First tattoo guide: Read before getting inked in 2023

Getting your first tattoo can be daunting because there’s not knowing what to expect and feel to have a permanent piece of art on your skin.

That’s not saying that a second or third tattoo isn’t nerve wracking – just that there’s a special type of nervousness just because it’s the first.

But there’s a lot of preparation that goes into getting a tattoo other than what kind of design you want for your body.

If you’re thinking of saying goodbye to the title “tattoo virgin”, try reading my guide to become a little better prepped for your first tattoo.

Picking an artist for your first tattoo

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You may have already seen a design that you like and want that exact piece on your body. However, getting a first tattoo is more than just walking into a tattoo shop and saying, “put this on me”.

In fact, it may be even offensive to do so, as tattoo artists are against totally copying each other’s work out of respect.

Instead, you’re going to want to do a little research on Instagram. Look for tattoo artists in your area and check out their portfolio.

You’ll want to find someone whose artwork you’ll want on your body – I recommend checking out my other article on 10 top tattoo studios in Kuching for a glimpse at some of the best.

One thing you also have to come up with is the size and placement of the tattoo. It is recommended to be precise and give measurements.

Here’s a tip: Look up healed and aged tattoos of the style you like, so you can have a better idea of how it will look on your body in a few years!

Making an appointment for your first tattoo

Photo: @brosnen_allen on Instagram

Once you’ve found an artist you like, it’s time to send them the details of the design you want and pay their deposit. Then, they’ll take their time to draw up a new design for you.

It’s important to remember that tattoo artists are seriously talented at what they do. They are artists first and foremost and can create the most wicked designs out of nothing.

If you don’t like the design, remember that you can ask for alterations or simply walk away! You do not need to put something you don’t want on your body.

Oftentimes a tattoo artist will take a few days or weeks depending on their schedule to come up with a design for you. Some will even show you the design on the tattoo appointment day itself.

Here’s a tip: Do not try and bargain with an artist! There is no such thing as “can this be cheaper”. You also definitely don’t want cheap, shoddy work on your skin.

Preparing for your first tattoo

Photo: @brosnen_allen on Instagram

Depending on your tattoo artist’s schedule, your tattoo appointment might be months later, or sometimes even next week!

Before you arrive for your tattoo appointment, you’re going to want to ensure that you haven’t been drinking and have had a full meal an hour or so beforehand.

This is because alcohol can thin the blood, causing more bleeding than usual during the tattooing and healing process.

You definitely don’t want to be hungry during the tattooing. Your body is going through trauma as the needles stab your skin, causing all your stored energy to be used up.

If you have an empty stomach while you’re getting tattooed, chances are you’re likely to become dizzy or probably even pass out.

It’s also good to have a good night’s sleep and stay hydrated so that you’re in the best of shape when you get on that table.

Here’s a tip: Bring some snacks along with you to your appointment. If your design is big and detailed, it can take a few hours to tattoo, so you might end up a bit hungry down the line.

Arriving for your first tattoo

Photo: @brosnen_allen on Instagram

When you arrive at the tattoo studio, you’ll first have to fill out some consent forms before the tattoo artist shows you the final design they’ve come up with for you.

If there are any adjustments you’d like to make, this might be the last chance you have to make them, as once it’s a tattoo on your body, there’s no changing it.

Make sure to be respectful and try to communicate the changes you want politely. It is important to trust in your tattoo artist’s advice too.

For example, a piece may look better on a certain area than you may have imagined.

Once you are happy with the design, a temporary stencil will be made and placed onto your body so you can get an idea of what it will look like.

You can still adjust the placement, just remember that a tattoo may look different on the skin as it is not flat like a sheet of paper.

Here’s a tip: While some placements are said to hurt more than others, everyone’s pain threshold is ultimately different. This writer personally went for the chest for her first tattoo – supposedly one of the most painful areas – and thought the process wasn’t bad at all.

Getting your first tattoo inked

Photo: @brosnen_allen on Instagram

You’re going to want to stay as still as possible when the tattooing process begins, but don’t worry about not being able to have space to breathe as the needle won’t be on your skin the whole time.

The tattoo artist will have to refill their machine with ink in between lines so you’ll have some pause from the uncomfortable scratching sensation.

If you are feeling dizzy or uncomfortable or simply need a break, don’t be afraid to speak up. Your tattoo artist will definitely understand and may even schedule a rest during longer sessions anyway.

Some tattoo artists also recommend playing with your phone or listening to music during the process, while others can be chattier and strike up a conversation.

Here’s a tip: Keep your breathing steady and try not to get too anxious. Remember, you’re in safe hands and shaky breathing may cause your tattoo to look shaky too.

Wrapping up your first tattoo

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At the end of your tattoo session, you’ll want to breathe a sigh of relief as it’s over, you’re done, and your skin has a fabulous piece of new art on it.

Your artist will likely bandage it up with some clear medical-grade bandage like Saniderm or SecondSkin, which you’ll have to keep on for a while.

The amount of time you need to leave the bandage on your tattoo depends on your tattoo artist, as everyone has different advice to give.

Then it’s time for payment. Again, do not haggle with your artist, especially since the expected payment is usually communicated beforehand.

Here’s a tip: It’s not really standard to tip your tattoo artist – this is depending on where you live, of course – but your artist is likely to appreciate the thought.

Aftercare of your first tattoo

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After everything is done, you’re actually not finished with your tattoo yet, as there are still the aftercare instructions you need to follow.

Your tattoo is basically an open wound for the first week or two while it heals. During this time, how you treat it is extremely important.

Every tattoo artist generally has their own different methods of taking care of the tattoo, but it is still important to listen to them – they are the professional, not your tattooed friend or family member!

However, here’s the general aftercare instructions for a tattoo. You’ll want to wash it with some mild unscented soap, as you don’t want anything irritating your tattoo.

Let it air dry or pat it dry with a clean paper towel, which should be cleaner than your existing towel which you use for the rest of the body.

Some artists would recommend a healing ointment to be applied to the tattoo, while others may ask you to use unscented body lotion after a few days.

When it is healing, you’re going to feel that it is itchy for a few days, but whatever you do, do not pick or scratch at your tattoo.

Also, you’re going to want to avoid submerging yourself in water for the next few weeks or else bacteria and chemicals may seep into the tattoo. So, no pools or hot tubs while it heals.

Once your tattoo is completely healed, there’s still one last crucial step in taking care of it so that it lasts for a long time.

You’re going to want to use sunscreen when you go out, as your tattoo can lose vibrancy in the sunlight. This means potentially fewer touch-ups in the future to keep it looking good.

Now that you’ve reached the end of our guide, you’ll be way more prepared for your first tattoo than you were before!

Here’s a tip: If your tattoo is really itchy, don’t scratch but try gently tapping or patting it as it might help reduce the intensity of the itchiness.

Featured image: brosnen_allen & brosnen_allen

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