Tattoos have become so much more mainstream than ever. I have several myself and am in the process of getting a gorgeous Wizard of Oz piece from the talented Pete Dominguez at Arcadia Tattoo in Fife WA. While I was there I asked him some of the things people should know about getting a tattoo:

  1. Know your artist. You will be showcasing his/her work for the rest of your life, you’d better know if they are a good tattooist.
  2. Get recommendations. See a piece of ink you love? Ask who did it, 99% of the time they will remember.
  3. Have an idea you want. “The worst is when someone comes in and they don’t know what they want”, says Pete. “I shoot off ideas and they don’t like any of them. It’s like they want a tattoo just for the sake of getting one”. The artist can’t read your mind, people!
  4. Trust your artist! If something isn’t going to work they will tell you and offer suggestions. Trust them to have the creative ideas.
    Pete Domiguez/Arcadia Tattoo
    Pete Domiguez/Arcadia Tattoo
  5. But don’t be afraid to speak up. If you don’t like something – tell your artist.
  6. Don’t bring an entourage. One person is enough for support, any more is a distraction. Bring your best friend or boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. They are there for support for you only.
  7. Bring reference material. The more the better! Print out pictures, bring in books, website URLS, etc. Bring as much reference as possible.
  8. Check the spelling at least 3 times. Have the artist check the spelling. Have someone else check it. Just check it. A lot.
  9. Don’t get your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouses name. EVER. I know you love them, but there’s a reason people say having their name tattooed on you is the kiss of death to a relationship. I love my husband and can’t imagine life without him, but it will be a cold day in hell before I tattoo his name on me (or let him get my name).
  10. Wear dark clothing. Ink WILL get on your clothes depending on the location of your ink. It won’t show up on black clothes. Or wear something you are ok with getting ink on.
  11. Make sure what you are wearing won’t get in the way of the work. If you are getting a leg tattoo don’t wear jeans. Arm? Wear a tank top. Unless you want to strip down!
  12. Hygiene is important! Take a shower, wear deodorant. Brush your teeth. Don’t eat FunYuns or Corn Nuts. Don’t be smelly when someone is going to be all up in your business.
  13. Don’t drink for at least 24 hours prior to getting inked. Your skin and blood vessels react differently (and badly) with any alcohol in your system and won’t take ink as well.
  14. EAT! Eat something high in protein or else you run the risk of passing out.
  15. Drink lots of water. This will help you stay hydrated and make it easier for your skin to take the tattoo ink.
  16. The larger the piece, the longer it will take. Don’t expect it all to be done at once if it’s large or intricate. You might need multiple sessions.
  17. Don’t bring your mom to your first tattoo. As with all moms (myself included), they want to have a lot of input in what you get and may start dictating what it should be. Get what YOU want.
  18. Spots that hurt the most: Inside of arm, Inside of leg, top of shoulder, and foot. If you can’t tolerate pain well avoid these areas. Try the outside of your arm, the calf, or your back.
    Pete Dominguez/Arcadia Tattoo
    Pete Dominguez/Arcadia Tattoo
  19. Want to get your, ahem, *privates* tattooed? Expect to either be turned away or charged an extra fee for this. Any why would you want to do that anyway?
  20. When you get to the shop, expect to have some downtime. Your artist will be drawing, making stencils, checking placement, etc. I could be an hour before you actually start getting tattooed.
  21. The first poke of the needle isn’t necessarily the worst. In my experience the outlining part (first part of tattooing) doesn’t hurt as much as the shading. Of course people tolerate pain differently. Don’t be afraid of that first poke.tattoo2
  22. Don’t talk much unless your artist is chatty. Let him/her guide the conversation if any. Some artists love to talk while they work, others like quiet concentration.
  23. Sit still. Even moving to get something from your bag or get your water bottle can be enough to cause an error. Tell your artist that you need to get whatever you are getting in between drags of the needle.
  24. Take a break if you need it. And allow your artist to break if needed.
  25. Don’t try to bargain with the artist. Just don’t.
  26. Pay cash. Make sure to find out about how much you need ahead of time. Generally artists will charge anywhere from $100-$300 per hour.
  27. TIP! Tipping is definitely recommended and encouraged if you are happy with the artist and the work. I have heard anything from $20 to 20% or more. Do what you can afford, really anything is welcome.
  28.  Getting a tattoo is exhausting. If you have a long session get someone to drive you home.
  29. Don’t drink for 24 hours AFTER your tattoo. Your body won’t react as well with healing.
  30. Listen to your artist about aftercare. While there are several ways to care for your fresh ink, your artist will have their recommendations. With that said here are some general directions:
  • Leave your bandage on for at least 2 hours. Unless it’s plastic wrap, then take it off when you get home.
  • Gently wash the tattooed area with antibacterial soap. Don’t rub and don’t use a washcloth or loofah, just gently use your hand.
  • Don’t use a direct water stream. Use your hands to splash water onto the tattoo.
  • Pat dry, do NOT rub. That hurts and can cause unneeded scabbing.
  • Don’t pick at your tattoo. EVER!
  • Use the recommended ointment for your ink. Some artists recommend a tattoo-specific ointment like Tattoo-Goo or H2Ocean. Others like over the counter products. I personally love Aquaphor for my tattoos and that’s what my artist Pete recommends. Find more aftercare information HERE.


Two more sessions and it will be done 😉