Q. Do tattoos hurt?
A. Well... Kind of. First of all, if you have a low-pain threshold; DO NOT GET A TATTOO! Other than that bit of advice, the pain you experience with a tattoo depends on a number of factors:
  • Location: Generally speaking, the 'fleshier' the area is, the less painful it will be. I personally use the ruler test. Take a ruler, and thwack yourself where ever you plan on getting your tattoo. If it makes you cry, pick another place. Places like elbows, faces, necks, the lower back, the inside of the bicep are all examples of rather painful places to get tattooed. Some relatively pain free locations are the thigh, the outside of the bicep, and the chest (for a guy at least... I'm not sure how it is for women).
  • Coloring: Large blocks of solid color cause a bit more discomfort. Colors like white require multiple lines over one another, and can cause further irritation.
  • Size: I think this is self-explanatory - the bigger your tattoo, the more it's going to hurt.
Other than that, my only other recommendation, if you are concerned about pain, is to KNOW YOUR ARTIST! If you don't feel comfortable with your tattoo artist, you should go somewhere else.

Q. What kind of tattoo should I get first?
A. This is largely dependant on your tastes. First and foremost, I have my own personal set of rules of what I will NOT get tattooed anywhere on my body.

  • Cartoon characters. Sure they're cute. Sure you think they're great. Nothing says timeless like a Beavis tattoo with his lighter.
  • Names. I think this should be self explanatory. My artist once told me that his favorite part about tattooing names was the fact he had a pretty well guaranteed cover-up job coming in the next year.
  • Flaming anything. No skulls, no dice, no harleys, nothing that I want to explain to my kids when I have them.
  • People. Due to the aging process of human skin, I'd certainly hate to have a drooping naked woman stuck on my arm for life, just because it looked cool when I was 21.
Additionally, I personally will not get any 'flash' work done. Flash is the stuff you see on the walls of tattoo parlours. Chances are if you get one because you think it's cool, someone else will too. It's already embarrassing enough wearing the same shirt as someone at a party. I have been graced with the ability to draw all of my tattoos. If you have some artistic spark, I highly recommend that avenue. If not, all hope is not lost - the chances are that your artist will more than happily draw up a custom design for you, for an additional fee.

Q. How do I select an artist?
A. Well, first of all, if you have any friends with tattoos, ask them where they got theirs, and how they feel about the service they recieve. Word of mouth is always the best way to go. However, if you are the first kid on your block getting one, there are a number of ways to find a good artist. First of all, you can pick up a tattoo magazine, and see if there are any artists featured in your area. These artists will be more expensive than others, but it is always better to spend too much than to spend too little. This art will be on your body forever. Save the extra few bucks to go with a good artist.
Go visit different shops. Keep an eye open for the cleanliness of the shop, talk to the artist, get a feel for him. Does the artist make you comfortable/nervous? Does he/she seem knowlegeable about the art? Ask to see some of their prior work. All artists should keep a photo album of tattoos they've done. Does the work look good to you? If everything looks good from here, then it looks like you've found your artist.

Q. What are some important questions to ask before getting my tattoo?
A.

  • Do you use new needles for every customer?
  • How long have you been tattooing for?
  • How much will this tattoo cost (remember, you should include a tip on top of the cost of the tattoo)?

Q. How much will a tattoo cost me?
A. This is largely dependant on your location, and the tattoo you want. Tattoos can range between $40 (US) and thousands of dollars. However, you want to make sure you don't bicker over the price. Ask before hand, and get commitment from the artist. After all, this person will be very intimate with you for the next chunk of hours. You don't want an unhappy artist. General custom dictates a tip for the artist, if you're happy with it. I generally will tip between 20 and 30 percent for a job well done.

Hopefully, armed with this information, you can make an educated desicion about painting your skin. Oh yeah, and welcome to your new addiction.
Unfortunately there are not a lot of requirements for tattooists as far as government regulations go. They can vary from none at all to Board of Health inspections.If the Board of Health inspects they give a license or permit. The inspectors usually only checks for the basics, an autoclave and non-porous surfaces ect. Some counties don't even require that. There is no test for tattooing knowledge or ability.

Most people assume that if it's a business that is open and working they must be professionals. This is far from the truth in most cases.Another often wrong assumption is that if a tattooist has been working for for a long time they know what they are doing. Experience is great and you want someone experienced but it could mean that they have been doing it wrong for a long time.

If you are considering any form of body art, arm yourself with knowledge, so you do not regret your decision.

Your tattooist should be working out of a well established, legitimate location, not a seedy back room or a hide away in a basement. Shops that do hairdressing, sell clothes, pipes, paraphrenalia are not appropriate places for body work to be done. Body art is invasive to the body and should be done in a salon specializing in nothing other than body arts. It should be immaculately clean as a doctors office would be.

Your tattooist should be able to provide a photo album full of pictures of their work. You should be able to ask questions and have them answered honestly and intelligently. If the tatooist evades your questions, gets flustered, nervous, irritable or tries to rush you through, simply say "I would like to think about it." and leave the shop. You should be able to get a tour of the tattooing room and sterilization areas before getting any work done.

Make sure your see the autoclave and a recent spore test result statement. It should read either negative or N. Accept no excuses. If they cannot provide a recent test result LEAVE.

If possible talk to some previous customers of the tattooist you are considering. Ask about their experiences and how they were treated.

You should be asked to fill out a consent form no matter what your age is. This consent form should ask basic health questions. Are you pregnant? Are you under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Do you have any medical conditions that the artist should be aware of? These questions are for your safety, answer honestly.

An ethical body artist will not work on someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (and they shouldn't be working on you if they are under the influence.) This can be dangerous. It's better to be patient and find a professional you are comfortable with and confident in and have the work done while you are straight. There is really nothing to fear, you will be safer, make better decisions, heal easier and you will have faced a fear and conquered it as well!

You should NEVER be asked to remove any clothing other than what is necessary to expose the area to be tattooed. Make sure your tatooist changes gloves often to avoid cross contamination.

Find a tattooist who stands by their work. They should be able to touch up a tattoo. They should be able to solve any problems and answer any questions you have.

Make sure you see everthing taken out of a sterile pouch in front of you.

These basic guidelines will help you on your way to a happy, successful tattooing experience.

©Rose Pulda of Miraculous Creations. Used by the goodness, grace and permission of the very same.

When considering getting a tattoo it is also helpful to see whether or not the tattoo parlor where you're getting your tattoo has a waiting period. Waiting periods are a good thing when looking at body art salons. If they make you wait for two weeks, or some other period of time before putting ink into your skin it usually means that they are not just trying to get your money, but actually care that you like what's being done. This is important as your tattoo will be with you for a long time to come.

I can't stress how important a consultation is. Make sure that you are going to get tattooed in the precise location and with the exact design you want. Also note that getting tattoos can be addictive. You may think that this will be a once in a lifetime experience, but 9 times out of 10 you will end up wanting another one.

When you're getting a tattoo, keep in mind that you are totally at the mercy of the tattoo artist. So it's best not to do anything that would make him/her angry or upset.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend is a tattoo artist and s/he is giving you a free tattoo, now might not be the best time to tell your significant other that you're seeing someone else. Or that you'd like to put the wedding off. Or that you think you gave them herpes. Staying clear of these subjects will help to protect you from getting "I am a total luzer" or "Warning: Infected whore; DO NOT ENTER" permanently inked onto your body.

This might sound silly (and for the most part, it is), but when I was getting my tattoo, the artist waited until he was about halfway through and then started asking me if I hated black people--because boy lordy, he sure did. Now, being a bleeding heart liberal, I kept wanting to respond to what he was saying, so I'd open my mouth, then promptly shut it, realizing that pissing off this guy wasn't in any way in my best interest. The tattoo I was getting was on my back, and I would have had no way of knowing if he had decided to add a nice little impromptu swastika to the design (until it was too late), so I kept my mouth shut and just tried to pretend like I wasn't in the mood to talk. (This wasn't a difficult feat to accomplish; the man was jabbing me with a damn needle, so I really didn't want to talk in the first place.)

So, the end result is, I ended up with the tattoo I wanted, but there's some racist tattoo artist in Florida who thinks I have the same whacked-out ideas he does... Also, I spent a good 45 minutes of my life sitting in a chair, scared out of my gourd, desperately praying that the man wasn't going to improvise a little and add the message "David Duke rulez!" to the design. Again, I know this all sounds absurd, but this just underscores the point: You're going to be putting yourself totally at the mercy of the person doing your tattoo art, so for the sake of all that is holy, try to find someone who wasn't as much of a freak as my guy was.

If I ever get another tattoo, I'll be sure to ask all the normal questions (is everything sterile, etc.) and then perhaps ask, "Hey, you don't hate racial minorities or something like that, do you?" Just to be safe.


Fairly interesting update: Oddly enough, when I retold this story at Anml4ixoye's noder gathering in Tampa, I mentioned the location where this had all taken place and panamaus just spontaneously blurted out the name of the tattoo artist involved! In an attempt to convince me that he hadn't actually been stalking me for the last six years, the venerable e2God clued me in on how he knew about this guy: It seems that 'maus, who had been living in Florida for some time, offhandedly remembered hearing a story on the news about some racist tatoo artist (with a faily memorable name) who had just recently been convicted of murder/assault/what-have-you in Panama City! So in retrospect, I suppose the moral of this story is: "if you're selecting someone with the intent of paying him/her to permanently ink a design onto your body, you would do well to check said individual's criminal record first."

This is all totally GTKY, I know; but it still makes for an interesting postscript to the story above.

I whole-heartedly agree with everything that's been said thus far. However, there are a few things I'd like to add:

-First and most important, in my opinion, If you're thinking to yourself, "I want a tattoo, but I don't know what to get” You might not want to get one just yet. Tattooing is a great experience, but only if the art means something to you. Your art is going to be with you a long time, and be sure your kids (nieces, nephews, God-kids, ect.) will ask what they mean. Do you really want to have to answer, "Betty Paige is hot...and she dances when I flex"

-Flash is great to firm up the design you have in mind. But if you walk into a shop, choose a design off the wall and 5 minutes later your in the chair, you'll probably regret it.

-It's been stated that if you lack artist ability (like me) most tattoo artist will happily listen to your ideas and draw something up for you. This collaboration between your artist and yourself can be very rewarding. Remember, if they are a good tattoo artist they want your design to be perfect just as much as you do. If what they draw isn't quite what you had in mind, tell them what you see differently. Naturally, be polite though.

-It's my personal belief that if your artist creates a custom piece for you, and really works hard to get it just right for you, they deserve a nice tip (above what you'd normally give them for the tattoo itself). By creating your artwork, they've given you something very special, it's nice to reciprocate. If you are an amateur chain mailer, make them a little bag. If you are a photographer, give them a picture. Of course if you don't feel you've got a talent, a nice batch of muffins or something does quite nicely too.

Enjoy your tattoo, and the process. I’d start saving now, because they are addictive and if you’ve followed the advice from everyone you’re more than likely to be back.

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