What to do when you want tattoo

A tattoo of the lactic acid molecule, which is produced during exercise, on the shoulder of a kinesiology major. When considering getting a tattoo one important thing is to make sure you have good communication with a professional artist. This tattoo was done at Syndicate Tattoo on Poyntz in Manhattan. (Hannah Hunsinger | The Collegian)

Tattoo nightmares: they are so prevalent there’s even a television show devoted to covering up the unwanted ink. Some horror stories include, but are not limited to, getting a significant other’s name somewhere on your body (someplace hidden, God-willing) when they suddenly become an ex and bad artists renderings that don’t remotely resemble whatever you wanted.

Though tattoos are meant to be permanent, students’ likes and dislikes change drastically almost on a day-to-day basis. What someone thinks is “cool” today, goes out of style tomorrow. This is fine when it comes to things like clothes – there’s usually a younger sibling or thrift store willing to take the hand-me-downs. People who are inked may not be so lucky.

Before getting something inked onto your body forever and always, tattoo professionals have a few things you might want to consider first.

Why people get tattoos

Matt Goss, owner of Syndicate Tattoo located on Poyntz Avenue, said he does a lot of memorial tattoos.

“Unfortunately, being so close to the military base, there are a lot of fallen soldiers so we have actually tattooed some (images) of those soldiers,” Goss said.

For Miranda Boatwright, sophomore in accounting and finance, each of her tattoos means something. All, except two, are based off something family related that has happened in her life – like a butterfly on her left rib for her cousin who committed suicide and a heart expressing her love for her brother.

Although people get tattoos for many reasons, Cody Bader, tattoo artist at Stray Cat Tattoo in Aggieville, said he most commonly sees memorials for loved ones, self-expression, phrases or symbols and last but not least, “cool stuff with no reason at all other than a simple appreciation for art.”

Preparing for a tattoo

Goss said people need to figure out what they want before getting any kind of tattoo.

“I always tell people if they think they want something but they’re unsure, to wait six months,” Goss said. “If they still want to get it (then do it); if not, repeat cycle. You either will or will not eventually get tattooed.”

According to Goss, tattoo parlors generally become popular though word of mouth, so it is important to ask friends and read online reviews about the establishment.

“If people have good experiences, they’re going to be willing to share those with you, as well as negative experiences,” Goss said.

Goss also suggested shopping around and looking at the work of different artists when determining where to get a tattoo done. Generally, the artists will have their portfolio available either online or in-store.

Bader said potential clients should sit on the idea of the tattoo they are wanting for a few months, in order to “consider the permanence of a tattoo.”

Boatwright, on the other hand, said she usually doesn’t prepare in any way before getting a tattoo, because she psyches herself out.

“When I get an idea in my head of something that I want, I make an appointment and go and get it,” Boatwright said.

Common mistakes

Goss said one of the biggest mistakes someone wanting a tattoo can make is to not get it done by a professional.

“If someone is doing it part-time out of their house, there’s no way they can be proficient with the skills that it takes to do a tattoo,” Goss said.

According to Goss, it’s important that customers know exactly what they want, something that doesn’t happen when they rush into getting tattoos.

“Every day I hear people say, ‘Well, the artist did it this way,’” Goss said. “I think that communication is key between you and the artist to make sure that they’re understanding your ideas.”

He avoids this by making the tattoo sketch as detailed as possible, including shading and filling in the design with colored pencils. For Goss, it’s important to always be on the same page with his customer.

“So at the end, the tattoo is something that both of us love when you leave the shop,” Goss said.

To Boatwright, the most common mistake people make when getting tattoos is to worry about what others might think.

“It’s my body and there are people that think it’s not normal for me as a 19-year-old girl to have these tattoos, but it’s an expression of myself,” Boatwright said.

Boatwright said she does not regret a single tattoo that she has. All of her tattoos have a story behind them, and they made her what she is today.

“Sometimes I wonder if it will affect me getting a job out of college with the one on my wrist and inner elbow, but they are things that are huge parts of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said.

How to get rid of unwanted tattoos

The most common side effect of any type of tattoo removal is scaring. However, there are methods that minimize this.

According to a CNN article, a widely-used tattoo remove technique is using quality-switched or Q-switched lasers. The treatment involves a beam of light that searches for contrast between skin tone and ink and breaks the ink down into particles small enough for the body to absorb.

Patients must endure five to 12 sessions and the lasers work best on tattoos that are smaller, older and contrast with the patient’s skin tone. Besides taking up to a year to complete the process, it is also expensive – each session costing approximately $350.

“Laser removal is always an option, but it’s also a very difficult process,” Goss said.

Bader warned that laser removal can be very painful.

A second option is to completely cover-up the original tattoo with another one, a idea Goss discusses with 10-15 people a week. However, he said people don’t realize in order to perform a cover up well, the new tattoo has to be at least two to three times bigger in size than the tattoo being covered up.

College can be one of the most trying and rewarding times in a person’s life, and many students may want to memorialize their good times.

If you’re one of these students and choose to do so with a tattoo, do some research. Whether it be spur of the moment or thought out for months, be 100 percent sure it is what you want before it’s too late.