20 Tips For Getting Your First Tattoo

So you're thinking about getting a tattoo...

If you've ever wanted a tattoo, I want to give you some pointers and tattoo design ideas for getting your first tattoo.

  1. A tattoo lasts forever. Don't rush into your design decision and end up with a design you will regret. Join some online tattoo galleries to get ideas, and don't make an impulse decision. When in doubt, just slow down a little before you get the actual ink.
  2. If this is going to be your first tattoo, don't go big. Small tattoos can hold just as much personal expression as a large piece. Also, with only a little 'skin in the game', small tattoos are easier to work around later if you have a change of heart and need a cover-up.
  3. If you are underage, or not ready to make the permanent commitment, consider a temporary tattoo. Henna tattoos can give you an idea of how you will feel about your design and will wash off in a month or so. When you join a tattoo design gallery, you can even print out the designs and have them converted to a temporary tattoo to try out.
  4. If any of your friends have tattoos, talk to them to get an idea of how getting a tattoo was for them. Ask them questions... How much did it hurt? Who did your tattoo? Was the tattoo shop professional and clean? It's always best to talk to someone you know and trust.
  5. There are some consequences of tattos you may not have known: In some states, to control the spread of hepatitis you cannot donate blood for at least a year after getting a tattoo. There are exceptions to this rule in states that have certain hygyine regulations for the tattoo industry. If you think you may donate blood in the next year, do some homework.


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Sun tattoo designCeltic cross tattoo designDolphin tattoo design
Sun tattoo design
Sun tattoo design
Celtic cross tattoo design
Celtic cross tattoo design
Dolphin tattoo design
Dolphin tattoo design

6. YES,it's going to hurt. And, yes you will also bleed some. (It's worth it though trust me. ;-)) OK, the truth is, most locations aren't really that bad, especially if you're getting a small tattoo. It's also something of a 'good pain'. That is to say, you're enduring it for a special reason.

7. If you are religious, is getting a tattoo going to be a problem for your faith? For example, tattoos are forbidden for Jews. In fact, if someone with a tattoo converts to Judaism, they can not be buried in a Jewish cemetery unless the tattoo is removed. Some Christians, believe that getting a tattoo is contrary to God's call to honor our bodies, and are against the idea. Again, since tattoos are permanent, think about if there will be religious impacts for you.

8. Tatoos last longer than most relationships, so be wary of putting someone's name in your tattoo. You don't want your tattoo to be a constant reminder and source of heartache if your relationship doesn't last.

9. Most people, and especially people new to tattoos, should avoid getting tattoos, on their hands, neck, or head and face. In fact, most shops will refuse to do the work unless it is obvious you are already ‘in the tattoo game'.The artist knows the possible negative reaction people may have to tattoos, and placing them in a highly visible spot only increases the possibility.

The other concern with getting a hand or foot tattoo is the wear and contact that these areas of your body endure. For example, if you work with your hands, that would make a hand tattoo a poor choice. The tattoo will get distorted and would also be highly noticeable. For your feet, make sure you can commit to proper healing processes; eg. a 2-3 month process of being barefoot as much as possible and truly pampering your skin.

10. Talk with your artist about proper tattoo aftercare. Generally you should keep the tattoo bandaged overnight. Then, gently wash the area the next day. Do not scratch or rub your new tattoo. Once healed, you must use sun protection as much as possible, as the UV light will fade the colors. (This is another important consideration when determining the location of your tattoo.)

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Buddha TattooFull Sleeve TattooRealistic Heart Tattoo
Buddha Tattoo
Buddha Tattoo
Full Sleeve Tattoo
Full Sleeve Tattoo
Realistic Heart Tattoo
Realistic Heart Tattoo

11. Relax! Worrying about picking the right design, the unknown level of pain, and whether you will enjoy your tattoo, will only make these negative things come true for you. If you have done your research (reading this page!), then you will know what to expect, and you should be able to relax and enjoy the process. 

12. Take something to distract you or keep you entertained. Books, magazines, iPod, and something to drink are all good ideas. Getting a tattoo can take some time, so you want to be comfortable while you are getting inked.

Bringing a snack can also be a good idea to settle your stomach if you get queazy at the thought of needles. If you decide to get a large tattoo, you may also want to take a break and have something to eat.

Finally, bring a friend you supports your decision to get a tattoo. They can help you through the emotions of getting tattooed. 

13. If your potential artist is evasive about answering questions, find another artist. As far as it relates to tattoos, a good tattooist will be able to answer any questions you have. They should also be polite and professional. 

14. If your bandage is too sticky to remove the next day, soak it off in warm water. Don't try to rip off a stuck bandage - it might damage the skin, and it will hurt! 

15. NEW, NEW, NEW - Cleanliness is next to godliness when it comes to tattoos. Your shop should be using new pots of ink and new needles (make sure they open the packets in front of you) for every customer. The tattoo instruments themselfes should come straight from the autoclave. Anything less is risking infection. 

Zodiac Designs

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16. CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN. This means you, the artist, the shop - everything. Make sure you're not sick, and don't skip your morning shower. The artist will be working closely, and you don't want to smell spicy! The artist should also wash his hands, wear gloves, and wipe down the area to be used before you sit down. Make sure the autoclave is working, and that in general, the shop looks clean. While your tattoo is healing, if you must touch it, wash your hands first. 

17. Comparison shop. No, not for price (like most things in life, you will get what you pay for...) But, just to get a vibe or feeling from a couple artists and shops. You should feel comfortable with your artist, afterall, you are going to have your tattoo forever. 

18. Wear comfy clothes. You might need to sit down or lay in the same spot for a couple hours. If you will need to partially undress to expose the area you are getting worked on, wear clothes that make this easy for you and the artist. If you don't want to undress, you can usually lift your shirt or pants partially to reveal the needed area. In general though, tattoo artists work on half naked people everyday, so it's not a gawk fest for them. 

19. Don't drink beforehand. Not only will you regret getting a drunken tattoo, but alcohol acts as a blood thinner, which means you will bleed more than normal, and this will make the artist's job harder.

20. Think. Think about the design, style, color of your tattoo. Think about the the placement, the artist, and the shop. Do some homework, join a tattoo gallery...but once your are certain, don't second guess yourself.

Good Luck!

Hope to see you with some ink one day!!! 


Comments 23 comments

Liz Riccio 7 years ago

I'm contemplating my first tattoo and these tips have helped me a lot with my anxiety. I'm half way there.

Charna 7 years ago

100% of the stuff in "6." about Jewish cemeteries is baloney. Don't post articles about things you neither know, nor have the respect to look up. It makes you sound like an antisemite.

Chris 6 years ago

I'm gonna get a tattoo in a few weeks. Is it ok to take some painkillers before the procedure?

kara  6 years ago

Thank you, im getting my first tattoo saturday and this was very helpful to me.

ana 5 years ago

I am Jewish - and I am just letting you know that it is false that tattoos are forbidden for Jews. And that it's also false if someone with a tattoo converts to Judaism, they can not be buried in a Jewish cemetery unless the tattoo is removed. All of this is just word of mouth form Jewish mothers to keep there kids from getting tattoos. I have even talked to my rabbi about it.

Colt 4 years ago

Hey Jews, I guess u really take up for your religion. Um... before making smart ass commits to someone who is trying to help people, do a little more studying on how to spell! B-o-l-o-g-n-a!

... 4 years ago

It depends on how Jewish your rabbi is.

lashawn 4 years ago

First tattoo ever!!! Scare and excited at the same time can't wait!!!!

leslie 4 years ago


Harry Freeman 4 years ago

man, I'm gonna get a tattoo . (;

im scared a'f.

o: LOLOL .

whatta poo tang .

sexyhexy 4 years ago

Im getting a butterfly with cross and a cancer ribbon tattoo, but i just dont know where I can put it, i was thinking of my back, but on the upper left side, or on my legs, hmmm, not sure though which is better.

hiit 4 years ago

Really wonderful stuff can be found on your hub.

Ron from Fitness http://www.intervalstraining.net

hockey196 4 years ago

Hey Colt, why don't you (not "u") do a little more studying on how to spell before you make an equally smart-ass comment (not "commit"). And honestly, the writer of the article maybe shouldn't have made a generalization that getting a tattoo is wrong in all Jewish culture, but that is still absolutely no reason to call someone an antisemite. Come on, people.

hockey196 4 years ago

Besides those comments, I enjoyed the article- very helpful. Thanks!

ymlrs 4 years ago

I really appreciate your help, however I don't know what to choose, I'd like to do something related to pink floyd... Ideas?

paigepg profile image

paigepg 4 years ago from Te Anau

lol i fully didn't know like any of this stuff before i got my first tattoo (on back of my neck) a few months ago, but oh well it's all goods cause i knew i was ready for one and i don't regret it at all and i now know more for next time i get one. By the way for everyone scared of the pain don't worry too much honestly, i got told not too get it on the back of my neck for the first time cause it'd hurt too much for a tattoo newbie, but it wasn't nearly as bad as i expected 90% of the time, i fully enjoyed getting it actually it was uber exciting and the adrenalin rush blanked out most the pain and nerves. As mentioned in this article, the pain is mostly a GOOD pain (well for my tattoo experience anyway) opposed to complete torture since you know that something mint is coming out of it in the end :)

symone 4 years ago

i am so happy to get my first ttattoo

symone johnson 4 years ago

i don,t no how to tell my mom that i am go to get a tattoo . i am get my tattoo on my birthday DCE 17

XOLI 3 years ago


John 3 years ago

Am gettin first tattoo on my face,can i get numbing cream?

Matt 3 years ago

Love how half the comments are about tattoos and half are arguing the Jewish thing.. Great advice by the way, thank you.

AJewWithATattoo 3 years ago

The prohibition on tattooing in Judaism is from Leviticus 19:28-You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.- Like many things in the bible, this passage is not straight forward. Rabbis over the centuries have interpreted this passage as a general prohibition on getting tattoos. Most traditional Jewish Sects maintain this prohibition. However, in Judaism (as in most mainstream religions) there are ways to repent for past transgressions. A person who has gotten a tattoo is in the past is allowed to participate in all Jewish rituals and is allowed to be buried in a Jewish Cemetery This is the same as a Jewish person who has eaten non-kosher food, or broken Shabbat. A tattoo is just a more viable form of the past "transgression". If you ate a bacon sandwich 5 years ago, it doesn't leave a mark. A tattoo done 5 years ago is still visible. Some of the more liberal branches of Judaism have done away with the 'no tattoos' rule. That said, though the details were off, the basic point of the author still stands. For some people, it is important to think about the values and norms of your community before doing something so permanent.

baked 21 months ago

Someone should get their shlong tattooed like a shroom. That would be cool, and suck at the same time.

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