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How to Pick Your First Tattoo

Updated on April 20, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney is an expert on piercings and tattoos, with experience in the body modification world.

Getting a Tattoo

One of the most popular questions regarding tattoos is "What should I get for my first tattoo?"

Other questions may include:

  • How do I care for a tattoo? Tattoo Aftercare Tips
  • Will it hurt? Depends on the placement and you pain tolerance, but yes, at least a little.
  • Where should I get my tattoo? Personal preference; it's up to you where you want your tattoo, as no one can tell you where to get a tattoo, only give you suggestions. But, if you don't like them, it's all your choice. It's your body.

But, as for what should you get for your first tattoo, that's going to be your decision to make. It's best that your tattoo, especially your first one, is going to be well thought out. When deciding on the perfect design for your first tattoo, make sure that you consider everything, especially if you don't already have a specific design or idea in mind, because you want your tattoo to mean something to you. You never want to regret a tattoo.

Below, you'll find a few tips that should help you decide what you want your first tatto. Just remember that with any design, you should always try to put your own twist to it, making it your own.

Butterfly Tattoos

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Tattoo Designs

You can pick one of the thousands of pictures that may appear on the walls, you can design your own, or you can alter one of the pictures you found at the tattoo shop or online, making it more unique and personal.

You can choose from one of the main categories of tattoos:

  • Tribal Tattoos
  • Celtic Tattoos
  • Animal Tattoos
  • Sci-Fi Tattoos
  • Geek Tattoos
  • Portrait Tattoos

You could even decide upon a black light UV tattoo, which is only prominent under black light.

Some of the more common first tattoos may include:

  • Stars
  • Wings
  • Kanji
  • Crosses
  • Names/Words
  • Dragons
  • Butterflies
  • Skulls

But, when it comes down to it... Your first tattoo, and what it should be depends on you...

Lettering Tattoos

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Choosing a Tattoo

When choosing a tattoo, you want to consider a few things.

1. Why do you want the tattoo?

  • Your first tattoo should be meaningful. It should be to express a time, thing, or experience in your life that you felt made an change or impact on you.
  • Never get your first tattoo because of someone else or because you're finally of age to get one without permission from a parent or guardian.
  • Consider every possible reason as to why you think you want a tattoo before actually getting one?

2. How will the tattoo placement affect your job?

3. The design.

  • Did you or someone else you know, love, and care about, design the tattoo?
  • Did you pick the tattoo from a picture?
  • Is the design meaningful to you?
  • Is the design perfect? (To you)

4. The placement.

  • Do you want it visible daily?
  • Do you want the tattoo to stay hidden?
  • Do you want the tattoo to be partially visible, or visible at certain times (seasonal)?
  • Consider your body with its own curves.

5. Choose the right artist.

  • Some artists specialize in a style of tattoo.
  • Get recommendations.
  • Consider prices.
  • The experience of the artist.

Kanji Tattoos

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Before You Get A Tattoo

If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, there is one very important thing you have to keep in mind: getting it done safely. Although it might look a whole lot cooler than a big scab, a new tattoo is, also, a wound. Like any other slice, scrape, puncture, cut, or penetration to your skin, a tattoo is at risk for infections.

Make sure that you are up to date on your immunizations, and go ahead and plan where you'll get medical care in case your tattoo becomes infected.

If you have a medical problem such as heart disease, allergies, diabetes, skin disorders, a condition that affects your immune system, or other infections, or if you are pregnant, ask your doctor if there are any special concerns you should have or precautions you should take before getting a tattoo.

If you're prone to getting keloids it's probably best to avoid getting a tattoo.

It's important to make sure the tattoo studio is clean and safe, and that all if the equipment is disposable and sterilized. You may want to ask for recommendations on licensed tattoo shops, or check for any complaints about a particular tattoo shop.

Professional tattoo shops usually take pride in their cleanliness. Here are some things to check for:

  • An autoclave- a device that uses steam, pressure, and heat for sterilization procedures.
  • Check that the tattoo artist is licensed. If so, the tattoo artist should be able to provide you with references.
  • Be sure that the tattoo shop follows the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Universal Precautions.

If the studio looks unclean, if anything looks out of the ordinary, or if you feel in any way uncomfortable, find another shop to get your tattoo.

Star Tattoos

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A Tattoo is Forever

One of the things that may be holding you back from getting your first tattoo is the permanence of the ink in your skin.

Tattoos last forever unless you can afford laser tattoo removal or other tattoo removal methods, such as Tat-B-Gone.

So, when choosing a tattoo, make sure that it's what you really want to express and how you want to express it.

Make sure that your first tattoo is something that you don't regret.

By taking into consideration the above thoughts, you should be able to make the decision without regrets. Just make sure that you make your first tattoo meaningful to you and not just picture on a wall.

Click thumbnail to view full-size


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    • profile image

      Boobaby 6 years ago

      I'm 16 nd I already have the design of my tattoo my parents r fine with it I just wanna get it now since it feels like the right time

    • profile image

      Jaee 6 years ago

      I got my first tattoo right over my hand at 16 my 2sd on my leg at 16 my 3rd on my ankle at 17 and now I'm getting one on my side at 18 but I'm scared never did like needles.My brother says get the tattoo mid day and take to pain relievers right before would that work even a little or is that a over exceeded myth.

    • Alayne Fenasci profile image

      Alayne Fenasci 6 years ago from Louisiana

      I have chosen a rather simple font for three words I want tattooed on my foot. Considering aftercare, would it be smarter to have this done in summer when my feet would be covered by socks and shoes less often? Or could I pursue it in the winter provided I use an appropriate covering for it beneath my socks and shoes?

    • profile image

      Gaby 6 years ago

      Once i'm 18 i'm gonna get my brothers name, Jonathan, tattooed on my wrist in handwriting. (He died 3 years ago). Underneath his name i either wanna get Tiffany (his girlfriend who also died) or the verse 2 Samuel 1:26.

    • profile image

      Tamara 6 years ago

      I'm 17, but my parents are okay with the idea of me getting a tattoo. I want to get a phoenix on the small of my back that looks sort of tribal. I go through a lot of stuff, but in the end I always come out victorious. That's why I want the phoenix. I hope I can find someone who can give me what I want.

    • profile image

      Jess 7 years ago

      I want to get a tattoo soon. I'm 18 years old and have wanted one ever since I was about 15, but I'm still not sure what exactly I'm going to get. I moved away from all my family and friends last year, so I'm considering getting "I wish you were here" on my left clavicle, in the front. But again, I'm not really sure.

    • profile image

      Nekole 7 years ago

      I've wanted several tattoos since I was 14... I'm 17 (18, July 9th) now.

      I've wanted one on the inside of my wrist, back of neck and when I lose weight, on my hip. I've wanted something in chinese on my wrist for a few years, but could never decide what until recently when working on a project for my art class.... I decided on "Remember Forever"... I want it on my wrist in Arabic, not chinese like I had originally been thinking. Arabic is a very pretty language, and I never want to forget who I am, and how I got here, and having that saying inked on my skin forever, in a place that I will see many times a day will help me remember that.

      I'm thinking the text will be in a royal purple color, and between 1 inch-1/2 inch tall. I'm also determined to get this tattoo as my 18th birthday present for myself (will get it on my birthday).

    • profile image

      Emily 7 years ago

      i love tattoos.. the minute that i turn 18 i am getting at least 4.. im not sure of but im getting them..

      any suggestions????

    • profile image

      mehman361 7 years ago

      I want to get a tat of a tattered cross with a gravestone in front of it that has R.I.P and my grandmas birth date and death date. I want to get it on my arm. This would be my first. My brother has seven and said that depending on the artist it was gonna cost me. Do you have a rough estimate on the cost?

    • profile image

      mehman361 7 years ago

      I want to get a tat of a tattered cross with a gravestone in front of it that has R.I.P and my grandmas birth date and death date. I want to get it on my arm. This would be my first. My brother has seven and said that depending on the artist it was gonna cost me. Do you have a rough estimate on the cost?

    • profile image

      Gary 7 years ago

      I'm considering getting a tribal tattoo on both my right and left arms. I'm an older gentlemen and want to do this "before I die" --- it's on my "bucket list".

      Also, have considered a 3rd large tribal one on my back.

    • profile image

      david 7 years ago

      im wondering if anyone here ever seen the TCB in a flash logo (elvis), i like this desing for my second tat because it kind of reminds you of what you can do with your life.. anyway. cheers.

    • profile image

      Emily 7 years ago

      I would like to get a tattoo of a strawberry, my only concern is that I have a metal allergy and I've heard that some inks can cause problems with that. I'm hoping that there is a red ink that doesn't contain metal so that I can have this because that is really the design that I fell in love with so it would feel kinda second best to get anything else instead. I wouldn't want a tattoo for the rest of my life that wasn't really what I wanted you know, I guess if there isn't an allergy safe red ink yet I'll just have to do without until there is one.

    • profile image

      dennis 7 years ago

      my name is dennis and i own a dennis the menace bobblehead i wanna get him tattoed on my arm with the cowlick and red suspender's lmao

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      I wouldn't recommend going to small. The smaller your letters the faster they will fade and blur. I have seen many people get text and words rather small in designs. Although the overall tattoo looks great, it's hard to read the words. An old friend of mine did that. She got a poem or something tattooed in a spiral oval on her side. You can't really read the words unless you concentrate, and it's not because it's in a spiral, it's because of the size.

      Try to break up the lines if you can. I know it's not how the poem is written, but if you can break it up. If it's only a part of the poem that you would prefer, then focus on just that one part.

      The size will vary, but I wouldn't go past about a quarter of an inch per letter. Remember that the font will also have a factor on the readability of the words.

    • profile image

      tattoo poem 8 years ago

      i want to get part of a poem on my back which means a lot to me. there is only one problem, the phrase i want is quite long but i want to know how small i can have the text before the lettering is too hard to read.


    • profile image

      tom 8 years ago

      i am look at getting a tattoo some time next week and was set on a design of a dragon fighting at Phoenix which was to represent my moving jobs and houses but after reading some of the coments on this blog and others i have started to would about other designs am i doing something wrong?

      the pain is also some thing that i was worryed about but it not something i am willing to let stop me from getting one

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      I have never heard this. If this were true, then a lot of women are out of luck because there are many with full back tattoos and partial back tattoos around this area. There's no reason why you can't get a shot where a tattoo is, and for the most part, that's what an epidural is.

    • profile image

      BreBre 8 years ago

      Ive been thinking about getting a tattoo for awhile now of angel wings with a star in between to represent my mother and father on my lower back. But ive also heard that if your tattoo is in a certain spot on your back you wouldn't be able to get an epidermal once your pregnant. Could you ask the artist to somehow manuver around that area ?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      It is good to think about these things before you take the plunge. I have a blog post (link below) that has a few tips for temporarily covering up a tattoo. The issue will be covering up a new tattoo before it's fully healed because you won't be able to put makeup on a new tattoo, and it's not a good idea to bandage it bc it'll need to breath.

    • profile image

      samsam 8 years ago

      i want to get a tattoo on my neck of a celtic trinity. it's the same as my moms and i want to get it because although my mother and i have a rocky relationship i want her to know that i love her and respect our heritage. the whole issue isn't cost or pain, its my job, although im studying for a career in fashion my current job doesn't allow visible ink. is there any makeup or kind of cover i could use with out applying a pound of foundation, wearing a band-aid or ruining the tattoo? i wanted to know i have a back up plan before i get it.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      A good tattoo artist can do whatever you want them to do, so yes there shouldn't be a problem copying one half to double on the other side. Just let the artist know what you want and he can tell you if he can do it or if someone else in the shop may be more qualified to do that particular piece better than the one you're talking to. As for the autoclave spore test, that's going to be a hard one. If you're going to a reputable tattoo shop it shouldn't be any question or doubt that everything is new and sterile. Generally as long as the needles and jewelry are still in their package, they are new from.

    • profile image

      Kris 8 years ago

      I have a few questions if you can help me out;

      Would most tattoo artists be capable of 'mirroring' (copying from symmetry) half of a tattoo design to create the final desired outcome?

      Many artists excel in a few specific areas, how would I express my desire for a certain expertise, say feathers or fur or lettering, and would this be a common occurrence for the shop?

      Finally, how would you recommend putting an inquiry of the autoclave spore test, and other sanitation procedures without stepping on any proud toes?

      Thank you very much for your time, and help.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      No. the longest temporary tattoo is a henna tattoo (which I am currently writing a hub about), but they only last about 3 weeks or until they fade away.

    • Abhishek87 profile image

      Abhishek87 9 years ago from India

      But isn't there some kind of tattoo which you can have for as long as you want and then get it removed cheaply too :P

    • JPSO138 profile image

      JPSO138 9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      Very informative indeed. I really love reading this. I do not have any tattoo but perhaps will be having one soon.

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 9 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Nice info and great pics. I myself would never get a tattoo. But I have to say I love to see them on other people. It's intriguing. Especially ones that aren't haphazardly slapped on. The stories behind them are interesting too.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      sabreblade, it's not nearly as bad as you think.

      Spike, I prefer just using A&D, it's perfect for healing tattoos. It has all the vitamins and everything in it to heal without a hitch. I want to design my own tattoo, but I can't draw. But I have an idea of one that I want.

      Leah, that is a good idea of letting her do it after you did the research. I personally wouldn't let a 16 year old get a tattoo, but at least as of now, it's worked for your daughter.

      Treleven, the pain is not as bad as you think, but at the same time it really depends on the location.

    • Treleven-Vilceus profile image

      Treleven-Vilceus 9 years ago from USA

      wow i really enjoyed the hub I am thinking of getting a tattoo very soon , I'm afraid of the pain though

    • Leah Kay, The Pup profile image

      Leah Kay, The Pup 9 years ago from Anywhere-USA

      So Whitney05 do you have any tatoos?

      We let our middle daughter (oh, by the way, this is Sharon, Not Leah Kay) for her 16th birthday to get a tattoo on hip. It was a frog with a top hat. Some parents thought we were nuts for allowing her to do this. One thing we took into great consideration was the fact that she was a very good student, never got into trouble. Was popular (but not snob) with her peers & teachers. As a parent I would rather have them be open and honest and not out sneaking around behind our back doing drugs & drinking. So this was a good comprimise.

      We did check into the tattoo parlor (even with the police station) and they came very high recommended. We also stayed in the studio with her while it was being done.

      She is now in her mid 20's with a few more froggie tatoos.

      Many people see tatoos as a marking of a "bad" person, and I have no room in my life for narrow minded people.....

      Enjoyed the hub!!

    • SpikeTheLobster profile image

      SpikeTheLobster 9 years ago from South Coast, UK

      I designed my own as my first (and only) tattoo. Definitely worth taking several days to ponder, or you may regret it. Great advice all round, Whitney. (And Tattoo Goo is *excellent* for after-care: I'll vouch for that!)

    • sabrebIade profile image

      sabrebIade 9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I just dont have the guts...LOL. But if I did, you Hub would be a great help.


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