Getting Your First Tattoo? Read This First

Getting “ink done” for the first time can be extremely intimidating. Getting tattoos used to be the realm of musclebound men and military types but now everybody and their dog has one. (Please don’t tattoo your dog, it isn’t cool.) But if you are tempted to get your first piece done, here is what you need to know.

The environment

It can be intimidating when you first walk into the majority of tattoo parlours. They tend to have a similar vibe. You will hear the buzz of needles, there will probably be fairly loud rock music playing and everywhere around you will be pictures of skulls. Do not worry, the chances of these people ritually sacrificing you are probably fairly minimal.

The people

Once again for those who have led a bit of a sheltered life having someone with facial tattoos come to the main desk and ask you what you want could leave you wanting to run like a scalded dog. Please try and remember these are just people. Many tattoo artists learn by drawing on themselves. So don’t be surprised if they have most of their body covered in ink, it’s how they learned their craft.

Do your leg work

For your first piece do some research. Find a sample picture online and know what size you want it to be. Go in and have a chat with them or drop an artist a Facebook message. Feel free to ask for a price in advance. Make sure you have seen some of the artwork of the person doing the tat. You need to feel confident that the person is skilled enough as, to spout the oft used cliché, it is permanent! The last thing you want is your babies name misspelt!


Make sure you have a big meal before the appointment. There is a good reason for this. Some people do faint when having a tattoo and that’s understandable. It is quite painful, it can bleed a fair bit and your body will crave sugar. A big meal will help with this. Also, a fizzy drink for when it is getting done will help with any dizziness.

The pain factor

People always want to know how much it hurts. When I got my first one done I was petrified. Obviously, people have different thresholds for pain. There are two sensations I have experienced. Firstly when they are drawing outlines. This feels like quite a deep and repeated scratching, like a cat scratch. It’s not quite as painful as an injection but not far off. When they are shading their work the sensation is slightly different. It feels less like scratching and gives more of a burning sensation. This feels a lot easier if you have an artist who likes to chat as the distraction helps take away the pain.

When the job is done

The artist will wrap you in some cling film. Take this off after a couple of hours and give it a wash. The next couple of weeks are crucial for making sure the piece looks good. You need to “take care of it” now. Firstly keep it clean. This is important because it can get infected and that can be nasty.

Secondly, keep it moist. It will effectively scab over and may look a bit dull for a while. This is perfectly normal. Do not pick at it! Apply cocoa butter to keep it moist. You don’t need loads, about a pea sized application for a “palm-sized” piece.

Don’t soak it, if you usually do baths switch to showers for a while, baths can draw the ink out and leave your piece looking faded. And the number one rule – don’t scratch it, this can damage the piece. Once the skin feels like the rest of your skin again you are set. Congratulations on your new tattoo.

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