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Under the Needle

What to consider when getting your first Tattoo

words by: Alee Kwong
Jan 13, 2021

You finally decided that you want a tattoo. After years of arguing with yourself, you’ve realized that this is what you want and you’ve let go of the fear of regretting it when you get older. You talked to your parents about it and they agreed not to disown you so long as it is relatively tasteful and not offensive. All bases are practically covered and now comes the part that is exciting and equally anxiety-inducing. It’s time to choose what you want to get inked on your body forever.

 

Some people just know what they want to put on their body and know exactly where they want to put it. I envy those who can visualize so quickly and with such certainty. For many of us, the process of trying to find a design is maybe more painful than the tattoo itself, not to mention the design for your very first tattoo. The good news is that tattoo culture is not nearly as intimidating and surly as it once was. Sure, some high profile tattoo joints are going to have an air of “don’t waste my time.” That being said, there’s no shortage of great local tattoo shops that have a neighborhood feel to them and are home to artists that treat every session like a collaboration.

 

Your first tattoo’s design might not have a backstory to it (or maybe it does, you know, do you!), but it’s still your first. While I have tattoos that are my favorite, I dubbed them “my favorite children,” there are so many times I find myself looking at my inner right forearm fondly and reminiscing about my first tattoo session back in San Francisco. As someone who used to worry about regretting my tattoos, I have compiled a short and concise list of things to be mindful of when you are preparing for your tattoo.

 

1. You can’t go wrong with a geometric pattern

Geometric patterns or a geometric take on a design you are thinking about are two great ways to keep things simple and clean. In my opinion, the best thing about starting off with a geometric pattern is that if you want to get more detailed art in the future, it won’t clash. Now, some people don’t care about the clashing designs but this list is not for those who live freely and without worry. This list is for people who get anxious before making huge decisions.

 

2. Finding a tattoo artist is KEY

Not to be dramatic, but I feel like finding the right tattoo artist is like finding the right hairstylist. Ideally, you want someone who understands your vision and is open to creating a dialogue with you. They care about your comfort and are there to provide education and advice (should you ask for it). I’ve gotten nearly all my tattoos from the same tattoo artist and have known her for almost 10 years now. This isn’t something that you HAVE to do, but I enjoy the relationship that I have with my tattoo artist. Now, I just tell her that I trust her enough to come up with whatever design she wants because she knows my style and she knows that I not only appreciate her input, but I also appreciate her artwork.

 

3. It’s ok to ask questions

I sound like a broken record but you need to be able to have a comfortable discussion with your tattoo artist. Yes, it’s technically a transaction where you exchange money for goods/services, but getting a tattoo is an extremely personal process and it’s a creative endeavor that is, again, a collaboration between the artist and client. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask questions and ask for feedback. Tattoo artists are still artists. You are going to be walking around with their work on your body for a long time, so they want it to look good as much as you do!

 

As I am here getting excited for you to get your first tattoo, I am also speaking from a place of nostalgia. The first tattoo, at least in my experience, was such an important event. The time you spend preparing for it, the relationship you carve with the artist, and the glow you feel on the inside when you see the finished product is something that is indescribable. I can’t guarantee that you’ll stop after your first one. More likely than not, you’re on your way down the dark path of many more to come.

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