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Tattooing is one of the oldest art forms in the world, and one that the music industry wholly embraced from its earliest days.
But nowadays you don’t need to be a musician, a sailor, a prisoner or even an artsy person (is that code for wanker? – ed.) to be decked out in ink.
Obviously, tattoos are permanent. While I am the last person to tell you not to get a tattoo because “you’ll have it forever” I can offer some tips on how you can make sure when you get your first tattoo, or your fiftieth tattoo, it’s not going to require a cover-up in five years time.
1. The Research
Please please please for the love of Hades* do your research. Even though tattoos and tattoo parlours are all over the place now, that doesn’t give you an excuse to get a shitty tattoo. If you want a particular style or image, use your social media Googling skills to find an artist that caters to what you are after. While most artists are competent across several styles, there’s always one or two that specialise and give you the best outcome.
2. The Idea
Make sure you know what you’re looking for and what you want out of this tattoo before you approach any artists. If you go into a consultation and throw a bunch of contradicting ideas at an artist, they’re going to laugh you right out the door. There’s few things more frustrating for an artist to have a client who is flip-flopping with what they want (because even they don’t really know) and ends up turning down every suggestion as a consequence. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, and you probably won’t be welcomed back to that particular shop.
3. The References
If this is your first tattoo and you’re going in for your consultation, bring as many references as possible. Unlike people that already have tattoos, you’re at a disadvantage because the artist can’t look at what tattoos you already have to gauge what style you like. If you’ve decided on the idea, bring in photos of similar pieces you like so your artist can create something that’s just right for you. But again, refer to my second point and make sure you don’t bring in a bunch of random images that have nothing to do with each other and ask the artist to combine them into a weird mess. It won’t happen.
4. The Investment
As tempting as it is to save some money, remember the old saying “you get what you pay for” before booking yourself in for your tats. A tattoo is permanent (as in you have it forever) and therefore you need to be prepared to pay for the good stuff. Decent artists will often be priced higher, but work the scene to make sure that you are paying for talent and expertise, and not a greedy business owner. There’s a risk, particularly with first-timers, that you’ll pay too much for a piece simply because some people will take advantage of your naivety. Get the minimum costs for a few different places, factor in the artist’s social media platforms and portfolios, how long they’ve been tattooing, and also the size and position of what you want. It’s a bit of extra work, but will save you money, time, and pain in the future.
5. The Ink to Skin Ratio
Now this is a tricky one. It depends on how much of a tattoo-enthusiast you are. If this is going to be your first of maybe three or four tattoos, still consider placement. It’s not going to be as much of an issue if you get it wrong. On the other hand, if you plan to have an 80:20 ink to clean skin ratio, placement is really important! During your first few tattoos you tend not to think about how the tattoo is going to work with your future tattoos, you’re just thinking about how cool those small butterflies look on your right shoulder blade. The issue is if you decide later on you wanted to get a full back piece, you now have to choose between covering up the existing tattoo, trying to work it into the back piece, or having to sacrifice your back piece because it simply won’t work with what you’ve already got. My general rule is don’t put a small tattoo on a large canvas area.
6. The Commitment
Once you’ve followed the above guidelines, make your final decision and then sleep on it. When you wake up in the morning if you still haven’t changed your mind, book it in and make sure you commit to it! Committing to getting a tattoo is important not just for yourself but for the artist. For them, tattooing is how they earn their living. Having someone bail last minute on a 2-3 hour session leaves them with no commission and a wasted time-slot. You’ll also probably have a reputation of bailing at that particular parlour and might not be able to book there again. Tell your friends and family members, post it on social media, set 27 alarms, do anything to ensure you follow through with your plan. You don’t want to be “that” person who says they want a tattoo but never gets one.
7. The Approval
The last step before booking in your new tattoo, is to understand and be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to approve of it. Doesn’t matter if the imagery or references of your tattoo, or the fact that you’ve got tattoos in the first place, there’s pretty much a 100% chance that you’ll get criticised at least once. The biggest thing to remember is that you are getting this tattoo for you. That is the only reason you should ever get a tattoo, and that’s the only thing you should think about when you get the occasional nasty comment from an old relative or a complete stranger. As long as you remember that, you’ll love your tattoo for as long as you have it!
Check back soon for more tattoo tips from The Inkster next Tuesday!
*Hades is the name of Louise’s cat.