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How to Not Regret Your Tattoo

Updated on August 27, 2013

Although originally popular with bikers, sailors, pirates and prisoners, everyone from your best friend to the accountant at work seems to be getting one these days. From quotes and Celtic symbols to stars, birth dates and initials, the tattoo is the ultimate self-expression. It’s also permanent and a lifetime commitment. So whether you’re planning your first tattoo or an addition to the exhibition of body art you already have, this is everything you need to know before you go under the needle.

Design Intervention

A tattoo is a big commitment; it relates to who you are, so make sure you’re saying something about yourself you’ll want to be saying for the rest of your life. Are you sure you’ll still heart One Direction when you’re eighty two?


If you’re a tattoo virgin, it might be a good idea to start with something small. It’ll give you a chance to get used to how it feels to get a tattoo and decide whether you really want to go ahead with the toe to torso depiction of your life.


Going full color, single color or black and grey should be something you carefully consider. It affects everything from the style and design of your tattoo, the dent in your bank balance, how long you’re willing to sit in the chair for and whether it’ll last over time. It’s a good idea to weigh up the pros and cons, but like everything tattoo related, it’s an entirely personal decision.


Keep in mind that where you get your tattoo could affect your day-to-day life, how painful the experience is and how well your design works. Will that photo realistic skull and crossbones scaling most of your neck affect your chances during a job interview? Would getting those eyes over your eyelids done so you can sleep during college lectures be worth the pain? Will an image of the humerus bone be funny placed anywhere other than your elbow?


Before you head to the tattoo shop, spend hours sifting through design options and settle for something average, just to make a choice. Also, ask yourself why you’re getting a tattoo. The reason you’re getting one will outline the style and design choices you make.

If you’re going for a common design, think about adding your own twist to make it original. There are so many types of tattoos out there, from the cliché star, puns, Fan art (because the only thing that says I’m a huge fan more than getting the face of your favorite musician, comedian or actor tattooed on your arm, is getting it tattooed on your face); sentimental, tribal, typographic or symbolic (usually Latin or Chinese writing).

Location, location, location

A tattoo is a long term commitment, so where you get it done and who does it for you will seriously influence on your tattoo’s final outcome.


Do your research when it comes to finding the person to ink your art. Custom tattoo artists, like any painter, sculpture or musician have their own style, level of experience and preferred ways of working. Take your time deciding who is right for you. Some of the best tattoo artists in the world may be in your neighborhood!


It’s important to feel comfortable wherever you go to get your artwork done.So shop around and check out your options, visit a few different places and ask questions.Follow recommendations for good local artists and shops from experienced friends. Most tattoo parlors will have more than one artist, a wall of designs, a catalogue and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

All good tattoo shops should have

1. An autoclave (machine used to sterilize equipment) and sterilization certificate

2. Autoclave bags (the same sterile bag the dentist uses) and new tattoo needles

3. Sharp containers (plastic container with bio-hazard written on it for disposal of medical waste) for used needles

There are generally two pricing structures for tattoos; a flat fee and an hourly fee. They differ between artists and tattoo shops, but are based on equipment, time, color, size, placement and design complexity.

Flat fee: This is usually what an artist would charge for the pre-designed options on the shop wall or in their catalogue. It’s usually estimation as prices are not set in stone and can change depending on placement, resizing, adding or removing elements from a standard design.

Pros -It’s easier to compare prices between shops and if you find a design you like - then you’ll know whether it’s in your price range.

Cons -If an artist estimated a flat-fee based on a design he thought would take two hours, but in reality it only took one, you might have saved a bit with an hourly fee.

Hourly fee: Usually what an artist would charge when the tattoo is large and is likely to take more than one sitting or is freehand drawn on the client. It’s based on the artist’s operating costs, time, quality and experience of work.

Pros -You could save money if the artist is highly-skilled and can draw up a solid outline and color in less time than most.

Cons -The drawback is that the artist could take longer on purpose, forcing the cost to go up.

What to expect when getting a tattoo

1.The artist will wash their hands with a germocidil soap

2.Your pre-tattooed area will be cleaned and disinfected

3.The artist will put on clean, fresh gloves and (sometimes) a surgical mask

4.The artist will explain the sterilization procedure and open the new, single use, sterilized equipment (needles etc.)

5.A sterile needle will be inserted into the drawing machine and the artist will start the outline of your tattoo

6.The outline will be cleaned with antiseptic soap and water

7.Sterile, thicker needles will be inserted into the drawing machine for the artist to start shading and design. After cleaning the area again, color will be injected (a new bottle of ink should be opened)

8.Any blood will be removed with a sterile, disposable cloth

9.When the artist is finished, the tattoo will be cleaned again and a bandage will be applied.

Safety first

In the excitement of choosing the ultimate tattoo design, we tend to forget that what we’re really doing is permanently marking our skin with pigments through needle pricks on our skin. It is fundamentally a wound and needs to treated and taken care of to avoid infections and complications. But don’t let that scare you off! It should take up to two weeks to heal, so during that time follow these basic steps for proper tattoo care.

Tattoo Care

  • Remove the bandage after 24 hours and apply an antibiotic ointment while it’s healing
  • Keep it clean! Use plain soap, water and gentle touch. Avoid direct streams of water on newly tattooed skin, and pat – don’t rub – dry
  • Moisturize using a mild, non-scented cream
  • Avoid direct sunlight and swimming pools or hot tubs
  • Choose clothing carefully, don’t wear anything that might stick to your tattoo

So remember, whether it’s your first tattoo or your hundredth tattoo , take the time to think before you ink!


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