A couple of months ago, I made a big decision. Or at least it was a big decision to me. To some people, this particular decision is not a hard one at all, but for me it was.
This was the decision to get a tattoo. I’d like to write about it in the hope that my experience might help someone else with the decision process. There are a lot of good articles online, but I find them quite general and I thought I had to look about a lot for information because it wasn’t all in one place.
These are the steps I took, from start to finish. Of course this might not apply to you, getting a tattoo might mean something different to you, I’m just hoping this may help someone else.
Why should you get a tattoo?
Let’s start with a basic tip that might seem common sense to some, but isn’t always: Get a tattoo for the right reason. Don’t get one because it’s what all your friends are doing, or because you want to fit in. Don’t get one because you think you should. Get one because it’s what you want; get one because you feel its right. You’ll know when you’re ready. People get tattoos for all sorts of reason – because they feel a thrill from it; because they want to commemorate something; because they want to be expressive or creative. Whatever the reason just make sure you want the tattoo for you and no one else. I had always thought I wanted a tattoo. My Dad has lot’s of them as does my sister and my Mam even has one. Lots of my friends have them. The decider for me was when my Nana sadly passed away 4 years ago. We knew it was coming and that was when talk of getting a tattoo for her started. My Dad got one pretty much straight away, as did my cousin. I knew I wanted one, but hesitated for a number of reason including my financial situation, and because I couldn’t settle on a design.
Choosing the right tattoo
One of the most important things you should think about is of course your design. Don’t just get something that you like, get something that you love! Get something that you can picture looking at in 10 years time and still think you love it. I think it’s important to be as original as possible too. I see a lot of people walking around with the same tattoos. Fair enough if you really want that particular tattoo, but you shouldn’t get something because it’s stylish or because your favorite celebrity has it. You should get something that no one has ever seen before if you can! Or at the very least, have a design you’ve seen changed so it fits your personality, or the purpose of your tattoo. When picking my design, I had decided from the word go that I wanted a sunflower. It was my Nana’s favorite flower and so it seemed fitting. It took me four years to find a design. When I had finally decided on what I was going to get, my Dad said to me “Are you sure that’s what you want?” and responded with “Yes, I’m sick of looking and I really like this one. It’s the best one I’ve seen.” He did a quick search on his phone and said “What about this one?” and he produced this fantastic image and I knew instantly it was right. My tattooist modified it slightly to make it more personal which was even better!
Finding an artist
It should be common sense to find someone with the right credentials. Make sure you go somewhere with a license. Shop around for a bit. Don’t just go somewhere because it’s near by or because they are cheap. Go somewhere that has a good reputation. Check out their studio to make sure its clean and tidy. Look at their work so you know what they can do. One artist that can do one thing well might not be do what you’re looking for to the best standard. I choose a family friend to do mine because he had also done some of my sisters tattoos and I knew what to expect. As soon as he saw my design he was excited because it has a lot of detail considering it was my first one.
The tattoo studio I went to was Ink Monkey in Sacriston.
What to expect
No one can fully prepare you for what to expect. Everyone is different, everyone has different levels of pain threshold, plus it depends on the size of what you’re having done, if you’re having colour, what position you have to sit in. It depends on all sorts. I found it painful. Its on my left shoulder blade and pretty much covers all of it. I’m told its a high nerve area which doesn’t help. It had a lot of detail plus shading and colour. To me the colour was the worst part. The first sitting took 2 and a half hours, the second was another 2 hours, then a few months later I actually had another 2 hour (I think) sitting because it turns out that my skin doesn’t hold colour all that well!
To me the outline wasn’t so bad, kind of felt like a cat scratching sunburn. The colour was pretty intense though! At one point there were 9 tiny needles going in at once. It won’t hurt everyone, some people won’t feel it all, some people will even enjoy it. Don’t worry if it does hurt you, it doesn’t make you a wuss, only human! Some websites say there are some things you can do to prepare yourself. There is the obvious numbing cream, which I didn’t go for because it can take a long time to kick in and doesn’t always last so I didn’t see the point. Some people say taking paracetamol will help, but again its not always fast to act. All I can say is have a good meal before hand, take a sugary drink – preferably caffeine free – and breath through it. If your tattooist is any good, they will get you through it!
What you have to remember is that your tattoo will go through stages. Again not everyone is the same and it depends on size etc, so I will tell you what mine was like in the hope that it helps! Remember it is essentially an open wound, especially if you have lots of colour and detail. Some tattoos bleed, some don’t. Mine bled and it wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t faint or anything but it looked a bit icky, and in the first 20 minutes, I thought I was going to be sick. It felt like when the top of a blister comes off – wet, tight and it stung. Make sure you cover it with plenty of savlon – or whatever your tattooist recommends. I used savlon because I felt that bepanthem was too thick and that it was drawing the ink out as it would leave an outline on whatever I was using to cover it up. Make sure you cover it with some kitchen roll or something and wear old, loose fitting clothes. The night after I had had the colour put in, I didn’t cover it and my PJ top got stuck to it. When showering, use warm water only, avoid soaps, although liquid soap can be used if you feel it needs it. Be gentle and don’t get it wet for long. Don’t expose it to sunlight or anything that can spread germs. After washing, pat it dry with clean towel. After the first few days, you should start to let the air get to it. I didn’t do this at first and it took a lot longer to heal than I was expecting. Don’t let it dry out all together but if you keep it too wet it won’t heal, so even if its just half an hour a day, give it some air. Remember it’ll be red and swollen for a while, so it won’t look wonderful for a few weeks. Once it starts to go down, the dead skin will fall off. Its just like wound, remember you’ve been stabbed repeatedly with tiny needles! Some also scab over but mine didn’t. After I’d had the outline done, my skin came off in thick flakes, but after the colour it was more fine. I didn’t notice it as much. DO NOT PICK IT. Let it fall off naturally. If you pick it you risk opening it up, which can lead to infection, and you can damage the way it looks by causing scaring, and pulling the ink out. I also had a actual pains in my back for a few weeks after, but I think it was from how I was sitting whilst getting it done, or maybe just the repetitiveness of the needles caused some problems but it went after a few weeks and I never felt it again.
A few weeks after its healed, reevaluate the tattoo. See if you think it needs anything else doing to it, i.e more colour. Your tattooist won’t mind if you go back for more or to have something changed. After all its on you for life, you have to be happy with it. As mentioned previously, I went back to have more colour put into mine, I’m going back to and that was actually my tattooists idea – he’s a bit of a perfectionist!
Most importantly make sure you enjoy it, and remember that everyone is different, so my experience might not be exactly the same as yours, but I hope it at least helps you a little bit!
Thanks for reading 🙂