Wednesday was my last full day without tattoos. Weird, right? I live in the most inked city in the USA, and I waited until I was 25 years old! I had been thinking about getting tattoos of my two favorite ladies, my own personal Frances and Jet, the women who always make me smile no matter what; for ten years. Since I was 15, I'd been dreaming about getting something to remind myself that when I was sad, things would turn out alright.
Last gratuitous ink-free selfie! (Yes, I'm wearing a Blanche Devereaux shirt.)
In any case, mid last week I got fired. I needed a little pick-me-up from feeling bummed, so I dipped into my savings and rewarded my hard work over the last four months.
Finally, Gilda and Madeline's signatures on my wrist! I was (and still am!) elated. The artist did a terrific job, it wasn't terribly painful, and now I have my most favorite ladies with me at all times. How cool is that?
Thought I'd share my process incase anyone else (like me!) is a super tattoo newb.
TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST INK:
1. Decide what you want, and figure out if it requires a consult.
The shop I went to offered a free consult, to meet with your/an artist to discuss ideas, placement, and other shenanigans. If you're not sure, a consult would be a great time to ask all of your questions. (How long will this take? What's your hourly? Do you have a shop minimum? Will the spot I picked feel like someone's stabbing me with a rusty pickaxe?)
If your idea is also complicated, and you're mildly tech-savy, it's a good idea to throw a mockup together in Photoshop or Gimp to give the artist a better idea of what you're looking for. With me, because my designs were small and simple, I just found the signatures I liked the best, and put them on a jump drive for her to size & print at the shop.
2. Do your mother$%&#ing research!
For the right artist of course! I was really particular about who I went to. If you're looking for your piece to be done in a very specific style, do some googlin' and see who's most well known for that style in your area, or google something like "tattoo shops in (wherever you live)" and poke around through people's portfolios to see who's you like best. I wanted some tight lined script, and went to see Leslie Hero in Portland. She did an awesome job!
In Portland, it's not rare for artists to book out MONTHS in advance. Call the shop, see what the booking schedule is like for your artist. I was very lucky, as she was able to fit me in the week I called her. (Phew!)
3. Check your bank account.
Regardless of whether you want a star on your pinkie toe, or the Mona Lisa covering your entire back, you need to make sure you have the money to pay someone to do it right. Good, intricate tattoos don't come cheap, so make sure you have enough skrilla to give your artist before you book an appointment.
I set aside $100 for my work, and she only ended up charging me $80, so I left her a tip.
4. On the day of, make sure your body is ready.
Not exactly in this way...
Make sure you've had a good meal (or a meal with some complex carbs for your body to break down while you're getting tatted), make sure you're hydrated, and make sure you're not spazzing out on caffeine.
Depending on how long your design takes to be finished, your artist may offer you breaks in between. (Mine took maybe twenty minutes, and she said she would stop any time I needed.) In any case, those times would be awesome opportunities to refuel/rehydrate. Make sure you're not going to faint!
I was really nervous when I got there, so I was glad that I'd had a big bowl of cereal before I'd left my house!
5. LISTEN TO THE GODDAMN AFTERCARE INSTRUCTIONS.
After you've just paid somebody to stab needles in you and make permanent art on your body, the LAST thing you want to do is f*ck it up. Make sure you pay attention to the aftercare instructions they'll give you. Keep your new tatt clean, and don't pick at it. I have been rubbing Madeline's all day because my skin's been a little irritated, and I'm going to scrub them both when I get back to my house.
Your artist doesn't want you messing up their work, but more importantly they don't want you ruining your tattoo.
If they don't give you super detailed instructions about aftercare, or you're curious if you should be doing something else, google it. If you're not clear on something they themselves told you about, it would be easiest to call the shop and ask, or see if you can shoot them an email directly. Sometimes google can be an absolute black hole with boundless amounts of conflicting info, so if you're not sure about something it's best to check with the person who did your tattoo first if you can.
Good luck to you if you're planning on getting your first ink anytime soon, I hope you have as great of an experience as I did!