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So, you’ve decided you want to make a permanent, everlasting change to your body – great, what an easy and not at all daunting decision right? Haven got my 14th and 15th tattoos recently, with my 16th already in the works, I thought now is as good a time as any to talk about one of my favourite topics ever, getting tattooed.

While it may feel like tattoos are a relatively new trend they can actually be traced as far back as 3300B.C. (or about 5000 years ago). Meet Otzi, the oldest known human to have tattoos.

Otzi, who was found in an iceberg has 61 tattoos are organized into 19 different groups.

Not bad for a 5000-year-old stick and poke job if you ask me. Tattoos were often used to signify a right of passage, they marked an important event in the persons life that they had overcome or an achievement they had accomplished…but these days a sleeve means that you can probably make a pretty decent iced vanilla latte.

But the sentiment of them still remains the same, they’re a non-verbal way to communicate something about yourself and a way to make yourself stand out from a crowd. As tattoo artist C.W. Eldridge put it “every monkey wants to look different than the one next to him”

So if you’ve been on the fence about getting a tattoo or are just looking for that one final push to convince you, here’s 6 pieces of advice I have for anyone looking to get inked for the first time.

1. Having a meaning is overrated

“I’d love a tattoo but I’m too indecisive, but if it has meaning I won’t regret it”. Something along this line has got to be the most common thing I hear from people when the topic of tattoos comes up. And to be honest it is a fair reason, the last thing you would want is to look at something on your own body and not be happy with it. Let me ask you this though, have you ever stuck with the same opinion of something for your whole life?

People change and so do the things they hold dear and important. I choose to look at tattoos as timestamps. When I look at some of my tattoos I can remember exactly at what point in my life I was at when I got them. What I was going through, the kind of person I was at the time. They’re a nice walk down memory lane and a reminder of where you’ve been.

If you like something [some kind of idea or design], and you feel like you want to get it stick it as the lock screen on your phone, if you still feel like you want to get it after a month or two of constantly looking at it then absolutely go get it. And hey if it turns out that you come to dislike it in a few years’ time then it actually will have a meaning, it’ll mean “I’m terrible at making life choices” and personally I think that’s pretty funny.

2. Do your due diligence on symbolism and meaning

Tattoos can be fun and silly little ways to express yourself. However certain symbols and their placement on your body could have alternative or even sinister meanings that you may not be aware of. Take this for example:

Looks nice right? I would agree, except if you were to find yourself around some unsavoury individuals what you would be signalling to them is that you have spent time in prison. The number of lines in the web may represent the number of years or significant events associated with the person’s incarceration. Context is always important.

So, while many people get tattoos just for fun, many others take them very seriously. The last thing you would ever want is to have a tattoo like that and be approached by former convicts and be questioned about a prison sentence that you never served (a true story that did not end well for my dad’s acquaintance) So be mindful of what kind of markings you are [permanently] putting on your body. If it’s not something very specific to you or a custom-made design then double check the meaning of the

3. Be mindful of riding trends

With tattoos, much like with clothes, certain styles come in and out of fashion over time. Don’t get swept away by the latest trends when you’re scrolling through Pinterest looking for inspo.

tribal tattoo’s were just as popular in the early 2000’s as patchwork is today. These days though, not so much.

Yes, I get it patchwork is sexy but don’t just slap on a whole bunch of random stuff all in one go like stickers to a laptop, especially if you don’t have any to begin with in the first place.

Like I said in the first point, having meaning behind your tattoos isn’t everything. Get it if you want to get it but don’t get it just because it’s trendy at this moment. Because you can’t return tattoos the way you can a pair of flared jeans off ASOS once they go out of fashion.

4. different artists have different styles

Get acquainted with the various styles that exist. One idea could be drawn a hundred different ways by a hundred different artists. Even if you are considering something simple and basic to start with it’s worth checking out different styles because you might come across a style you love that you never even knew existed. It’s better to walk in asking for a rose in style (whichever one you like) than just “I want a rose”.

Fine Line, Blackwork, American Traditional, Line Art

While most artists will be able to do a variety of basic tattoos and styles, a lot have a particular style or niche that they not only prefer doing but excel at exceptionally better than the others.

Between Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok it’s never been easier to find an artist near you who’s style and artwork matches your creative vision. And if after your first tattoo you think you might want more, keeping to a particular style can help with creating cohesion and a theme to your bodily artwork. But don’t feel in any way restricted by that either because it’s perfectly normal (and cool) to mix art styles from various disciplines.

5. Don’t bargain with your artist

I’m serious, just don’t do it. Unless you haggle for hoovers in Harvey Norman as well then I don’t see why you would think you can do it here. It’s just disrespectful to the artists talent and time. Also understand that a lot of shops charge a flat rate (the minimum amount for any given tattoo) even for small pieces.

And if you can’t afford the artist you want right now then save up until you can. You get what you pay is generally a good rule of thumb, not always, but more times than not it definitely applies. The last thing you want to do is cheapen out on something that is going to be a part of you for the rest of your life. Or go to “someone you know” who can do it cheaper and end up having to get it covered up or lasered off anyways because it’s not the quality you wanted. Decide based off the artists portfolio always, not off price.

6. whoever told you it doesn’t hurt lied to you

You know your own pain tolerance best, but regardless of what it is, getting a tattoo is probably going to sting. The pain varies greatly depending on where on your body you’re getting tattooed. The length of time it takes to get it done is also a factor, for example getting your forearm tattooed is typically not painful but getting your forearm tattooed for 7 hours straight can get pretty damn sore. I mean you are getting stabbed repeatedly for hours on end after all.

It also depends on whether your artist dabs the ink off your skin or starts to viciously dry wipe your skin while they’re tattooing you. Dry wiping feels like it could definitely be a medieval torture technique and is when the artist wipes away the ink that oozes out the needle and your skin as you’re getting tattooed.

If you’d like to experience the sensation without getting tattooed just go to your local hardware store and rub some sandpaper on your skin and you’ll get the idea. If your artist does this and it starts to hurt you don’t be afraid to ask them to slightly wet the tissue when they wipe, it will make the whole process far more enjoyable and if not enjoyable then at least bearable.

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