The Internet is a wonderful place. However, it has a knack for setting unrealistic expectations. Just like the Instagram models and “#relationshipgoals,” most of the tattoo ideas you see on Pinterest and Instagram can be impractical. Many tattoos that get a lot of social media recognition are pieces done by artists who are more focused on making a buck than providing their client with a lasting, quality tattoo. These are the type of artists who work at shops in tourist areas, and give tattoos to young, ignorant girls who will stupidly pay twice what they should have to… (Yes, I am speaking from personal experience here… don’t judge, okay?) I thought I was being rebellious, but I was actually just being stupid.
Pinterest and Instagram aren’t all bad, though! By screenshotting or keeping a board of a few of your favorite designs to show your tattoo artist, they can get a good idea of what you’re looking for, and they can use that inspiration to create a custom tattoo just for you. A lot of serious tattoo artists have Instagram profiles you can explore and get amazing inspiration from, too! By looking at their profiles, you’ll get an idea of what sort of designs are actually tattoo-able, and you’ll be free of unrealistic expectations. There are also a lot of non-tattoo artists displaying their drawings, paintings, and prints on Instagram, which make for great tattoo inspiration.
2. Choosing Your Tattoo Artist
After you’ve made the decision to get a tattoo, and you know what you want, you need to decide on a tattoo artist. Do your research. You want to find an artist whose personal style speaks to you. The best way to do this is to match the pictures you’ve chosen as inspiration to the work in a tattoo artist’s portfolio. Remember, their portfolio represents what they think is their best work, so if you see anything mediocre in it, move on to the next.
Now, as you begin your matching expedition, consider what the artist seems to excel at. There are many different styles of tattooing (old school - aka traditional – as well as new school, Japanese, watercolor, etc.). If you find an artist that specializes in your preferred style and their work resonates with you, you’re on the right track.
Sending a message to your potential artist – or going into their studio for a consultation - is really important, because despite what might be on their profile, you want to find out if your artist is up for doing your tattoo, and you’re going to want to see if you can connect on a vision for the finished product.
Getting a tattoo is a collaboration between you and the artist, and their input matters. You’re probably sitting there thinking, “Um, excuse me? This is going on my body!” However, they’re the professional, and though your body is their canvas, they are the artist. As the artist and the professional, they know what looks best on different skin. Because of that, you need to allow them a little bit of creative freedom. With that said, though, I have never met a GOOD artist who doesn’t want to do everything they can to make their client happy.
Consider their personality, too. If you’re getting a larger piece, you’ll be spending a lot of time with this person. It’s important that you like them.
Like I said, an artist can’t always make your tattoo exactly how you want it. This is mostly because what’s on paper never looks the same on skin. Most tattoos will also have to be much bigger than you expected to maintain the quality. The smaller you make them, or the closer the lines are, the more likely you are to end up with a tattoo that doesn’t look so good in a few years. This is why it’s even more important to connect with your artist, because they may need to adjust your piece to make it a good and lasting tattoo.
And don’t forget about placement! You need an area with enough space. You might also want to consider how easy it is to both cover up and show off your ink. If you’re in the market for more than one tattoo (and if you’re not already, you probably will be after getting your first!), you should consider how all your tattoos are going to fit together, and the space necessary for your future work. Mention any future plans for more tattoos to your artist. Chances are they can provide some good advice.
Speaking of placement, let’s talk about a few areas where you can almost guarantee a tattoo won’t age well. I know you see girls on Pinterest with cute little foot or finger tattoos, but most artists will tell you these are not the best places to get a tattoo, and here’s why. Finger tattoos tend to be tiny and delicate, but over time those little detailed lines will bleed together, and your tattoo will look less like a cute little bird or quote, and more like a blurry blob.
Both foot and hand tattoos are exposed to a lot of wear and tear. Constant rubbing against socks, using your hands for pretty much everything, and exposure to sunlight can affect how a tattoo ages over time.
Finally, the most important thing to understand about tattoos is that you should not get one if you’re not prepared to take care of it, especially during the healing process, which takes about two weeks. You have to wash it, moisturize it, and NOT itch it ─ and trust me, you will want to itch it. There are a lot of details to know about aftercare (like how you can’t go swimming until it’s is healed, and how you should avoid activities that will make you sweat excessively in that area).
Ask your tattoo artist for recommendations on moisturizers for the healing process, and any activities you should avoid. The better you take care of your new ink as it heals, the better it will look over time. And face it, it’s a lifelong commitment!