Whether you have been getting tattooed for years or this is your first tattoo, it is important to prepare your body, mind, and wallet for your session. Personally, I have a checklist and ritual that I go through in preparation for my tattoo that helps me feel confident before I get inked. Please keep in mind that these are my personal tips, and they may not be applicable for everyone.
1. Eat a large, carb heavy meal before your session.
Tattoo sessions can last several hours, so it is important to eat a large meal that will sustain you and give you energy. A factor that many people don't realize is that the physical trauma that your body is undergoing during a tattoo is very taxing. Therefore, it is beneficial to take carbohydrates that will give you longterm energy. Your body will thank you!
2. Get good quality sleep the night before.
With good sleep comes energy, stamina, and endurance. Being physically and mentally tired can zap your pain tolerance which does not make for an enjoyable session. In addition to making the tattoo more painful, it can make it difficult to concentrate on keeping still while being tattooed.
3. Take pain medicine beforehand, but nothing that will thin your blood.
Tattoos are painful, period. So, it might benefit you to take some over the counter pain medicine in order to make the experience less uncomfortable. Use caution though, because some OTC painkillers are also blood thinners which can make the experience much more painful. When you get tattooed, you do bleed, and excess blood makes the process more difficult not only for you but for your artist.
4. Dress in comfortable clothes that you don't mind getting ink or blood on.
I learned very early on that you don't want to wear cute clothes to get tattooed because you will come away from it with stains. Blood and tattoo ink will be all over the place, and it will make a mess, and it will get on your clothes. Another reason to dress down is that you will be more comfortable. Sessions can be long, so dress for comfort so that you won't be fidgeting while the artist is trying to pull a clean line.
5. Bring headphones.
For many, music helps distract them from the pain of getting tattooed, and most artists won't mind you bringing headphones to your session. Some people compare the buzzing of a tattoo machine to a dentist's drill, and that noise brings them anxiety. If listening to music during your session might bring you comfort, then I highly suggest doing so.
6. Don't get tattooed drunk.
Intoxication and tattoos seem like a recipe for disaster, so if you've had one too many, pass on getting inked. Alcohol is also a blood thinner, so if you just can't wait till your sober to get a tattoo, then it will also probably be more painful and bleed more. No artist wants to tattoo a drunk person, so do yourself and your artist a favor: don't drink and ink.
7. Bring water and a snack.
As I stated before, tattoos can be a long undertaking. I would always advise bringing a small snack and water to your sessions as a pick-me-up. If you're dehydrated or hungry, it could cause you to be lightheaded, nauseous, or feel faint which could put both you and your artist at risk. Listen to your body, and keep it nourished and hydrated so you can make it through your session. Tattooing is exhausting and can be very trying on your stamina, so prepare accordingly.
8. Don't be afraid to speak up about what you want.
Communicate with your tattoo artist clearly about what you want for your tattoo. Is the tattoo too big? Tell him/her to size the stencil down before they start. You don't like the placement? Say it. You need a break? Then take a break! If you don't like some element about your tattoo, but you don't speak up about it, then that's on you. This is art that you are permanently putting on your body; you have a right to make it what you want.
9. Don't get tattooed if you are sick.
Not only will your pain tolerance be lowered, but your immune system will not be able to fight off potential infection from the tattoo as effectively. You will be in close proximity to your artist for several hours, so you also risk contaminating him/her. You won't physically feel like enduring the tattoo, so it is best to reschedule.
10. Be prepared to pay for what you get.
Good tattoos aren't cheap and cheap tattoos aren't good. When you go to pay for your work, understand that you are paying for art that you will keep with you forever. Art, true art, is not cheap, so don't sell your artist short. Also, it is customary to tip your artist in addition to paying for the tattoo itself, so bring enough money to cover your expenses.
The biggest tip of all, though, is to exercise good judgment and common sense. Tattoos aren't for everyone, and that is okay. Your tattoo should make you happy, because, at the end of the day, you cannot control anyone else's emotions. When the time comes to finally go under the needle, with these tips, you will be better prepared and excited for your new art.