I'm a professional tattoo artist who knows what clients should expect ahead of their first tattoo.
Find an artist that specializes in the style you want and keep your request concise.
Moisturize your skin leading up to your appointment, but don't use any numbing cream.
Getting a tattoo for the first time can be a daunting experience, especially if you don't know what to expect.
As a tattoo artist, I'm familiar with what new clients should know ahead of time, from how to best research your artist to tipping etiquette.
Research who the right artist is for you
Finding the right artist is one of the most important steps in getting a tattoo. Do your research about the style you want, then look into a tattooer that aligns with that, as well as their healed work.
Most artists will only tattoo in the style they specialize in, so make sure to look for someone whose work matches your vision.
Trust is crucial when getting a tattoo, so make sure you believe in their art, skill, and opinions.
Be concise and to the point in your request
When requesting a tattoo online, it's easy to get lost in explaining your inspiration and reasoning behind the idea. But artists often read through hundreds of queries and can get overwhelmed by so much information.
For the best chances of getting your request read and accepted, start with a clear explanation of your tattoo idea, making sure you've included all of the information you want them to have for your design.
Once you've communicated your concept, you can relay other relevant information, as well.
Read your artist's policies and FAQ before booking
Every artist or shop will have its own policies and boundaries.
To have the best experience possible, make sure to read the policies and frequently asked questions before booking your tattoo or making your deposit.
Additionally, you can often read artist bios on the website that share what they love to tattoo, and requesting something in line with that makes it more likely to get accepted.
Prep your skin ahead of your appointment
Pre-appointment care is often overlooked, but it can truly make a difference when your skin is smooth and moisturized.
To have the best-healed results, start moisturizing your skin for about two weeks prior to your appointment. Use a product you're familiar with that won't irritate you.
Also, try to avoid getting sunburned during your session.
In need of a hydrating lotion? Check out some of our best body moiturizer picks:
Ask your tattooer before using numbing cream
Many first-time clients are nervous about the pain and like to apply topical numbing cream prior to their appointment.
But every artist has different opinions on numbing cream – topical options typically leave the skin with a leathery or rubbery texture, making it more difficult to ink.
If you're nervous about the pain, ask your artist for their thoughts on numbing cream and if they use any type of lidocaine (a local anesthetic) during the tattooing process.
Prepare for your session
Be well-rested, hydrated, and fed before your appointment. It's also recommended to avoid alcohol and any blood thinners (like some painkillers) for 24 hours prior to your session.
Additionally, some artists like to chat, but others like to concentrate on their work, so bring something to do to pass the time just in case. I suggest packing headphones, downloading a movie, or bringing a book.
Plan for your aftercare
After your tattoo, you'll need to avoid activities like swimming and working out — plus places where your new ink will get a lot of direct sunlight — for at least two weeks.
When booking your appointment, make sure to be mindful of your upcoming plans. A tattoo is essentially a wound, so your body will need time to properly heal for the best results.
Let your artist know it's your first tattoo
When the artist is aware it's your first tattoo, they'll likely be more mindful in explaining every step so there are no surprises.
The unknown is definitely nerve-racking, so your artist should help you feel as at ease and comfortable as possible.
Don't be afraid to speak up
The tattoo process can be intimidating at first, but don't let that interfere with your decision-making.
Your tattoo will be on your body forever, so be sure to voice any concerns and changes you may have. The right artist will not force you to get anything you don't want.
While getting inked, also speak up if you need to take a break, even just to stretch. It'll likely be a much-needed pause for your artist, as well.
Tips are appreciated
Depending on where your artist is located and if gratuity is customary there, tips are greatly appreciated but definitely not required.
Many tattoo artists are independent contractors who don't receive health benefits, spend hours designing on their days off, buy their own supplies, and give a percentage of their earnings to the shop they're at.
If it's within your budget, most people tip 15% to 20% of the tattoo cost.
But tattoos are expensive, so artists are usually understanding if you're unable to. A small gift or a nice email with a healed photo are some other ways to show your appreciation.
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