Things to Consider Before Booking Your Next Tattoo
Getting a new tattoo, whether it is your first, or your thirty-first, is a very exciting time. You've been planning what you want for months, to years, or you just want to live in the moment and get a random flash piece right now! As awesome as it sounds to get a tattoo this second (JUST TAKE MY MONEY, TY!), we should really stop and think about everything that goes into booking your next tattoo. Below, I discuss planning for a new tattoo, finding the right tattoo artist to do the piece, and dedicating the appropriate amount of time towards healing your new tattoo.
Are all of your ducks in a row?
- Make sure you have the funds to get tattooed. - Did you set aside money to get a new tattoo? Is your rent paid? Do you have a car payment coming up? Check all of your upcoming bills before you plan your next tattoo to make sure that you will have enough spare change. One of the worst feelings in the world is scraping pennies to make ends meet.
- Make saving for your new tattoo automatic. - One way you can easily save for a new tattoo is by setting up an automatic savings account. First, you will want to check to see what automatic payment schedules you already have taken out of your account. Then, you want to decide how frequently you want to save. You can either: plan to save money when you're already spending, save on weeks you have extra income in your account, save small amounts every day, save every payday, or whatever combination works best for you. Then, you'll set up automatic recurring payments to yourself. Your "payments" will go from your checking account into a secondary savings account. (You can talk to your financial institution if you are unsure of how to do this, but most mobile apps allow you do set up these recurring transfers.) If you do not have a secondary savings account, talk to your financial institution. (Most banks, credit unions, and fintech platforms allow for multiple savings accounts under your primary savings bucket.) The way I do this for myself is set up a $5/day (think like you're buying a cup of coffee) automatic payment to my savings account. If you save $5/day for 30 days, you have $150 saved. If you save $5/day for 90 days, you have $450. If you save $5/day for a year (365 days), you have $1825 saved. The more money you decide to set aside per day, the faster your money grows. These are great ways to pre-plan and save for large-scale tattoos, and just a generally awesome life tip to apply.
- Talk to us about your budget. - If you want to book a sleeve, but don't have all of the funds saved this second, we can still work something out. Your tattoo does not need to be done in-full, in one day. We can work with your budget and do shorter sessions in smaller amounts of money, rather than taking a huge $1000+ hit in one shot. Understand that if you have a very large idea, and a very small budget, that your idea may not be able to be done to the size, scale, and detail that you want. It doesn't mean that we cannot do your idea. However, when you want a $900 design (many hours of work at a large scale) for $200, that likely won't happen. However, we may be able to give you a $600 (smaller and less complex) design broken out into $200/session, over the course of three sessions. Just ask. The worst we can say is "no."
- Consider financing your tattoo. - This may sound off the wall to some of you, but bear with me. If you do not have $10,000 for a tattoo sleeve, we do not expect you to have all of the $10,000 sitting around in a bank account. Most tattoo artists are not going to be charging you $10,000 upfront for a sleeve anyway. Most of the time, sleeves take many, many sessions over a year (or more). Depending on how good your credit is, it is possible for you to get a personal loan at a decent rate -- maybe not a full $10,000 -- but you could possibly get a personal loan for $1,000, $2,000, or $5,000 at a 12% interest rate. Taking out a loan, and paying a small interest fee, allows you to have the money now. You can put all of that money into a separate account, slowly pay off that loan with an additional nominal fee, build your credit, and still have the extra money in your account that you normally would drain if you took cash out to pay for your piece. I personally think it's a smart move. Plus, if an emergency occurs (like your car taking a crap), you could still have a buffer of money to pull from, without putting it on a credit card with higher interest fees (24%+). Food for thought.
Did you do your research?
- Figure out how much the tattoo is going to set you back. - Every tattoo artist's rates are slightly different. Some tattoo artists tattoo faster than others. Some tattoo artists have flat rates or day rates. Some artists quote by each individual piece. Make sure that you know exactly how much your tattoo is going to cost. If a tattoo artist charges an hourly rate, ask them how long the session will be, so you don't show up with $300 for a $800 tattoo.
- Be skeptical of "too good to be true" deals. - Unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers and con artists who impersonate tattoo artists on the internet. This is most often seen on social media, where people make fake accounts, and direct message prospects and clients to pay deposits to book tattoos. Another popular scam is a social media account filled with photos of tattoos (that are not so obviously done by many different people), however the person behind the account is not a tattoo artist at all. These fake accounts scam individuals by making a post about a ridiculously good deal (almost too good to be true) in hopes that you will message them or email them to book a new tattoo. Then, they will take your deposit, and you will never hear from them again (likely because you are blocked). Be very, very skeptical of artists who charge low rates for large pieces. Make sure that the portfolio of the artist is consistent (all in the same lighting/background, same skill set, same consistency, same techniques). If someone is quoting you $500 for realistic portrait on an inner forearm, the quality of the work doesn't always align with someone who quotes $2000+ for the same project. Make sure that you don't get duped. Always double check that an account is the person's accurate social media profile (check their username, make sure it matches with their website, or shop's website links). Always double check that their email in their bio is accurate (check for anomalies - extra underscores, periods, numbers, unusual additions to their email address). Unfortunately, email inconsistencies are harder to tell unless you've been in communication with an artist already. However, in most cases tattoo artists usually list their email somewhere on their website. Look for reviews. Ask your friends. It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to spending money on good work. If you are unsure if a social media post is a crazy good deal, or a crazy good scam, always fill out a consultation form through a verified website. If an artist you find on social media does not have a website that they do business on, or a tattoo shop listed within their bio that you can double-check, proceed with caution.
- Look at portfolios. - Make sure that the idea you have in mind matches the artwork that the tattoo artist has in their portfolio. Many artists specialize in a handful of tattoo styles. For example, if you want a traditional pin up girl, you're going to want to find an artist who specializes in traditional tattoos, likely with several examples of other pin up style tattoos, traditional hands holding cards, masculine or feminine headshots, etc. You know this artist will likely be able to do your request. Another example would be, if you want a black and grey tattoo, you likely won't go to a tattoo artist with only color in their portfolio. It just doesn't make sense.
- Be sure to analyze the tattoo work on a deeper level. - Most tattoo artists have a technique or a unique trait that they do that is specific to them. A shading technique, color lining, bold/thick black linework, muted color pallets vs. brightly colored tattoos, sketch style vs. neo traditional vs. color realism, etc. While many artists can do more than one style, you should find an artist who creates artwork closest to what you are looking for. You wouldn't go to an artist who uses bold linework and bright colors if you want a thin, dainty, single needle plain black linework with stipple shading. That would just be silly. Just because you think someone's portfolio is cool, doesn't mean you actually want the work they do. If you follow an artist on social media that you absolutely love every part of the tattoo they do, you should probably just book your next tattoo with them.
- Read the FAQ sections, "no" lists, biographies, and likes/dislikes on artist's websites. - We are very simple creatures. We all have things that we like to do, and don't like to do. For the most part, we are very vocal about art that inspires us and art that does not. For example, I prefer to tattoo brightly colored, fun, girly, cutesy designs. I love watercolor and abstract art. I love rainbows, glitter, glitz, and glam. I love colored linework and bold statement pieces. I'm a fan of nostalgia, cartoon characters, animated movies, and fantasy critters. All of those things mean I would be a great fit for a cute dinosaur wearing a tutu with a fairy wand and some artificial glitter, if that's the tattoo you were looking to get. However, I wouldn't be the right person to do a black and grey realism lion with a clock and some roses. That's just not me. So, if you have a certain idea in mind for a tattoo, make sure the artist you send a consult form to would also enjoy doing that project.
- The tattoo artist you want might not be the right artist for the project. - Not all tattoo artists have the same talent. Personally, I am not skilled in hyper realistic portrait tattoos. I avoid any and all hyper-realism and portrait tattoos like the plague. So, as much as someone may like my brightly colored work, and think my watercolor is super cool, it doesn't mean that I would be able to crank out a crazy realistic Dumbledor portrait. It's just not my style. However, a tattoo artist in California or Texas may be able to make you the coolest design on the planet and be a great fit for the tattoo you want. Consider traveling to a tattoo artist in another city, state, or country to get the tattoo of your dreams. Don't just go down the road to Joe-Schmo because they are convenient, close by, or you think their work is "good enough." Tattoos are expensive, and a (mostly) permanent body modification (and expensive to remove). You could also make a vacation/road trip out of it (as long as you get tattooed right before you come home, and not try to swim right after getting inked).
Are you considering all the extra variables?
- Give yourself time to rest and relax. - The first week of care is the most important timeframe when tending to your new piece. However, you should dedicate at least 2-3 weeks to babying your new piece. For much larger tattoos, plan for a solid 4-6 weeks.
- No pain, no gain. - A new, decently sized tattoo will likely hurt for a few days. Some tattoo areas (inner arms, backs of arms, backs of knees, elbows, etc.) may swell up and bruise. This is entirely normal. You can ice your tattoo area and take Ibuprofen or Tylenol for the pain. Especially with large tattoo sits, your body may ache from sitting for extended periods of time, and your tattooed area will feel tight. (We literally stabbed you repeatedly with tiny needles for many hours. It's to be expected.) Washing a new tattoo can be painful. Do it anyway. You absolutely must wash and ointment/lotion your new tattoo. It is essential to keep your tattoo clean and moisturized. Period.
- Plan around trips and vacations. - Give yourself a solid month buffer between any upcoming family vacations to Disneyworld or camping trips. Believe me, as fun as a music festival sounds, you do not want to be washing and tending to your new tattoo in the blazing sun, sweating, dirty, and disheveled for days. Rubbing dirt, sand, and poison ivy into your new tattoo is probably (most definitely) the worst thing you can do for aftercare.
- Put the gym routine on hold for a moment. - Just like you can injure your body, you can injure your new tattoo. Whether you are a sports player, body builder, fighter, or gym rat/bunny, just take a few days off. If you absolutely must work out, consider small stretches, yoga, or a light activity where you will not break a sweat. Getting sweat trapped inside your new bandage is like harvesting bacteria in a petri dish. Not good.
- Keep out of the sun. - Whether immediately before or immediately after getting tattooed, the last thing you want is sunburn on a new tattoo. We will not be able to tattoo you if you show up at the studio sunburnt or still peeling from a sunburn. You will be unable to apply sunscreen or tanning oils to your fresh tattoo for several weeks, so avoiding the sun in general is the best thing to do. Additionally, if you wear your clear wrap that we bandage you in, you can sunburn through the plastic; and in extreme cases, that adhesive can fry into your open wound! Once your tattoo is healed, roughly 2-3 weeks, you can start applying sunscreen. Wearing sunscreen regularly on your tattooed bits will protect you from the sun's harmful UV rays and keep your tattoos looking spick and span for the years to come.
- Avoid all tanning, and fake tanning. - Tanning beds have way more UV concentration than general outdoor sun exposure does. UV exposure on your new tattoo is bad news bears. You also definitely do not want the chemicals from the fake tanner getting into your blood stream anyway. All excessive tanning will destroy your tattoos over time. Plus, your skin ages pretty quickly tanning anyway. Quit fake baking. It's better for your new tattoos, and for your overall health.
- No swimming for at least 3 weeks. - It is not safe or sanitary to take your fresh tattoo to a lake, river, ocean, pond, pool, or hot tub. Unclean, unfiltered water harbors bacteria, especially in public places. Believe it or not, putting chlorine and children's pee in your open wound isn't the best for your blood stream; nor is norovirus, E. coli, feces, and pollution that can be found in open bodies of water. Just say no to swimming until your tattoo is entirely healed (past the itchy-peelie stage).
- Bubble baths must wait. - Just like you can't go swimming, we do not want you submerging yourself in water. As relaxing as a bubble bath sounds, it's not a good idea for a new tattoo. Once you pass the itchy stage, pour yourself a glass of wine and bathe away!
- Pass on the drugs and alcohol. - Trust me, the absolute last thing you want to do is try to take care of your new tattoo while under the influence. The drunk or high version of you is not going to take proper care of your new tattoo. Besides the point, your new tattoo is likely going to ooze plasma for upwards of 48 to 72 hours (that's why you get ink sacks). Alcohol acts as a blood thinner and increases your bleeding rate. Excessive bleeding leads to big problems. Stimulants affect blood vessels, blood pressure, and heart rate just the same. Pass the 2–3-week mark and you may choose to do whatever adult activities it is that you desire.
- You get to be Chewbacca for a while. - Ripping out your little body hairs, no matter the process, from a fresh tattoo is going to feel like hell. Reserve at least 3-4 weeks before you start shaving, sugaring, or waxing the tattooed area (longer for laser hair removal). If anyone gives you crap about your body hair, just make wookie noises and run away.
- Press "pause" on sexy fun time. - I cannot reiterate this enough... Your new tattoo is an open wound! We do not want bodily fluids of any kind, from you or others, getting inside of your fresh tattoo. For my particularly kinky friends: no ouchies, slaps, paddles, whips, wax or anything "harmful" on your tattoo area until you are nicely healed.
- Blood and plasma donations take a back seat. - Giving back to the community is awesome! We appreciate that you want to help others, but getting new tattoos also comes with risks. Every blood and plasma donation centers have different rules revolving around donations. Make sure to check with your local donation center on when it is safe/okay for you to begin donating again.