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Get a Tattoo the Right Way

Updated on September 17, 2008
Classic images, such as the swallow, are popular tattoos.
Classic images, such as the swallow, are popular tattoos.

To mark one's body as one's own is an old desire. Perhaps one of the more famous tattooed celebrities is Otzi the Ice Man, whose body was discovered frozen on a mountain between Italy and Austria. He lived 5000 years ago and was covered in 57 tattoos-mostly simple dots and lines. It is unknown how tattooing was discovered-it has been speculated that it was accidental. Soot or dirt was rubbed into a wound and the mark remained after the wound healed. Whatever the case, the ability to decorate our skin has captivated us for thousands of years.

The invention of the electric tattoo machine by Thomas Edison in 1876 changed the previous method of hand poking each dot individually. Originally intended as an engraving device, Samuel O'Reilly added the tube and needle system in 1891, and the modern tattoo machine was born. The familiar buzz known to tattooists and tattooees was born, and as the machine has evolved over the years, so has the ability to introduce a level of detail and beauty into tattoos that was previously impossible.

  • The best tattoo advice: think it through. For the rest of your life, that rose will be peeking over your shoulder; that eagle will be soaring across your chest. You sure you want it? Great. The next step is research. Finding the right artist for the job is of the utmost importance. This is proven by such sites as, which collects images of some of the most botched work out there. Surely you don't want that mermaid to look like a banana? You certainly don't want the tattoo ink to fall out leaving a faded, amorphous mass that was once a demon. And you don't want to be scarred by an inept tattooist. A good tattoo is artistically attractive (this is subjective-you decide whose work you like), cleanly executed, and should not scar at all.

Celebrity Artist Kat Von D

You don't need a famous tattooist to give you a good tattoo. Many artists are just as good, but without the famous name (this comes with a lower price though!).
You don't need a famous tattooist to give you a good tattoo. Many artists are just as good, but without the famous name (this comes with a lower price though!).
  • Look at tattoo portfolios. If you want a dragon tattoo, don't look for someone with a dragon in their portfolio. If they are a good artist, they will be versatile. Look for clean lines, strong colors, and good healing-i.e., no scarring. Some ink may fall out in the healing process-red is a particularly difficult ink to get under the skin-but any good tattooist will touch up their own work for free a month or so after it has healed. Remember, the tattooist wants the piece to be beautiful too!
  • Bring your ideas and art. First off, any art you can provide is helpful. If you want a Gerber daisy tattoo, find some pictures of the flower that you like. It doesn't have to be exact-a good artist will be able to modify a picture to fit your desires, but it helps to have a starting point.
  • Do not haggle with a tattooist! Again, do not haggle! Tattooists have worked long and hard to become as skilled as they are, and they are worth the money. This is something you want forever, and it is worth paying for. Like everything else, you get what you pay for, and just as a $200 car won't be as nice a ride as a $2000 one, the cost of the tattoo is often proportional to the skill of the artist. Make an appointment, show up, be nice. If there's something you don't like in the art that the tattooist has drawn, speak up, but be specific. Don't make them labor under vague instructions ("I don't really like the feet."), instead, give them direction ("Can we make the feet smaller?").

  • Try to suck it up. Tattooing hurts, there's no way around it. Eat a full meal before you go in, and if you start to feel light-headed, tell your tattooist. Drink water, and sugar can be helpful-lollipops or gum are good to have on hand. It may seem like a good idea to moan and yell when you're hurting, but watch this video and see how annoying and silly it seems from the outside.
  • TIP. Upon completion of the tattoo, tip your tattooist. It's good form. Most tattooists work on a percent basis with the shop and will be handing over a large amount of the cost of the tattoo to the shop owner, so tip! That money is all theirs and will make them happy to see you if you come back for more work.
  • Heal. After getting a tattoo, leave the bandage on overnight. This is important to prevent scabbing. The next morning, wash it with soap and water. Tattoo aftercare instructions vary widely, but many tattooist believe that letting your body heal naturally is the best way. Wash with soap and water a few times a day, keep it out of the sun, and avoid the ocean and swimming pools. Avoid using antibiotic creams-if you're washing properly, it isn't necessary to introduce more goop to your tattoo. After a few days, when it is flakey, dry, and tight, use unscented lotion. As mentioned before, any ink that falls out during healing will probably be happily touched up by your tattooist-maybe before he or she takes a picture of the masterpiece to add to their portfolio!


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      Mercy 3 years ago

      Although I admire the snienmett and have a similiar experience lurking in the back recesses of a long vanished past, I must say that it looks rather biblical to me. The white mark coming up the middle appears to be the ghostly pillar of a cross and the lettering is classic middle american christian. The Initials are a bit baffling I will admit. Perhaps standing for Christ's Will or perhaps your artist had a lisp and he thought he was crafting Christ Rules! I do not know such mysteries are rarely revealed to the uninitiated.But I am glad to see such a dear friend so moved to such depths of dedication. I look forward to seeing the rest of the transformation.Love and respect (despite the tat remarks) as alwaysLyle

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      Jianhui 3 years ago

      I bought the225k ebook somimete last year and read everything back to back,took action on it and today,i can say thank you to the writers of the book.Get yours today and see it for yourself. Its going to be worth your time and money