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Tattoos-Things to think about before getting new ink

Updated on October 4, 2009

For most people tattoos are permanent additions to their bodies, as laser tattoo removal is expensive, notoriously painful, and requires a series of treatments to fully make a tattoo fade.  So, when you're deciding what to get, there are some important things to consider.

The tattoo industry is prone to fads and trends just like many beauty/fashion industries.  Anyone remember when tribal armbands were hugely popular, or barbed wire?  Jokes about tramp-stamps and bad kanji are widespread.  Pick something you like and that is original to you, or you risk becoming the owner of a tattoo cliche.  Trendy is lame, traditional is timeless, and unique and original tattoos that carry meaning for you will always be in style.

Make sure the tattoo is something that matters to you.  Getting a tattoo because you think it looks cool at the time, sets you up for some serious buyer's remorse, and won't carry much residual meaning after the initial novelty fades.

Being a bargain shopper in terms of getting tattoos may not be such a good idea.  You're going to live with your tattoo forever, so expect to shell out some money for it.  You're paying for the artist's time, expertise, and equipment.  A tattoo shop owner friend of mine is a fan of the saying "good tats aren't cheap, and cheap tats aren't good."  Don't expect to barter over price.  Negotiating is best left to flea markets.

Check out the artist's work beforehand and talk to your friends if they have tattoos that you like.  Like any artist, tattoo artists excel at different things.  Portraits are notoriously difficult, so go to someone who will do the best work for you.

Go to reputable places, it's a BIG deal to have proper sanitation practices followed.  Look for business licenses and health code inspection certificates, ask about the autoclave procedures.  Lots of information eventually becomes public record.  Do your homework, because this is super important.

If you are thinking about having your tattoo be a visible addition to your body, expect to deal with some small-minded, judgmental, and uninformed people.  It's one of the last holdouts of socially acceptable bias and discrimination.  As more and more people get tattoos hopefully this will fade, but it's important to acknowledge that sadly, where you get your tattoos, today, matters.  People with tattoos do just as good a job at their jobs than people without, but it sucks that you may not get a fair chance to get your foot in the door.  I guess a lot of people missed the whole "don't judge a book by its cover" lesson in grade school, but their pettiness sadly, can effect you in big ways.  

Don't let anyone talk you into anything you don't want.  Some artists will give you their professional input and that's totally okay, but at the end of the day the tattoo is on YOUR body and what you get is completely up to you.

It's very easy to be impulsive and just go for it, but it could be better to live with the idea for a day or two before jumping right to it.  Many tattoo artists have large followings and are booked regularly.  Often appointments need to be made days, weeks, or months in advance.  So, sometimes immediate gratification isn't possible. 

Getting your spouse's or significant other's name tattooed on your body is not such a great idea.  Hey, I'm a romantic girl and no cynic in love, but we all know someone who this hasn't exactly worked out for.  My sister's godfather has another woman's named tattooed on his arm.  His wife is a good sport about it, but maybe better to avoid this sort of thing if possible.

If you're getting symbols, lettering, foreign sayings, etc. please oh please make sure the spelling, meaning, and all accepted connotations are correct and what you want.  Kanji is notoriously incorrect and the symbol for "honor" could be just a little wrong and read to native speakers "silly goat testicles" or something.  Hayden Panettiere just made headlines for a misspelled tattoo on her side.  If you can spare yourself this kind of embarassment, do it.

If you have a trip planned to the beach or anything involving water, it's best to wait to get a new tattoo.  Tattoos won't heal properly, and will get wrecked by exposure to lots of salt water, pool chemicals, or excessive sun.  It's crucial to take proper care of tattoos as they heal because they are wounds and can get infected, or scar, which is not going to lead to the kinds of results you want.

Don't get wasted and try to get a tattoo.  Reputable people will not tattoo you, and if they actually do tattoo you, be prepared to regret your decision.

Lastly, remember that tipping your artist is necessary.  They're not getting an hourly wage, and likely get a percentage of the cost of the tattoo.  Make like you're in a restaurant, 15-20% of the total cost is a good start, and if you are inclined be generous.  Tipping well is one of the best ways to get good karma.    


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