tattoo, new tattoo, tattoo tips, first tattoo, tattoo info

8 Tips for Your First Tattoo Experience

Its definitely an exciting time – You have made the decision that you are ready to get your first tattoo! Nerves and excitement are running high, your mind is going 90 miles/hour and you don’t know where to start.

If you want to walk away with a good experience and an amazing piece of artwork to show off, then you need to do your due diligence! It is important to take sometime, do your research and make a well-informed decision!

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#1. Know Yourself

 Before you even start looking at tattoo artists and moving forward, it is important to know yourself and set some reasonable expectations. If this is your first tattoo it is better to start smaller than to set yourself up for failure.

It may be tempting to select a large back piece, but you don’t want to end up with a half finished tattoo because you get in over your head!

Starting with a smaller design is going to give you a few advantages

  • Gives yourself a chance to experience getting a tattoo without it becoming overwhelming
  • Allows you to become familiar with your pain tolerance levels as they pertain to being tattooed
  • Provides an opportunity to see how your body reacts to the ink
  • In the days and weeks following your tattoo, it will give you a chance to see how it heals

#2. Find Your Inspiration

 One of the greatest aspects of getting a tattoo is the opportunity to work with your tattoo artist to design and execute an original piece of art. The tattoo artist that you do eventually work with is going to need some direction as to what you are hoping to have done.

Research different styles and browse the internet for some examples of pieces that you like. Remember – Originality is important! Walking in with a picture and asking for an exact replica of someone else’s tattoo is missing this point entirely! This type of copying is seen in most circles as disrespectful. That being said having a selection of different pieces that you like elements and/or the style will help your tattoo artist understand what you are looking for. Sites like Pinterest make this easier than ever!

If you are looking to get text in your tattoo, explore different fonts. Sit down at a computer and type your message out trying them out, print out examples of the ones that ‘feel right’.

If you are working with a real-life inspiration, for example wanting a tattoo that represents your dog, bring clear, easy to see pictures. The better the pictures, the easier it will be for them to design your tattoo!

tattoo, new tattoo, tattoo tips, first tattoo, tattoo info#3. Research your Options

 Don’t just jump on the first tattoo artist whose shop you see on Main St! Take the time to learn who is tattooing in your area, and what they are capable of. Each tattoo artist is going to have their strengths and weaknesses, and if you are looking to rock the best tattoo you can it is important to find someone who will line up with what you are looking for!

Start by asking around. Word of mouth is a GREAT way to get an idea of who is worth looking into, and who you would be better to pass over. Recommendations are going to be based on positive experiences from people you know and trust, and on the other end of that spectrum, a bad experience will bring a red flag for someone you may wish to avoid. Remember that someone can be an amazing artist on paper but lack professionalism. You want to find the total package for the best experience!

If you have the opportunity to visit a tattoo show, this is a great chance to see what is happening in your area! Explore the show, watch what each artist is working on, see how they interact with people. If there is anyone that you feel may fit what you are looking for, grab their business card!

#4. View Their Portfolio

 If you find that there are a couple artists who stand out to you at this stage, now its time to take a closer look at their body of work. Reputable artists will have a portfolio prepared that will showcase actual pieces they have completed. These should be clear photos, allowing you to see the details of the pieces, without obstructions like tape, plastic wrap or bandages.

You want to find someone whose portfolio speaks to you. This will show you a lot about the artist that you are looking at. Many artists have specialties or styles that they prefer. While they may be able to deliver anything you put in front of them, for the best chance at getting exactly what you want, look for an artist whose style lines up with your own. Pay careful attention to details like their line work (does it look shaky and uneven, or crisp and clean) and their colour work (is it faded or patchy, or does it have good saturation).

Remember that the artist has put this portfolio together to show off their best work. If you find that you are questioning a lot of the tattoos that you are looking at, then I would walk away! If the tattoos that made the portfolio aren’t solid, imagine the ones that didn’t make the cut!

With today’s world of modern technology, many artists have digital portfolios that you can view! Whether it is directly on their website, or on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, this is another opportunity to see the work that these tattoo artists are producing.

#5. Visit the Studio

 Now that you have selected an artist (or a couple artists) that lines up with your creative vision, it is time to do some more research into their actual practices. Take the time to visit the studio prior to actually arriving to get your tattoo.

If an artist is working in a dirty, dingy studio – run away and run away fast! There are many medical complications that can come from poor cleanliness and lack of attention to sterilization. Your health is one of the most important things that you have, and it isn’t something to take lightly! Blood-born pathogens can and do kill tattoo clients, so don’t take a gamble with a questionable studio!

When visiting watch to ensure that they are practicing proper sterilization habits, and understand the importance of a disposable mindset. By a disposable mindset, I mean that there are a number of items that should ALWAYS be disposed of following each tattoo. If you see a tattoo artist returning everything to containers, they are not paying attention to cross-contamination! This includes how they handle everything from ointment and water to ink and needles.

Needles should be removed from the autoclave bag just prior to use. If they are already open prior to the appointments, they may be reusing them!  Also, pay careful attention to the condition of the needles. They should be a clean, silver metal. If they appear to be stained or dulled – walk away!

Lastly, tattoo artists should be wearing gloves while working on all tattoos. These are going to be similar to those that you see in medical clinics and hospitals. They should be new, free of tears and holes, and should fit the artist properly.

Diseases like hepatitis and AIDS are no joke – so don’t be lax in this inspection! Pay attention to the details, and ask questions! Any artist that isn’t willing to answer questions regarding their studio, equipment and sterilization efforts is an artist I wouldn’t even consider allowing to work on my body!

#6. You Get What You Pay For

 Remember that tattoos are not cheap! If you are making your decision based solely on the price point, you run the risk of getting a sub-par tattoo. For those of you that are loyal to a quality hairdresser, you understand this concept already! You wouldn’t allow a bad hairdresser to chop up your hair – you chose someone that you trust based on their ability to do quality work and make you look your best!

This is something that is going to be permanently on your body, so now is not the time to cheap out! If you currently can’t afford the price that the artists are putting forward as you go through these steps, then I suggest taking a step back, delaying your gratification and saving up a little longer. The final product will be well worth the wait!

#7. Control the Experience

 There is more to the overall experience than just the final piece. Once you have made each of these decisions, sleep on it before pulling the trigger – The artist that you decide to use, the placement of the tattoo, the design that you come up with together – Make sure that you are happy with each and every step of the process.

If you aren’t sure of the placement, try drawing a tattoo on that spot with a marker and see how you feel about it over a period of time. Alternatively, use a temporary tattoo, it will be like a throwback to childhood!

Once you know that you are happy with every aspect of the plan, design, and preparation, then make sure you book your appointment and put it in your calendar. If you are worried you are going to get nervous and back out – tell someone to hold you accountable! There are a ton of people out there that talk the talk about wanting a tattoo, but never follow through!

Get plenty of rest the night before your appointment. Avoid drinking heavily the day before, as alcohol does thin your blood. Similarly, a lot of coffee or energy drinks the day of your tattoo should be avoided as they too will thin your blood. Eat a good solid meal before your tattoo, and drink a lot of water the day of – this will help you sit longer, and avoid getting shaky during the process.

Pack a small bag to bring with you the day of your appointment. Include bottles of water and snacks. Some items I would suggest when picking snacks include granola bars, crackers, and fresh fruit. If you find that you are getting shaky during the tattoo these items will be key to helping yourself perk up and feel better! Also, I always ensure that my phone is fully charged – it provides me with a distraction if needed (playing games, checking social media, chatting with friends).

If you have someone that you trust that you would like to bring with you, go for it! Having a friend along for the ride can be great for a number of reasons… It will give you someone to talk to while you are being tattooed, someone who can calm you down if you find yourself getting nervous or anxious, and who can keep you updated on the progress if you are getting a tattoo in a location that you can’t see. It will also mean you have someone to drive you home if you find that you are not feeling up to it afterward. Getting a tattoo can be exhausting on the body, and you may not be up to driving!

#8. Remember That This is YOUR Tattoo!

 Others will inevitably have opinions about your tattoo, whether you like it or not. Some will keep this opinion to themselves, while others will be more vocal. I have walked into a coffee shop and had a complete stranger feel it was their place to make comments about my ink, both positively and negatively, over the years. At the end of the day – that’s just their opinion and the only thing that matters is whether YOU like your tattoo!

You can choose how much you are willing to share with people who ask. Does your tattoo have a story behind it? Great! It is still your decision whether you want to share that or not. That being said there doesn’t need to be some big story to it either! It just needs to be what YOU want to have with you, on your body, as an example of your own personality!

Every aspect is your choice – Do you want to show it off? Well then rock that tattoo proudly! Is it something that is more personal that you wish to keep for yourself? Then don’t feel like you have to be bold and revealing to be proud of it! Do what’s right for you, hold your head high and be proud!

If you have a tattoo, do you remember the experience? Do you have any tips I’ve missed? For those who don’t yet, what is your biggest question about getting a tattoo? Is there anything preventing you from taking this step? 

70 thoughts on “8 Tips for Your First Tattoo Experience”

    1. I was lucky when I decided to get my first that I had some friends that knew the ropes and were able to make sure I did it right. 🙂 Can’t say the same for my first piercing but it healed up well so I got lucky lol

  1. Dalba castrillon

    OMG these are awesome tips! I have been considering getting a tattoo and don’t know where to start, but these tips are so helpful!

    1. I LOVE my tattoos, and literally have a list of what I want next! I would say start with thinking about what styles you like and go from there – there are so many out there! It will help you narrow down design ideas, what artists are best to work with, etc 🙂

  2. Amanda - Penniless Prairie Girl

    Great post! I think many people fall into the trap of being impulsive with their tattoos. I think the number one tip is RESEARCH!

    1. Yes! Totally agree! This is either going to be with you FOREVER or its going to cost you a lot of money and pain to remove… so why not be sure before you take the step!

  3. Oh my gosh I remember wanting a tattoo years ago to seem cool to a guy (who it turned out didn’t like tattoos anyway… he ended up my husband lol) but I’m glad I didn’t go through with other as I would’ve been doing it for the wrong reasons. Tattoos may not be permanent as they can be removed but the removal hurts like hell so it’s best to be sure! Great advice here!


    1. Yes, exactly! I mean don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my ink… but far too often you hear about people rushing the process and regretting it at the end

  4. This is great advice! I’ve thought about getting a tattoo a few times but I’ve always been kind of nervous about committing to something that permanent. If I do decide to go through with it I will definitely keep your advice in mind.

    1. Thank you! I wish you luck – I love my ink so I say if you do the thinking, commit to something and could see yourself enjoying it long term then go for it 🙂

    1. Congratulations – getting the design sorted out is the hardest step! I’m sure it’ll turn out great!

  5. So many young adults need to read this post. I have tattoos however they are only shown when I elect to show them.

    1. My wrist tattoo is probably the most difficult of my current tattoos to cover, but even that can be done with a longer sleeve. I generally don’t elect to cover them because I feel like I shouldn’t have to, but when I was working in an office environment I would sometimes just to make it more comfortable for customers, especially older customers.

  6. Hi!
    I met you at Donna’s blog party. I came to meet and greet you.
    When my daughter was younger she was obsessed with Henna tattoos, so we all got them on a family vacation.
    Maybe you can check out my blog if you need a blogging tip or two. That’s what I write about. I also have blog parties like Donna.

  7. Corinne & Kirsty

    These are all great advice! I have debated whether to get a tattoo or not. I almost did get one last year but bailed last minute. I am just so afraid of regretting it. Like finding it super cool now and then hating it when I have it. xx corinne

    1. When I got my first one I had hmm’d and ha’d about it for a few years, so my bestie dropped the deposit and reminded me if I bailed she was out the money hahaha – Glad she pushed me to take the step because I love it to this day, and it was well thought out I was just skiddish about pulling the trigger!

  8. I’ve been considering having one for a long time, but I’ve never had to guts to get a tattoo! These tips are brilliant for me, so I know exactly what to look for before having it done!! Xx

    1. Glad they will be helpful! Its a lot easier to go through with getting it when you can be confident in the decisions you have made preparing for it!

  9. Fantastic post, as a total tattoo novice (I don’t even have one!) this was really interesting and informative! I totally agree with you on the importance of originality, if I were ever to get a tattoo I’d want something that was entirely personal to me! Great advice to bring along drinks and snacks and to start small too! My BFF got his entire upper arm tattooed as his first ever tat and I don’t know how he managed it!!

    Abbey ?

    1. Thank you! That’s a learn from experience point for me too – my first piece was not overly small, and on my back running along my spine haha ?

  10. This is a fantastic post and really helpful for people thinking of getting their first tattoo! There’s lots of points in here that I don’t think we would think of. Because the prospect of getting a tattoo is so exciting, all we’re thinking about is the final result! I would also add that everyone’s pain thresholds are different so take it with a pinch of salt if someone has had a tattoo in the same place that you’re thinking about getting one and they’ve said that it really hurts or doesn’t hurt at all. Like, block out everything you’ve heard from other people and concentrate on your OWN experience.

    1. This is DEFINITELY true! I have a crazy high pain tolerance so my tattoos are all hitting spots that others may not handle well – along my spine, on my wrist down on the pressure point, on my collar bone, into the edge of my arm pit – while I can honestly say they didn’t hurt me all that bad, that is definitely not the case for everyone!

  11. Not a tatto person.But I appreciated the great detail you went into .I would also add check sterility of equipment used.Life-threatening infection possible

    1. Most definitely! That’s my biggest fear when people talk about going to ‘cheap artists’…. Are you getting cheap because they don’t bother with sterility, have no talent and don’t know what they are doing???

  12. This is great advise. I didn’t take this much consideration into my first tattoo. I got something I didn’t mind having forever from an artist my friends had used many times before. I don’t have any regrets about it at all…but it was pretty small.

  13. I may never have a tattoo done , bUt this are really great tips for who wants one. Gonna share this in my circle

  14. Great tips!! Amen on avoiding the shady ones that don’t look legit. I have small heart tatoo on my lower back, just an outline. I would’ve let him fill it in but it hurrrrrt!! lol I’m lame!

  15. I got my 1st TATTOO when I was 16. In New York City. I knew what I wanted but then had to change the location of it because the artist told me it would “rub off” (I wanted iton the bottom of my foot)… Thus I put it on my ankle. I don’t really ever think about it, however, this big black kinda BLOB is there now, because I got a bar-code and the lines have SORT OF rubbed together. People can tell it’s a barcode, which is good, but when I got it, it was NOT done very well, probably because I did ZERO research before getting it done, I just wanted it.

    I got my second tattoo about 2 years ago… On the back of my neck. LOVE THAT TATTOO soooooo much but I can’t see it, so I totally forget about it sometimes! It’s a beautiful G (in cursive)! That is something I ALWAYS wanted too… And I got it on a WHIM as well, after my girlfriend did the research to find a tattoo artist she thought was good – I saw this artist do hers and was like, UHHH I WANT ANOTHER ONE! So bam, DONE! LOL!

    1. Its amazing how much of a difference an artist can make! I have received SO many compliments on my shoulder piece, and he was a bit of a ‘spur of the moment’ decision at first – an artist I hadn’t heard of running a Facebook competition I decided to enter. He then reached out to me about getting work done. I did slow down a little to do some research into him and his practices at that point, but the experience was great and I have a great piece now 🙂

    1. It’s a big step – its not like colouring your hair where your hair will eventually grow back out again 🙂
      Have you thought about what kind of design you would like?

  16. What great advice it very important to do your research and not to just jump straight into it because it is with you forever.

  17. I think these are really great tips for someone getting a tattoo for the first time! I don’t have any tattoos, but my sister in law is a huge tattoo fan and my husband is also thinking about getting one in the near future.

    1. Thank you! They are addicting – it took me awhile to get my first one but now I have a list that I want to get!

  18. Beautiful Book Nerd

    Oh lord, how I wish I could’ve read this before I got my first tattoo! I’d say another thing to go with visiting the shop is to make sure you’re comfortable there. My first tattoo palor was clean and sterile, but I was so uncomfortable there! My regular tattoo place, now, is so welcoming. I feel like they want me to be there, not that they just want my money. And please people! TIP YOUR ARTIST WELL! Great post!

    1. Thank you and I totally agree! If I am not totally comfortable with an artist them they aren’t going to be touching me with a stencil let alone completing a tattoo!

  19. Love this post! I hope it helps someone thinking of getting their first tattoo. I have 1 and have a long-ass list of others I want hehe. The girl who designed my logo does loads of amazing handwriting and I want her to design a “wanderlust” tattoo for my foot. Also, I love your alternative perspective! 🙂

    1. Thank you! I think that would make an amazing tattoo!!! If you do I hope I get to see pictures!

  20. Morgan Miller

    I found this so interesting ah! I’m still undecided on whether I’ll ever get a tattoo but I totally agree with not setting unrealistic expectations for it. Nothing worse than a half-finished tattoo haha! x


    1. I’ve seen some bad half finished tats floating around – you either gotta get someone to finish/cover it, or get it removed at that point!

  21. I love this, thank you for the great advice. It’s filling me with excitement and confidence. I’ve chosen a small tattoo – and just need to pick an artist. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research though so I think I have a few good ones in mind and just need to decide / go in and see how I feel. Thank you for sharing!!

    Reema |

    1. I always cringe when I hear people talk about finding the cheapest person to do their work because I know where that’s likely going lol

  22. Oh my goodness this is such a helpful post and very inspiring! I don’t have any tattoos yet but I really want one!! I’m too scared of needles lol if I can get over my fear of that then I’ll be okay! Thanks for sharing!!?

    1. I actually have a pretty big fear of needles – Tattoos are incredibly different when you’re actually there. I can handle the tattoo but still freak out about the idea of getting a vaccine lol

  23. These are such great tips for anyone planning on getting a tattoo- I personally don’t think I would ever get them haha! Thanks for sharing! xx

    1. It’s true, and a higher price point should never be the deciding factor to walk away. However, it’s only one piece of the puzzle! Some people think their work is worth more than it is, pricing their work higher – that’s why it’s important to visit their shop and view their portfolio to make sure that everything is in order.

  24. That was a really thorough break down of the tattoo process, and it shows how important it is to plan ahead and not make it an impulsive decision. I’ve never gotten a tattoo to know what the process is like. I also didn’t know that it’s disrespectful in the tattoo community to get an exact replica of someone else’s tattoo, but that makes total sense. Really insightful.

    1. Thank you! One of my tattoos was incredibly impulsive and I’m lucky that I had enough knowledge of the industry to still know if I needed to walk away from the artist before I let him do any work or not. Also, I’m lucky I still like it today, years later lol!

  25. Such a wonderful blog about 8 tips for your first tattoo experience and I appreciate your effort for bringing this in to notice. Great blog indeed, will visit again future to read more!! It can be really great for people like me who are looking for grabbing more knowledge about it.

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