humble) opinion, I would recommend the following:

  • You are willing to endure a little pain to get what you want
  • You are very confident and happy with the design you’ve picked out
  • You have an artist you trust with your tattoo plans
  • You are fully aware that this is permanent and will not go away without lots of money and more pain.
  • You have total confidence in your decision to make a body modification

Are tattoos addictive?

From all I’ve read, there is no proof that tattoos are addictive. However, it has been said it takes a lifetime to pick out the first tattoo and 15 minutes to pick the next. After my first tatoo, I realized all my fears were unsubstantiated and it was a positive experience. I loved the modification I made and was ready for more. I’d say I got all 6 tattoos within a year and a half or so. I love all my tattoos and plan on getting more. I’m currently devoting a lot of thought to my next tattoo as I want the large areas of body ‘real estate’ to be spectacular as well as free-flowing with my other designs. In conclusion, I wouldn’t say they’re addictive, just rewarding.

How much should I be prepared to spend?

When you bring your design idea to your artist, they will usually quote you a price. If they don’t, then feel free to ask for an estimate. Be prepared to put a cash deposit down in order to make the appointment if it is required by the shop. A small tattoo will can be as little as 50 dollars with a large piece upwards of 500. If you want something large, ask about dividing the tattoo into sessions to keep costs and time under the needle down. It’s up to the artist to decide if what you want can be done in multiple sessions or not. They are the experts here, listen to them. Also, something *VERY IMPORTANT* is gratuity. If you cannot afford to tip your tattoo artist, then you cannot afford the tattoo! The artists often go out of their way to make sure you’re happy and tipping shows your appreciation. My question is this: Why wouldn’t you tip someone who can permanently alter your body? It just makes sense to tip. I always tip well, and I ask everyone to do the same!

What is the healing process like?

Tattoo healing instructions vary from artist to artist. Please follow your artist’s instructions. For me, the healing goes like this…..

1.) The tattoo is fresh and the skin is still pretty sore for the first few hours. The tattoo had a raised appearance and feel.

2.) The initial pain declines after the first day or so. After this, the tattoo will start peeling. It seems like the ink is rubbing right off, but rest assured it’s not. It’s important not to pick or scratch at thiss point, it can lead to pulling of the ink and scarring.

3.) The tattooed skin starts to feel like regular skin again and completes healing.

That completes my FAQ. If anyone has another question for me, please leave it in the comments! Below, I have pictures of a few of my tattoos accompanied by information about each.

roses and music note tattoo

Music tattoo from Moulin Rouge

My right upper-arm tattoo. Consists of images of flowers from my wedding, surrounded by the music to our wedding song. This took two sittings. The image above was taken about an hour after the tattoo was finished.


An addition to my first tattoo. This is a heart-shaped hand grenade from Green Day album art. I thought this image was a good representation of my personality. Additionally, I listened to Green Day’s American Idiot quite frequently when I discovered self-esteem and confidence in myself. This image represents this portion of my life. 
music and roses tattoo
This is a wider view of my right upper arm ta

Posted on June 25, 2013, in Non-Beauty Related and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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