Your First Tattoo: A Guide to Getting Inked

Tattoos provide a sense of individuality, and their meanings can often be related to the wearer’s personality. However, there are many misconceptions about tattoos that we want to dispel in this guide for getting your first tattoo!

The “first tattoo tips pain” is a guide to getting your first tattoo. It includes the best and worst places to get inked, what type of ink to use, and how long it takes for tattoos to heal.

Vintage life magazine men outside tattoo shop and one man holding his arm.

“Show me a tattooed guy, and I’ll show you a man with a fascinating background.” –London, Jack

Tattoos. Few creative genres have a longer history, and even fewer elicit such a diverse range of reactions. Tattooing is seen as a symbol of dignity or distinction by some, as an external expression of creativity and individuality by others, and as the mark of criminals and lowlifes by still others. Maybe you’re thinking of getting a tattoo in the near future. After all, almost every man has thought about it at some time. While most of the information about tattoos is subjective (design styles, color, size, and visibility), one thing is certain: the more you know, the better your experience and end outcome will be. Let’s go a little more into the old art.

Tattoos Through the Ages

Native American man wearing war dress and tattoos on face.Tattooing is one of the earliest forms of art and self-expression, according to archeological data from throughout the world. Throughout human history, tattooing has been used for adornment, as a symbol of high position, or for medicinal or protective reasons. Tattoos have evolved into a timeless art form that transcends cultural borders, from Neolithic ice men to Polynesian Maori warriors to the person in front of you in line at the grocery store.

“From the frigid areas in the north to New Zealand in the south, there isn’t a vast nation where the aborigines don’t tattoo themselves.” –The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin

While numerous civilizations throughout history have been renowned for significant tattoos, such as the ancient Picts of modern-day Scotland, the Maori of Polynesia are the most generally identified with tattooing. The term “tattoo” comes from the Maori word “tatau,” which means “to mark.” Tattooing as we know it and T moko tattooing are two separate but commonly mistaken techniques of body alteration used by the Maori people. Unlike traditional tattooing, which involves puncturing the skin repeatedly while embedding ink for color, T moko entails cutting the skin with a chisel known as uhi. This method creates permanent grooves on the skin’s surface (typically the face, buttocks, and upper legs), giving the tattoo a distinct texture. In pre-European Maori culture, such tattoos were considered a symbol of honor, and individuals without them were regarded to be of a lesser social status.

Indian men making tattoos painting on face.

“In general, the markings are spirals created with great care and even grace. One side is identical to the other. The markings on the body resemble foliage in ancient chased decorations, convolutions of filigree work, but they have such a variety of shapes that out of a hundred that looked to be identical at first glance, no two were fashioned similar on closer inspection.” On the Maori T moko, -Captain James Cook

The prevalence of tattooing among sailors, which has lasted well into contemporary times, is most likely due to Maori influence. Like all travelers, Captain Cook’s crew were constantly on the hunt for relics and keepsakes from their journeys. What better way to bring a little piece of the unusual home with you than to collect the markings of the local culture you experienced on your journey? Tattoos fit in well with the carefree attitude onboard ship and the life of a sailor back then, and the practice swiftly became popular.


Vintage military sailors making tattoos for each other.

“A sailor without a tattoo is like a ship without grog: unfit for the open sea.” –Tattooist Samuel O’Reilly

Tattooing among seafarers had its own distinct traits as the practice expanded in popularity. Tattooing was used by sailors to recognize different maritime achievements and to inspire good fortune, while it was utilized by the Maori and other cultures to symbolize one’s social status. A turtle tattoo, for example, would identify a guy who has sailed over the equator. A completely rigged ship indicated a sailor who had successfully circumnavigated Cape Horn. The ever-popular anchor symbolized a guy who had crossed the Atlantic on a ship. Other tattoos, such as a pig on one foot and a rooster on the other, were supposed to prevent the sailor from drowning since neither animal can swim.

Tattoos are frowned upon.

Sailors have a reputation for being rough around the edges, therefore the tattoo’s popularity among seafarers helped cement its image as a habit undertaken by individuals on the outside of society. This was also true in other civilizations.

Tattoos, for example, were so closely connected with criminal behavior in nineteenth-century Japan that they were forbidden outright and remained so until the mid-twentieth century. The popularity of tattoos within the Yakuza, Japan’s organized criminal organization, was a direct consequence of the Yakuza’s conspicuous, often full-body tattoos fashioned in the traditional Japanese style known as Tebori. Tebori tattoos, unlike machine-drawn tattoos, require numerous big hand-held needles and a steady artist’s hand, giving the artist greater control over fading and colour.

Despite the fact that tattooing has grown in popularity in American society over the past several decades, many people still link it with gang culture, jail life, and other off-putting subcultures. However, as the notion of the human body as a canvas returns to the public, the negative connotation associated with tattooing is gradually diminishing. In fact, tattoos have grown so widespread — there are probably fewer celebrities and professional sports who don’t have one than do — that they have lost their allure as genuine expressions of dissent for some.

Tattoos may have become increasingly popular in recent years, but a guy should never hurry into having one. So let’s take a look at what you should know before you contemplate getting a tattoo, as well as what to anticipate afterward.

Before you put pen to paper, think.

We can skip the “it’ll be there forever” phrase that you’ve undoubtedly heard from pretty much everyone you’ve told about your tattoo ambitions. You’re an adult, and you have the authority to make this choice. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll be reminded to make educated and prudent selections in the future (in the form of barbed wire around your bicep). My advice to you if you decide to get a tattoo is to choose your design, make sure it’s unique and meaningful to you, and then wait a year. I’m glad I didn’t have some of the tattoos I so much wanted in my late teens and early twenties. I usually become tired with a design after a few months of having my heart set on it and move on to something else. Even once I chose a design I liked and knew I could live with for the rest of my life, I stewed on it for months before scheduling an appointment to get it done. Tattooing is a timeless art form, so keep that in mind. You are probably not in the correct frame of mind to get the most out of the event if you are in a rush to finish it.


On a more practical level, think about where you want your tattoo to go on your body. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise, you’ll probably want to cover up your tattoo at some time. Maybe it’ll be the first time you meet the father of your life’s love, or you’ll get a huge job interview, or something else completely unexpected, but you’ll almost surely want to be able to hide it. That said, Mike Tyson-style facial tattoos and pretty much anything else you can’t hide with a regular dress shirt and pants are off the table.

Choosing the Best Design

First, consider the pattern of your tattoo… BE EXTREMELY ORIGINAL. Nothing is more unappealing than a tattoo that isn’t unique. With that in mind, stay away from the tattoo idea flip boards at all costs. They’re just a collection of tattoos that other people have previously gotten. Tattooing is used to express oneself (at least in current Western civilization). If you find your finest representation of yourself on a flip board, you may want to do a bit more soul searching before going under the needle. Of However, if your tattoo represents something significant in your life, such as your military unit, you’ll probably want to keep to the same design as the rest of your unit.

A tattoo that a good friend of mine, Dave Forest, just got is a wonderful example of uniqueness combined with personal history. Dave, who lost both of his grandfathers to suicide when he was a youngster, wanted a tattoo that honored both the time he spent with them and the time he lost with them. After working with a local artist, he came up with a design that symbolizes how his time with them was cut short:

Tattoo of pocket watch with broken chain on arm.My first tattoo, too, had a lot of significance for me. To remember the year I spent in graduate school in Scotland, I knew I wanted to get a tattoo there. So, for me, it’s not only about the tattoo itself, but also about where I got it. As a nod to the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name, in which Kipling extols the virtues of stoicism and a “stiff upper lip” among males, I drew a tattoo of the word “If.” I wanted a lasting reminder that Kipling’s words in “If” struck a deep, resonating chord with me, and that they were words to live by.

Tattoo of IF poem by Rudyard kipling on bicep.

Doing your homework

First and foremost, only consider getting a tattoo in a clean, respectable tattoo shop. Keep in mind that the tattoo you acquire in some stranger’s basement will last a lifetime. The Hepatitis C you catch from his soiled equipment will do the same. To guarantee a safe practice, a clean store should have numerous hygienic precautions in place. Gloves should be worn by artists, and needles should be brand new and removed from a sealed box directly in front of the customer. Inks, as well as any other equipment, should be brand new. All needles should be sterilized in an autoclave, a machine that uses steam and pressure to clean and sterilize equipment. The work space will almost certainly be segregated from the shop, and it will need to be sterilized after each usage.


Finding a decent store, on the other hand, is just the beginning. Finding the correct tattoo artist is just as crucial as the quality of your tattoo. Not every tattoo artist is the same. Most skilled tattoo artists will be able to ink in a variety of styles, but they will most likely specialize in something specific, such as photorealism, brilliant colour, or a particular cultural style. Ascertain that your artist fully comprehends your vision and is capable of bringing it to life precisely as you intended.

Next, calculate how much this will cost you. If you want a good tattoo, you’ll have to be willing to spend for it. Tattoos may take anything from 30 minutes to many hours, depending on the size and amount of intricacy. Most artists will offer you an estimate up front, however for bigger tattoos, this may need to be changed as the process goes. Remember that you’re employing an artist to produce a one-of-a-kind piece of art for you, so budget appropriately. You should not go tattoo shopping on a budget. “Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good,” says a sign at one of my neighborhood stores. In addition, tipping your artist is usual, with a range of 10-20% being an acceptable guideline based on your happiness with their job.

Finally, inquire about the price’s included. Will you be provided with a tattoo care kit or will you have to buy one separately? Find out whether touch-ups are included in the pricing, which is frequently neglected. During the healing process, it is common for a tattoo to fade somewhat or for uneven shading to occur. Many establishments will provide complimentary touch-ups on whatever work they have done in the future. It’s the tattoo equivalent of a warranty on a car’s engine.

What to Expect During the Tattooing Process

We’ll simply give you a quick rundown of what to anticipate here, since the artist should go through the process with you in more detail before you begin.

There are various stages to getting a tattoo.

First, the artist may use a stencil produced from transfer paper and a thermal printer to create a temporary tattoo on you. This will enable you to double-check the exact placement and angle of your design, as well as provide a basic template for the artist to work with. Now it’s time to start tattooing.

The outline will be done using a tattoo gun equipped with a liner needle and thin ink as the first stitching. Because a liner needle covers a smaller surface area, the pain will be more intense, especially over sensitive or bony parts. After completing the outline and rinsing the tattoo with soap and water, the artist will begin shading the tattoo. The artist would most likely employ shading needles (many needles known as magnum needles) to transfer more ink to a greater surface area on contact, depending on the design. After the shading is complete, any additional color is applied using shading needles.


The skin will be washed with soap and water, patted (not rubbed!) dry, and wrapped with a sterile bandage after the tattoo is entirely inked. Expect the tattoo to bleed somewhat during and soon after the procedure, so don’t be surprised if the bandage has a little blood or ink soaked into it when you remove it later. Apply a little quantity of antibiotic ointment to the tattoo over the following several days to prevent infection and keep the area clean. Redness, discomfort, and a little amount of swelling are to be expected, but keep a look out for more severe indications of infection. If you suspect an infection, see a doctor as soon as possible. The amount of time it takes for it to heal varies from person to person, but you should wait around two weeks before exposing it to the sun, salt water, or other harsh factors.

Do you have a tattoo? Have a total of twenty tattoos? Please share your story in the comments section below. Better yet, brag about your tattoos in the AoM Community’s Tattoos Group.



Getting your first tattoo is a big decision. It can be scary to think about what the outcome of this decision will be. There are many things that you need to know before getting inked. This article will help you with some of these issues and more. Reference: first tattoo anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do when you get your first tattoo?

A: Most people get tattoos to commemorate an event or celebrate a milestone, such as a wedding. Some choose to decorate their bodies with tattoos for aesthetic purposes. With the advent of social media and blogs, tattooing has also become more mainstream than ever before.

Is inked tattoo painful?

A: In general, ink is significantly less painful than the traditional method of tattooing. This is due to the fact that there are many more makeup steps involved when creating an inked design versus a traditionally drawn one.

Should your first tattoo be small?

A: Yes, but only if you want a small tattoo. If you are unsure about what size is best for your bodys design, it is recommended to speak with someone who has experience in this area and get their recommendation before getting the tattoo done.

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