With the increase in tattoos in the country, it can be said that almost every person has at least one tattoo. The reason for such an increase in tattoo appointments is that tattoos are no longer a taboo subject.
Before, body art was usually associated with something of a negative connotation; like biker gangs, mafia, underground lifestyle and people with questionable backgrounds. But times have changed and we’ve realized that tattoos are just a fun way to express yourself. No problem with that!
However, many people don’t really think about how tattoos work and what the process is like. People rarely look for such an important aspect of inking; for example, many worry about pain, but few people worry about ink safety or ink allergies.
Therefore, in the following paragraphs, we will guide you through the tattoo process; from tattoo appointment to aftercare routine. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Tattoo Process: How Tattoos Work (9 Steps)
Step 1 – Choosing the Right Tattoo Parlor/Tattoo Artist
Before setting up a tattoo appointment, you have a lot of homework to do. You can’t just walk into any random tattoo studio and get inked (unless you’re looking to get a walk-in tattoo). Instead, you need to find the best of the best and get tattooed by an experienced professional. this way you can avoid many potential long-term tattoo issues (more on that later). Here’s how to choose the best tattoo parlor and tattoo artist;
- Browse all the tattoo studios in your area; use Google maps to check the salons, their exact location and possibly a link to their website or online portfolio. It’s a great opportunity to check reviews online and Google kicks it off as well.
- Be sure to check out the studio’s portfolio; this will help you figure out what style of tattoos they offer and see if that’s something you want to do.
- Check out your tattooed friends and see if they know or recommend a particular tattoo parlor or tattoo artist. Ask them about their experience and if the studio is safe and reputable.
- Once you’ve narrowed down the list of potential studios, call each one and schedule a consultation. Check the safety and cleanliness of the salon, as well as tattoo artists who could potentially tattoo you.
- Once you have decided on a particular tattoo studio, be sure to schedule an appointment to get your tattoo done.
Step 2 – Choosing the Perfect Tattoo Design
You can come to a tattoo appointment with a ready image or an idea of what you want to get as a tattoo. On the other hand, you can consult your tattoo artist on improving this idea, or see if the artist can provide a better and more original design.
Either way, you should talk to your tattoo artist about the design and style of the tattoo, its size, color, and potential placement.
If you don’t know what to get tattooed, the tattoo artist will contribute, present some ideas and find something you might like, while consulting with you directly.
Step 3 – Choose Tattoo Placement
Just as it is important to choose the right tattoo design, it is also important to know where you will place the design on your body. Finding the perfect spot can be harder than you think.
Your tattoo artist will explain which tattoo placement will hurt you the most, given the size of the tattoo, as well as the areas of the body being discussed. Unless you have a particular placement preference, it’s best to avoid very painful areas (where there’s a lot of bone and thin skin with lots of nerve endings). This especially applies if it’s your first time getting a tattoo.
The tattoo artist will also talk to you about areas where tattoos fade fastest (areas with a lot of friction and sun/water exposure, like hands and feet).
Considering all the information provided, you will choose the perfect tattoo placement with the help of your tattoo artist.
Step 4 – Finish the paperwork and payment
Once the tattoo discussion is over, you will need to fill out paperwork regarding your ID, age, phone number, address, etc. This is essential for the tattoo artist to know that you are not underage or getting a tattoo without adult supervision (depends from state to state).
Then you will have to pay. Typically, once you have discussed the design, size, color, and placement of the tattoo, the tattoo artist will provide you with the total cost for the entire process. The practice is to pay before the start of the tattoo.
You’ll need to see if the studio also accepts your preferred payment method. Once you’ve paid, be sure to get a receipt and keep in mind that you’ll also need to tip the artist after the tattoo is complete.
To note: A simple small tattoo can cost between $50 and $100, but sometimes the price can go up to $200. Larger, colorful and more elaborate tattoos tend to cost up to several thousand dollars. Regardless of the cost of the tattoo, you should tip the tattoo artist an additional 10-30%.
Step 5 – Tattoo Preparation
This is the most exciting part of the whole process; actually getting a tattoo. Once you’re in this tattoo chair, there’s no turning back. Here is what your tattoo artist will do at this point;
- The entire tattoo area, including the chair and tools, will already be cleaned and sterilized, even before you step into the chair. If for some reason you think everything is not sterilized and cleaned, be sure to ask and check with your tattoo artist.
- Depending on your tattoo style and location, you will sit in a dentist style chair, table chair or bench. If your chair is not comfortable for you, be sure to let your tattoo artist know.
- The area of your body, where the tattoo will be placed, must be prepared; this includes cleaning the area, using rubbing alcohol, and in some cases even shaving. It is recommended that clients come to their tattoo appointment already cleansed and shaved.
- Next, your tattoo artist will create a stencil of your tattoo design. The stencil will be placed on your body to create an image transfer. To adhere the stencil to the skin, your tattoo artist can use deodorant or soap to moisten the skin. Once the transfer is complete, the stencil paper will be removed and you will be left with an outline of your tattoo.
- At this point, the tattoo artist will prepare the necessary equipment and check with you if you can start tattooing. Equipment must be completely sterilized and new in the case of needles, gloves, etc.
- If you are allergic to latex, be sure to ask your tattoo artist to use nitrile gloves.
Step 6 – Get a tattoo
At this point, your tattoo artist will start tattooing the first line. It’s fair to say that the first few seconds are the worst, as you get used to this new sensation. After a short while, you’ll get used to the feeling (and the slight discomfort or pain).
Your tattoo artist will first complete the entire line art of the tattoo. Once that’s done, it’s time to finish the tattoo shading and coloring, if you go. At this point, the tattoo artist will switch from needle to needle, or even machine to machine, to ensure that the shading and coloring is done quickly and efficiently.
The tattooing process itself can last between an hour and a few sessions. This, of course, depends on the size of the tattoo and the complexity of the design. The placement of the tattoo can also contribute to the number of sessions you may need.
Step 7 – The Final Touch
Once the tattoo is complete, your tattoo artist will clean the tattoo or apply a warm towel to calm the tattooed skin. Then they will apply protective ointment and take a photo of the tattoo for their portfolio. However, if you don’t want them to take a picture, you can always say so.
Once the photo session is complete, the tattoo artist will wrap your tattoo using tape and a bandage. Remember, a new tattoo is treated like an injury, so you’ll hear a lot about aftercare from your tattoo artist.
Step 8 – The tracking guide
After each tattoo session, the tattoo artist will provide you with appropriate aftercare instructions. They will explain how to clean the tattoo, how to moisturize it and what products to use. They may also mention some unwanted side effects and warn you about tattoo infection and what to do if something like this happens. It is always important for a tattoo artist to talk about the health risks associated with tattooing, such as ink allergies, rashes, skin swelling, etc.
Step 9 – Caring for the tattoo (after it heals)
Even though this step is not part of the direct tattooing process, it is definitely part of owning a tattoo. Even after it has healed, you still need to take care of your ink to avoid premature fading and creasing. Applying sunscreen is a must with tattoos, especially on hot summer days.
It’s also essential to keep moisturizing your tattoo so that it stays bright and vibrant even years after you get it.
If your tattoo starts to fade, be sure to contact your tattoo artist for a touch up. If you go to the same tattoo artist who did the tattoo, chances are you can get a good discount for the touch-up.
And that’s all!
Hope our step by step guide through the tattoo process was helpful and informative. For more tattoo information, be sure to check out our other articles and, of course, talk to your tattoo artist. Even though the process may seem exhaustive, it happens quite quickly, so you don’t have to worry about it taking a long time.
Effectively, the majority of the process is taken up by aftercare, since tattoos take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to fully heal. If during the follow-up you notice any redness, swelling, rash or oozing from the tattoo, chances are you are dealing with an infection. In this case, consult a doctor and contact your tattoo artist for more information.
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