Selecting and getting your first piece of body art is a big step and does take a certain amount of commitment. What do you want for your first tattoo? Which shop should you choose? How do you know the tattoo is being applied properly?
One of the first decisions to make is the piece of artwork you want for your first tattoo. Most people choose something reasonably small that will be applied in an area typically covered with clothing. (This may be due to personal preference, employer concerns, or simply not knowing much about the tattoo process and wanting to ease into things. )
A classic design is often a good choice, particularly for a first tattoo. Think about the relevance of the design you want twenty or thirty years from now. While a rose or a Gaelic knot might still be relevant, a tattoo of Angry Birds or Robot Chicken may, years from now, simply make you look dated. Along with the design, consider the location. When will it be visible? Facial or hand tattoos make a very strong statement and are accepted by few employers (Palm tattoos also tend to fade quickly). While your job today may be in a relaxed, artistic environment, that may not always be the case.
Also, your design should be something you don’t get tired of looking at. One technique I’ve used is putting a printout of my design on my wall, or mirror, some place where I will see it multiple times a day. If after a year I’m still stoked, then the tattoo design becomes a tattoo. Of course you’re not expected to wait a year before committing to each prospective tattoo, but it’s a good idea to at least get comfortable with the design before you get it cut.
Check out potential tattoo shops thoroughly. Get recommendations from trusted friends or family, or spend some time in at least three different parlors. Observe the customer service and in particular, the sanitization and hygiene practices of the staff. In addition to badass artists, you want a place that is scrupulously clean and uses an on-site autoclave to ensure sterile equipment. Check the business license with the local authorities and the Better Business Bureau, and ask to see any records of complaints.
Make sure you have the funds to pay for your entire tattoo, especially if the artwork will need to take place over several sessions.
These are all just suggestions, of course, do what you will. But more often than not, this type of preparation beforehand will make you more comfortable with your decision and the process of inking your skin.