How to plan your first tattoo

Reader's Digest Editors

Here's how to plan your first work of body art without setting yourself up for a lifetime of regret. 

Not something to bargain-shop for

plan your first tattoo

One of the biggest mistake potential tattoo-ees make is to go looking for the cheapest artist they can find.

Tattoo removal is expensive, and you don’t want to have to pay for the tattoo twice by having a better artist touch it up or cover it up entirely.

You will spend less in the long run by saving up now and getting what you want, not what you almost want.

Read more: Over 50s with tattoos

 

Research the artist

When selecting something so personal and permanent, you would think people would put in at least as much time and thought as they do in purchasing a car. Instead, many people walk into the first tattoo studio they see.

Be careful in selecting your tattoo artist. No one excels at everything. Some artists are great at tribal tattoos but not as gifted at three-dimensional skulls. Ask around and check online. Find the right person for your job.

 

You have to wear it everywhere

first tattoo regret

In order to avoid a serious case of tattoo-rue, you have to think long term.

Try to imagine the design in different outfits and contexts. You might love the dragon on your arm when you’re at the beach, but will you be as happy with it when you are wearing a sleeveless dress at a wedding?

Read more: What would you say to your 18-year-old self

 

Trends come and go, tattoos are forever

Remember that many things will happen over the course of a lifetime. People change in mind, body, and spirit. Your current passions and relationships, as difficult as it is to believe now, may not be as important to you in thirty years.

That’s why you should avoid branding yourself with images that have a risk of being ephemeral, like the name of your favourite band.

Will One Direction rock forever? Imagine this is 1983—you might feel the same way about Kajagoogoo. Who? Exactly.

 

Your tattoo will age with you

how will your tattoo age

Another mistake is to forget that your body is going to change. You may plan to beat the odds and stay at your fighting weight throughout life, but just in case you don’t, try to imagine what that Celtic knot on your hip would look like if you put on a few extra pounds.

Remember, too, that skin changes as you age and some finely detailed tattoos can spread and become fuzzy. Ask your artist for tips on which designs are likely to last longest. Or if you’re set on something intricate, plan on how you can touch it up later in a way that will hide any blown-out details.

 

A cute gecko can become Godzilla

Women are more likely than men to express regret over a tattoo. Consider the changes that your body will go through if you decide to have children. Tattoos on the abdomen can be stretched and changed with pregnancy.

You can avoid the worst ravages by applying cocoa butter a couple times a day throughout the pregnancy, which is a good idea for your skin anyway. Things will still stretch, but they won’t get destroyed.

 

Get a translator you trust

chinese character tattoo

Before you get Asian characters etched into your skin, be sure you know what they say. Many people are victims of what has been called “gibberish font” where the characters that supposedly say “peace” in Japanese actually say “sushi”—or worse.

If your tattoo artist offers to spell out your name letter by letter using corresponding Japanese or Chinese characters, they don't have a clue as to what they are writing because those languages do not work that way.

 

Building in an out

If you have some doubts but decide to go under the tattoo gun anyway, get your ink in dark colours, because they are the easiest to remove later with lasers.

Get your piece in a spot that’s easily concealable with clothing so you don’t have to worry about any social or work repercussions. If you get the work done on your back, you’ll never have to look at it and will, therefore, be less likely to regret it, and if you do, at least you won’t have to look at it all the time.

But if you’re having second thoughts before you even begin, the best thing you can do is wait and see if you’re still into the idea in a few months or even years. Why rush into something that will last a lifetime?