Tattooing for the Novice

Tatooing for the NoviceAre you thinking of getting your first tattoo? Maybe you are new in town and would like to find the right artist to add to your extensive body of work. You may already have a few tattoos of varying quality, and just want to tidy them up and pull them together into a cohesive piece of living art. Whatever the goal, it is important that you find a suitable artist for your needs.
Finding the right artist or shop can be a tricky task,  but has been made easier through social media. Instagram has been a game changer for tattoo artists and collectors alike. For better or worse, picking flash from the wall has given way to appointments, consultations and emails.  However, there are still shops that are set up to better accommodate the walk-in crowd.
Part of the task is on you, the client, to use the resources available to find a proper fit. It is also on the tattooers, if we hope to succeed in our careers, to put ourselves out there to be found by you.
There is no standard way to arrive at a great tattoo. It all boils down to what you are looking for and who is best suited to pull it off. If someone has a reputation for doing amazing color-realism work, that person might not be the best option for an authentic-looking traditional anchor. Then again, many artists are well-rounded and do great work in many styles. I strongly suggest that you take a good look at an artist’s previous work before you commit to receiving a tattoo. Tattooers usually have a portfolio of their work available at their studio.  It is also likely that they have an Instagram account full of their proudest pieces.

Look closely at the quality of an artist’s work. Are the lines solid? Are the colors saturated and bold? Do you like the overall style and aesthetic? Maybe you have a few tattooers in mind to explore before you commit.  

Once you have found and contacted the ideal artist for your tattoo, listen to what he/she needs. Every artist’s methods vary, and we require different things from our clients to achieve the best results. While some artists prefer to work more spontaneously and arrange the tattoo with you there, others prefer to have exchanges through email with photo references. Some require you to show up in person prior to an appointment to trace the area you intend to work on to better fit the tattoo to your body. Whatever the artist needs from you is in the interest of achieving the best tattoo. I suggest you follow their requests.
Like in any business, if you are being jerked around by a potential tattoo artist and turned off by their work or attitude, don’t give them your time and money. There are many more artists to explore. On the other hand, don’t be a pain in the ass. If the client insists on getting something that we KNOW will look terrible down the road, we reserve the right to turn the job down, as it will not benefit either of us to do the tattoo. Many of our suggestions are a matter of technical execution. Some requests will just not work.
The price of a tattoo is a legitimate factor to consider. Like with all things, you get what you pay for. I discuss ballpark estimates during consultations, which are subject to change depending on various factors. Some artists do not discuss prices, which is also valid. Like with any art, work in high demand is going to be more costly. Price shopping and haggling will not get you very far.
Make sure you eat something substantial before you go in for your tattoo. The process takes a lot out of you, and if you are running on empty, you could feel sick, lightheaded or even pass out. It doesn’t hurt to have some sugar in your system.
Have a valid license or ID on hand. In Rhode Island, you have to be at least 18 years of age to legally get tattooed, and we have to be able to prove that we checked.
Hopefully you leave ecstatic about your new tattoo, but before you go, you should consider leaving a tip. A tip shows the artist that you appreciate the work they have put in. Basically, most of us are working hard to make you happy. If you do feel so inclined to leave a little something extra, $20 is pretty standard, but people leave all kinds of denominations.
Every tattoo artist seems to have a different take on the after care procedure for their work. I believe that less is more with healing. Your body is doing most of the work, like it does with any cut or scab. You are just trying to aide it in the process.
On the first night, wash the tattoo with a mild soap before you go to bed. This is to clean out any dried blood that accumulated over the course of the day. Though there will be some degree of scabbing throughout the healing process, cleaning it the first night will help it to scab less.
Apply a very thin layer of Aquaphor over the tattoo twice a day for five days to a week, and do not pick or scratch the scab. If you do, you could pull the color out. Tattoos usually take one to two weeks to fully heal. Then all that’s left to do is enjoy your new art and decide what you’re going to get next.


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