April 01, 2020 7 min read

Badass Tattoo Tips for Getting Your First Tattoo

Getting your first tattoo is a right of passage and a major decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The permanent body art is an emblem that often holds personal meaning. You’ll never forget your experience as a first-timer. Not only that, but if you end up getting more ink down the road, your first tat will still be significant. Your first tat marks your first experience at a tattoo shop or tattoo parlor and your first choice of tattoo design. 

Are you planning on getting a tattoo and wondering what to expect? Want a better understanding of the tattoo process and tattoo aftercare? At Affliction, we’re big fans of the inked look and recognize the magnitude of an inaugural tat. Check out these four tips for getting your first tattoo.

4 First Tattoo Tips

Tattoos are becoming more and more common. In fact, about a third of Americans had at least one tattoo in 2019. While you’ve probably seen someone else get a tattoo before — either in person or on TV — experiencing it yourself is a different story. Even if you have a rough idea of the process, it’s smart to do your research beforehand. And that’s where our first-time tattoo tips come in.

1. Take Your Time Choosing a Design

It’s easy to get excited about the idea of getting your first tattoo and rush into it without taking the time to choose a design. A tattoo will remain on your body forever, and depending on where you get it, it will be visible to others. That’s why it’s crucial that you pick a meaningful tattoo design, especially if it’s your first time. The process of how to design a tattoo begins with you and ends with your artist. 

Virtually anything can be implemented into a tattoo design, but yours should portray something that’s unique to you. It could be lettering, a symbol, a pattern, abstract art, or a realistic image. The tattoo design concept may represent a life-changing event, a hero, where you’re from, or a name, phrase, or quote. Think about what drives you and who you look up to most. What are your goals and greatest accomplishments? Asking yourself these questions may help you brainstorm a design for your first tattoo. The tattoo artist at your tattoo appointment can help you narrow down your exact ink design but we recommend coming to the tattoo shop with an idea in mind. 

Don’t rush the tattooing process. You should love your tattoo enough to want to see it every day for the rest of your life. While this sounds like a lot of pressure, coming up with a meaningful design that you personally connect with can be a fun process. When you’ve locked down the idea, have an artist sketch it, or generate the image yourself with an online tattoo designer. You might also want to get a tattoo artist’s opinion. They’ll be able to give you tips on sizing, color, and placement. You can also check out artist work on instagram for tattoo ideas. 

2. Prep for the Pain

Do you have a high pain tolerance? Think again. The tattooing process is painful and even those with a high pain tolerance may find themselves feeling tattoo pain. However, you can prepare for the pain. After all, you’re probably well aware that getting inked is painful. The tattooist will use a needle that will repeatedly be puncturing your skin to inject pigment and dye. Having said that, we recommend prepping for the pain of your first tattoo.

Although it might not be the most painful thing you’ve ever experienced, getting a tattoo isn’t like other types of pain. This is because instead of a quick jolt of pain, it will continue for anywhere from a half-hour to several hours — and you have to sit still and breathe through it. Keep in mind that the larger and more detailed the tattoo, the longer it will take to complete. But if your ink takes more than an hour or so, you’ll most likely get at least one break. 

Also, certain areas of the body will hurt much more than others. Generally, tattoos are most painful against bony areas, where the skin is the thinnest, as well as in places with concentrated nerve endings. This includes the ribcage, spine, shoulder blades, hands, face, feet, ankles, inner thighs, inner arms, and armpits. If you have a low tolerance for pain, you might want to consider getting your first tattoo somewhere less painful, such as your shoulder, butt, calve, hips, stomach, lower back, or outer thigh.

You may want to bring something to distract yourself from the pain. Take a book with you or bring headphones so you can listen to music or watch videos on your phone. Some people bring an item they can squeeze, like a stress ball or a thick towel. Another option is to get a numbing cream, which may relieve some pain. However, it might make your skin swell, so be sure to test the product out on a patch of skin a few days before going in for your first tattoo. You can find numbing creams online or through your tattoo parlor or tattoo shop. We also recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing so that you’re as comfortable as possible.

3. Prep Your Skin

In addition to preparing for the pain, you’ll want to prep your skin before getting your first tattoo. First of all, sunburns and tattoos don’t mix. Not only will a sunburn elevate the pain, but it will also interfere with the healing process. Some tattoo artists might even turn you away if you have a severe sunburn. Your skin tone will also affect how tattoo ink colors show up on your skin. A sunburn can prevent the artist from choosing the best ink colors for you because they cannot see your actual skin tone. 

Additionally, if you have any cuts, scrapes, or scars in the area where you plan to get your tattoo, it could impact the finished result. When it comes to tattoo art, your skin is the canvas, so try to avoid anything that might compromise it beforehand. Also, if you have eczema or otherwise overly dry skin, prep it with a rich moisturizing cream for at least a few days leading up to your appointment.

We also suggest steering clear of alcohol the day of and the day before you get your first tattoo. While some people think a couple of drinks might calm their nerves or numb the pain, it can thin your blood. This is something you want to avoid as it can cause excess bleeding and potential bruising. On that note, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin can have the same effect.

The day of your appointment, take a shower and get ready like you normally do. You don’t need to shave the area where the tattoo will go. Tattoo artists usually do this for you, but if you already shave the area regularly, you can certainly do it yourself. Just be extra cautious to avoid razor burn, cuts, or irritation. Additional irritation can lead to more tattoo pain afterwards. 

4. Don’t Overlook Aftercare

Proper aftercare is essential for your first tattoo — or any tattoo, for that matter — especially during the first few days. Your ink needs time to heal, and if you’re not careful, you might mess up its final appearance. Aftercare is a critical part of the tattoo experience whether your tattooed skin is visible or not. Aftercare is a critical part of the tattoo experience whether your tattooed skin is visible or not. Hidden tattoos require the same care as visible tattoos. 

On top of that, since tattoos penetrate the skin, they’re prone to infection. Preventing this isn’t particularly hard. However, if you ignore the aftercare protocol, there’s a good chance it’ll become infected, which can be dangerous if the infection gets into your bloodstream.

When your tattoo artist is finished with the design, they’ll probably apply some petroleum jelly and cover it with a bandage. The basic rule of thumb for new ink is to leave the bandage on for at least 24 hours without getting it wet. Resist the urge to touch it or peak at the design, even if you see a couple spots of blood soak through.

When it’s time to take the bandage off, make sure your hands are freshly washed with soap and hot water because bacteria is what causes infections. At this point, you can gently clean your tattoo or bath again as you normally would. You’ll also want to be careful about drying it, as towels can transfer lint, bacteria, or other irritants onto a healing tattoo. Apply more petroleum jelly or a gentle moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.

You can expect a new tattoo to itch. Although it’s part of the healing process and nothing to worry about, try not to scratch it. Also, if you have scabbing, leave it alone. It will eventually come off on its own when your skin heals. For a few weeks, avoid swimming and baths, which can affect the look of new ink. And just like before, make sure you don’t get a sunburn. Tattoos can take anywhere from a week to two months to heal, depending on a person’s age, the size of the design, and the condition of their skin.

Tattoo-Inspired Clothing from Affliction

Getting your first tattoo is a big deal. If you’re not ready to commit or can’t decide what design to get, you can still rock the edgy, inked look. Affliction’s tattoo long-sleeve shirts feature bold embellishments and daring designs. They’re an excellent tattoo alternative for those who aren’t ready to take the plunge.

If you’re a risk-taker who lives in the fast lane, every aspect of your life should represent this vibe, including your clothes and your home decor. Aside from tattoo long-sleeve tees and other wearable designs, Affliction carries printed art canvases. Our statement-making canvases feature a wide range of alternative imagery, including badass skull and tattoo artwork

Browse our ink-inspired collections today.

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