The Dos And Don’ts Of Tattooing

DO recognize quality. With tattoos, you get what you pay for, and generally the only time you’ll get a sweet deal on a great tattoo is if you’re friends with the artist. A good quality piece that’s designed well and rendered cleanly, that fits your body and will age smoothly with it, is probably not going to be cheap. You’re not just paying for a service; you’re commissioning a work of art — the goal is not to get the best deal but to get something worth paying for.

DON’T be a cheap bastard. If your artist is wonderful to you and gives you a new piece of art you love, you have absolutely no reason not to tip.

DON’T go to a kitchen magician. Not only will the tattoo itself end up looking like badger poop, you risk infection, scarring, and all kinds of other complications by going to someone who you can be 99.9% certain doesn’t practice proper sterilization procedures. Don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors by “saving money” — the money you save on your bootleg tattoo is money you’ll later spend on removal, a cover-up, or hospitalization. Going to a clean, professional studio is the #1 most important factor of getting tattooed, so please, for the love of avoiding hepatitis, have some respect for your body and don’t get tattooed at “some guy’s house.”

DON’T trust just anyone. Simply because someone works at a studio doesn’t mean they’re any good. There’s no shortage of talentless hacks out there who my grandma could tattoo better than that call themselves tattoo “artists.” Do your research and make sure the person you’re seeing is, in fact, an artist.

DO trust yourself. You’ll know a tattoo is right for you if and when it feels right. If you don’t know what you want and find yourself pawing through the flash sheets growing increasingly more frustrated, maybe you’re not ready for a tattoo. If you’re not 100% all about it, don’t get it.

DON’T steal. While it’s perfectly okay to draw inspiration from someone else’s tattoo, it is in horribly bad taste to directly copy it. There are literally thousands of ways to customize familiar subject matter, that’s the beauty of custom tattooing. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting to incorporate some elements of a particularly inspiring design into your own, there are a lot of things wrong with printing something out from Google Images and saying “I want THAT.” Think about it: you are literally taking a part of someone else’s body and putting it on your own. Can you think of anything creepier?

DO check out portfolios. Get to know different artists’ styles. Find an artist whose style makes sense with what you have in mind. If you want biomechanical, someone who specializes in traditional tattoos probably isn’t your best option.

DO listen to your artist. If you’re getting a tattoo from someone you trust who’s been in the business a long time, chances are they know what they’re talking about. If they advise against a particular design or placement, they’re not doing it to bum you out on purpose — they’re doing it because they want to give you a good tattoo that will continue to look good over time. Be flexible.

DON’T be afraid to speak up. While it’s good to be open to suggestions, if you and your artist aren’t remotely on the same page, let alone in the same book, maybe you should be working with someone else.

DON’T sabotage yourself — make sure your lifestyle accommodates tattoos before you get a whole bunch of them. Tattoo discrimination sucks, but it does exist. If your dream job is to become Secretary of State, you probably shouldn’t get knuckle tats. If nothing would make you happier than knuckle tats, perhaps you should think of a new dream job. Just think it through.

DO be yourself. If you’re really into cats and want a cat-themed sleeve because just thinking about it makes you all gooey on the inside, go for it! Why the hell not? There’s this strange misconception out there that tattoos have to have some sort of “deep meaning,” but they don’t! My favorite tattoos mean absolutely nothing at all and I love them. You don’t have to rationalize your choices — if a tattoo makes you feel good about yourself and makes you smile when you see it, that’s meaning enough. TC mark

image – Shutterstock


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  • Maxine

    Lovely! I wish this had been up before I got my first on Tuesday. Also, how exactly does one tip? I tried giving extra, and they just assumed I wanted to buy cream etc.

    • Day

      You say “here, this is your tip”.  

      • Maxine

        That’s incredibly awkward though..

      • annie

        did you give it to the person at the cash register? that may be why they were confused

      • Maxine

        Haha, yes… Woops?

  • Sonny

    Great thoughts. None of my tattoos have a “deep meaning” or serve as some kind of “reminder”. I got them because I thought they looked dope and I don’t have any regrets. I especially like the DON’T about not be afraid to speak up and being yourself.

  • Ohyoko

    It ought to be Dos, not Do’s. Plural nouns don’t use an apostrophe. 

    • Kristi_Jacobsen

      You use an apostrophe when it’s not a word that should be pluralized or is an abbreviation. Otherwise, you are correct that plural nouns do not use apostrophes. (I feel your pain. I corrected the coffee menu so often, they started checking theboard for errors when they see me coming!)

      • Ohyoko

        What’s an example of a word that shouldn’t be pluralized? I ask obviously not out of criticism but curiosity.

  • jerry kelso

    I had my only tattoo done by a friend, at home, stick and poke style, and it’s great and I love it.  they key with “bootleg” or “kitchen magician” tattoos is to not be stupid, it’s very easy to stay clean and safe…use a brand new needle, peroxide, gloves, don’t contaminate the ink.

    • alison

      That is not true. My boyfriend is a tattoo artist and A LOT goes into making the environment sterile. Even if you see your “artist” opening up a new needle.. That is just one small detail. 

  • Jesse

    I have a tattoo on the back of my hand that my friends all thought was a terrible idea (because of the placement) – but, “You don’t have to rationalize your choices — if a tattoo makes you feel good about yourself and makes you smile when you see it, that’s meaning enough.” Thanks for that!

  • Michaelwg

    I’m going to get this entire list as a tatoo.

  • Anonymous

    don’t get a butterfly tattoo. EVER.

    • Reparcsyks

      And why the hell not?

  • _____

    “There’s this strange misconception out there that tattoos have to have some sort of “deep meaning,” but they don’t”I’ve been sayin this for years! my friends obsess for months and months over how to cram the most meanings and symbols and metaphors into their tattoos but I’m really psyched about getting a little green alien head or some funny skeleton. A whimsical little piece of art, I think, will always been more attractive and fun for other people to see if they don’t have to decode it or hear a long (uninteresting) backstory about it. Plus something that needs an explanation like that just ends up making the owner seem pretentious and pseudo smart 

    • Mila Jaroniec

      One strange thing I’ve discovered is that most people are actually disappointed to hear about the lack of meaning behind some of my tattoos.

      Them: “That’s beautiful! What does it mean?”
      Me: “Thanks! Nothing actually, I just like peacocks.”
      Them: “….Oh.”

      All. The. Time.

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on GWEN ! and commented:
    Gonna get mine today afternoon.

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