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What to Expect When Getting a Tattoo

Rose TattooWhat Should You Expect When Getting a Tattoo? 

If you are thinking about getting, but are unsure of what to expect, you may be anxious.  The best thing to do is educate yourself on the process of getting a tattoo, so that you are well prepared and you know what to expect.

The first thing you need to do is find a reputable Tattoo Studio and a good artist who will be able to provide you with the tattoo you have in mind. You can learn more about how to choose a tattoo artist and studio here.

After finding an artist and studio that suits you, you will talk with the artist about the tattoo design, style and plan. You will most likely leave a deposit, and schedule an appointment. Tell your artist if this is your first tattoo so he/she can be sure to give you special instructions, and make sure all of your questions are answered.  If you are unsure of the tattoo design, you can learn more about selecting a design here.
 

Paperwork Electronic Signature Pad

The day of the appointment, you will need to check in, provide photo id, your name and phone number and fill out a consent form.  You may or may not need to pay before the tattoo, depending on how the shop works.  The deposit you left should count towards the final cost of the tattoo.  We recommend you ask for a copy of your receipt and the consent form. After your paperwork is done, the artist will show you the outline of your tattoo to make sure you are happy with the final design.
 

Tattoo Chair & WorkstationOpen or Private Work Station 

You will then go to the tattoo artists work station and be seated.  Often, tattoo studios will have open work areas.  If you are okay with an open environment, great, if not you should ask ahead of time if a private room is available.  Once seated, your body is now ready for the preparation of the tattoo.
 

Skin Preparation

The area of skin you have chosen for the tattoo will be cleaned, shaven and then cleaned again. Even if you aren't particularly hairy, most artists shave the skin because hair follicles can draw dirt and bacteria into the skin.
 

Tattoo Stencil MachineDesign Transfer

The next step after the area is cleaned is to transfer the design onto your skin.  If you chose a freehand design, the artist will draw directly on your skin.  If you provided a design to the artist or he/she has drawn something up, they will use a thermal-fax machine to transfer the drawing onto thermal paper and then using stencil stuff, stencil pro or a similar product will transfer the stencil onto your skin.  Your tattooist will then finish setting up his work station, if he hasn't already done so.
 

Artist Station Setup

Some things you may notice at the artists tattoo station.  The tattooist will have ink cups lined with ink; these cups are used to ensure no cross contamination from client to client. The tattooist should be removing new needles and tubes from sterilized pouches. Distilled water will be poured into a cup for cleaning tattoo needles during the tattoo and to change from one color to another.
 

Woman With a Gun TattooThe Tattoo

The tattooist will likely place some ointment over your design for several reasons.  Ointment can help keep the design on longer and it can also help the needle glide along the skin. The artist will make sure that you are ready to begin, and usually start with a small line so you can get used to the feeling.

The tattooist will work on the outline of the tattoo.  Once the line work is done the artist will then begin to shade and color.  Depending on the size of the tattoo, the artist may switch the needle types in between lining and coloring; this is simply because certain needles were meant for shading and others for lining.  It is also possible that the artist will switch the machine altogether; this depends on the artist’s preference, machine, experience and style.
 

How does getting tattooed feel?

It depends on the individual, and the area of the body. Some areas hurt more than others, and this can vary from person to person. The sensation isn't particularly painful, and can be compared to a cat scratch.

Some artists will check in with you throughout the process, and make sure that you are doing okay. If you start to feel lightheaded, let your artist know. You may need a short break, some water, or some candy to raise your blood sugar. Don't forget to eat a healthy meal before your appointment to avoid fainting.
 

Tattoo Aftercare

Once your session or entire tattoo is done, the tattooist will clean it up and take a picture (if you have given permission).  The tattooist will apply a protective layer of ointment and a bandage.  He/She will then provide aftercare instructions both verbally and on a piece of paper (or via email depending on their system).  It’s extremely important that you follow proper aftercare instructions.  It is your responsibility to stay clean and safe.

You'll remove the bandages in a couple of hours, then wash and care for your tattoo the way you were instructed. Check out Tattoo Aftercare products on Painful Pleasures.

It's important to remember that tattoos are basically an open wound, and you need to keep them clean, dry, and protected to avoid infection or any permanent damage to the tattoo's appearance. Your new tattoo will be a little sore during the healing process, and will probably feel a bit like a sunburn. It usually takes between a few weeks to a few months for a tattoo to fully heal, but again, it can depend on the individual.
 

Do I tip the Tattoo Artist?

Once your tattoo is done and you are happy with the work he/she did, you should say Thanks and tip him/her to show him/her how much you appreciate their work.

If you are in the Washington, DC, Baltimore or Annapolis area, Body Mod and The Studio at Painful Pleasures are both reputable shops with experienced and talented artists to start off or continue your body modification, whether it be piercings or tattoos.