Planning your tattoo

You want to get a tattoo but you aren't sure of what to get. Or you know what you want, but don't know how to get the artist to draw what you want done. Here are a few things that might make it a bit easier on you and your artist..Deciding on your tattoo you need to answer the basic questions... What do I want to get done? Where on my body do I want it? When should I get it? Who's the best Artist to do my tattoo? And finally, how do I get reference material to show the artist? Lets answer each of these questions: What do I want to get done? This is the million dollar question. I personally don't like the idea of getting a tattoo just to have a tattoo. I cover up this type of tattoo all the time. Getting "something" is not going to last the test of time. Many have entered a tattoo shop wanting a tattoo and not knowing what to get, point at the wall and say"gimmie that one". This the second biggest reason I cover up a well executed tattoo (names are #1 in cover ups). If you are trying to figure out what to get, but not sure where to start, you can try by asking yourself why you want the tattoo. Is it to mark a special event or accomplishment in your life? Then maybe get something to represent what you just accomplished or the special event. Do you need it to mark the passing of a friend? You could do something that reminds you of the time you had with that special person. I find writing down why I want the tattoo and a list of things I would want to have tattooed on me are a big help. You may also want to try doing a search in Google images to help find what you want. Type in some of the concepts you want to convey and search the images. (note: don't use the word tattoo in your search or you will just get other tattoos and not an original piece of your own.) Sometimes you might not know what you want but you know where you want it.. the placement on the body will sometimes tell you what should go there. Or maybe you need to ask yourself what belongs there.. Try and picture that part of your body, what is missing.. I try to bring a tattoo out of the skin, not just slap something on.. Where on my body do I want it? So you know what you want, but not where to put it..There are many things to think about with placement. If you want it to show when you are out at night or the weekend but hidden when you are at work, you will need to see what parts are covered in work clothes, but uncovered in street clothes. There are a few body parts that have a few more considerations. Hands and Feet both have some issues with healing and with how the tattoo will look over time. The palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet both are very difficult if not nearly impossible to heal nice and solid. I have seen a few good ones over the years, but most of the time the tattoo tends to look like specks of dirt left behind. the tops of both hands and feet can heal quite nicely but have a higher chance of needing a touch up. When should I get the tattoo done? Your tattoo is an open wound and will need to be treated as such. You can't go into the sun or in the ocean, a lake, pool or hot tub for 2-4 weeks depending on how quickly you heal. So try and plan your tattoo when this won't be a problem. I know having a pretty tattoo would be great on the first day of your vacation, but if you want to go in the sun or swim, put it off till the end of your trip or you will have to miss these activities. There are other times when it is not a good idea to get tattooed: --When you are sick is a bad time, not only will your tattoo take longer to heal because you body is busy trying to get you better, but you are also exposing the artist to your cold. We artists don't want your cold, call in and reschedule please. --After a surgery is a bad time to get tattooed. Like being sick your body is working on healing itself and needs all its resources to do so. By getting tattooed too soon you can not only have your tattoo heal badly but you could compromise the healing from your surgery. I always recommend to my clients to ask their doctor how long they should wait after surgery to get a tattooed. --During pregnancy is never a time to get tattooed. You have committed all of your body's resources to growing another human life, you don't want some of those resources to be taken from that job to heal your tattoo. Also Doctors don't even want you to get dental work or dye your hair during this time, so tattooing is a definite no no.. The best time to get tattooed is when you have 3-4 weeks where you can be out of the sun, and out of the water . Winter is usually a great time for healing a tattoo. Times where you can still get tattooed but it will be harder for you to sit and possibly hurt more: -- when overly tired -- just over a cold -- when you are hungover -- for the ladies it is best not to get tattooed during your "Lady Time". With hormone fluctuations the tattoo can be considerably more painful for some women.. Who is the best Artist to do my tattoo? This is a very important question. When picking an artist start by doing some research into your local shops. Ask friends who have tattoos you like where they got them and who did them. Check sites like Citysearch and Yahoo for recommendations and reviews of local shops. Remember to read all the reviews. Sometimes people will give a negative review of a shop but not be specific why they had a bad experience, or their complaint may just be petty. Read to see if there was a real problem, and if so, what was the problem. When reading the good reviews, see if the things people love about the shop are things you are looking for in a shop. Go to the shop for a visit. You can check it out and see if you feel comfortable there. Just because you visit a shop, doesn't mean you have to get tattooed there. When picking a specific artist to do your tattoo you definitely want to see some of their finished work. You can either go to the shop and look at portfolios, or you can go to the shops website and see the online portfolios. Most shops these days have more updated portfolios online than they do in the shop. It is much easier to upload a photo than to print out photos to add to the book. Here's what to look for in the portfolio. The line work should be clean, not shaky. The shading should be smooth and blended, and the colors should be solid. Look for an artist that can do work with the look or feel of what you want to get done. You may like the color work someone does, but that doesn't mean they are the best person to do your tribal work. You can also ask if the artist you like does the type of tattoo that you want to do. Not every artist does every type of tattoo. Some artist are very versatile and others specialize in one style. You want to make sure what you want done is something they do well..
How to get reference material to show the artist? These days many shops offer free consultations before getting tattooed, where you can discuss with the artist what you want and they can help you flesh out your ideas.. I recommend either searching google images, or a designers site like for images to show your artist.. These can either be printed out and brought with you to your consultation, or emailed ahead so the artist will have them for the consultation. You can also make a pinterest board ( and send a link to the artist.. I cannot say this enough about reference images... DO NOT LOOK AT TATTOOS for reference. We can use existing tattoos to refer to for a style of tattoo, but a tattoo on another person is their tattoo and you should never copy it. As an artist it is very hard to draw up the design if a client gives me all photos of existing tattoos. I have to make sure that I am not copying (even subconsciously) from the other tattoos.. It is much easier to go from existing art , designs and photographs of real things, to draw the tattoo.. What not to do Perfume/Cologne.. The tattoo artist is sitting very close to you, if you are wearing perfume or cologne this can be very distracting to your tattoo artist. You may not think you have much on, but to the person sitting just inches away from you it may be very strong indeed.. And if your tattoo artist is sensitive (As I am) It can cause nausea and severe headaches. Not what you want to do to the person tattooing you. Drinking/Drugs... In the old days of tattooing people would get drunk and go get tattooed. That is no longer the way things work. Most tattoos do not hurt bad enough for pain management. In the first 10-15 minutes of a tattoo are the worst as your body begins to pump endorphins. Then it just becomes annoying, not bad at all. --Drinking is not helpful and can actually harm the final look of the tattoo.. Alcohol makes you more vascular ( you blood flows more freely). If you are poking holes in the skin and putting ink in those holes, the less bleeding the better. If the skin bleeds a lot you can push the ink out of the skin. This will make for a tattoo that won't look as solid and will possibly have problems with scabbing. People used to drink to make it hurt less and to give them courage.. Well to make it hurt less you would need to drink so much you may pass out. And if you need that much courage to get tattooed, maybe it is not time for you to get tattooed yet.. --Drugs are taken by clients to help with the pain.. Unfortunately most do little to help and some actually cause the tattoo to hurt more.. Pot is a big one that people think will help them relax, but ends up making it all worse. Think of it this way, once you have a little buzz (and this goes for alcohol too) if feels good to be touched, slight touches are very pleasurable.. Now what would happen if you touched that wonderfully sensitive skin with a needle? OUCH ! As for pain killers, oral ones usually don't work for topical skin pain.. For that there are Numbing Creams and Sprays. -- Numbing Creams and Sprays can be helpful if used properly. There are several numbing creams and sprays on the market that a tattoo artist can use. If you want to use one please ask your artist in advance about it.. DO NOT PRE-MEDICATE without letting them know.. The one problem with all of these is that they cause some swelling of the skin.When doing a tattoo the artist must draw on the skin or place a stencil on the skin to be sure of how the design will look laid out in that area. If the tissue under that stencil is distorted with swelling, the final design may be flawed and distorted. So doing any numbing before the outline is a bad idea, but these products work excellent for doing the color and shading. With the creams, most must be applied and wrapped with saran wrap an hour before the tattooing begins and the numbing only lasts 2 hours. Once it wears off it hurts way more than the tattoo would have in the first place. Some of the new sprays you can use once the skin is broken, they don't get rid of all the pain, but are excellent for taking the edge off a particularly painful spot and can be used past the 2 hour mark. --Name tattoos are the most covered-up tattoo. I personally have issues with anyone wanting to put their name on me, like I am piece of clothing at camp they don't want lost in the laundry.. But I do understand that many people feel putting another's name on them as a sign of devotion. There are better ways to show your devotion.. Indirect symbols work best..Lets say you call them honey, how about a bee? Or are they your teddy bear? how about a bear? Or an image from where you met or their astrological symbol? Maybe the both of you get a matching tattoo as a symbol of devotion to each other. All of these are indirect symbols.. For some reason putting a name on your body is like flipping off the universe, asking it to end the relationship.. Do I know people who are still together after getting names on each other? Yes, but they are rare. Personally you couldn't pay me enough to get my husbands name on me and we have been together for over 26 years. We have a matching tattoo, I love it. Other notes touch-ups vs re-colors Any reputable shop will touch up your tattoo within the first 6 months of getting it, if needed. The human body can push out extra ink, the skin can swell and get very red, making it difficult to see how solid a piece looks to the artist, you could have just had a rough time healing. So if there is any loss of color, call the shop and book a touch up.. You the client are our best advertising and we want your tattoo to look it's best, we want to touch it up if it needs it. And please go back to the original artist to get it touched up. Going to another shop and bitching how they screwed it up, when it is obvious (to a tattoo artist) that it is a basic healing issue and a free touch up, just makes you look bad.. A touch up is for freshly healed tattoo that lost color during healing. A recolor is when the tattoo is many years old and has faded over time or lost color due to sun damage. Often when I am telling a client about the dangers of tattoo ink fading in the sun, they will tell me to not worry, they will get it touched up every couple of years.. This is a horrible idea. Recoloring a tattoo is not merely refilling the color. When we recolor, we break the skin, if you do this every couple of years you run the risk of damaging the skin and causing scarring.. So to keep that tattoo color bright, sunscreen to protect it and save the recoloring for many years down the road...
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