other important considerations
A very small percentage of people develop allergic reactions to some of the pigments used in tattoo inks. In recent years as the quality of tattooing supplies has risen, the percentage of allergic reactions to pigments has fallen. Manufacturers and tattoo artists alike know more about the safety of tattoo ink ingredients nowadays than in the past, but to be realistic and honest, pigment knowledge is still developing, and some things are still not known. The primary reason for this is the secrecy of tattoo ink manufacturers who claim that if they let their recipes and ingredients become public knowledge, that they will lose their competitive edge in the market. In a few cases, actual lawsuits have been filed (and are still pending), and many people within the tattoo industry are pushing for higher standards and more readily available knowledge from manufacturers about the pigments they use and their properties. In any case, your tattoo artist should at least have a basic understanding of pigment issues and should be able to show you a bottle of what they are using on you if you wish to see one. If you have reason to suspect you may be one of the few people who is allergic to a certain pigment, you can ask your artist to do a test run of a very tiny amount of that pigment somewhere inconspicuous on your body. You should then come back to their studio to have them examine it after it has healed, to make a professional assessment. Otherwise, it should not be a major concern due to the very small number of people who do get reactions.
Some people are also allergic to the latex gloves (or just the powder from the gloves) that tattoo artists must wear to prevent the spread of blood-borne pathogens. If you know this is the case beforehand, you can request that they wear powder-free, or non-latex (nitrile) gloves during your tattoo process. Any respectable artist will be more than happy to do this for a client.
ARTIST LOYALTY VS. COLLECTION
It's common for tattoo artists and clients to form a bond of friendship. After all, you're spending time in their chair, talking, and having them change your skin forever. After getting your first really good tattoo, it is very tempting to never find another artist to tattoo you. Despite this, you should never feel like you owe your skin to a tattoo artist. Simply put, a tattoo artist has no 'right' to your skin, and if you choose to work with another artist, any quality and ethical tattoo artist won't blame you for your decision. Any choice you make about your own body is completely your own to make. Your skin is your permanent art collection, and many people like to have a diverse collection of art. If you ask your tattoo artist who has inspired them, and seek out work from your tattoo artist's influences, then you will be on your way to quite the collection of tattoos. But, there's still nothing wrong with sticking to one artist if the bond you both form is just right.
While it isn't proper to flippantly have another artist finish off something another one started, there are plenty of reasons to have one artist finish the work of another. In fact, many people end up with tattoos that are being finished by a different artist than the one who started them. It is obviously much better to be in a situation where you are 100% behind your tattoo artist and they do your tattoo from start to finish. But the fact is that tattoo artists are people, and things can go awry between you and them--but at the end of the day you still deserve the best tattoo possible. If you are thinking of changing artists mid-tattoo, or of having an older piece covered up or reworked, the most important thing to keep in mind (other than safety of course) is quality. Is this new artist talented and the right person to bring the old tattoo to life? Are you very confident that this artist will be the one to finish the tattoo for good? Like we said before, the reworking and covering up of older tattoos is a large aspect of the tattooing art-form, so there's no need to feel ashamed or angry if you end up in that situation yourself.
DISTANCE, PATIENCE AND COMMITMENT
After doing all of your research on tattoos and who is the right artist for your job, you may likely find that the one you're interested in is not exactly right around the corner from you. If this tattoo means a lot to you--and we think that any tattoo worth pursuing should mean a lot to the collector--then you will have to make arrangements to travel to that artist once the consultation/discussion process is over and it's time to book your appointment to have the tattoo done. For a permanent marking on your body, imbued, as it should be, with meaning and significance to you, this is a relatively small inconvenience to endure. Dedicated tattoo collectors and enthusiasts sometimes fly to different continents for the perfect artist who can give them the perfect tattoo, so there's no reason why you shouldn't do a bit (or even a lot) of traveling for your own perfect tattoo.
It bears repeating that everything about the tattoo process involves thinking, learning, and being patient, and the people who do these things reap great rewards, in the form of amazing body art and meaningful experiences. If you are a first timer who happens to be considering a larger piece to start off with, be prepared for a longer process involving multiple sittings over a span of weeks or months, during which you get the experience of watching a work of art take shape one step at a time. Your patience, commitment, and trust in your chosen tattoo artist will afford you the satisfaction of 'earning' your tattoo and enduring an ordeal to reach a meaningful (and hopefully awesome looking) conclusion.
PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL/INTELLECTUAL MATURITY
We suggest a minimum age of 20 years old to get tattooed. In most of the U.S. the legal age to get a tattoo on your own is 18, but let's face it, most of us at that age, although granted certain legal rights, are still developing our personalities and changing our interests more rapidly than when we hit our early or mid twenties. This of course can lead to regrettable tattoo decisions even though the law says we can do it without penalty. In addition to this, many teenagers who are under 18 ask where they can get tattoos with their parents' consent, because in many states this is legal. However, with a few exceptions, most respectable professional tattoo artists are too busy to deal with the headaches of tattooing anyone underage, due to the fact of how rapidly teenagers are changing and how fickle they can be (and if you are a teenager reading this, those things are nothing to be ashamed or defensive about--they are normal and healthy parts of the aging and maturation process!). That said, if you look enough, you still may find someone talented willing to work on you, but odds say you will be getting the tattoo covered up anyway when you get older. We would suggest spending the time it takes until your 20th birthday or so learning about tattoos (as well as yourself), researching artists, and developing your ideas for a truly unique tattoo that is fantastic. If you are young and still want to get tattooed, just remember that your body parts should be finished growing, and that your ideas of what's cool will probably change over time. Know what permanent means.
Souvenir tattoos comprise a very common type of tattoo-getting scenario. Many people decide to get tattoos during a vacation or trip somewhere as a way to permanently memorialize that particular experience. Unfortunately, very touristy-type places usually have some less-than-ideal tattoo studios and tattooers who cash in on this phenomenon by banging out very quick and cheap tattoos on unknowledgeable tourists. Fortunately for you dear readers, you no longer fall into this category of collector, and by reading have started to gain the knowledge necessary to make a smart and safe decision about any souvenir tattoo you may get. Even still, many souvenir tattoos are gotten while experiencing the thrill of your new travel experience, and may be regretted later. So just make sure you give it some proper forethought, and use the advice given in this article to research the artist and shop in the area you're traveling to before you end up with a bad tattoo.
SUBJECT MATTER AND PROJECTING ENERGY
Another thing to contemplate, especially for larger custom tattoos, is the 'energy' that the tattoo will express, or the message that it will convey. This may sound a little cheesy, but it's still worth noting that the subject matter of your tattoos will project a certain 'vibe' about you into the world, especially to any up-close viewers of your tattoos. Just like a painting is meant to affect the viewer, your tattoos will affect their viewer, even though you may have gotten them solely for yourself. Images of death and destruction are very powerful, as are those of beauty, but the former may lead other people to stereotype you in a potentially worse way than the latter. Therefore, give proper thought to the images you choose to adorn your body with for the rest of your life, and be sure that you can live with any foreseeable consequences. In no way are we attempting to reinforce or justify unfair social stereotypes of certain tattooed people by mentioning this, but you should be aware of the social conditions that you live in, to determine what you do or do not want to deal with.
FITTING IN WITH SOCIETY
As tattoos have emerged from their underground status in recent decades, society at large has become more accepting of them. However, many people still have concerns about how their tattoo will affect them in their everyday lives, particularly in their work life. This is because many workplaces maintain a strict policy against tattoos. Most will list several places on the body where they will not allow an employee to have tattoos, usually the most visible places. In many companies like this, tattoos are still considered ugly, or at the very least distracting to their desired work environment. But without positive people getting well done, beautiful tattoos to confront this, it will never change.
Nevertheless, many people still feel that visible tattoos will make them less hire-able, or keep them from landing jobs that someone without visible tattoos will get. While many heavily tattooed people have experienced prejudice, many have also found very positive responses. If you think this issue may be a factor in your decision to get tattooed, it's probably best to consider it on a case by case basis. For example, you may not get certain jobs if you have your forearms covered in badly tattooed skulls and topless pin-up girls, but smart, capable people with quality tattoos often set themselves apart in a positive light. Tattoos make people more memorable because of their wide-ranging social interest, and if these tattoos are well done and have positive themes, then there's no saying that the wearer will not be remembered fondly or hired for a particular job. The fact of the matter is that nowadays, people from all walks of life get tattoos, from teachers and doctors, to lawyers and other 'white collar' types, and you can always just get your tattoos in easily concealed locations as a last resort.
HEALING: THE FINAL STEP
A great many otherwise beautiful tattoos have been ruined by poor healing and aftercare. After putting so much effort, time, and money into your entire tattoo process, the thought of having it be ruined in the home stretch is mortifying. Therefore you should always follow your tattoo artist's instructions very carefully, and make sure that if they don't offer a thorough explanation of how they want you to heal their work, that you get one before you leave. Any conscientious tattoo artist will be concerned with your tattoo healing well, and they will also have their own set of instructions for you to follow closely. There are many different methods and superstitions about how to heal a tattoo, so we won't get into all of them here, but suffice it to say, you should never listen to your friends about healing your tattoo, unless they are competent tattoo artists themselves! No matter what your artist tells you to do, just remember that your fresh tattoo is an open wound and should be kept away from dirty environments and bacteria/germs, or you will increase your (relatively slim) chances of getting an infection. Infections can turn very bad, especially if ignored, so always be careful with your new tattoo until it has completed its healing stage, and even afterwards. To this end, you should always use a strong SPF sun-block lotion on your tattoo whenever you go in any sunlight, in order to protect it from rapid deterioration by the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Even with a successful heal, your tattoo's appearance will change slightly over time, as your skin ages and changes. Therefore, all tattoos are subject to a retouch or a complete reworking after anywhere from 5 to 20 years (depending on wear and tear), should you desire to keep it in its original, freshly done and healed condition.
Yes, tattoos hurt. Even the toughest people with incredible pain tolerances can find the sensation of getting tattooed annoying. However, there is a reason why we made pain the second to last topic of this article: because it's one of the least important factors. Why do we consider it relatively unimportant? Because of all the other factors we've explained about making a wise tattoo decision--from safety, to quality, to permanence, to patience and commitment--that's why! The actual pain involved in the process is such a small and temporary factor when weighed against all these other important things, so almost everybody simply just finds a way to deal with whatever level of discomfort they find themselves in. Different people are affected in different ways, based on their individual anatomy, placement of the tattoo, techniques of the artist, and attitude, so there are really no blanket statements that can be made about the pain involved in getting tattooed. Just be mentally prepared, ask your artist about things you can do to minimize the pain if you have to, and consider it a test of will power. Most likely you will feel proud of yourself for accomplishing the feat of enduring a tattoo. The art is permanent, and the pain is temporary.
Relatively speaking, tattoos can cost a lot of money, and it's good to think of them as an investment rather than a one-time impulse purchase. However, we made this topic the last one because in the ideal scenario, it's the least important factor. In a money-obsessed culture such as ours, this sentiment runs contrary to popular belief. We are so used to basing so many of our decisions on money that it may seem foolish to not do this with tattoos, but like we've tried to explain, tattoos are not an ordinary, everyday decision. We feel that a decision with permanent, and sometimes even life altering consequences should not be made with a penny-pinching mindset. All the other factors explained throughout this entire article should make it clear that getting a tattoo is nothing like shopping for a bargain at the grocery store. Of course, no one should get ripped off or taken advantage of when it comes to the cost of their tattoo, so there are a few things everyone should know about how to approach this aspect of the tattoo process.
Firstly, every tattoo artist and/or tattoo shop sets their own prices and policies. Many artists charge based on an hourly rate, similar to a car mechanic's labor charges. For large, multi-sitting tattoos this makes it extremely hard for an artist to give you an exact price up front, so they will almost always have you pay as you go, sitting by sitting, for however long the particular session lasted. They may also be able to give a very rough estimate up front if you absolutely need it for your budgeting purposes. For very small and quick tattoos requiring only a few hours or less, many artists find it easier to charge a flat rate for the specific design being tattooed. Again, every shop and artist is different, so if money is a concern for you going into the whole process, make your concerns known well in advance, so there are no surprises or disputes at the end when it's time for the artist to collect their money.
Another smart option for the money-concerned client is to give a firm spending limit up front when explaining your idea to the artist. This way, the artist can tailor what they do, such as the size and estimated time involved, to your budget. If your tattoo request simply will not fit into your budget they should be able to tell you this up front, and suggest some other options that will work out, to avoid any disputes later.
One pet peeve of almost every single tattoo artist is being haggled with over money, so generally speaking, price-shopping for a tattoo is one of the worst ways to go about it. It's a good way to end up with a frustrated, uninspired, or downright bad tattoo artist. After all, any talented artist putting out quality work with a good reputation will be too busy to sit and bargain or play 'let's make a deal' with a potential client. It's the ones who are willing to put up with this that you have to be weary of. The most common hourly rate for tattooing nowadays throughout most of the U.S is around $100, but depending on how experienced and sought after a tattoo artist is, they may charge $150, $200, or even up to $300 per hour of tattooing. The most popular and sought after tattoo artists in the entire world can charge this much simply because they can, based on the principles of supply and demand (there's only one of them, and lots of demand for their artwork). For some people this can seem like an outrageous rate, but if you put it in context of the art world as a whole, it really isn't. Famous painters can sell an average-sized painting for tens of thousands of dollars to willing collectors. Hell, actors and actresses and other performing artists can make millions of dollars for one movie--all because they can; it's what the forces of the market and economy allow. So why shouldn't an incredibly talented and skilled tattoo artist, who is marking people's bodies permanently with beautiful works of wearable art, not be able to charge whatever rate people are willing to pay, or whatever they feel they deserve?
In the ideal scenario, money will not be a factor at all in any of the client's decisions regarding their tattoo. Instead the focus will be on getting the highest quality tattoo and treatment possible, since the actual tattoo is the one thing that will last a lifetime. In life, pain and money come and go, but tattoos stick around for a lot longer, so if you got the perfect tattoo after all your time and energy put into the process, any expenses required should seem small or unimportant. There's an old saying in the tattoo community which can sum up this entire section: 'Good tattoos aren't cheap, and cheap tattoos aren't good.'