Illustrated by Abigail Dannatt

What to expect when getting a tattoo

Getting a tattoo can be an exciting yet intimidating experience, especially if you’re a first-timer. To help ease your worries…

Getting a tattoo can be an exciting yet intimidating experience, especially if you’re a first-timer. To help ease your worries and make the process smoother, we have compiled a guide that outlines what you can expect when getting your first tattoo. From preparation to aftercare, knowing what to expect will ensure you have a positive tattooing experience.

Before your appointment: 

Many tattoo shops actually prefer cash payments so, ensuring you have the right amount of money by stopping at an ATM beforehand is crucial. Wear an appropriate outfit that allows easy access to the area to be tattooed, such as a short-sleeved shirt for arm tattoos.


When you arrive at your appointment you will be required to sign an agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the tattoo process to ensure mutual understanding. I would advise you not to consume recreational substances for at least 12 hours before your appointment, as they can thin your blood, making the process more difficult for your artist. 

Preparation at the Tattoo Studio: 

The artist will clean the area to be tattooed and will probably shave any hair that might get in the way to ensure a smooth surface to work on. The artist will then stencil or draw the design directly onto your skin, allowing you to visualize the placement and make any necessary adjustments. Don’t hesitate to communicate your preferences to the artist, such as making the design smaller, or larger, or adjusting its placement. This might feel awkward but it’s more important that you’re 100% happy with the design.

The Tattooing Process:

Firstly, the artist will begin by outlining the design using a needle and ink. A tattoo will probably be a little painful similar to a cat scratch. They will then fill in the design, adding shading or colour as desired. It is normal for the artist to wipe away excess ink and blood during the process. If like me, you can be a tad squeamish it might be wise to just look away during this part or bring something to distract you while this is happening. Consider bringing headphones, a refreshing drink like Lucozade, and a snack to help make yourself as comfortable as possible during the tattooing process.


After getting a tattoo, you may experience itching, similar to a sore and itchy sunburn. It is important to resist scratching or picking at the tattoo to ensure proper healing. 

Embarking on the journey of getting your first tattoo can be both thrilling and nerve-wracking. By knowing what to expect, preparing adequately, and taking proper aftercare measures, you can ensure a positive and enjoyable tattooing experience. Remember to choose your design carefully, communicate openly with your tattoo artist, and follow their instructions for aftercare to ensure a beautiful and well-healed tattoo.

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