Dear reader, have you been thinking about getting a tattoo recently, like me? I have a few ideas; I could expand on some tattoos or get new tattoos entirely, I’ve just been waiting for the right time. While we’re both waiting to make these (big!) decisions, I may as well give you a few tips I’ve learned over the years I’ve been obsessed with this art form.
First off: What do you want? You don’t need a concrete design, it could be just an idea. But you do need something for an artist to expand on. For example, I’ve been thinking about getting The Fool from a tarot deck. Around a year ago I heard the phrase, “lovable fool” and it’s stuck with me. I think of the phrase when the voice of anxiety that lives in all of us speaks loud enough for me to hear and says I’m not good enough or that I’ve acted stupidly. Sometimes it’s easy to remember that we’re all lovable fools and sometimes it’s not. I want the tattoo as a reminder for when it’s not so easy. Maybe you have a more specific or abstract concept; either way, that’s okay! But when you have an idea, you need to research artists that can produce the style you want.
I’ve never traveled to get a tattoo or gotten one while traveling, but it sounds fun. There are incredible internationally known tattoo artists like Sasha Unisex (St, Petersburg), Nomi Chi (Vancouver), Peter Madsen (Barcelona/
You need to do your own research to get the best bang for your buck. Speaking of bucks, you’ll have to cough up a lot of cash if you want a superior tat. You want clean lines that last at least a decade? Long-lasting color? A hygienic environment? A practiced hand? Someone who knows the best placement for various designs? Then you’ll need to pay a minimum of $70, and that's just for a tiny piece.
But don’t just take my word for it. You need to do your own research to get the best bang for your buck. Speaking of bucks, you’ll have to cough up a lot of cash if you want a superior tat. You want clean lines that last at least a decade? Long-lasting color? A hygienic environment? A practiced hand? Someone who knows the best placement for various designs? Then you’ll need to pay a minimum of $70, and that's just for a tiny piece. I got a “505” tattoo that’s about the length of a quarter and that cost me $75, which I happily paid because I knew I was getting clean, quality work from a local artist. My biggest piece is a tree on my upper arm/shoulder, and I ended up paying around $400 for it, plus tip. You get what you pay for. If you want something that costs $20-$40 that isn’t part of a sale or a charity event, you won’t be happy with it in a few years; it will look bad eventually. It will be poorly designed, bleed colors and lines, and it'll fade quicker than the amount of time you took making the decision to get it.
The process isn’t quick. Yeah, you could just walk into a place and get a simple thing done, but more than likely your potential artist will want to talk to you about your expectations, pricing, style and amount of time. For my smallest piece (the “505”), it took about 15 minutes but I also already knew how to take care of tattoos and what to expect regarding pain. For my largest (the tree), it took about eight hours.
Some people can sit for ages and others can’t. Wherever your pain tolerance falls, it’s okay, your tattoo will be done eventually, and it’ll be glorious. Some people listen to music while they’re getting their work done, others like to listen to the tattoo gun or talk with their artist. Others bring a friend or family member for support. (Just don’t bring a bunch of people or it will crowd the shop and most likely annoy your artist.) Do what you need to do to make sure you’re okay throughout the entire process. It can be a challenging experience but you should feel emotionally comfortable the entire time.
That brings me to what you should get. You want an infinity symbol? You get that infinity symbol. You want a sprawling tribal tattoo? You do you, boo. Get whatever you want—within reason. When I was 18, I spent about 5 months considering what tattoo I wanted after I got my first on my 18th birthday, and I quickly decided on a cow tattoo. I loved cows. I still do. But I didn’t want just any cow tattoo—I wanted a large Madonna cow figure on my back with a banner underneath that read “Holy Cow.” When I took my idea to an artist, he told me, “Maybe you should get that smaller and elsewhere,” along with many good reasons why I should change the size and location. I realized I just wanted the tattoo as a joke and I probably shouldn’t really get it.
Tattoos last (basically) your entire life, and it’s something you should be proud of. It’s a piece of art that you’re going to carry forever, so spend as much money as you need to to make it the best possible piece for you. Your artist may come up with a design that’s a little different from what you’re thinking of, but that’s okay! They’re the professional, they know what they’re doing. If you like the work you’ve seen from them, trust them. People don’t want bad work walking around the world attached to their professional name.
Now go forth, research, look at art and get tattooed!