How to prepare for your first tattoo

Daisy Marshallon 3 February 2023
Person receiving a tattoo on their forearm

Whether you’re flirting with the idea of getting one or have a tattoo appointment imminently approaching.

Your first tattoo experience is something you will remember for the rest of your life. Read our tips below to prepare for a positive first tattoo experience!

How do you choose a tattoo artist?

Choosing the right tattoo artist can be tricky but it’s also SO important. You need to make sure your artist knows exactly what they’re doing and is professional. 

Ask around or speak to some tattooed friends. Once you’ve been pointed in the right direction, make sure your artist has high standards of sterilisation and good customer reviews. You can check reviews on their site and look on their Instagram for examples of their work. 

Ask yourself questions when looking at the tattoo artist's work. Do their tattoos have clean, sharp lines? Is the colour evenly applied? 

Once you find an artist, you should have a conversation with them to prepare you before you come to the studio. If you do this you’ll feel less intimidated by the new environment on the day.

A standard price for a tattoo doesn’t exist and every artist has a different rate, so it’s good to agree on a price beforehand. You shouldn’t just go with a particular artist because they are the cheapest; again, choose your artist based on your detailed research and who you feel most comfortable with. 

How do you book the first appointment with a tattoo artist?

You’ll want to start by either going in for a chat, calling them up or DMing their professional account. For small designs, they’ll book you in when they can, for larger ones they’ll probably book you in for a quick consultation first.

Tattoos artists often have busy schedules so don’t expect to get a full back piece done on a day's notice. But, a lot of places offer walk-ins for simpler designs. These are perfect if you just want to pick something from a flash sheet.

Don’t be afraid to ask your tattoo artist any sort of questions when you book your appointment. Their main priority is for you to be happy with the process and a good tattoo artist should address any concerns you have at any point.

How do you decide what tattoo to get?

This is arguably the most crucial part. If you can look at your tattoo in 50 years and still love your design then you’ve made the right decision! Whatever you get it should have longevity, whether that’s something meaningful to you or something timeless that never goes out of style. Try and avoid tattoos tied to trends or memes (just ask any Millennial walking around with a YOLO tattoo).

If you’re stuck for a design, start with style. There’s American Traditional, Neo-Traditional, Ignorant, Realism, Black and Grey, and pretty much anything to match any aesthetic. Working backwards can be a good way to go. 

Your artists will have the skills necessary to help you in the design process for larger pieces. It’s a great idea to get reference materials to show them. They’ll then show you a completed design on the day of the appointment to ensure it’s as close to the initial idea as possible. 

Be prepared to collaborate and compromise when it comes to the final design, your artist will know best when it comes to what works. 

Where should I get my first tattoo?

Considering the placement of your tattoo is another important stage in the process. Also, give your tattoo artist a rough size of your design, they’ll be able to inform you of how practical this design will be at this size in this location.

We won’t lie to you, it gets gnarly. But, some areas of the body are certainly more painful than others. The most painful being the lower ribs, shoulder blade, feet and fingers. Perhaps don’t get a tattoo here if you have a low pain tolerance.

People say the top of the thigh and upper arm are far less painful. These may be good locations to get your first tattoo, especially if you’re nervous about the pain.

How do you prepare for a tattoo appointment?

The day has finally come to get your tattoo. Get the most out of it with diligent preparation. Don’t show up to your appointment drunk/hungover or in an unstable headspace. Arrive well rested, having had a decent night's sleep. Don’t go on an empty stomach and remember your ID. 

Note: they will wipe down and shave areas just before, so just make sure you arrive showered and on time

The first moments of your tattoo may be painful but don’t worry, it’ll get easier as you get used to it. Focus on the end product and how amazing it’s going to look in a short amount of time. There are ways to distract yourself from the pain. Try and hold a conversation with the tattoo artist. You could bring headphones and listen to your favourite music to calm you down. Or, squeeze a stress ball.

Remember – if the pain gets too unbearable or you feel faint, pause and eat something sugary (Editor's Note - bottle of coke and Snickers works wonders). 

How does a tattoo session start?

The stencil of your design will be made and placed on your chosen body part. Before the artist starts drawing on your skin, they will ask you to finalise your design and placement. It’s SO important to speak up if you have a sudden change of heart about the design or location.

Artists would rather have honesty at the beginning than disappointment at the end. This is your last chance to speak up; remember this decision is permanent. 

How do you take care of a new tattoo?

Tattoo aftercare is just as important as all other preparation. To reduce the risk of infection, don’t touch your fresh tattoo. Keep it out of direct sunlight and water for at least a week. This could risk the ink being messed up.

Each tattoo artist will give you their recommended aftercare product, in time you may find your own (Dream Cream by LUSH is particularly good), but for now, best listen to them.

Once the tattoo is healed, make sure you wear sunscreen. Not only can UV rays speed up the deterioration of the ink, but it can be more difficult to spot UV-related damage on tattooed skin. 

Above all, don’t worry. Just listen to your artist, stay firm in your choice and before you know it, you’ll be booking your second appointment.

Do you have any tattoos? Join the Student Hut Community today to get access to our paid surveys. They might not cover a whole tattoo but will at least get you a good moisturiser for aftercare.

Daisy Marshallon 3 February 2023