Tattoos may seem like trivial drawings on people’s skin, or like just another new trend that will come and go. Yet, they can also have a great impact. Tattoos can change our relationship to our bodies, helping us to love and accept it; they can be healing in cases of trauma or loss; mark important events or experiences; be humorous. They can be meaningful, simply funny or decorative: every tattoo is different and unique. No surprise then, if you want to get one yourself. Here we review some important things to know before taking the plunge!

First, think about why you want to get one. If you simply want a tattoo because it is trendy, it might be best not to get one, as trends come and go: by very definition they do not last, whereas your tattoo is permanent. Take your time thinking about it, waiting to be sure is also a good way to know you are certain you will want the design on your body forever. Once you are positive you want to get a tattoo comes the fun part: figuring out a design and finding the right tattoo artist.

The design

You have the choice between two options when getting a tattoo: doing a personal project or choosing from a flash. A flash is a design the tattoo artist drew himself, because he likes the design. Some think flashes are devoid of meaning, but they can on the contrary be the perfect way to find a drawing that corresponds to a project you have in mind but do not know how to express visually. On the other hand, a personal project is one you submit to your tattooer, who will then imagine a design that corresponds to what you have asked him: he is designing it specifically for you. If you want your own drawing tattooed, know that all tattooers do not accept tattooing designs that are not theirs. Instead, they might prefer to take your drawing as a base and rework it in their style.

Be respectful of tattoo artists’ work: do not bring in a design you saw from another tattooer and ask to have it copied, this is stealing. The same applies if you want to get an illustration tattooed: if possible, check with the artist whether this is okay with them, and if they have a specific policy when it comes to tattoo. Also, flashes are only tattooed once, most artists refuse to tattoo the same design twice. If you like a drawing that has already been tattooed, you can ask for them to rework it for you.

Finding the right artist

Instagram is one of the best places to find a tattooer you will like: this social network acts as a portfolio for most artists now. With Instagram you can find an artist whose style you like and see his work. Make sure to check if they also have healed pictures of the tattoos: most artists will ask their clients to send in healed pictures a month or more after getting it done. Generally, pictures you see on IG are taken right after the tattoo has been done, when it is looking very fresh and clean. Seeing how it ages is important to know the tattoo artist’s technique is on point.

Tattoos do not come cheap; they are expensive because they are an investment. You are paying a lot to make sure your tattoo will last in time and look good while ageing.

Know that artists can be permanent residents at a tattoo studio, but they can also move around and be a guest at another studio. Tattooers often travel around the world, guesting at different shops: so, if you see an artist whose work you love but who is from another country, know he might come to yours at some point.

Machine or hand poked?

There are two different techniques possible when getting a tattoo: you can have it done with a machine or be hand poked (also referred to as stick and poke). When you get a tattoo with a machine, the tattooer is using a tattoo gun that has several needles at the end. If you get a hand poked tattoo, your tattooer is using a single needle and poking the ink into your skin with his hand: this can make for thinner more detailed lines. Some even say that getting a hand poked tattoo can be less painful than a machine one.

The day of

When you go in to get your tattoo, make sure you are properly rested. Bring loose clothes and something to eat/drink at the appointment. Be careful that everything is properly cleaned and disinfected: your tattoo artist should change his gun needles, disinfect his tools and his stations, clean his hands, use new gloves, disinfect your skin, etc…. A tattoo is an open wound, it is essential not to have it get infected.

Everyone’s pain level is different, and certain zones hurt more than others. A pain chart can be useful in seeing which areas are the most sensitive.

A tattoo takes around a month to heal: your tattooer will tell you what products to use on it, and how to wash it. Listen to his/her guidelines and make sure to respect them. You might have to go in a month later and get your tattoo touched up, since certain lines can fade during healing.

After it’s healed, continue taking care of it: protect it from the sun and hydrate it from time to time, to keep it looking good.

Happy tattooing!

Article by Inès Huet

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