Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Tattoo 101: Getting Inked

tattoo 101, getting your first tattoo, getting tattooed, first tattoo, booking a tattoo, finding a tattoo artist, tattoos

Tattoos aren't for everyone. My dad is a prime example of this, as he thinks I'll regret all of mine when I'm older and will spend God-knows how much money paying for them to be removed. I, on the other hand, like my mum, don't really want to be someone who worries about the future too much. We're not into that whole YOLO thing as such, but we both like to think that when we're 80 and most likely in an old people's home, we'll have bigger concerns than a tattoo we got forty years ago (or sixty, in my case). For me, tattoos seem to boost my confidence. They make me feel more 'me'. This is probably why I'm always dying for new ones! As of June 2015, I have six.

This post is all about my tips and experience for when getting inked, although it's mostly aimed at those that don't know how to go about it or what to expect.


Think carefully about what you want done. Whether it's a quotation that's been stuck in your mind for the past few years or a picture you just want to be able to appreciate forever. Research the kinds of art available, and come up with a few variations for your artist to look at, that way they'll be able to incorporate bits of your favourites into one unique piece, just for you. Google, Pinterest and tattoo books are great sources of inspiration, and my ultimate favourite has to be Instagram - I get most of my ideas off there for illustrations. All kinds of artists from all over the world show off their work there, and there are plenty of accounts dedicated to all sorts of tattoo types, be it girly or traditional. 


Remember that while it's costly, they can be removed. Better yet, more often than not artists will quite happily cover up or re-vamp an old faded one or a badly-done piece. That said, be aware of foreign characters and drunk holidays. While it may seem funny to get a half-assed doodle done while on holiday, it's usually by someone ripping you off and not very talented. As for foreign characters, are you entirely sure that that Chinese symbol says 'hope'? Or does it really say 'noodles'?


Thoroughly research tattoo studios and the artists that they have working in them. A lot of parlours will have a Facebook page, if not their own website, so they'll be able to point you in the right direction of which artist to talk to. While most will cover a whole range of styles, they often have their strong points in certain types. The websites often also have loads of customer images of pieces they've done, which is great to make sure that you're not going to walk in feeling positive and walk out feeling awful after they've mucked it up. Recommendations are also a great way to find studios and artists, sometimes just asking that cashier with the cool bird on her arm will point you to a fab place. That's basically how I discovered Studio XIII, and a colleague recommended me Three Dagger Tattoo, who did my latest piece! Also, don't be afraid to spend a little extra money. Studio XIII are more expensive than other places in Edinburgh, but I can see why. They have a huge range of artists with differing skill sets, so there will be someone to cater to your needs.


For your first time, I'd recommend taking it easy. Don't go for your ribs or your foot, try somewhere less vulnerable. My first piece was on my lower back, to the right, and my second was down my thigh. These are definitely less painful areas. As everyone else with tattoos says, pain differs from person to person. But there are a few exceptions - quite obviously, bony areas with little padding are the worst - spine, neck, feet, ribs, ankles, etc are all much more painful. I would start with something small too, and I also got my first piece somewhere I can hide, which is optional, but I didn't realise I was going to love tats so much so I figured I'd want them somewhere I can cover up - needless to say that has gone out the window now! If you can walk into the studio and get it done that day, then that's all the better. That way you won't have that nervous sick and excited feeling about what it's going to be like and you won't sit in the waiting room a half hour early unable to do anything but sit and wait and worry a little. If you do get an appointment though, take a friend or a book or a DS, so you're not sitting about just waiting. Also remember to have a good meal beforehand (although I genuinely never do that nowadays, oops!) and take a bottle of water, although some/most artists will offer you a drink of a water. The initial idea of pain is quite intimidating, but honestly, you can put up with more than you think. 


Most artists will explain what to do and give you a little set of care-instructions. I've sort of figured out my routine now. When you get home, unwrap your piece and gently clean it. I use soap (often the bar-soap kind) and a cloth to rub away any loose flakes of ink. It does hurt a bit, but it's not unbearable, just kind of annoying really. Afterwards I apply Bepanthen, which you can buy in the pharmacy, although I hear E45 works just as well. Apply it as often as you can. As I was working 9 hour shifts, I only applied Bepanthen 3-4 times a day to my foot, and that healed up very nicely in a matter of weeks. Don't pick it! And try not to touch it other than when applying cream or cleaning it. The worst part I find is the itchiness of it healing, oh my God, it itches so badly and you can't properly scratch, it's the worst haha! I always find myself pushing my luck and itching around the outside, sometimes it helps, sometimes it just makes it feel itchier. I've read that you're not meant to use Antihistamine products on it as it could damage the ink, so unfortunately you just gotta suck it up. Just remember, though, it will be over in a week or two, so just keep yourself thoroughly distracted!


It's YOUR body, YOUR art and YOUR choice. Don't be swayed by other people's opinions, and don't doubt your ideas because someone doesn't like it. You aren't getting inked for someone else, they aren't the ones living with it the rest of their life. If you love it, you go for it. Even if you want Hello Kitty's face on your butt. GO FOR IT, seriously, don't live for other people. You aren't there to please them. You're here to please yourself, and you should be able to appreciate your own art, rather than regret getting something you don't want, or regret that you didn't get that really cool piece. You can tell some people think my MCR lyric tattoo is hilarious, but I don't regret getting it. I fucking love it. Besides, it's SO important to me!

That's everything I can think of to include in this piece, if you have any questions, feel free to ask! I'm not an expert by any means, but I've learned some things along the way. :)


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