Easy Guide to Getting Your First Tattoo: Part 1

Oct 4, 2011 by

Tattoos: a mini intro

Getting Your First Tattoo

Going about the business of getting a tattoo done can be fairly daunting, especially if you’re keen for some ink but have never had much to do with tattoos before.

This is the first in a two-part article about what to expect when you decide to get your first tattoo; before you even go to get the tattoo done, you need to find a professional artist in a good, clean studio, and here’s some tips on how to do it and what to expect if you’ve got no clue!

…part 1: where to begin?

Let’s assume from the start that you’ve already found the perfect design (If you’re reading this thinking “Hang on! Wait up! I want a tattoo but I have no idea at all what I want-” then I suggest you hang around a bit, as I’m going to write another article soon with tips on choosing a tattoo design).

First up, you need to find a good tattoo studio! It would be nice if they were all staffed by modern-day Michaelangelo’s, just hanging out to use your precious skin as a canvas – unfortunately, though, it’s often not the case. Finding a good shop with great artists comes down to observation and research.

…check out other people’s tattoos

Heart on my Sleeve by Miss Megs
Searching for the right artist can sometimes be tricky

Keep a sharp eye when you’re out and about, and if you spot someone with a tattoo, ask them where they got it done; it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, you just need to find out which shops to look up and which ones to avoid! Please be subtle, though, it can really suck to have a bad tattoo so it’s kinda polite not to go around telling people their skin art is hideously ugly. aka “OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?!”

The good thing is, people love to share experiences, so getting reviews via word of mouth is in my opinion the best way to hunt down good shops.

…research local tattoo shops

Word of mouth is great, and Google is a great way to build on that information. You can learn a lot by googling the names of artists and shops, checking for reviews (just type in the shop or artist name and the word ‘review’), and looking up shops in your local area. Most professional shops these days will invest in a website and use it to showcase their artist’s work, so it’s a great idea to have a look there for styles and other shop info before you go check it out.

So now you have a nice list of shops, it’s important to call or actually go into the shops you are keen on. Calling first is useful, as you can ask a few key questions, and get an idea if the staff are helpful and friendly (or not) before you go into the shop.

Some things you should keep in mind are:

->a good attitude

Look for a shop that hires pleasant, professional staff. Don’t settle for less, based on reputation… it doesn’t cost a thing to be polite, and friendly people obviously care what you think about them. Tattooists have the unfortunate reputation of being mean, rude and conceited, but more often these days you can find many shops that are proud of their work and house professional artists instead of ill-mannered bikers.

->impeccable hygiene

Ask the staff as many questions as you need to about hygiene, and make sure they answer you politely and thoroughly. This is an entire subject on it’s own, but you want to be able to see that the shop is clean, and that they have the appropriate sterilisation methods in place according to your local laws.

In Australia, this means having an autoclave and proper sharps disposal, the staff are aware of and use universal precautions, antibacterial soap is available, all non-sterilisable materials are single use. Please check out the current laws in NSW, Australia by clicking here. For all other states and countries, try googling the health laws relating to skin penetration, relevant to your area.


This is super important! Each artist has a style they are comfortable with, and it’s not something that people generally realise. For example, some artists might be great at big thick tribal but not so good at a fine detailed portrait. Remember that just because you like their work doesn’t mean they can do your design justice. Chat to the artist or make a consultation appointment to find out what styles they are proficient in, and to ensure they are happy working on your type of tattoo. Lastly, check their work out for yourself; either online or at the shop, look at their portfolio to see if they have similar styles in there to your tattoo design (and that their work is of a high standard).

Joy, Division!
Word of caution:
Don’t let an artist ‘talk’ you into getting tattooed by them. If you’re not 100% satisfied that they are the right artist for you, walk away. You can always come back if you change your mind!
Joy, Division! 

…the waiting game

Once you’ve found your perfect artist and shop, you’ll usually need to pay a deposit, and possibly have to wait a while to get your tattoo. It’s common to hear people complain about waiting days, weeks and even months to get their tattoo done, but it’s good to realise is that a good artist will have usually have a waiting list, so having to wait is actually a good thing… One exception is shops that only do appointments by walk-in, but it’s not a common thing and I don’t really recommend them, as I encourage people to put time and thought into their tattoo and have a proper consultation with their tattoo artist.

So that’s the first part! Stay tuned, as in the next part I’ll be covering just what happens when you rock up at the shop to get your tattoo done (eek!).

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