If you want a tattoo, before you plan a design, or even look for a tattoo artist, determine WHY you want one. Never get a tattoo because it looked cool on someone else or on a dare or because it’s in fashion…or if you’re drunk. There are lots of television shows featuring tattoo artists; sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the cool factor and glamor of the whole scene.
If you want a tattoo to remember someone, commemorate an occasion or to express a feeling or passion, think realistically about the future. In 5, 10, 20 years, will you still want to remember that person or event? Think back to other significant people or events in your life you might have felt strongly about; if you had gotten a tattoo then, would it still be relevant today? When you’ve come to a well thought out decision that you want a tattoo, think about where you want it placed. For women, this may take a little more thought than for men. When a woman gets a tattoo in her 20’s, before starting her professional career, she may not think about placement. A butterfly tattoo on the ankle may be fun and feel appropriate in college, but will it still be appropriate in the board room, with heels and a suit, when she’s in her 30’s or 40’s?
Many women opt for placement that allows them to control when and where the tattoo will be visible. Upper center and lower back are the easiest to cover on a daily basis, and easy to expose with low backed tanks, or with swimwear.
One last consideration: if you’re unmarried at the moment, and your dream wedding dress is strapless, will you want your tattoo visible on your wedding day? Are you willing to possibly have it covered with make-up?
It may be hard to think now about something that’s not even on the horizon, but in permanently altering your body, it is something you need to consider.
So you want a tattoo, you know why you want one, and you know where. Now the fun part; you can decide on what you want. Try to look for a timeless design. You can do some preliminary research online to find general ideas, and start narrowing down the ideas.
What’s a timeless design? What’s NOT timeless is usually something in pop culture. The latest rock band’s logo, no matter how much you love them, is probably not going to be timeless. They might break up, change their music style, or start espousing political views you oppose. Your music style might change as well. You may grow to loathe them in a few years.
Tattoos should allow you to age gracefully and age gracefully themselves; if you get a tattoo across your lower back in your 20’s that says “Pretty Baby” because that’s your boyfriend’s nickname for you, are you still going to want that when you’re in your 50’s and the boyfriend is distant history? Once you’ve got your design idea, it’s time to choose a tattoo studio and artist. At this point, you’re looking for both an artist who can translate your designs and ideas into your finished tattoo, and an artist and studio that creates the most sanitary conditions to do that work in.
Many tattoo artists have their portfolios online. You can check several studios in your area to see if there’s a particular artist’s style that captures the look you’re after, or one who specializes in a technique that interests you, such as black and white, or a certain culture, such as Japanese or Chinese influenced designs.
Visit several shops, and ask to see licenses, both for the shop and the artists. Take a look around, look at the work stations to see how clean they look. Is the floor clean? Ask if you can take a quick tour…you may be able to watch someone getting a tattoo, but not all artists like having an audience.
Studios should be using disposable needles and tubes, or autoclave the steel re-usable items. Ask…ask…ask…there is nothing more precious than your health, not to mention the time, pain and money you’ll be investing. The AAA Tattoo Directory provides regulations by state, and also lists many tattoo studios, along with some fantastic photos of tattoos.
When you’ve chosen a studio and an artist, set up an initial consultation to create your design. These appointments can take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour. Bring your examples. The more visual inspiration you can provide, the more your tattoo will be exactly as you want it.
But also be realistic in your expectations; some things do not translate well into tattoos. If your artist tells you that your tiny design with lots of detail would translate into a tattoo that would cover your back, be prepared to make some changes. Let them tell you what can be done; they do this for a living. They can guide you into making the best choices.
At your consultation, you should also get an estimate on how much your tattoo will cost. And remember…it’s an estimate. Most artists charge by the hour, ranging anywhere from $125 to several hundred. Some have a minimum charge as well. Some charge per color, or by square inch. This is all information you should get at your initial meeting. Make sure if you aren’t told, you ask. Also find out how they accept payment, if they accept credit cards or checks. There’s nothing worse than getting there, getting all done and then finding out they don’t take personal checks. Some studios also charge a booking fee for your appointment at the time of the initial consultation. You can find this out when you call to make the appointment.
You’re going to have this tattoo for the rest of your life, so investing a little time up front can make all the difference in the outcome.