How to Prepare for Getting a Tattoo

Portrait of smiling tattooed man with arms crossed

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You've got your tattoo design all picked out and found an artist you trust with your permanent piece of body art. But, are you truly prepared for getting a tattoo? There are a few things to take care of prior to going under the gun, but they are all pretty simple.

Set an appointment with the tattoo artist you have chosen. Although not all shops require appointments, it's always better so both you and the tattoo artist will know exactly what time to be at the tattoo shop. If you show up unexpectedly, it may be the artist's day off or she's already booked for the day.

Have your design ready or, if you've previously spoken with the artist, make sure he's got the design ready for you. If you still haven't picked your design, then you are not prepared to get your tattoo and you shouldn't make an appointment yet. It could take you hours before you decide on a design and the artist will not want to wait when he could be working on someone else. You can't expect him to draw up something custom on the spur of the moment; these things take time.

Be alcohol-free the day you're getting your tattoo. Although many people feel they need a little liquid courage, alcohol and other chemicals, including aspirin, can thin the blood and cause excess bleeding. This can cause the color to bleed out or make the tattoo scab more, leaving you with either a dull tattoo or gaps in the color. Excessive bleeding can also hamper the healing process.

Take a shower or bath prior to showing up at your appointed time. This may sound silly, but if you've just spent two hours working out at the gym or mowing lawns and you stink, the tattoo artist is going to be in a hurry to finish, and the last thing you want is for them to rush.

Eat something before you get your tattoo. You might think you're too nervous to eat, especially if it's your first tattoo, but you still need to choke something down. Many people who are already nervous and haven't eaten all day are at a higher risk of passing out. Some shops will not tattoo someone who has not eaten sometime in the last four hours.

Wear appropriate clothing. If you are getting a tattoo on your lower back, wear loose pants. Ladies, men can run around with their shirts off, but if you want to save a little modesty while you're getting a tattoo on your upper back or the back of your shoulder, wear a halter top or tank top that you can easily pull down the side where the tattoo is being placed. A button-up shirt that you can wear backwards is also a good choice for back tattoos.

Bring photo identification with your birth date printed on it. A state issued driver's license or ID card are the most common forms of identification, but you can also use a military ID or passport. A social security card and/or birth certificate will not work.

Find out beforehand what forms of payment are accepted and bring enough money to cover the cost of the tattoo and a tip for the artist, if you are so inclined. Some shops will take checks or credit cards, but others only accept cash. Don't show up with just a credit card, if the shop only takes cash. This will not only irritate the shop, but you will also most likely lose your time slot while you go locate the funds you need.

Show up to your appointment on time. Many shops only allow a small window for tardiness, especially if there are more people waiting for a spot. For example, at some shops if you're more than ten minutes late, you go to the bottom of the list, which means you may not be getting your tattoo that day.

Try to relax and/or bring a friend for moral support. The pain is usually not near as bad as you think it will be, but if you need someone to hold your hand, most shops will allow one person to be with you during the tattoo procedure.