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Things to think about before getting your first tattoo

Updated on September 6, 2014

Megatron Tattoo

The G1 Megatron tattoo I had done on the Strip in LV.  I like it and have no regrets.  The character has been a huge favorite of mine since I was little.  I just wish I'd had it done back home so I could have afforded a bigger, more detailed version.
The G1 Megatron tattoo I had done on the Strip in LV. I like it and have no regrets. The character has been a huge favorite of mine since I was little. I just wish I'd had it done back home so I could have afforded a bigger, more detailed version.
My tatt of Cardassian Legate Damar from Star Trek Deep Space Nine.  This character has a lot of meaning for me.  The actor loved it enough to offer to autograph it.  Lucky me!
My tatt of Cardassian Legate Damar from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. This character has a lot of meaning for me. The actor loved it enough to offer to autograph it. Lucky me!

Tattoos are a big decision

I got my first tattoo back in 2010. My best friend and I were in Las Vegas for the Star Trek convention and we'd been cruising through one of the big hotel/casinos when we happened upon a new tattoo shop that hadn't been there the year before. I had a little extra money burning my pocket and was curious enough to want to go inside and scope out the designs. For a few years, I'd thought about getting a tattoo, but had been held back by my mother's opinion that they looked trashy on women (she loves the dreamcatcher sleeve my brother has though) and my own concerns. I mean, it had to be something that meant something to me, that I was reasonably certain I'd love into old age. What if it didn't turn out well or look as I'd imagined it? And of course, the pain I'd heard so much about.

After exploring the possibilities and options for my first tattoo with one of the artists I made an appointment for the next day. I love it, but I wouldn't recommend getting your first tattoo in Las Vegas because on the Strip they're ridiculously overpriced. Back home, I could have gotten a much bigger version with more detail for the same price. I didn't find the experience painful, but I was also told that I got mine in a spot that usually isn't too bad for most people. It was a little irritating at times with the same area being worked on over and over, but painful? Not at all. In fact, I think I could have napped if my friend hadn't been there to chat with.

And yes, true story when you hear people who say they only intended to get one and ended up getting more over time. I thought I'd be one of those "one and done" people, but I did end up getting another and have plans for more.

Just my two cents:

Steer clear of anything trendy. Choose something that you believe will have lifelong meaning for you.

I was in my 30's before I got my first tattoo; and I would honestly recommend people wait until they're in their 20's at least before getting a tattoo. Even though tattoos can be covered up/removed now, the process is reportedly much more expensive than the tattoo was so definitely plan on the thing being permanent still. I'm not saying that a teenager is incapable of choosing something that they won't regret years later, but on youtube there are videos about tattoo regret and the age group that seems to experience this the most are teenagers and 20-somethings. I would imagine this would have something to do with picking something that is trendy. Also, people change as they get older. Things they loved when they were younger may become less important later on. There is no way of knowing really, even for someone who was older when they got their first tattoo. Still, the older a person is, the more likely they are to pick something with meaning and not something trendy.

Trendy tatts seem like a bad idea, especially if it's in a spot that is hard to cover up. Imagine having to explain it to your friends later on down the road? Imagine the teasing... I'm not saying that something trendy now can't have lifelong significance for someone for years to come, but take the time to think about it and make sure that it has meaning for you beyond just being "the thing right now."

A youtube video about tattoo regret:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-g1Vvcz5iQ

Choose something that has significant meaning to you; except your significant other's name for obvious reasons. Try to think 10 years ahead. 50 years ahead. Can you see yourself still loving it then? Can you see yourself still wanting to tell the story behind it then?

My second tattoo is a portrait of a Star Trek Deep Space Nine character that resonates with me in many ways, both personally and professionally. It took me four years to decide to do that one because I wanted to be sure it would be something that I'd love for the rest of my life. I'm so glad I did because it turned out fantastic and I love it when others ask me about it. Even if Star Trek eventually goes the way of the dinosaur, I can still see this character having a great deal of meaning for me.

Do your research. Choose your artist carefully. Be willing to drop some decent money for good work.

Get recommendations from friends who have well done tattoos. Shop around and ask to see samples of their work. This is something that will be part of your body for life so you want someone who can make your vision come to life in a piece you will be proud to show others! Be willing to drop some decent dough for it, especially if you're looking at getting a portrait done. Portraits don't have to cost thousands like in Kat Von D's shop in LA, but do expect to spend hundreds for a good one.

Questions to ask before getting a tattoo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-lSoRhfIrg

Choosing where on your body to get your first tattoo.

I imagine most of us want to get a tattoo in a spot where it's easy to show others. My first one is in a spot where it's always covered up. That was done consciously because at that time, I knew I wanted a tattoo, but I honestly wasn't ready to hear my family's commentary on it. It kind of sucks because it's hard to show people when I talk about it unless I whip out a picture of it on my phone. My second tatt is on my right shoulder blade and gives me more flexibility in covering it up or showing it off.

That said, there are a few other things to consider when deciding on the spot. Your job for instance. I work in a pretty laid back office that doesn't insist that my second tattoo is covered up at work, but I imagine there are workplaces out there that have stricter rules about this. Sadly, there are still certain stereotypes attached to tattoos, even though I believe this is becoming less of an issue as time goes by. I've found the shoulder blades to be a pretty versatile spot. Tattoos here are easy enough to cover up or show off depending on your shirt or jacket and what the situation calls for.

Youtube video that discusses the various aspects of choosing tattoos and where to put it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyMCX9k3pbY

Pain

I personally didn't experience any pain with either of my tattoos and I honestly think I'm a big sissy when it comes to pain tolerance. My tattoos are on my right shoulder blade and lower back, right side. Both had areas that were somewhat irritating being colored in over and over, but I wouldn't say the experience was ever painful. I almost nodded off during the work on my second one. In a way, I find the process relaxing. I've heard the top of the foot, anything close to bone or joints are rather painful.

I have found the first few days to a week or so after getting the tattoo that that area feels like you've been sunburned. Your tattooist will give after care instructions. I've found the advice has been different so take the advice of your tattooist.

Youtube videos about the pain:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33InXXtbw0M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5eX2FV7ylY

Bottom line:

  • Don't rush into it. Take time to think about the permanence of a tattoo, what you want, and why you want it.
  • Choose something meaningful and significant to you. Avoid trendy for trendy's sake.
  • Do your homework. Choose your artist with care. You want someone who can make your vision come alive.
  • Carefully consider where you want your tattoo on your body. Consider other aspects of your lifestyle and personality that may affect this decision.
  • Pain varies depending on your pain tolerance and where you're having the tattoo placed.

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