If you are toying with the idea of getting your first tattoo done, have questions about the whole process and are feeling anxiety about getting it done; relax because most everyone feels the same about their first tattoo. Most peoples minds play games with them and they develop a fear of the unknown. This feeling has an adverse effect on most and makes us shy away from doing some of the things that we really want to do, like getting my first tattoo, but are afraid to take a chance. Rolla coasters are a good example for most people.
The best way to overcome fears of the tattooing process is to read books and articles and become familiar with what exactly will be involved in the tattoo experience. This way you will be aware of each step in the process and know precisely what to expect before the needle starts buzzing. In this article, I will tell you, from start to finish, each step involved in tattooing.
Please bear in mind though, that I will be describing just exactly how the process should generally proceed. There will always be possibilities that different tattoo artists will do things differently than I describe or in some instances even skip some of these steps. This does not necessarily mean that the artist is wrong; it just means that there is more than one way to skin a cat. So to speak. But do be aware that any major variations from the process described below could be an indication of a problem. You may want to discuss with your artist, their procedures in advance.
Let us assume that you have nailed down your tattoo design and have your desired artist picked out. A truly professional artist will require that you show valid identification and proof of age. You may also have to fill out other paperwork and give some other types of personal data. This will vary from shop to shop and has little bearing on the actual process.
Most tattoo parlors will require payment for their services before they begin. This again will vary from shop to shop and each will vary in the types of payment that they accept. You should always request a receipt for your payment.
Now you are ready for the chair. This can be in an open area or a separate room. This will vary between shops and also vary with the part of the body you are having tattooed. If you prefer a private room, you should talk to parlor personnel about this in advance. There are varying styles of chairs for different tattoos, so a private room may not always be convenient for the parlor to furnish. Your artist should do everything in their power to make you feel comfortable and accommodate your requests or tell you why they cannot.
Preparing the tattoo area. Rubbing alcohol is the most common substance used to clean the area that will receive the tattoo. Once the area is cleaned, then the area will be shaved with a new disposable razor to remove any hair. The area has to be clean shaven because any presence of hair can cause problems. The immediate and surrounding area will be cleaned again, making sure there is no hair remaining and everything is set to proceed.
Making a stencil of your tattoo design. The artist will most likely use a thermal-fax machine to make a stencil of the tattoo design. The machine will transfer your design onto a special thermal type paper to be used as a stencil. The artist will then use the stencil to transfer the design onto your skin. To aid in the transfer process, the artist will use soap, water or even stick deodorant to moisten the skin. These substances allow the design to transfer better and provide more color on your skin. When the stencil is removed, you will have a purple-ish blue impression of the future tattoo remaining on your skin.
Your artist will begin preparing their tattoo equipment. The ink will be put into little small cups they call "ink caps". They will remove the needles and tubes from the sterile pouches and place them into their tattoo machine. A clean container of distilled water will be another of the items on the work table. This will be used for cleaning the needles during the tattoo process and for changing colors.
Now for the line work! A small amount of ointment will be placed over the transferred design. The ointment will help the transfer to stay longer and prevent it from being accidentally rubbed off. The ointment will also allow the needle to slide along the skin more smoothly. Now that the ointment is in place, the artist will begin their line work. At this point, is where your heart will start to race and panic will set in. Take slow, nice, deep breaths and try to relax. Do not hold your breath. The first minute or two will be the toughest. After a few minutes, your nerve endings will get used to the process and the pain will slowly subside.
Time for shading and color. After the line work is complete, your artist will breathe a little bit easier knowing that you have grown accustom to the process and they are done with the transfer. Now the artist can do their thing and begin adding shading and color; if your tattoo is going to have color. Depending on the size of your tattoo, your artist may switch to a different set of needles. The needles used for shading and color are called magnums (or mags). There is a possibility that they may even switch tattoo machines. The shading and coloring usually moves along quite rapidly and then your tattoo will be complete.
Now that your done, it is time for a little fun! The artist will clean the tattoo good, and some will even apply a hot towel to it. Then, if your tattoo is somewhat of a specialty or the artist needs to build up their portfolio they will ask to take a picture. If you brought a camera along, you might ask the artist to take a picture for yourself. The ointment that will be applied to the tattoo will cause a glaze. So, if you want a picture of the tattoo, it would be best to do it before the ointment is applied. If for some reason you do not want the artist to take a photo, just say no. You are not obligated in any way to let them do this.
To your body, your tattoo is a wound and will require care for proper healing. A protective layer of ointment will be applied to the tattoo to prevent airborne bacteria that may cause infections. A securely taped bandage will then be applied. Follow the recommendations of your artist when they tell you how long to leave the bandage in place and prepare for your tattoo aftercare.