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How to Get A Tattoo

Aug 17, 2020

How to Get A Tattoo?

Step 1: Choose a Design

The first step in the tattooing process is the selection of a design. Most tattoo shops will have pre-drawn pictures, also called "flash," that you can choose from, if you don't mind having a design that you'll also see on other people. These typically line the walls of the shops and books and there are a multitude of styles, including skulls, flowers, tribal, arm/ankle bands, lettering, kanji and more. You can also find "flash" online. Some pictures are available for free to download or for sale.

If you want something original, talk to the tattoo artist about creating a unique image. This can be based on something you or a friend has drawn or on a favorite poster or painting. In many instances, if you talk to the artist beforehand and bring in images of the style and type of tattoo you are looking for, he or she can create something based on your examples. You may need to shop around a little since not all tattoo artists will be interested in or able to do an original design. Of the many who can, not all will share your vision or have a style you like. Try visiting local shops' websites, or ask people with tats you admire where they got them done.

Step 2: Think About Placement

This step can come into play before or after choosing your design, but the placement of the tattoo is important.

Take into consideration that some designs fit better in certain places. For example, a larger tattoo with intricate details will require more space than is allowed on your wrist or along your ankle; whereas a small design just hanging out in the middle of your chest or back could look out of place, especially if it is your first tattoo.

  • You also have to think about the lines of the tattoo and how they will fill the space. For example, if you choose a long piece of tribal designed for an armband, it might look a bit funny if you tattoo it down the side of your calf.

  • If you are looking at a smaller design like a rose or a heart, you might want to consider areas like your wrist, ankle, calf, bicep, or forearm, to name a few. However, if you are looking at a larger piece, you might want to choose a larger area with more exposed skin like the chest, shoulders, back, lower stomach or top of the thigh.

  • Another thing to consider when thinking about placement is: Will the area stretch? A butterfly or pistol might look exceptional on your lower stomach now, but if you gain or lose weight, it will affect the quality of the image. In some instances, they can get distorted. If you are worried about this aspect, your calf, shoulder blades, base of your spine, and forearms are great places to get a tat.

Step 3: Check Out the Shop

tattoo studio

Before you allow anyone to touch your skin with a needle, make sure you're in a safe, clean place. The shop should be equipped with sterilization equipment, including an autoclave. The artist should use new needles and fresh inks for each customer and should wear gloves, again using a new pair for each new person. You should also look for American Red Cross certification or to ensure that the shop complies with OSHA requirements. If the shop doesn't seem clean or the staff won't tell you what they do to keep customers safe, go elsewhere.

Step 4: Get the Tattoo

applying tattoo stencil

Once you've chosen your design and talked with the artist, he or she will typically make a ditto or an outline for your skin, unless the person is free handing the design. The artist will then prepare the inks and equipment for your design. When everything is ready, he or she will lead you to a chair or the artist's station, put on fresh gloves, and prepare your skin. The area will need to be cleaned and sterilized. If the area is hairy, it may need to be shaved. When the skin is ready, the tattooist will place an outline of the picture on your skin. This is usually done using special papers and inks that work sort of like temporary tattoos. You'll have the chance to approve the placement of the design before any permanent work is done.

When you're comfortable with how the tattoo is placed, the tattooist will pull the skin taunt and begin inking the design into your skin. A tattoo machine uses tiny needles to place the ink just below the skin's surface. The needles move rapidly up and down, a little like a sewing machine. The artist guides the needles to create fine or bold lines, shadows, and/or blocks of color. Usually, he or she will begin by outlining the picture in black ink, and then will fill in the outline with colors and/or shading. The artist may switch needle types during the tattooing process, depending on the need for fine lines, fill, or shading.