In this article, my goal is to outline the basic tattoo process. It may differ from each shop & country but this should be a pretty accurate guideline. Disagree or did I make any errors? Leave a comment.

The design
The hardest part is choosing a design. Remember that you will have to live with it the rest of your life unless you choose to have it removed. That can be costly, time consuming and painful. That’s why I waited until I was older and in the right “mindset”. I know some people that have tattoos that they got when they were young and now regret them. No offense to anyone but some classic “I wish I waited” tattoos would be a Superman logo on the deltoid, Tasmanian Devil on the back, meaningless “tribal” and my all-time favorite barbwire around the bicep. Here are some things you might consider: Do you think you will still like it 40 years from now? Is it original? Who would want to walk around with the same tattoo as someone else? I personally like custom shops where you won’t see any flash on the walls. The artist can make a personal design just for you. Besides tribute or wacky tattoos like Steve O’s Angelina Jolie exact markings, who wants to walk around with the same thing on someone else? Tattoos have always meant to be personal.

Where shall you put your tattoo? Do you have to cover it up for work? Can you take the pain? Do you have any skin issues in that area? These are just some questions you will want to ask yourself.

Finding the right artist
After you’ve decided on a design and where you want it to be placed, it’s time to find a tattoo artist. This is an important decision. Obviously you will want someone that’s good. The best way to gauge an artist is by their portfolio. See what they have done. Most should have some of their artwork available to browse online. You can also walk into the shop to check out their book. You will notice that some artists might stick to a certain style. If you want a portrait, you wouldn’t want a tribal specialist to do it. Even if you choose an artist, they still have to agree to tattoo your design and where you want it. That said, the best way is to communicate with the artist. I like artists that are not scared to tell you no and will work with you to find something you both agree on. If your in the US, is a great resource.

As the cliché goes – you get what you pay for. It’s very true in regards to tattoos. In most cases, you can tell if a tattoo was cheap. The rates I’ve seen range from $75 to $200+ an hour. Most places will require you to pay a deposit when you schedule your appointment. While there are many walk-in shops, most good artists are booked well in advance. The money issue shouldn’t be part of your artist decision making. If you can’t afford the artist, save up. It’s not very smart to compromise something that will be on your body for the rest of your life. It will last longer than any teeth whitening, perm or even face lift.

(Rates in the Philippines to follow)

You will most likely have to make an appointment with your artist. If your lucky, you might be able to talk to them right then and there regarding your design idea. If your really lucky, you might even get the tattoo on the spot. Keep in mind that most people will want to get tattooed after work or on the weekends. Don’t be surprised to find out those days and times are fully booked. Since I have a Monday through Friday day job, I like to have my work done on the weekends or on a Friday night. I want to have as much time to heal until Monday comes.

Tattoo day
On the tattoo day, you want to make sure that your fully rested. Falling asleep while your getting your tattoo done can be dangerous for you and the artist. Eat, drink and stretch. You have to be prepared to be able to be still for a few hours depending on your design.

Most, if not all shops will require you to fill out paperwork. It will probably ask for your name, contact information, basic health questions, if your on medication, did you eat, drink alcohol and etc. The purpose of this form is to make sure you agree with the artists’ terms and know what to expect. It’s also cover their asses if you die in the chair. I’m not a lawyer but it’s pretty straight forward. Some will also make a copy of your valid ID to file with the paperwork. I always try to get there a little early to fill it out.

Confirming the design
After the paperwork is finished, you will have one last chance to make any changes to the agreed design. The artists will show you the design on paper. Look at it very carefully before agreeing. I think artists should have the client sign off that the design is good to go.

Skin preparation
The artist will clean the chosen area with rubbing alcohol or something similar. In most cases, they will then give you a clean shave with a disposable razor to remove any hair that might interfere with the needle.

Design transfer
Artists will use a special kind of paper that has your design on it. They will either hand trace it or use a thermal fax machine. To make the stencil stick, water or deodorant will be applied to the tattoo spot. This leaves a purple outline of your design. Some might skip the paper stencil part all together and just freehand the design on you using markers. After the transfer is done, you will be asked to give your blessings and that your ready to go.

Tools of the trade
You will see the the artist take out his machine, get new needles and pour the ink in the caps.

Before you get poked with the needle, the artist will use some Vaseline or A&D ointment over the part they will start with. The purpose of this is so that the needle glides over the skin better. Most designs will need an outline 1st before the shading and coloring. The pain might be intense at first but will eventually lessen. Your skin will eventually get numb. In my opinion, shading & coloring is more painful compared to outlining. When I know the artist is going to go over a painful area, I hold my breath. I did that when I had my back done. The spine area hurt like hell.

Depending how long your session is, there might be a break during the 1/2 way point or after the outline. When the artists advises you that the tattoo is finished, they will wipe it down and ask you to look at it in the mirror to see if it was done to your satisfaction.

Cleanup & bandaging
After telling the artist your satisfied, you will be cleaned up to remove any blood, ointment or ink from the non-tattooed areas. Saran wrap is then placed over the tattoo and secured with surgical tape.

Payment & thank you
Pay the rest of your balance and thank the artist. You don’t have to give a tip but I suggest you do if you can afford it. I usually give 10-20%. If you can’t afford it, show them how much you like you tattoo.

Next >>> Tattoo Aftercare

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