For a first-time customer, the tattoo artist’s studio can be a strange place. One might imagine it as some foreboding laboratory, where mysterious experiments are performed on human subjects. But, if a tattoo is what you truly desire, these fears shouldn’t deter you.
So, what follows is a brief summary of what to expect when you step into his (tattoo) parlour. No-one can predict every possible experience, but hopefully it will demystify the process, letting you step boldly into the unknown.
Having chosen your tattoo design, you reach the studio at last, ready to begin. First, crucially, make sure you are comfortable with the establishment, especially in terms of cleanliness and safety.
Your tattoo artist should have access to sterilisation equipment, usually an autoclave, for the thorough cleaning of his tools, and use fresh needles and gloves for each customer. Do not be nervous to ask questions about their procedures for maintaining sterility, and be ready to go elsewhere if their answers inspire little confidence.
Once all parties are happy for the tattooing to commence, the artist will prepare the target area of your skin. This means cleaning it with rubbing alcohol, and shaving it if they think it necessary. A transfer of your tattoo design will then be applied, which both provides the artist with guidelines and gives you a final chance to agree the placement.
Once final approval has been granted, the permanent work begins.
For the drawing of the design, your tattoo artist will use a handheld tattoo machine. This moves a sterilised needle up and down at a controlled speed, placing the ink into the lower dermis layer of your skin.
Generally the outline of the tattoo, in black ink, will be drawn first, followed by any colours or shading required. These different stages might require different types of needle. As mentioned earlier, needles are used for only one customer, taken straight from a sterile pouch and disposed of once finished with.
The whole process can vary in length, depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo design, possibly even requiring multiple sessions over several days. It is likely that some degree of pain will be experienced. If it becomes excruciating, there is no shame in asking for a short break.
Once your design is complete, the area will again be cleaned, and a bandage placed over it. Your artist will probably give you some advice on aftercare, but in general, this may entail cleaning the area gently, applying some ointment or moisturiser and staying out of direct sunlight. And, after a period of healing (since your tattoo is, at this stage, a wound), the whole process will be complete!
And, hopefully, this has cleared some worries up. The specifics will vary for each person, but if you are in any doubt, do ask your tattoo artist as they are (almost) certainly not a mad scientist, and the more at ease you are, the simpler their job will be.