I waited until I was 26 to get my first tattoo, and I am so, so glad that I did. I'm not exactly a Kat Von D type. I'm not covered in tats from head to toe, but I have three custom tattoos that I absolutely love. While some people commit to tattoos easily, for most of us, the process is more difficult. We worry about whether our idea is something we'll still be connected to in 30 years, whether the artist will be able to pull off a design we'll love, and how the tattoo will wear over time.
That said, if you've always wanted to get a tattoo but want to make sure it's just right, I know how you feel. Here's my advice for getting a high-quality tattoo you'll love that will stand out from the crowd and complement your personal style.
1. Find the Right Artist
Finding a good tattoo artist is a lot harder than you'd think. In most major cities, leading tattoo artists often don't take new clients, or they have lengthy waiting lists. This is to be expected. One artist I absolutely loved and followed on Instagram for many years didn't even take client requests — she just put designs she wanted to do on her Instagram page, and people applied for them!
So to find the right artist, do your research. Don't rule out artists in smaller cities nearby. Scour the internet for tattoo studios in your region and look at every. single. page. Check out the artist's reviews and Instagram page and the studio's Facebook page. You want someone who is legit.
2. Decide What You Want
Ultimately, your tattoo is yours, so no one else's opinion really matters. But think long and hard about what you really want to put on your body. Some questions to ask yourself include: Does this match my personal aesthetic (not just today's style)? Is the subject of this tattoo something that means a lot to me? I recommend that people view tattoos as symbols of important times and places in their life. So, let's say you get a tattoo in honor of your home city . . . even if you don't live there in 30 years, your tattoo will be a reminder of an exciting time/place in your life.
3. Set Aside an Appropriate Budget
The cost of tattoos vary widely, but most respected artists run from about $150 per hour to $400. This can be lower or higher, depending on the artist's desirability and your metropolitan area. Tattoos also vary widely in the amount of time they take. Talk with your artist ahead of time about how much he or she thinks your design will cost.
4. Prepare Your References
Another part of your discussion with your artist will include laying out your ideas for your design. References (photos you show your artist, which showcase your style) are important, but remember: your artist is ultimately the one designing the tattoo. They have to create original work, so don't expect them to copy another artist's design.
5. Voice Your Concerns
Some tattoo artists can be a little bit bothered by lots of questions. Some don't even want to let you in on the design process until the day of your tattoo. They may be great artists, but I personally decline to work with these kinds of people. There are plenty of artists out there who are more than happy to collaborate with you on your design. It's harder to find those people, but seek them out — you want to be able to express your desires and concerns and not feel like you're bothering your artist by doing so.
6. Expect It to Turn Out a Little Differently Than You Imagined
Especially if this is your first tattoo, be prepared that there's a good chance it won't look 100 percent the way you imagined it. Ink on the skin tends to do that. But the good news is, if you're really committed to the idea of having art on your skin, you're probably going to love it anyway. Once something is etched into your body, it becomes a part of you.