How To Ink: The Man’s Guide To Getting Your First Tattoo
Getting your first tattoo is quite a step. It’s a rite of passage into a world of shared experience. As soon as you have your first tattoo, you’ve got a connection with other’s who’ve been through the same process and endured the same pain. Your boss and your parents may not approve, but the world of permanent ink isn’t just for drunken sailors and people slangin dope. You see meaningful art on people of all sorts of backgrounds–and you want to stand out and cooly state something just as they are. But before you get that cryptic Japanese symbol or your grandma’s face tattooed on your bicep, it’s important you do your research before getting your first tattoo.
I’ve waited a long time to finally get some ink. Do you remember in the 90′s when people were getting those awesome tribal bands tattooed on their upper arms? Yeah, if I had gotten a tattoo at 17 that would have been it. 5 years ago I would have gotten my very own Asian script upon my arm or shoulder. What I thought was cool then I thought was cool merely because of the trend.
I want something that’s unique to me, that’s unlikely to be repeated. It’s important to me that I don’t get something inked that 10 years from now I’m not going to like anymore. Or I’ll look around and realize everyone else got it. So I made these 4 rules before I would seal the deal and get a tattoo.
First Tattoo Rules
1. Don’t get something novelty.
Make sure it means something to you. What does it say to you and about you?
Close to something or someone? Get a tattoo that symbolizes that relationship. Is there a statement that’s meaningful to you? Represent it.
Love cats? Then shoot yourself in the face and don’t get a tattoo.
2. Get something timeless.
What symbol, image, artwork or words will still hold meaning to you 100 years from now? I’m not messing around. I want to live to 120, so whatever I get better be meaningful for a longgg time.
3. It should be a reminder.
What is a life-changing moment or season in your life that you often look back at? Something that really changed you? Is there something or someone that you’d want represented as a reminder?
4. Whatever the tattoo is, I have to want it for a REALLY long time.
Over the years I’ve wanted different tattoos, but then months or years later I’m glad I didn’t get them. So two years of wanting the same tattoo had to pass. Only after having wanted it this long-without changing-was I willing to commit to getting my first tattoo.
Getting Your First Tattoo Tips
So what’s next? If you’re convinced of getting your first tattoo and know what it is, here’s tips on what to do next.
Pick Your Art/Words
Before even considering pricing, first tattoo parlor location, or anything else, decide upon what you want. There can be wiggle room later–but know what you want. If you walk into a place saying you want a few words, but don’t know what they are or where they’ll go, you’ll frustrate your tattoo gatekeeper.
What genre of art do you want? Have you looked at at least 50 different tattoos that are just like there? Where would they located on the body? How big? Were they in color?
If you go with words–spellcheck. Show them to a friend and make sure your first tattoo is spelled right!
If you want an original piece of art drawn up just for you, gather pictures of the genre of art to show to an artist. Think of really specific words that describe what you want. Write them down, and even make a rough sketch yourself. Many tattoo artists will prefer inking art they’ve personally drawn, but they aren’t necessarily going to be opposed to doing a piece you’ve seen elsewhere.
If that all seems like a lot, don’t be afraid to keep it simple when getting your first tattoo.
Pick Your Art’s Location
Where do you want the tattoo to go? Hands, face and neck are typically a bad idea unless you’re willing to limit yourself professionally. Getting full sleeves would be pretty badass. But then you might be stuck wearing long sleeve shirts the rest of your life in the office.
I want tattoos located or arranged in unique, but not completely odd ways. Feel free to play it safe getting that “I Love You Mom” tattoo on your shoulder. Or you could have something different running down the side of your arm that people haven’t thought to place there before.
Pick Your Script (Font)
You’ve got to pick something you like. Don’t pick something you don’t. Try to find something timeless if you can. Right now we’re on the bottom end of guys getting konji or Japanese lettering for tattoos. That was pretty awesome, unique, and rare 10 years ago. Now it’s a bit of an after-statement. Don’t just follow the trend, find your own unique style that is YOU that you’ll be proud of when you’re all wrinkled and nasty.
Not Just Any Artist
Ask around and read reviews. Make sure the tattoo parlor you go to is well-reviewed, and that you have seen the artists work. Make sure that artist is good at the type of art you want.
If you’re going for lettering, don’t think that is simpler than art. In it’s own way, getting lettering done is more demanding and restrictive than art. Your tattoo artist will put a stencil on you for him/her to follow, but they still have to be perfect in filling it in. See the work they’ve done and make sure you’re confident in their steady hands.
Don’t go cheap
I’ll go cheap buying a car before I go cheap permanently making artwork out of myself. If there’s anything you go cheap on in life, don’t let it be on an investment like tattoos.
Depending on where you live, good work usually works out to be $100-$200 an hour.
Drinking booze thins the blood. And you don’t want extra bleeding while you’re getting your first tattoo. It’ll only make it tougher for the artist to get the art right.
A bit of liquid confidence has made many a man make stupid decisions in his life. Don’t drink and make a permanent one.
You’re gonna suffer
Getting tattoos is not pain free. It’s going to take some pain and sweat on your part. That’s why I prefer getting tattoos in the winter. At least I won’t be doubling my discomfort.
I found this helpful Tattoo Pain Chart for you tattoo virgins out there. For getting your first tattoo, I suggest getting something small or medium sized in a lower pain zone.
For my first tattoos I got something on my chest and upper arm. While getting inked, as the tattoo artist got closer to writing on my sternum, I was in some pain. On my upper arm, work that I got done in the fold of my arm over my veins wasn’t actually that bad. Artists are good at starting at the least painful zone, and working on up. By the time they were inking on top of my veins, I kind of was already numb.
Follow aftercare instructions
Don’t neglect to take care of your tattoo. After my first tattoos a friend of mine told me “you heal like a god.” An hour after I was inked they were convinced I’d gotten fake tattoos because there wasn’t swelling or blood. Chalk that up to a great artist.
Make sure you use baby ointment or whatever the parlor suggests you put on your tattoo–and put it on twice a day. Gently wash the tattoo each day. Expect that you might bleed a little the first night, but beyond that bloody sheets shouldn’t be a problem.
Getting your first tattoo?
If you’re getting your first tattoo, don’t fear. Know what you want. Want it for a really long time. Do your research. Look at a wide range of art. Know that it’s meaningful, save up some money, find your artist and seal the deal.