Kick The Anxiety And Go Get Inked

rachel_murphy in Guides

Tattooing can come across as intimidating and seems to be the reason why a lot of people are scared to take the first step.

Being tattooed can come across as intimidating and seems to be the reason why a lot of people are scared to take the first step. I myself am a victim of the anxiety this process can bring. The first time I booked a tattoo I was shaking like a leaf. I figured what better way to help people take that step than to answer a few questions I had for my first time. There are also a few thrown in that I do tend to get asked on a regular basis. So sit back, relax and take a mental note. Before I begin, I would also like to mention that I am speaking from experience when I answer these questions. I do not claim to be an artist or have I ever. I just have a slight ink addiction.

Being tattooed, tattoos on the back, getting a tattoo
Being tattooed, tattoos on the back, getting a tattoo

Questions before you get inked.


Find your next tattoo

    Why do people get tattoos?
    This is a common question that is asked quite regularly. Tattoos are a way of expressing yourself and can be an extension of your personality. They are also a way of showing your love for something. Sometimes they can just be for fun also. Don't read too much into it. If somebody has their heart set on getting one, asking this question won't change their mind. Trust me.

    What's the difference?
    What's the difference?

    Recent from Guides

    Can you still get a job when you have a tattoo?
    Times have changed.

    Most places are a lot more accepting of tattoos as it has become the norm and is a form of discrimination if an employer openly admits this is the reason they are not hiring you. This is not to say that you can walk into a job interview like you own the place and immediately put it down to discrimination if you don't. You should probably just work on your attitude if this is the case. Some places are not as flexible such as air hostess as they are to maintain a specific standard. If this is the type of career you are after, as unfortunate as it is, it’s always best to have one you can cover during work hours. I've had my job for two years, I work as a Support Worker and have found that my tattoos are actually the talking point of quite a few conversations with the people I support and my colleagues.

    mom tattoo, half sleeve tattoo, heart tattoo
    mom tattoo, half sleeve tattoo, heart tattoo

    How do I know if the tattoo I want will suit me?
    This is actually a difficult question to answer because you are the only person who can answer this honestly. Obviously there are certain things to avoid in this instance, for example you’re looking for an enormous picture that will contain great detail that can only be placed on a large area of your body but you want it on your shoulder, then it’s probably not going to look fantastic not to mention it being practically impossible to do. But this does relate to my previous post. If you like it and you feel as though it represents a certain side of you then you’re set. It will suit you as long as you have confidence in it. If you’re a 21 year old woman standing at 5”1 with a large bottle of Jack tattooed on your forearm it’s cool as long as you wear it with pride. Same goes for a 6”6 biker with a daisy on his wrist. It will suit you If you have the confidence to wear it as your own. If you really don’t feel confident, talk to your artist, tell them a bit about your personality and ask them to make it suit your personality a little better. They will do what they can to help.

    Questions before getting a tattoo
    Questions before getting a tattoo

    How do you go about getting a tattoo?
    This process can be very stressful if you are a first timer. In all honesty I was a nervous wreck because I thought it would be a brilliant idea to pretend I knew exactly what I was doing. I had a back and forth with my artist for about 5 minutes because I was acting like and arsehole. Apparently I didn't really know what I was doing at all. Brilliant.

    First thing's first... Pick your artist and check out their style. (See the section underneath for a more in-depth version of how). If you are willing to go in there with an open mind then any decent artist will be happy to chat with you and come to either a compromise on what you would like or be able to bring your idea to life completely.

    You then have two options; Book in there and then, keeping in mind that most places do ask for a deposit. Ask your artist to draw up the design you have discussed and book it when you have gone back to view it and are happy with the final piece.

    Tattoo designs
    Tattoo designs

    How do you know you've picked the right artist?
    If you're not sure who would be the best artist to suit your style you will be able to see previous work they have done. Ask if they have a portfolio you can look at, 99% of the time they will say yes. By doing this you will be able to take note of their specific style and decide if it fits your own. I do tend to ramble on about designing your own piece, however don't forget you can also pick a style they have already created and put on show as this is a sure sign of knowing that you will get what you originally wanted. It is always best to check out a few different people before you set your mind on one as this gives you a larger variety. You should never rush this process as - without sounding like a patronizing idiot- tattoos are most definitely permanent.

    Get a meaningful tattoo
    Get a meaningful tattoo

    How to research for a tattoo?
    The best way to research for a tattoo is to know roughly what it is you want. Decide if the specific piece will have more than one design, if so it is always best to research these images separately, even try rough drafting it yourself. It’s always best to research each part separately so the artist knows exactly what style you want. For example if you wanted a quote surrounded by flowers you should pick the style of writing you want, check and double check the quote i.e. the grammar and punctuation, following that you should also research the type of flower you wanted based on colour, style and size.

    Clean tattoo process
    Clean tattoo process

    How to know a studio and artist is clean?
    It is easy to see for yourself whether a tattoo studio is clean. Obviously if they have a million bags full of rubbish in the reception and it looks like it hasn't been dusted since it opened and you can smell the toilets before you even walk through the door, then maybe it’s not the best place to be. Common sense should be used in this specific area.

    An artist should always wear latex/examination gloves when tattooing. I shouldn't have to say this but I will anyway just in case. Cross contamination is a very popular issue. If an artist has an open wound on their hand and are not using gloves when tattooing then it is very easy to contaminate the open wound they have created on your skin. This next point is also common sense however I will include it because it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    If you’re about to get a tattoo on your leg (or anywhere hairy..)  and you need that area shaved before the artist begins then make sure a disposable razor is used for this and you watch them take it from the packet before using it. You MUST make sure they actually do bother shaving the area you’re having tattooed if it does have a lot of hair on it. Again, I’ve never came across or heard of anywhere when they haven’t, mainly because I am absolutely sure they wouldn’t be able to see a thing whilst tattooing and the stencil wouldn't transfer, but you never know. So make sure that specific body part is smoother than a baby's backside before they start to avoid ingrown hairs during the tattooing process.

    Make sure your skin is cleaned before and after the tattoo. They will always use a green soap like substance that has been watered down and transferred into a bottle (that tends to look a lot like a plastic hamster bottle..) as it avoids cross contamination. This liquid is used to moisten and sanitize the skin to avoid infection and is very important. You should always be on the lookout for a sharps box for disposing used needles. That one speaks for itself really.

    Fresh paper towels should be used for each client, these will be on the surface you are having the tattoo done (unless it has been wrapped in a clean sheet of cling film already) and used on the tattoo when wiping away excess ink. It is also important to look for a pedal bin with a disposable bag inside as the foot pedal avoids the use of the hands when disposing of used paper towels, it is also a reminder that they are not being left sitting around until you leave or even the end of the day. It’s best to check where the artist is getting his Vaseline from also, this will be used to stop friction on the skin (kind of like using shaving gel instead of dry shaving) If they are using their hands to take it directly out of the tub this is a clear sign of cross contamination. They usually have it laid out on a sheet of Clingfilm or it will be in a small disposable tub.

    No alcohol!
    No alcohol!

    Why can’t you drink alcohol 24 hours before getting a tattoo?
    Alcohol thins the blood and as the tattoo process is obviously going to be breaking the surface of the skin there’s going to be some blood. So best not make it difficult for yourself and the artist by bleeding all over everywhere and making it a lot harder to see any progress. If an artist is able to smell alcohol on you they have the right to refuse to continue with your session and as you’ve already paid a deposit it’s you who’s going to lose out really. Also, it’s not a fantastic idea to be hungover and having a tattoo. That’s going to be uncomfortable for yourself and everyone around you, I don’t suppose the artist really wants to be covered in your vomit or listen to how bad your headache is. Don’t do that. That’s stupid.

    Questions before getting inked
    Questions before getting inked

    How to prepare for an appointment?
    Make sure you have something to eat before you go, I've made the mistake of having a tattoo on an empty stomach and it can be quite unsettling as it is a shock to the system and your blood sugars will be all over the place.

    Figuring out what to wear can be quite easy when you decide that you didn't want to look cute that day anyway. For the more confident people, screens would usually be provided if it was not private rooms, the artist has probably seen a lot worse anyway.

    Legs - it’s best not to wear skinny jeans or tights because that’s just inconvenient for everyone. The comfortable option would be sweat pants, straight leg jeans, leggings, shorts or a dress/skirt. Underwear wise for the thighs and hips, it is probably best for the ladies to go for a bikini that unties at the side. I’m not really sure about men because I don’t have much experience in wearing men’s underwear so I have to be very one sided with that. My apologies.

    Feet - Again, tights are not fantastic if you’re planning on having your foot tattooed. Ankle socks, ballet pumps or sandals are ideal.

    Arms – A short sleeved shirt ideally. If not then something that can be removed like a shirt with a vest underneath, or a jumper/cardigan that can be rolled up.

    Chest – What I found was the easiest thing to do for my chest piece (after a few unsuccessful attempts) was to wear a strapless elasticated bra with a strapless stretchy top over it. A bikini top also works for this too as long as it unties. For men if you didn't want to have to take your shirt off. I would say a baggy vest that you could slip your arms out of to pull down slightly.

    Back/Torso– This one is pretty much the same as the others, something comfortable that doesn't require a pair of scissors to remove and probably a big no would be a dress because who wants to hike their dress up to their shoulders in public for 3 hours.

    I think bikinis would work for any “intimate” tattoos really. That would be your best bet ladies.

    Pain spots
    Pain spots

    How much does a tattoo hurt?
    I get asked this a lot but in all honesty it is a very difficult question to answer. It depends on your personal pain threshold, the body part you’re having tattooed and how long your session is. All I can say is I personally feel it is a bearable pain in fact It is more of a mild discomfort than a pain. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s a needle being repeatedly inserted into your skin at a very high speed, it’s not going to feel pretty. I can honestly say I've only ever had one situation where I've had to ask my tattooist to stop mid-way through as it was actually beginning to bring tears to my eyes. That was when I was having the middle of my chest tattooed. I have heard that the chest is one of the most painful places to be tattooed so I wouldn't worry too much otherwise.

    Tattoo aftercare
    Tattoo aftercare

    How to look after a tattoo?
    Looking after a tattoo is actually pretty straightforward although it can seem quite complicated. I have to say before I start, it is okay to pick a suitable medicated cream of your choice as long as it won't dry out the skin, however I personally recommend Bepanthen. So I will be using that as an example.

    After you have a tattoo your artist will you cover the area with cling film. They will tell you to wait at least two hours before you take it off. You then have to clean the area CAREFULLY! The process is usually as follows.

    Step 1. Remove the cling film and run the tattoo under clean lukewarm water for a few minutes using a liquid antibacterial soap to remove excess blood or ink. Do not scrub the area or use any form of flannel or sponge. Just use your hands (after you've washed them thoroughly) to lightly rub the area.

    Step 2. Change the water to cold and hold the tattoo under the cold water for two minutes to close the pores of your skin.

    Step 3. Pat dry the area with a clean towel. (Do not scrub).

    Step 4. Use a small amount of cream to cover the tattoo. If it is your first time having a tattoo you can ask your artist for a sachet of gel or cream to use for this.  It is important to choose the right medicated cream for the healing  process as the wrong kind would cause your skin to dry up and scab. Bepanthen is highly recommended as it is actually used for helping heal and sooth nappy rash whilst keeping moisture in the skin. It can usually be purchased in most supermarkets and chemists.

    Step 5. For the first week you should apply Bepanthen 3 times a day to stop it from drying out. Keep it clean and wash it often.

    Step 6. During the second week you should only apply Bepanthen once a day. Make sure you avoid soaking your tattoo in any form of water for up to 3 weeks. This includes swimming and taking baths. It isn’t likely to take more than 3 weeks to heal depending on the size. If it takes longer then it is definitely okay to ask for advice from the studio. Of course if it does begin to look infected you should skip the studio altogether and get straight to a doctor. This will only happen if you don’t look after it properly so don’t panic.

    Good vs bad tattoo
    Good vs bad tattoo

    How much does a tattoo cost?
    The cost of the tattoo depends on the size and style you want. Most shops will charge by the hour for an exceptionally large, complicated or colourful piece. This is usually around the £50-£80 mark. Most studios do offer one time payments on tattoo’s that are usually on display or are quite small, these can be between £30-£50. These prices will vary between artists.

    Be safe!
    Be safe!

    Are tattoos safe?
    If you follow the instructions to find a clean studio and hygienic artist then when done correctly tattoos are very safe. You should always check with the artist and your GP if you think you may be allergic to anything that will be used in the process. If you look after it properly during the healing process and all equipment has been sterilized/disposed of during and after the sitting then there should be no problem with infections. Being tattooed during pregnancy is a whole other ball game. Most tattooists refuse to tattoo pregnant women because of the effects the shock may have on your body. Making decisions like this must be made before or after your pregnancy as hormones can largely affect the decision you are essentially making permanent. The skin is also obviously going to stretch during this time which will alter the shape or colouring of your tattoo afterwards.

    It seems to be the end here... that was easy enough now, wasn't it?

    5 Reasons why it’s Okay to be a “Cliché” I do hope this was of some help to all you newbies and it makes your experience that little less nerve wracking.


    @Rach Murphy

    Rach. 22, however rapidly flying head first into middle age. I currently display 7 pretty sizable tattoos and understand the sheer horror of Terrible tattoo's as I do myself have one. Although I also have 6 fantastic original pieces.


    More from Author

    More Guides

    We Recommend

    Recent Staff Picks