“Should I get a tattoo?” Well…have you really thought about it? Getting a tattoo can be a big step, because it’s a permanent piece of art that’s on your body, which means it’s a decision that you don’t want to make lightly. It doesn’t have to be a daunting experience, but it is one you want to be sure about. We came up with a list of 33 questions that you should ask yourself before contacting any tattoo artist or going to get a tattoo, especially if it’s your first one. By considering these things, you’ll be making an informed decision, and you’ll make life easier for the artist that you ultimately choose to go to. Ask yourself these questions and become a tattoo artist’s dream client.
Q: Why do I want a tattoo?
A: The reasoning behind getting a tattoo can make a world of difference. You want to be sure that you’re getting a tattoo for you, and not because someone else wants you to or said that you should – “You’d look really hot with some ink” is not a good reason. The specific reason behind your decision to get a tattoo, whether it be to rep some sick artwork, or to have a memorial piece, isn’t as important as the fact that you’re getting the work done because you want it, and not because of outside influences.
Q: This is my first tattoo, what should I expect?
A: Getting your first tattoo can be a nerve wracking experience, but it’s not as bad as you think. The first step is to decide what you want to get, and once you know, contact a tattoo artist to book a consultation. You’ll be asked to leave a deposit to secure your tattoo appointment, and from there, all you need to do is show up. The tattoo artist will have the chair and supplies prepped and ready for your tattoo.
First, they’ll most likely shave the area so that no hair interferes with the inking process. From there, they’ll have a stencil sketch of your design which they will apply to your chosen placement, then they’ll start tattooing. Expect to be there for a few hours, especially if you’re getting a larger piece done. Some things that you can do to prep yourself are: shower, eat a light meal, stay hydrated, bring water, and take an Advil if you’re nervous about pain.
Q: Do I have a tattoo idea in mind?
A: Before contacting a tattoo artist, you should have some sort of idea in mind as to what tattoo you want. You don’t need to have a solid picture of the exact design, but you do want to have some inspiration that the artist can work with. If you can find photos that have inspired your idea to show the artist, even better! They can work with those pictures to create a custom piece.
Q: Is my idea timeless and unique or am I following a fad?
A: With this we mean less ‘will it stand the test of time’, and more, ‘am I trying to be trendy’. Tattoo trends change every decade, and if you’re going into the tattoo to get something that’s uber popular right now, there’s a chance you’ll be looking into a cover-up a few years down the road. Try not to follow the latest fad that’s hitting the tattoo scene, because odds are it’s a fleeting trend.
Q: Will I love my ink years from now?
A: Similar to our previous point, if you choose a design that resonates with you, and not just something that’s popular in the moment, you’re much more likely to love your ink in the future just as much as the day you get it. Go with a design that’s not a tattoo cliché if you can help it, because the more proud you are of your body art, the less likely you are to want to have your tattoo removed or covered up down the road.
Q: Can I afford to invest in a quality piece of art?
A: The #1 faux pas that people make when it comes to tattoos is thinking that good tattoos can be done on the cheap. This is simply not the case. For any kind of artwork, including tattoos, you very much get what you pay for. A quality piece of art costs money, whether it’s on canvas from an art gallery, or inked by a tattoo artist.
If you get a quote that’s more than you expected to pay for a particular design, save up until you can afford it, and then revisit the artist. Bottom line: it’s insulting to ask a tattoo artist for a discount, and doing so might eliminate you from getting work done by them in the future.
Q: Have I researched tattoo shops in my area?
A: Before making any appointments, you need to do research on shops where you’re considering getting inked. Look into things like how long they’ve been open, how many artists they have, artist portfolios, whether or not they have good reviews. If the shop you’re looking into has more bad reviews than good, that’s a clear indicator that you should find somewhere else that’s more reputable. Asking friends and family who have good tattoos is another great way to find a quality shop that’s worth visiting.
Q: Does my chosen shop meet health and safety standards?
A: There are a couple of ways you could determine this. Check if your state requires tattoo parlors to be licensed, and if it does, check to make sure that shop has a licence. This means that they’ve gone through certain steps to ensure that the environment is sterile and safe. Since not every state mandates this, you can also find out by visiting the shop ahead of time and watching while they ink.
Do they use single use kits, including needles and ink pots? Are the artists wearing gloves, one time per client? Are the tattoo machines and cords wrapped? Do you see any questionable practices going on while the artists are tattooing? If you visit the shop and aren’t satisfied with what you see, check out some other tattoo parlors before booking your appointment.
Q: Has the shop I’ve chosen been cited for health code violations in the past?
A: A lot of places will have some minor violations that aren’t directly related to sanitation, but if a shop has ongoing issues, then you might want to steer clear. Ongoing health code violations mean that the shop isn’t taking it seriously enough to make the necessary changes to their procedures, and you don’t want to risk your own health and safety just because you like an artist’s work.
you can find this information out online, or in the shop – they should have publicly accessible records of their inspections. Most shops are proud to display their passing grades, but if you don’t see any sign of passing inspection, especially in a state that requires a license to operate, find somewhere else.
Q: Have I researched tattoo artists?
A: This is a crucial step that you need to take before getting tattooed by anybody. One, you want to be sure the artist you go to is skilled and talented at tattooing. Two, you need to be sure that you’re booking with someone who’s experienced and knows what they’re doing with the tattoo machine, even if you book with an apprentice – they’re learning, but they’re learning the right way how much pressure to put on the skin, what needles to use for what details. Any artist should have their blood borne pathogen certificate as well.
Q: Have I chosen the right tattoo artist for my style and design?
A: Different tattoo artists tend to specialize in different tattoo styles, which is another reason it’s key to research artists before making an appointment. While a lot of artists are able to ink a variety of styles, they all have one or two that they excel at, and enjoy, more than others. Look at artist portfolios before making a decision so you can be sure that it’s the right fit for what you’re looking for.
Q: Have I researched aftercare?
A: Proper aftercare is an essential part of the tattoo experience, and one that’s entirely in your hands. If you don’t take proper care of your tattoo after you get it, then a few things could happen, the worst of which could be a nasty infection. You want your tattoo to heal properly and look its best for as long as possible, and the only way to ensure this happens is aftercare.
Q: Am I willing to commit to proper tattoo aftercare?
A: You need to be willing to commit to taking care of your tattoo, and if you’re in a place where you don’t think you can manage the upkeep, hold off on getting your ink until you can. Proper aftercare isn’t complicated, but it requires at least two solid weeks of dedication, so if you don’t feel that you can wash or moisturize your tattoo daily with the proper products and avoid submerging it in water, wait.
Q: Is this an impulse decision?
A: Getting a tattoo on impulse can be fun, but not if it’s your first tattoo. Tattoos are permanent, so you want to make sure that you’ll be happy with your ink for years to come. If there’s a chance that you’re going to change your mind or regret getting inked a few days later, hold off until you’re sure – wait a few months and revisit the idea. This also goes for ideas that seem funny at the time, but that you’re likely to regret later on.
Q: Will having a tattoo affect current or future career prospects?
A: Attitudes toward tattoos in the workplace are changing, so for most career paths, body art is no longer an issue. Some jobs, like the military and police, require that you don’t have visible tattoos. This really affects the placement of your ink, so keep that in mind when you’re looking into getting tattooed.
Tattoos on the hands, face, or neck can hold you back from certain career paths as well, which is why some tattoo artists will refuse to ink these areas unless you’re already heavily ink elsewhere. If the artist feels that your tattoo could impact your future in a negative way, don’t be surprised if they refuse to do it.
Q: How is my health currently?
A: This may not seem like an important question, but it’s more relevant than you think. Tattooing creates a bunch of tiny open wounds under the ink, which is why taking proper care of it while it heals is essential. If you’re sick, suffering from an autoimmune flare up, or diabetic, your healing could be affected.
That doesn’t mean you can never get tattooed, it just means that you should wait until you’re in a good place healthwise, so your odds of running into issues with a healing tattoo are minimal. Even something like having a bad cold could impact how your tattoo heals. If you’re unsure, ask your tattoo artist what they think.
Q: Can I afford to tip my artist?
A: It’s good practice to tip your tattoo artist, and if you don’t have enough money in your budget to be able to leave an adequate tip for the work they did, save up and wait until you do. Don’t assume that the entire cost of the work is going into the artist’s pocket because, in most cases, it’s not. The shop they’re tattooing out of takes a cut, and they have to pay for supplies, so they’re really getting a portion of what you pay for their hard work.
The best assumption to make is that a 20% tip is part of the cost, so save up for that amount. On the other hand, a lot of artists appreciate tips that aren’t monetary, meaning you could bring them a coffee or something tangible that isn’t cash to show that you’re happy with the work they’ve done.
Q: What does my religion say about tattoos?
A: This doesn’t apply to everyone, but people who are very religious and attend services might want to consider this. Is there any mention of tattoos behind prohibited or frowned upon in your particular religion? Are you likely to face significant backlash for getting inked? The main thing to consider here if you do anticipate negative responses to tattoos, is whether or not you care what people who attend your services might say.
If your tattoos are easily hidden and you don’t have any personal qualms about potentially going against what scripture says regarding tattoos, then you’re in a good place to get inked.
Q: Have I thought about tattoo placement?
A: Where you get your tattoo affects the design itself, because it has to flow with the contours of the area you put it on. Before you book an appointment with an artist or get your design, decide on where you want your tattoo to go, so that the artist can design it with that area in mind. If you’re thinking of getting a small design that could work in most places, try to narrow it down to your top two choices, and then ask the artist where they think would be best if you can’t decide between the two.
Q: Do I want my ink to be visible?
A: Your answer to this question will help you determine where you want your tattoo to go. Do you want to be able to easily hide your tattoo if you need to? Do you need to be able to hide your tattoo? Do you want it to be visible all the time, or just selectively? Figure out the answers to these questions and you’ll be on your way to choosing your placement.
Q: How big do I want my tattoo to be?
A: Size matters when it comes to tattoos for a couple of reasons. If you’re looking at getting a design that has a lot of detail, then you’re going to have to bigger than smaller to incorporate everything. Small tattoos that have a lot going on don’t age well, and the ink bleeds out over the time, making it look more like a blob than a design. Tattoo size comes into play when you’re looking at certain areas of the body as well, for instance, the back tends to be better suited to large pieces that utilize the space.
While it’s possible to have a smaller scale tattoo in various places on your back, like the shoulder blade or lower back, if you’re hoping to get something in the middle of the space, it might look odd if it’s too small in such a large area. Knowing what size you want also helps the artist by letting them know what they’re working with – how much detail to include, what kinds of contours and flow to consider, and the overall measurements of the artwork itself.
Q: Can I handle the pain?
A: Tattoos hurt, but the pain is manageable for the majority of people. The kind of pain from tattooing is comparable to slapping a sunburn – it’s something you’ve probably felt before, and it’s not pleasant, but you can handle it. Fear of the pain is a top reason why people are hesitant to take the plunge and get a tattoo, but it’s important to know that it’s temporary, and not constant.
If you’re hypersensitive to pain it’s still possible to get through a tattoo session with the help of over the counter painkillers, like Advil, and numbing cream, if necessary. If you have issues withstanding pain, let your tattoo artist know, and they’ll take more frequent breaks from applying the needle, and can take steps to help make your experience better.
Q: Am I open to future touch ups?
A: Certain tattoos require more touch ups than others, so consider this when you’re looking into getting new ink. Areas that encounter a lot of daily use or friction, like hands or fingers, tend to require more frequent touch ups than other spots.
This goes for certain colors as well. Lighter shades like white and watercolors sometimes need to be touched up within a year of getting done, and other colors will likely require some love after a few years. If you don’t want to have to have any touch ups, consider getting black and grey ink in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sun exposure.
Q: Am I prone to keloid scarring?
A: Keloids are a buildup of scar tissue that create a raised scar which doesn’t go away over time like most other scars. These happens through injury to the skin, which is why being prone to this kind of scarring could impact your ability to get tattoos.
There’s no guarantee that getting a tattoo will cause a keloid even if you do tend to get them, but it’s important to let your tattoo artist know that you’ve had them in the past. Tattooing directly on a keloid scar is also not advisale, the ink won’t hold properly and it might be more painful, but you can work around the scar tissue if you’re looking to cover up the scar.
Q: Is this a cover up tattoo?
A: Cover up tattoos have a few stipulations before they can be done, and it largely depends on what, exactly, you’re looking to cover. Cover up tattoos, for the most part, need to be larger than your original tattoo so that it can adequately cover what you’re trying to improve. The pigment of your original tattoo matters as well, because if the tattoo is too dark, it’ll be tougher to cover up with a new tattoo than if you were tattooing over faded or colored ink.
Q: Do I need some laser removal before covering up any ink?
A: This really only applies to cover up tattoos when ink in the original tattoo is still very dark. Your best odds of getting a successful cover up might include having a few sessions of laser tattoo removal to fade the pigment before adding more ink over top. The reasoning here is because you don’t want to be able to see the original tattoo underneath the cover up design.
This also applies if the tattoo you want to cover is very large and would be difficult to cover up without laser intervention. If you aren’t sure whether your tattoo needs to be lasered prior to a cover up, simply ask your tattoo artist what they think the best route is for you.
Q: Am I open to professional input from my artist?
A: Tattoo artists are professionals who know what they’re doing, so if they offer advice, it’s a good idea to take it. They might advise you that your design idea is too small to work with all the detail you want, and that it would hold better if it were slightly larger. They could tell you that your placement may not work and offer an alternative.
If you aren’t open to what they have to say based on their years of tattoo experience, you might want to consider holding off until you’re more flexible with the design. Some artists might flat out refuse to do a tattoo that you’re asking for because they strongly believe you’re making a mistake that could affect your future, especially if you’re particularly young.
Q: Do I want a flash design or a custom tattoo?
A: You’ll to decide on this one early on, because if you want a custom design, the process is going to be a little different. With flash tattoos, you can walk into a tattoo parlor and choose a pre-drawn design from an artist’s flash sheet, which they may be able to do on the same day. On the other hand, if you want a custom design you’ll need to contact the artist ahead of time with your idea, and they’ll likely want you to go in for a consultation to discuss it further and book a future appointment for the actual tattoo.
Services like Custom Tattoo Design, allow you to work on your tattoo online with a professional artist, before ever setting foot in a shop so you can get your idea perfected. From there, they’ll need time to draw up your design, so the whole experience takes a little bit longer, but it’s worth it in the end – you get a completely unique, one-of-a-kind work of art that means something to you.
Q: Have I looked into tattoo styles?
A: There are many different tattoo styles out there, so look into the different options you have to see what you like best. This will help you in a few different ways, one of which is setting you on the right path to picking a tattoo artist for your work. You want to find an artist who’s skilled and experienced in the particular style that you’re looking for, but you can’t do that if you don’t know what style you like.
Choosing a tattoo style will also help with your design idea, because some motifs work best in some styles over others. The more you know about what you like and what you want, the better the odds that your artist can come up with the best possible design for you.
Q: Should I get a tattoo of my partner’s name?
A: No. It’s never a good idea to get your partner’s name or face tattooed onto you, because you never know what might happen with your relationship in the future, and they’re just plain tacky.
Instead, choose a symbol that represents your partner or your relationship and get that instead. You’ll likely be advised against going this route by tattoo artists as well, because these are the top tattoos that tend to be covered up later on.
Q: Is this tattoo for charity?
A: Some tattoo shops will offer flash designs for certain events, but the key is the make sure a portion of that money goes to a charity relating to the event or holiday they’re using for their marketing. Pride, for instance, is a huge event across the country where a lot of tattoo artists will offer one-off designs for discounted prices to celebrate.
If a shop is using a sensitive event to make money with no plans to contribute any funds to the community, it can be seen as exploitation, and you may not feel good about supporting them, especially if you’re looking to get a tattoo for that particular topic.
Q: Is this the right time for me to be getting a tattoo?
A: Are you starting a new job and aren’t sure what the policy is on tattoos? Are you job hunting? Are you going through a medical issue? These are just some of the things that may impact the timing of getting a new tattoo. Unless you’re in a field of work that you know has no problem with tattoos, it’s best to hold off until you’re settled into a job.
Unfortunately, some companies look at tattoos during the hiring process and it’s not always in a positive light. The best time to get new ink is when you’re in good health, settled in a career or job, and know that your new tattoo won’t negatively impact any aspect of your life.
Q: Will I offend my tattoo artist if I bring in a pre-drawn design?
A: This is tricky one, because it depends on the tattoo artist you choose. Most have no problem whatsoever with clients bringing in a design that they already have, provided it’s not a copy of another artist’s work. When you book with your chosen tattoo artist, simply mention that you have a design already that you want done, and ask whether or not they’re okay with that. As long as you specify the circumstances of how you got that drawing (through Custom Tattoo Design, or had someone draw it up for you) and that you’re not stealing someone else’s work, they’re likely to have no issue with it.
These are just some of the questions you want to consider before going ahead with a tattoo appointment, both for your own satisfaction, and to help out the tattoo artist. If you come in without any idea of what you want and simply say “I want a tattoo, but I don’t know what”, you’re likely going to be told to come back when you do know, or to choose from a flash sheet. Either option works, but if you want something personal and custom, you’re going to need to come up with some sort of idea before visiting any artists.
Getting a tattoo is an exciting experience, but because of the permanency of the art, it’s something you want to feel confident about going in to be sure that you’re happy with your ink for the long haul.
Did we miss any questions you should consider before getting inked? Let us know in the comments!