You are ready for your first tattoo!!…..NOW WHAT?

So you have decided to get your first tattoo…..where do you start? Your design? Your budget? Your artist? Your tattoo studio? The placement? There are so many decisions to make and this is something that will be on your body for the rest of your life; so what are the correct steps to getting not just your first tattoo but any tattoo if you aren’t already a loyal client of an artist? The info I am about to give to you is what I have been telling people for the last decade when they ask any of the previous questions and any that were similar.

Ok so you have decided….it is final….You are ready for your first tattoo!!! “How bad is this gonna hurt??!!” This is usually everyone’s first question. Well I am here to tell you that first, it is different for everyone, second, different parts of the body feel different when being tattooed, third, if your skin is hydrated and moisturized it makes our job easier. Although this is the most popular question it is not the first thing you should be worried about, I will let you know when it is time to worry about pain threshold.

So what is the first step? This is where most people would think they should have their entire design planned out before they should find their artist, which is close to what this step is but what I call the first step is Research. What should you research? Well I am assuming you have an idea of what you want on your body and the rule of thumb is, if you have had a tattoo design in your mind for one year without changing it, then get it tattooed. I think for people who have trouble making decisions this is a good rule to follow, however, this is a general rule not a law, spontaneous tattoos are perfectly fine too. Some people can only get tattooed if it is a spontaneous idea because if they try to plan it out they “Think about it too much and psych themselves out.” So that is your first bit of “research”, what type of person are you (spontaneous or a planner)? Are you already 100% sure what your design is or are you unsure? This is where the second part of your research comes in. What style of tattoo do you want? Now you may be thinking, “Oh my tattoo is small it doesn’t matter what style it’s in.” This statement could not be further from the truth, You still need to go through this step in order to do the next step. Here is a list of tattoo styles for you to research:

  1. Traditional (Sailor Jerry\Ed Hardy style}
  2. Neo traditional
  3. New School
  4. Fine line
  5. Abstract
  6. Full Color
  7. Black and grey
  8. Watercolor
  9. Japanese
  10. Minimalistic
  11. Micro tattoos
  12. Black work
  13. Cosmetic
  14. Trash Polka
  15. Pastel Gore

Once you have decided on your tattoo style the next step is to find your person and place. Meaning your artist and the shop.

Each of these categories have subcategories but that is what you can discuss with your artist during your consultation. So once you have decided on what style you would like then you research the tattoo shops and the tattoo artists that interest you. ( Keep an eye out for future post “What you should look for in a tattoo shop and artist”) Here are the most helpful tips when looking for a tattoo shop and/or artist. If you have been recommended to a shop or artist by someone you know, then obviously look at their work and ask questions to that person. Look the shop and artist up online, read reviews, not just the reviews from the clients but read how the shop or artist responds to the review, see if they tried to resolve the bad reviews or of they responded at all. Physically walk into the shop, the first time you walk into the studio should not be the day you get your tattoo, you should feel comfortable in the shop and with the employees. You should feel welcome when you walk in the door. Getting a tattoo, especially your first tattoo, is a very intimate experience, not to mention some tattoos take hours or multiple sessions, so you should be sure you are comfortable with your artist and the shop, so just pop in and check out the spot. Look for cleanliness, organization, pay attention to the way they talk to everyone that comes in and the number one thing to do is ask to use the restroom. If the bathroom is clean then that is a good sign that they clean the rest of the shop on the regular, look in corners, look at trash cans, look for sharps containers and always look for the license or like in my state, look for their certification from the health department. Ask to see the artists portfolio, these days and times you can usually look at an artist’s portfolio on their social media sites but some shops still keep real life tangible portfolios that clients can pick up and look at in the waiting area or somewhere in there shop. Pick the artist and the shop that you will be most comfortable with, this is the last tip for this section but is one that is very important an one that gets pushed to the side the quickest. DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR ARTIST BECAUSE THEY LOOK “CUTE”!!!! I have seen so many jacked up tattoos that needed to be fixed because someone’s significant other made them get a tattoo by an artist of the same sex or because they let someone tattoo them so they could get a phone number or because “I know he messed my tattoo up but he was hot!!” And so on, I will go more in-depth with this in another post but I am sure you understand what I mean.

So once you have your artist and shop pinned down, set up an appointment for a consultation with the artist of your choice. When it is time for your appointment, come prepared, you do not have to have a reference of the identical tattoo that you want but some references of what you have in mind or even a sketch of what you have in your head helps more than you know. The hardest part of designing a tattoo is getting the info out of out client’s head and onto the paper in front of us. We all understand that not everyone can draw so don’t be intimidated by the artistic skills you have or don’t have and if you can’t find pictures of references to print out then sketch it and bring that with you. This just helps the artist understand what yo have in mind. Listen to what your artists tell you, if your artist says something is not gonna work or something will not transfer to a tattoo easily then you should ask the artist what will work. The biggest issue I have with clients when designing a tattoo for them is the handful of clients who for whatever reason think they know more about tattooing and what will work than the actual professionals. Don’t be that person, you will not be liked by your artist, you will end up getting exactly what you asked for, then more than likely you will not be happy with your tattoo once it’s done because that is when you will see that the artist was rightand now your stubborn ass is stuck with that forever. Anyway once the consult is over and the design has been explained to your artist, you can make your appointment for your tattoo. Some shops require a deposit to make an appointment, I can only speak for my shop when it comes to this part so this should be discussed with the shop of your choice. At our shop when you make an appointment, we require a hundred dollar deposit to hold the time slot and to cover drawing time, then when you pay for the tattoo on the day of your appointment we subtract your deposit from your total and you pay the balance, so basically your deposit comes off the price of your tattoo as long as you come to the appointment. There are no refunds on deposits because the artist has already spent the time to draw your tattoo and blocked time in their schedule to do your tattoo, so if you don’t come in for your appointment and don’t call to reschedule more than 24 hours before then the deposit goes to the artist for their time which was just wasted basically. SO long story short communication is key! Show up for your appointment. Below is the simplified list of what I just explained, steps an helpful hints for your first tattoo:

  1. Don’t sweat the pain, it’s not as bad as you think its gonna be.
  2. Decide what style of tattoo you want (do your research)
  3. Find the artist for you, research, read reviews, check out the shop
  4. Schedule a consult with the artist
  5. Go to the consult with your references and listen to what the artist tells you
  6. Make your appointment, if you change your mind on any part of your design contact your artist asap and let them know don’t wait for your appointment to do so.
  7. Show up for your appointment (I will make a future post on how to prepare for your first tattoo and what to do and what not to do at the shop)
  8. Listen to what your artist tells you, ask questions if you have them, make sure your artist explains how to take care of your tattoo after. Do not listen to google, do not listen to your friends and family, we are the professionals, Listen to us please!!!
  9. Take care of your tattoo the way your artist tells you, stop by the shop after your tattoo is healed so the artist can see it and decide if it needs a touch up or not and offer for them to take a pic of the healed tattoo.

So you now have all of this new info….get the process started now to get your tattoo! I have done over 200 clients first tattoo because of my “chair side manner” and patience. Always remember to trust your gut, if something doesn’t feel right when you walk in a shop then its probably not the shop for you, keep searching for the artist and the shop that make you feel comfortable. Good luck and congratulations on your first tattoo.

Yours In Ink,

KC DeVille


I am a female tattoo artist of six years, I have owned my tattoo shop since 2009 when my husband, Tony, and I opened DeVille Ink in Baltimore. I am a mom to three amazing sons, you will learn about them in my posts, at this point in my life I dont think there are many things I have not done or at least attempted to do.

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