The responsible studio’s guide to getting a tattoo

Thinking about getting a tattoo?

Deciding to permanently tattoo your skin is not a decision to be made lightly. Before booking in, whether it is your first tattoo or last here are a few things to think about:

Is this tattoo mainly for you or is it for others to see? It sounds obvious but if you have your back tattooed you will rarely see it, and if you have your wrist tattooed you will see it often.

People often choose the inside of the arm for tattoos which are very close to them sentimentally, whereas the outside of the arm is often reserved for tattoos people want to show the world. For this reason the arms are a unique placement and sleeves can be designed to explore complex art which has varied significance.

There are also practical considerations to take into account- certain shapes suit certain placements. The arm is round and so there will be some wrapping effect to any design put on it, meaning the design can seem distorted if not thought through and designed well. The thigh and upper outside of the arm are great places for large one off pieces like portraits.

Some places are prone to excessive fade and wear and so come with a serious warning! Feet and Hands are the two places where the skin behaves differently- partly due to the fact they are always rubbed and therefore there is always the high risk of fade and wear. Your artist should advise you of this, the best place to position the tattoo to avoid this and you need to understand it is your risk to take. Any future touch ups will be chargeable and if it fades once it is likely to keep happening. Also, some realism designs are very difficult to touch up effectively.

Fingers are the worst place of all to tattoo as they can fade within 2 weeks! For this reason we do not tattoo fingers as the results are not consistent and generally end up looking worn and in our opinion a bit rubbish: we would not be happy for our client to have a tattoo like this from us.

Could your tattoo prevent your career from progressing how you would like? Most industries are very inclusive but tattoos on highly visible places like the neck and hands can still be an issue in many industries.

80% of the quality of your tattoo is down to what you do when you walk out of the studio. We provide thorough written and verbal aftercare advice and sell only the best aftercare products however if you go home and ignore it or are not sensible your tattoo will not be how the artist (or you) intended.

If you work doing a job which is very manual, constantly chafing or rubbing the tattooed area, it will fade.

If you use sun beds or expose your skin to UV rays often then your tattoo will fade and you will lose the contrast of the piece.

If you use fake tan your tattoo’s base tone will be altered, therefore you lose the contrast and the tattoo will not look as intended as you have altered the tones.

These are just a few ideas of lifestyle considerations, there are plenty more and only you can make the best judgements about what decision is best for your lifestyle.

Do you intend on extending the piece in the future or not?
This is really quite important. It is a fact that the best sleeves are those that have been designed with the intention of a full sleeve to start with.
Just imagine that you design a kitchen without considering the fact that at some point you would invest in a large Fridge Freezer so when the time comes you have to stick it where you can, it juts out into the room, making it awkward to walk around and generally looks a bit random. Well, the same idea applies to tattoos.

All the artist really needs to know is if you would like the option to extend in the future, and then it can be designed so it will flow nicely when the time is right.

Never to be underestimated it is surprising how many clients don’t know what style of tattoo art they like. I am not talking about the terminology, because that isn’t important, but fundamentals like do you like realistic pieces or cartoony style pieces? There are so many styles of tattooing and a lot of debate about the definitions of each but to make it as simple and helpful as possible here are the main styles:

Traditional: Imagine the tattoos you think of sailors having? This can be traditional, but so can many other tattoos. We are talking about simple colours, solid thick lines and 2d designs. Now, there are lots of takes on traditional these days like neo-traditional and new school which have bent the rules and taken things up a gear such as using more varied colours but the fundamental simplicity of shading and solid lines remains.

Traditional tattoo example- anchor

Realism: It is what it says on the tin. Any tattoo which tries to achieve what a photo would! Minimal use of lines, mostly shading and using many tones. Inside this bracket you also have semi-realism which is again, just as it sounds. It generally features more lines and simpler shading. There is colour realism or black and grey realism.

Portrait tattoo of dinseys maleficent

Oriental: Usually refers to the Japanese style of tattooing which features bold outlines, tonal shading and featuring Eastern Iconography such as the Japanese Gods and symbolic flowers such as Lotus, peony and Chrysanthemum. Usually a black and grey background with colour focal points.

Japanese style full sleeve

Avante Garde: This is a modern development of tattoo art which can feature abstract and surrealism. Think Trash Polka if you know it and if not- a combination of realism with abstract splashes and geometric shapes.

Avante garde sleeve

Dotwork/Linework: Think Mandalas, Mehndi and Henna style tattoos. Dotwork uses dots which create depth as shading does in other styles, by grouping the dots closer or further apart to create contrast. Linework- image is created using only lines (usually black), can be similar to etching, it is akin to much modern illustration.

Black dotwork leg piece
All this is well and good but everyone has to be practical. Do you want a back piece but only have a few hundred pounds to spend? Understanding the size of your commitment is paramount. A back piece, for example, can take up to 50 hours. Oh, and remember, pay cheap, pay twice.

Of course, you can book in an appointment once a month or have a month off etc but you need to be sure you can commit to the spend before you book. There is nothing worse (for the client or the artist) when a customer is walking around with a half finished piece for 2 years. Artist’s style’s develops in that time, and also part of the tattoo is already 2 years old so there will always be a difference in the appearance.

To give you a rough guideline a palm sized piece will cost up to £300, a medium A4 sized piece such as a portrait up to £600 and a sleeve up to £2500.

Pain tolerance:
If you want a decent tattoo you will need to sit still for often prolonged periods of time (we always give breaks!). How much time can you handle? How much do you want the tattoo?

Being tattooed can be frustrating as it is a relentless sensation. We have large amounts of clients who sit for full day appointments (6 hours) and we have those who know they can only do 2 at a time. However, if you are only able to do 2 hours at a time, not every tattoo design is available to you. Realism such as portraits cannot be stop-started and need to be worked to somewhat completion. If required a portrait could be entirely mapped out in grey line and shaded in a following session but this will look slightly different to the portrait which was done in one go and of course will end up taking more time in the long run.

There are certainly some places which are more painful than others, but this depends on the individuals perception. What we can say with confidence though, is that the upper outside of the arm and the outside of the thigh are the easiest places, and the ribs/abdomen and foot are up there with the worst. We do not advise anyone to be tattooed on the ribs as their first tattoo as there is an incredibly high risk of the client not being able to sit through it. Even with covered clients we only advise 2-3 hours at a time on the ribs.

Do you have any medical conditions which make you more likely to experience the pain higher than others and therefore need to have short appointments? All medical conditions should be discussed with the studio in advance as we cannot tattoo those with certain conditions and others just need consideration and advice.

For advice on how to minimise the discomfort of a tattoo see here.

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