A Newb’s Guide to Getting that First Tattoo

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A Newb’s Guide to Getting that First Tattoo

Everyone’s gotta start somewhere.

Whether you plan on getting a little something most people will never get to see or that full DRAKE tattoo across your forehead, just like with sex, losing your tattoo virginity should take preparation.

It’s normal to have some anxiety when getting your first tattoo, or even change your mind completely before deciding to dive right in.

But, in the end, you’re a big boy or girl and you’re old enough to make your own decisions. So if you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s our guide to getting your first tattoo to help ease you in.

Think long and hard about what you want

And make sure it means something to you. You’re going to have it forever (duh), so make sure it’s personal and everything about it is perfect before getting a tattoo for the sake of getting a tattoo.

Spend time to reflect on your design. Months even. Don’t rush out and get it just because you want it right now. Sometimes a little bit of time will give you more ideas, or even change your mind completely.

Oh yeah. And for God’s sake, be original.

Decide which artist is best for the type of tatt you want

Not every artist is good at every type of art. There are lots of different tattoo types, from portraits and realism to new school and cartoons. Doing your homework and finding out who specializes in what is the next step after carefully deciding what you want.

In most cases, you get what you pay for. Don’t cheap out and go with Creepy Ol’ Gus in his Hep C shack because he charges less. Check out portfolios and previous tattoos by the artist.

Also, make sure the shop you’re going to has a good rep. BLC has a kickass list of reputable tattoo shops in Toronto that meet full health and safety regulations and produce some awesome work.

So you’re ready to get inked. Now what?

You’re ready to book your appointment. Most artists charge by the hour. A small tattoo can be done in an hour or two while a larger tattoo may take several hours or multiple sessions.

The way the artist applies your design is by first tracing it onto a stencil. Make sure you check out the stencil for yourself to make sure it’s exactly like the original design. After properly cleaning and preparing the area of your body that will be home to your fresh ink, the artist will apply the stencil.

If you aren’t 100% happy with the location, angle or position of the stencil, you have to let the artist know. The stencil wipes off and can be reapplied several times. Don’t be nervous about being picky; you’re paying good money so it should look exactly how you want.

Whoever told you tattoos don’t hurt lied

Once you’re completely ready, the actual tattooing begins. Bring the pain.

First, the outline is done with a fine liner needle. It does cause a sharp sting, which varies depending where on the body you’re getting it. The good news is you’ll get used to it. In fact, your tattoo area will start to become numb as time goes by, which helps with the sensation.

After the outline, it’s time for the shading and colouring, which is done with a wider needle. This can hurt too, and it doesn’t help that the artist has to continually to wipe away excess ink with a cloth in-between applying more ink. Thanks a lot, jerk.

If you’re getting a larger piece done, try not to take too many breaks. After too much time away from the needle, you might start to notice that numbing feeling will fade and the pain will return.

Don’t get boozed up the night before. Alcohol thins the blood, which makes it easier to bleed excessively while getting tattooed. It’s normal to bleed a little, but not to gush during a session.

Remember, tattoos can hurt but it’s worth it for an awesome piece to last you a lifetime. In the end, just deal with it, wussy.

Tip your artist!

Tipping your tattoo artist is customary, just like you would a hair stylist or server at a restaurant. It might not be as much as 15% because you’re already paying so much for your art. Give him or her whatever you can afford, whether it’s $20 or $50. They’ll appreciate it, especially because not everyone knows they should be tipping their tattoo artist in the first place.

Tattoo aftercare

The first thing to remember is that your tattoo is, in reality, a wound. A cool, beautiful wound.

After your session, your artist will wrap your ink in a bandage or plastic wrap which you should keep on for at least two hours. You don’t want to keep it on for too long, though. Your tattoo needs to breathe in order to heal.

After you remove your bandage, you might find it moist or a bit goopy from plasma. You’ll want to rinse it with lukewarm water. Be gentle with it! Don’t rub hard or use a sponge or washcloth to wipe it down. Just let the water rinse it naturally.

Your tattoo may continue to release more plasma afterwards, so you’ll want to keep it uncovered if you can – especially when you go to sleep at night. If you get a tattoo on your arm, for example, wear a sleeveless shirt or none at all. Your sleeve could stick to your new tattoo and be a bitch to get unstuck.

Tattoo ointment

Your artist will recommend a proper ointment for you. Ointment is essential to keep your tattoo moisturized and stop your scabs from painful cracking, especially in very bendy and moveable parts of the body. A cracked scab can result in bleeding, a longer and improper healing process, and ink loss that’ll have to be touched up later.

There are ointments you should never use on your tattoo. Things like Polysporin might work great on normal cuts and scabs, but it will suck the colour right out of your tattoo. Most unscented and fragrance-free moisturizers like the one made by Lubriderm are fine, and there are specialty ointments like Tattoo Goo sold at most tattoo shops.

Chemicals and tattoos don’t mix

Showering with your new tattoo and getting it wet is perfectly fine. Don’t ever wash it with soap. If you get a bit of shampoo on it, just rinse it off. It’s no biggie.

Don’t ever go swimming in a chlorinated pool with a fresh tattoo before it’s fully healed, no matter how badly you want to show it off. That’s why a smart tattooer will get it done during the winter or early spring, giving it plenty of time to heal for summer.

So you’re starting to peel there, Scabby

Scabbing up usually happens within a few days, and the typical tattoo will take a few weeks to fully heal.

Don’t pick!

No matter how much you want your healing process to speed up, picking your flaky skin can result in bleeding, and thus, ink loss. It can get itchy at times too, but don’t scratch it. Apply a warm, damp cloth to help soothe the itch.

Long-term tattoo care

Just like with normal skin, direct long-term exposure to the sun is no good for your tattoo. Over time, the sun will suck the colour out, making it look faded and a lot less prominent. The only real protection is to cover it under your clothes or applying sunblock to your tattoo(s) regularly on sunny days.

Proper protection from the sun will should keep your tattoo looking the same as when you first got it for years to come.

Pete Richards
Pete Richards

If Star Wars and Van Damme had a baby, it would be me.

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