Walking through the doors of a tattoo shop is a different experience for each of us. There are the seasoned vets, who come in knowing exactly what they want, where they want it and what to expect. They love the familiar smell of green soap and usually (hopefully) all of the familiar faces, they are ready to get inked. Then you have the first timers, with virgin skin, testing the waters of these imposing unfamiliar environments.
However, what should our newbie un-tattooed masses be prepared to expect and what can you do to not feel like everything is going way too quickly or you have no control over this new experience?
The first thing that you should probably address is your expectations for the tattoo. Skin as a medium works quite differently to a flat piece of paper, there are curves bumps and folds, each part of the body is a tapered tube. The design needs to fit the body and a good artist will design the tattoo to flow with the shape of your body. Ink does not sit on the surface of the skin, it sits underneath it, so the colors and shades that you pick will change depending on the sheer amount of melatonin in your skin.
So as a canvas what can you do to prepare for your tattoo?
Short answer: Research!
It may seem obvious, however in my experience there are too many people that walk into the shop with no idea what they want or if they do know what they want, they haven’t looked at tattoo styles similar or even the same as what they desire. Quite often artists are peering at a Smartphone screen of some award winning tattoo done at a convention, or a Google image of something that looks great on the screen, however we know that it would just all bleed into a solid black blob eventually.
Great tattoos are ones that will pass the test of time, stay in the skin and will still look great in the skin ten years later, even more so with that ‘lived in’ look that great tattoos get. Japanese traditional tattoos are more popular today than they ever were, purely due to the longevity of the tattoo. Bold lines, solid blacks and saturated colors leave you with a tattoo that will look great for the rest of your life. Your skin constantly regenerates and ink moves around settles in and all eventually fades, this unfortunately means that some of these amazing realistic soft shaded masterpieces we see today will fade out after a short time and need constant maintenance.
So, now you know this do your tattoo homework and when you have decided what it is that you want to permanently put onto your body (yes, the forever kind), start looking at styles and designs that you find the most attractive, figure out where you want your tattoo, then go visit an artist.
At this point it’s probably important to let you know about a simple truth; tattoo artists want your money!
Some artists are a little more obvious about it than others; however every single artist works for cash and some use nefarious tactics to get it, they will pressure you to get something that you aren’t 100% happy with and force styles that you may not want on you. Don’t be bullied! As tattoo artists we are in a service industry, we are supposed to cater to our customers and not the other way around. If at any point you are not happy with what the tattoo artist is proposing, even half-undressed with a stencil on, you can stop the process and reset it. This pretty picture is going to live with you for the rest of your life, the artist watches it walk out of the door and doesn’t have to look at it every day! Take time to look at the positioning of the stencil, flex your muscles twist your appendages around look close and stand away from the mirror. Yes, these things may seem obvious, however you would be surprised by the amount of people that just take a cursory glance at the stencil and go ‘ok’.
Don’t be scare of the tattoo shop or its staff. I know that there are angry looking people with tattoos on their necks and they look like a bunch of bad-asses. Illlet you into a little secret. Remember those kids from high-school that were kinda nerdy, watched way too much star wars, or were drawing in a sketchbook in the back during English. Yeah, those kids! Those are the kind of people that are drawn into tattooing. There are way more nerdy friendly tattoo artists in the world than tough biker types and we are all willing to spend a considerable amount of time talking to genuinely serious people who are planning their next tattoos.