Based on personal experience (six of them), here are a few things to keep in mind when getting your first tattoo.
By Kevin Cordon, UC Irvine
First off, I’d like to throw a disclaimer out there.
By no means am I a tattoo expert, and no, I’m not covered in ink like this guy. I’m just a regular guy that happens to have tattoos, and has spent a decent amount of time in a tattoo shop, because I have a friend that draws art on peoples’ skin for a living.
I don’t know if it’s a trend that’s blowing up in 2017, but lately I’ve been getting a lot of people asking me about what it’s like to get a tattoo. I have no idea why I’m the spokesperson for tattoos, but I thought I’d try to share what I’ve learned from my experiences of getting tattoos and being in a shop.
Let’s answer the first and most obvious question first. Yes. It does hurt. There’s no getting around that simple fact. You can try topical creams, meditation or copious amounts of alcohol and drugs, but it’ll still hurt. Just think about it. Tattooing your body consists of a needle on the end of a gun, repeatedly penetrating your skin at a fast pace; there’s no way that’s not going to hurt.
However, there definitely are places on the body where it’s going to hurt more than others. For example, any tattoos on areas like the arm, leg or back are going to hurt less than those on more sensitive areas with a lot of nerve endings like the hands, feet or head.
So if you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, definitely start with a place on your body that won’t be a brutal test of your pain endurance. Instead, start with an area that will produce an amount of pain that you know you can handle, which will build your confidence to get another if you wish to do so.
Everybody has a different tolerance level when it comes to pain, but one thing I can guarantee is that the fear of the pain is worse than the pain itself. If you’re considering going under the needle and the only factor holding you back is the pain, I’d recommend going to see someone else get tattooed if the opportunity presents itself.
Watching somebody else go through the pain just allows you to get more acclimated to the process and demystify some of the mystique behind being repeatedly stabbed with a needle gun. It eases the nerves and builds the courage up to finally get it done!
Before you set foot in a shop for yourself though, make sure you’ve done your research and picked something you know you really want. There are a ton of different styles of tattoos and if you have your heart set on something specific, scour Instagram and social media for an artist that specializes in what you’re looking for.
Whatever you do, don’t end up in some shady dude’s garage getting tattooed by a homemade gun. Find yourself a nice shop with a professional tattoo artist. Yes, it will cost you a pretty penny, but it’s definitely worth it considering you’re paying for a piece of art that will be on your body forever.
Once you’ve crossed the threshold and entered the shop for a tattoo of your own, there’s no turning back. I mean technically you could, but that’s not a good look, so I’d recommend just taking a seat and getting ready for the ride.
One of the most important things that artists want during a tattoo session is for you to be comfortable. They don’t want you squirming in the chair or complaining that your foot is falling asleep every five minutes, so before they begin hurting you, make sure you’re in a comfortable position.
I’ve seen tons of things people do to distract themselves from the pain. Some people talk, others listen to music and I’ve even seen a person fall asleep while getting tattooed. Personally, I’ve been lucky enough to be tattooed many times by one of my good friends, so we just crack beers, talk and make the time fly by.
Just remember it’s going to last awhile, possibly multiple hours depending on what you’re getting, so find something to get you to your happy place.
Most people I see listen to music and close their eyes, or just sit and talk to the artist, who usually has words of encouragement and can talk you through it. I’ve never had anything bad to say about any artist I’ve ever met.
They’re some of the nicest and most interesting people ever, and if you talk to them, they’ll surely tell you some crazy stories because more often than not, they’ve seen some crazy shit. Oh and be nice, because there’s nothing more awkward than pissing off the person that is in charge of creating a beautiful piece of art on your skin.
Enough talk about pain and the negatives, because the feeling of looking at a tattoo when it’s done is one of the most gratifying feelings in the world, and therein lies the problem. It’s like a high, and watching your body art heal and look better and better makes you want more. After my first, I began to look at my remaining skin as empty space and immediately began brainstorming ideas for more.
I now have six and am still looking to get many more, only limited by my recurring cash flow problem. I know I’m not the only one though. I mean, how many people do you see with just one tattoo? None. Once people get one, they realize the pain isn’t as bad as they imagined and are ready for more.
Overall, the most important things to remember when considering getting a tattoo are to make sure you really know what you want, find someone who can do what you want well and enjoy the process. When you do those things, you’ll have an end product you can be proud of and a story to tell when somebody asks you about getting a tattoo.