Remember these whether it's your first or tenth tattoo.
The best birthday I can remember is definitely my 18th birthday when I got two tattoos: one of a cat on my right ankle and a matching horse tattoo with my mom on our left ankles. Not only was it a great bonding experience with my mom, but it was the first time I ever got to sign anything on my own without needing my mom there! It almost felt like a rite of passage into the next stage of my life: adulthood!
That wasn't the first tattoo I had received though. I had already been tattooed twice before. The first official tattoo was a quote in elvish on my right shoulder. The other had been a stick n' poke on my wrist that I had professionally done. Both were done when I was 17.
I love all six of my tattoos. They are all amazing works of art that I cherish and proudly display. I want you to love all of you tattoos just as much as I love mine. So I made this handy dandy little guide to help all tattoos, young and old, new and experienced, get the most out of their tattoo.
Walking into a tattoo parlor without an idea of what and who you want is like taking a test on material you never learned. You must do your research on designs, artists, parlors, etc. Come in with a picture to show your artist that they can then sketch. Schedule an appointment to run through your plan of how, when, and where to do the tattoo - especially if it's a bigger piece like a sleeve. Don't go in unprepared. That's just annoying.
It's obvious when you get a cheap tattoo. Take a look at our derpy lion friend above. I highly doubt an experienced artist could pull off something that crappy. If the artist you want is quoting $500 for a flower on your thigh but you only want to pay $30, remember that they are right, you are wrong. Most parlors have a shop minimum of about $50 to ensure that you get your money's worth. Also, realize what all goes into the price. Artists consider placement, the ink used, time, etc. when they give you a price. Don't be cheap and get something you will immediately regret. It IS permanent.
If your artist tells you that what you want won't look good where you want it or wants to alter the design a bit, listen to them! They are the professional. You are not! This is what they do for a living, and the ones that are good and keep at it know what they're talking about. If you have never once been tattooed, don't assume to know everything. That's not to say that they should be able to tell you what to do with your body, but give your artist a bit of creative freedom.
How many good ideas have you had when you were drunk that you didn't later regret? If you can't walk straight, you probably aren't thinking straight. If you somehow manage to stumble into a tattoo parlor with all your blackout drunk friends, I would hope the shop would immediately turn you away. On the off chance they don't, please, please, please don't have your wallet on you. Make sure you left it at home or gave it to a sober friend so that you don't regret something that will be permanently inked onto your body. You may forget getting a tattoo, but you will never be able to forget having it.
Make sure you eat breakfast and drink plenty of water before going to the parlor. It doesn't help anyone if you pass out in the middle of getting your tattoo. You will faint if you get tattooed on an empty stomach. People faint even when they do eat and drink plenty before they go. What makes you think you're the one exception to passing out while getting tattooed?
YES, it will hurt. You are being stuck with a needle repeatedly. No matter where or how small of a tattoo you get, it will sting. Don't whine about it. Do your best to stay still and tell your artist if you need to take a break. They are not heartless, nor will they keep you against your will. Some pieces might take a few months to complete. That's ok. It just means that it will look even better once it's done. Just do your best to not squirm, and don't blame the artist if you twitch and screw it up.
It is 100% unnecessary to bring your entire 30 person clique with you to get one tattoo. One friend is fine, but beyond three is getting a bit crowded. I promise, it doesn't hurt so much that your great grandma needs to be there. Your tattoo artist needs space to work and will not be able to do a good job if you have a bunch of people crowded around you. Many artists need a quite, clear space to do their best work and having your friends around to talk to you and distract the artist is only going to make they tattoo more expensive because you are doubling the amount of time it takes to get it done.
The worst thing you can possibly do if you want to get more tattoos from a particular artist is not tip them. If you really like your artist's work, tip them and tip them well. If you are getting a $500 tattoo, add in at least $50 - preferably more - into that cost so that your artist knows you appreciate them. Even if you regret your decision later, they took the time to give you their best work. It doesn't matter how much you hate it later. They gave you the most valuable thing any person has: time.
Your tattoo is finished and looks AMAZING! Maintain that awesome look by avoiding infection at all costs or else you just wasted a bunch of money. To prevent infection, make sure you follow all the directions your artist gives you. Put saline on it every day, use sunscreen when sun exposure is unavoidable, and, for the love of God, DO NOT GET INTO THE OCEAN. This is the one rule to not screw around with. People have died because they were dumb enough to swim in the ocean with a fresh tattoo. If you do get an infection, make sure you go see a doctor immediately. Your new tattoo is an open wound. Treat it as such.
If you take all of this advice, you will have the most amazing experience and will end up with a super cool tattoo. In the end, it is your body and whatever you get tattooed will be permanent. Don't pick something stupid that you know you will regret. But also make sure that you don't allow your artist to give you a tattoo that you will hate. They might try to tell you that it will look better in a certain place, but you know yourself better than them. So no matter what happens, make sure you get something you love so that you never have to look at your tattoo with regrets.