First Tattoo

You may have a lot of questions before getting your first tattoo. What do I want? Where do I want it? Who is the right artist? Is this safe? Believe us, before you get permanently inked, these are good questions to be asking yourself. (And, by the way, we have answers to your questions over here.) But there’s a lot more to the experience of getting a tattoo—and coming up with the design, and taking care of it afterward—that you probably wouldn’t think to ask about before you go under the needle for the first time.

So, we asked over 200 people for bits of wisdom they’d pass down to someone considering a tattoo. What did they wish they knew? What advice would they give? Any secret tips? Below, a guide to having the best tattoo experience possible, which starts with the best equipment from Kingpin tattoo supply and a little help from some friends.1. After care is key.

“Keeping it clean after it’s done can be a pain in the ass but it’s so, so important. An infection can get very, very serious if left untreated. And, of course, keep it out of the sun—UV rays degrade and fade the ink.” —Quinn W., 192. Bring a friend.

“Make sure you have a buddy that can hold your hand and look at it while it’s happening. Chew gum. It helps take away the pain.” —Tristen L., 183. Do your homework.

“Make sure to do your homework on reputable shops and artists, and be willing to pay a pretty penny for a pretty tattoo. Overall, just have fun with it and make it YOURS. Tattoos are a personal and beautiful thing!” —Marissa M., 18

“It is a permanent decision, so make sure you’re ready for that commitment. If you’re getting something in another language, verify it with a native speaker (Google translate isn’t fully accurate!). Do your research regarding tattoo artists and find one that specializes in your style of tattoo. It may be pricey, but if you want a lasting tattoo, it’s worth it!” —Taylor M., 234. Take your time.

“Take your time. Think about things that are meaningful to you, words of wisdom, people that inspire you, or even a piece of art that speaks to you! But also, have fun with it! Don’t let anyone decide what a ‘good tattoo’ is. It’s a personal decision, and just like with your clothes or makeup, it’s a form of self-expression. And please, please do your research on the tattoo parlor you want to get yours done at. You do not want a bad parlor experience to ruin tattoos for you!” —Brooke L., 21

“Tattoos can be absolutely beautiful, but they can also hold so much regret. My advice would be to wait at least one year before getting a tattoo. If the idea is still in your head a year later, and you still like the tattoo, chances are you’ll like it 25 years from now. Just remember they’re permanent. Like, legit permanent. And I would also suggest not getting any names of significant others because I’m convinced they jinx relationships. But if you and your honey want to get one, I recommend getting a symbol. A small symbol. This way you can come up with a cover story if the relationship ever hits the toilet!” —Ambrosia L., 235. You get what you pay for.

“RESEARCH YOUR TATTOO SHOP! Let me reiterate: You have this tattoo for the rest of your life. You pay for what you get. Don’t be daunted when they tell you what the minimum is for a tattoo—that can really indicate how good it will turn out. The minimum is really the price of the ink itself, and having been to another shop where the minimum was much less, I can say that I would rather save up and have an $80 charge (before labor and tip) than a crappy tattoo where the ink is splotchy and faded.” —Julie M., 206. Remember, it’s a personal choice.

“I think the most important thing to consider when getting a tattoo (and this is extremely cliché but nonetheless true) is that you’ll have that ink on your body for the rest of your life. The art doesn’t have to be grand or have a captivating story behind it; I am a huge supporter of getting tattooed for the present memory itself. Getting tattooed is solely a personal choice—yours and no one else’s. That being said, be sure that it is your choice and you are 100 percent committed to that tattoo.” —Molly S., 187. Make sure you feel comfortable.

“You need to feel comfortable in the tattoo shop that you are planning to go to as well as be comfortable with the person who is giving you that tattoo. The place that I went made me feel comfortable and worked with me to make sure that I was getting exactly what I wanted. If the atmosphere of the shop is making you uneasy, then I would suggest looking elsewhere.” —Ally P., 188. Eat before you go. (And tip at then end!)

“Definitely eat something before you go. I almost passed out AND threw up because I hadn’t eaten anything that day, with just this tiny tattoo. And always, always tip the artist!” —Abigail K., 209. Start small.

I would say go with what your heart tells you and to also start small. This piece of art will be on your body for the rest of your life. Make sure you’re happy with the design beforehand and have added your own flare. I have two smaller tattoos that I got previously and it really helped prepare me for this larger one.” —Madison S., 1910. Think carefully about placement.

“To anyone who says that it won’t hurt, they’re lying. It’s a needle being poked into you a bunch. What do you expect? But it’s not the sensation of someone impaling you, so in the long run, the pain is worth the product. With that statement, you get what you pay for. Expect to pay more than what you’d expect, and sit down with your artist to see what would be appropriate. Lastly, be 10,000 percent sure of what you want to get, where you get it, and how it may affect you in the future. I get LOTS of comments on this tattoo because it’s on my forearm. Remember, everyone has their own opinions and enjoys different styles of art. Respect what people put on their body, because it’s theirs!” —Emily S., 20

“I would say that if you can’t stop thinking about the image, just go for it. Also, my thigh tattoo really helped me love showing off my thick thighs in shorts, something I didn’t always have great confidence in. You forget about the pain, but you get to smile every time you catch your reflection for years.” —Stefanie P., 2911. Ask others for advice.

“My parents took me when I turned of age for my first tattoo. They wanted me to see what a clean shop was, learn what questions to ask, and not be afraid to say, ‘No I want it to look more like this.’ My mom told me to get it in a place where I can hide it or show it off when I want. Now that I’m a teacher, that was really great advice!” —Rachel B., 33

By Manali

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