How to prepare for your first tattoo

photo illustration by Abigail Compton

Getting a tattoo is a memorable experience. It’s a piece of art that will be on your body for the rest of your life, but the first one will always be a story to tell. Getting your first tattoo can be daunting, but Matt Goss, tattoo artist at Syndicate Tattoo, has some tips to make it go as smoothly as possible.

Plan a design well in advance

What is cool now might not be in five years. It’s important to plan out your design and make sure it’s right for you.

“I always tell people to think about a design and wait six months,” Goss said. “If you still want the design in six months, go for it, but if not, just repeat the process.”

Shelby Daniels, sophomore in life sciences, said she had her first tattoos in mind for half a year, because she had to wait that long before she was legally of age to get one.

“I got two done at the same time,” Daniels said. “One of them was a coffee cup on my wrist. It’s my matching one with my mom…we felt like it was something special to us and no one would have it. The other one was the word breathe on my ribs, that one is personal to me because it’s the word that calms me down.”

Hydrate and eat before you go

If you’re skittish make sure you are well hydrated before getting to the parlor. You should always drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your appointment and eat before you go in.

Syndicate offers juice boxes and candy for those needing to get their blood sugar up beforehand.

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No alcohol or numbing cream before hand

Alcohol thins the blood, and if you start bleeding then the blood gets mixed in with the ink. This causes the ink to thin, which makes your tattoo look faded. Plus, artists don’t want to deal with a drunk person while they are trying to work.

Another thing you shouldn’t do beforehand is put on numbing cream. Goss said the cream doesn’t work. Numbing cream causes discoloration to the tattoo and could result in you having to get a cover up tattoo later down the road.

It’s okay to be nervous

When you get your first tattoo, it’s likely that you’ll be nervous because it’s a new experience. However, it almost never ends up hurting as much as you thought it would.

“My first tattoo was a mother-daughter tattoo that says ‘For her I will not fall,’” Alyssa Arnsperger, junior in animal science and industry, said. “I just remember thinking that actually getting the tattoo would hurt so much.”

Goss said that he always allows one person to go back with a first timer so they can relax more.

“It’s a new environment and new situation for them so I always allow them to have that one person with them as a touchstone, to relax and feel better,” Goss said.