My Dad never wanted me to get a tattoo. So out of respect, whilst I lived under his roof, I never explored it outside of the odd google search. Fast forward almost 10 years after I moved out and I found myself writing my Bucket List. Sure enough, my memory worked well, and ‘get a tattoo’ came in at number #23. I told my parents about it and whilst Dad wasn’t best pleased, mum had my back and used the ‘he’s a grown man now’ argument. Thanks, Ma!
To save you some time here’s the main headlines
1) Yes, it does hurt, but no more than a continuous scratch. Ask your tattooist to give you a little taster scratch to settle your nerves
2) Avoid anything that you’ll regret (names, dates, football clubs)
3) Good tattooists are expensive. £80 per hour is a good guide price.
4) Colour vs Black – Both are good but be wary of fading over time and sun exposure.
5) Look after it whilst it’s healing
6) They are addictive
A lot of my friends and family already had ‘some ink’ so there was plenty of people to ask about it. Here are the thoughts of those people:
· Sister (two tattoos on her wrists) – So Painful. She cried the entire time and to this day the tattoo artist remembers her.
· Mum (Kitten on her back) – It’s like hard scratching on your skin and she gritted her teeth a fair bit.
· Brother (tribal designs all over the place) – It’s only painful if you get it in certain areas, like your shoulders or close to bones.
· Friend – (all sorts of tattoos about death and rapist skeletons) – It’s super cool and doesn’t hurt. I want more.
So, from that little snapshot, I determined that my mum’s and brother’s advice was probably the best, so I then investigated the design I wanted and where I wanted it to go.
What design do you want?
I was advised to not get anything that could come back to haunt me. This includes dates, people’s names, and anything too stupid. I’ve seen people with football crests, players' names, or even sporting achievement tributes that never actually happened. Hilarious yes, but incredibly silly in my opinion. What if your team changes crests? Sells that player or what if you get a divorce and must walk around with your ex-wife’s name on you?
Whilst tattoo removal has come a long way in recent years, it’s better to not even be in the situation in the first place. Unless you want to be on one of those tattoo fixers shows.
My first choice was between color tattoos or just black shading. Colour takes longer and in turn is a bit more expensive, but it does look the nuts. My brother’s black tribal tattoos caught my eye, as they seemed simple. I figured for my first tattoo I would do something similar and then branch out to color later down the line.
With that sorted, it was off to the tattoo shops, the internet, and the tattoo books to find the right design (I’m not a graphic designer so ruled out making one myself). The one thing I kept seeing was animal tribal designs, so I thought about what animals would look good. I came up with:
I thought the tiger was best but couldn’t discount the shark. Sharks are super cool and with Shark cage diving being on my Bucket List I felt it had a good connection for me. In the end, I decided to get them both. I also decided to keep the other designs saved as I liked them all. In the end, I came up with the plan to have a tribal animal sleeve. I’d start with the shark and the tiger and over time add other animals until the arm was full.
Where do you want it?
Before deciding where to put it, I downloaded several apps that stuck tattoos on your pictures, and it became more and more clear to me, that my arm was going to be the place.
There a quite a few places off-limits for my body. These include:
· My face or anything on it (mouth, ears, or eyelids).
· My neck – it’s a sensitive area for me, and I like to cover my tattoos if I ever must.
· My hands – whilst I have seen some tasteful tattoos for hands and fingers, I just think that subconsciously I’ll think I need to wash my hands all the time if I see something on them in the corner of my eye.
· My… places. Yes, I must mention this as it seems to be a growing trend online. Again, hilarious as some maybe, it’s not for me.
The rest of my body was up for discussion, but the main place for me is my arms. I love the idea of a themed sleeve that stops just before my wrist and potentially bleeds into my chest.
Finding a Tattooist
You do hear some horror stories, so I recommend you always do your research or go with someone who comes recommended by someone you know and trust. Or meet with a few people, talk to them, and ask questions about aftercare and price. I ended up going with the same person my brother, mum, and sister all used. I guess we can call him the family tattooist now. (Although I don’t expect my dad to ever pay him a visit).
His name is Alex, and he runs Bullet Ink tattoos; https://www.facebook.com/alex.b.hynes
To put it mildly, he was awesome. He arranged a consultation first, which is where you’d go and meet him, talk about the design and the process. He’d look the design over and maybe suggest slight alterations and provide advice on locations and pain levels. He was very booked up at the time, but that’s got to be a good thing. I paid the deposit and about a month later I was in the chair. Alex uses good quality ink and follows all the correct hygiene procedures. He’s constantly talking to you and making sure you’re ok, with regular breaks (for both of us). I can’t recommend him highly enough, so check him out if you’re in the Hertfordshire area of the UK.
Getting the tattoo
Ok, yes it does hurt, but no more than a scuff on the knee or a little scratch. If you can handle an injection, you can handle a tattoo. The needle barely goes deep at all, and it’s more of a sore scratch than an actual puncture. The main problems come if your tattoo takes a long time or if your tattooist is a perfectionist. Imagine being poked by someone once. That’s a little annoying but you brush it off. Now imagine someone poking you continuously in the same area for three hours, it’s going to get a little achy and frustrating. Same thing when getting a tattoo. Also, if your tattooist is a perfectionist, they’ll likely sit back and look for little areas that need a touch-up. Going over a fresh tattoo again can make the eyes water a little, but I don’t think being a perfectionist is a bad thing. Some other tips:
1) Have some headphones or a good talking relationship with your artist. Alex and I spoke about our Bucket Lists and laughed about my sister.
2) Wear comfortable clothing. Three hours in a chair is uncomfortable enough, so avoid the tight jeans.
3) Be prepared to sweat a little
4) Stay as still as possible, if you shake or move then you could end up with a line across your tattoo.
5) Make sure you take regular breaks if your tattoo takes longer than an hour.
6) If you do decide to get names, dates, or words. Check the spelling. Your artist will make you sign a waiver to say if you spell it wrong, it’s your fault.
When the tattoo is done it’s essentially an open wound, so preventing infection is key. Your artist will put some cream on it and then wrap it in clingfilm. You need to keep it covered for a few hours to let it calm down a bit. The soreness will kick in during this time as well.
When you take off the cover, wash it with antibacterial soap (non-fragrance) and warm water before gently dabbing it dry. Then apply another coat of aftercare cream. Repeat this process twice a day for as long as you can. Any soreness should fade after 4-6 days. Scabs will also form around your tattoo. Do not pick these off as you could damage the design. If they get itchy, wash it, and apply more cream.
Eventually, all the redness and soreness will fade, and your tattoo will become a part of you. Sometimes I forget I have one until I check myself out in the mirror after a shower. If you get massive scabs and the soreness continues, then you may have an infection and should see your doctor. Infections will either be caused by poor hygiene practices when it was done or more likely, you have not taken care of it correctly.
I love my tattoo. I loved it so much I went back six months later and got the lizard as well. Sadly, lockdown stopped me from going back in the last 18 months, but now that restrictions are easing, I foresee a future trip to see Alex in 2022. Overall, getting a tattoo is something I do not regret and is a prime example of why my rule about doing some research is a key part of my Bucket List.
Check out all my rules here.
If you live in Hertfordshire, I strongly advise speaking to Alex as his work won't disappoint.