How to Prepare for Your First Tattoo

Tattoos have become less stigmatized in recent years as Millennials and Gen Z’ers have stomped on the stereotypes past generations have placed on the art form. It’s not uncommon to see someone with one, meaningful tattoo or someone who is completely tatted up, searching for any possible blank space that remains to be inked.

Neon light-up “tattoo” sign. Photo by Sherman Yang on Unsplash.

Students like Ethan Brower, a psychology major at Rhode Island College, have noticed other students around campus with tattoos. Brower specifically notices the tattoos that appear to have a deeper meaning, which has made him consider getting one himself.

“I grew up with a learning disability, so I thought maybe about tattooing a small little awareness tattoo on my arm about my disability,” Brower said.

The commitment that comes along on the journey of desiring to get a tattoo to then executing the plan to make it happen, can often make it overwhelming to know where to start. Luckily, Brower can check step one off the list…


If you are skilled in the drawing department, more power to you. Try to sketch out your design idea yourself. Even a rough drawing can help your tattoo artist have a clearer idea of what you are looking for. On the other hand, if sketching is not your expertise, gather as many relevant reference photos as possible to allow your artist to put your idea to paper and eventually, ink to your skin. It’s important to note that you should not use any photos of tattoos done by a different artist and ask your artist to do that same design; artistic theft is a big no no in the tattoo industry.

Once you solidify your design idea, you then need to pick the placement of your tattoo, or at least the general area. For your first tattoo, you may want to take into consideration the pain that comes with tattooing more sensitive areas. Or, you can have a go big or go home mindset and brave the storm of a rib cage tattoo – an area that is notorious for being one of the most painful to have under the needle.

SUNY Plattsburgh public relations and journalism student Olivia Bousquet decided on the latter and got her first tattoo as soon as she turned 18. She got a sunflower surrounded by a bouquet of wildflowers, with “live simply” in her mom’s handwriting underneath it on the right side of her ribcage. Bousquet acknowledges the bold placement type.

“My uncle had a tattoo on his ribs and he was like ‘Oh good luck, it’s gonna hurt like hell. Get ready for some pain.’”

Despite the cautionary tale, Bousquet said that, during her three hours under the tattoo-gun, the only part that felt uncomfortable was the position she had to keep her arm in, which kept falling asleep.

Rib cage tattoo of an alpine flower on Natalie St. Denis. Photo by Natalie St. Denis.


Tattoo artists specialize in various different styles of tattooing, so it is important to do your research to find one best suited for your design. This applies to individuals who are prepping for their 30th tattoo or those getting their first. No one wants a poorly done body modification that will have its mark on your skin forever.

Brower says, when the time comes, he is willing to put in the time and effort needed to find the artist for him.

“I will probably do some research and read reviews about local tattoo artists that specialize in those types of things.I already know that some tattoo (artists) specialize in straight lines, curved lines, colors and all that other stuff,” Brower said.


Scheduling your appointment will often require a deposit for the time and effort your selected artist will put into prepping or designing your tattoo. If you cancel at the last minute or don’t show up, it will often result in not being rebooked and losing the trust of the artist. It is crucial that you pick a date and time where you not only physically be able to show up to the appointment, but also when you can financially afford the cost of the tattoo once it is complete, in addition to a tip. Typically, try to tip the standard 18-20%. But if your piece is upwards of $300, I think artists don’t expect as much of a tip once it gets to that range, though it is appreciated.


A tattoo is a form of body modification, so preparing for your time in the chair, whether it’s 45 minutes or two hours, is key to making the experience go smoothly.

Bousquet can testify to this, as she now has three tattoos, so the experience isn’t as new to her anymore. She emphasizes the importance of eating and hydrating before to fuel your body for the stress it will inevitably feel. Additionally, Bousquet says bringing a book or music to listen to can keep you occupied if you will be sitting for a longer session.

To avoid the awkwardness of attempting to adjust your clothing at the shop for your artist to access the part of your body that you will be getting tattooed, Bousquet says to wear the proper clothing, for her, that was loose clothing.

Artists also say to avoid blood-thinning consumables at least 24 hours before your tattoo, such as alcohol and Ibuprofen.


After your appointment, the fate of your tattoo is almost entirely in your hands now. Your artist will give you a detailed regimen to follow during the healing process of your tattoo. In some form or another, this will consist of using an anti-bacterial, unscented soap and applying lotion to prevent dryness. Whether you choose to stick to this routine or not will affect the longevity and quality of your tattoo overtime.


While this isn’t a mandatory step, you’d be surprised how addictive this form of self-expression feels once you start it.

“I agree with the fact that once you get one, it’s very easy to want to get more. I’ve typically waited a year in between each one, solely because tattoos are a very expensive hobby,” Bousquet said. 

“But I definitely want to get more. I think they’re a very cool form of art that you can have on your body permanently.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s