Once a divisive issue (and sure way not to get a job), tattoos are now embraced at all levels of society as a form of self-expression. And thanks to platforms like Instagram - where great artists can display their work - it's never been easier or more accessible to get inked.
That being said, there are still some vital points to consider before taking the plunge, which is why we've consulted the guys over at Frith Street Tattoo, one of London's leading tattoo shops, to help talk you through the dos and don'ts before marking yourself for life.
How To Tell You're Going To A Good Artist
Time was, if you wanted to get a tattoo, you'd head to your local port town saloon in search of the shadiest looking guy there before chucking him a tenner for a crude heart, dagger or darting swallow for your forearm - along with a hearty dose of Hepatitis C. Thankfully those days are - mostly - behind us, which is why you need to visit a good artist.
Naomi Reed, from Frith Street, suggests following the below points when choosing.
- Make sure the shop has a visible 'special treatments' license on display from their local council. This means they adhere to safety and hygiene standards and are checked annually.
- Does the style of your artist suit what you want? Make sure they have experience in the type of art you want.
- Ask for a consultation. They should be free and they're a good chance to meet the tattooist to see if you both get on and check you're on the same page before any needles come out.
- Does the artist actually have tattoos? It sounds odd, but there are some out there without, which should always make you cautious.
Ways To Ensure Everything Goes Smoothly
When approaching your first tattoo, it's very easy to become wrapped up in the minutiae of your design, which can sometimes make your expectations unrealistic or just plain irritating. As Naomi says: "Once you've found a talented tattooer you trust, listen to them and take their advice."
"Your skin isn't a static surface, it twists, moves and ages and that needs to be taken into account too."
Also, try not to arrive for your tattoo with an entourage in tow: "It's so much easier to get into the zone, relax, and sit still if you aren't talking to your mates."
Finally, refrain from drinking prior to your tattoo, or arriving hungover. Alcohol is an anticoagulant, so you'll just bleed more. But do make sure you eat beforehand. You're likely going to be nervous and tattooing can take a long, long time.
"Save that celebratory drink for after," says Naomi.
How Much Should It Cost?
Ah, time to reel out the age old truism of, "A good tattoo is rarely cheap, and a cheap tattoo is rarely good." It is a massive cliche, but definitely an accurate one.
People are often surprised to discover just how much a tattoo by a well-established artist can cost. You're likely looking at anywhere from £80-150 per hour, depending on their reputation and waiting list.
It's important you check with the shop and artist first. Some might give you a fixed price for a piece of work that will take a couple of hours or a day. Whereas others may charge you by the hour. Although this typically only happens when you're getting a large design that may take up multiple sessions.
As Naomi says: "Your price will also depend on the level of detail, intricacy and time."
What Trends Should You Be Aware Of
Trends are a tricky one when it comes to tattoos. People's tastes are obviously highly subjective and a tattoo doesn't have to 'mean' anything beyond you liking it, but, as Naomi says: "Perhaps stay away from the first few pages of Pinterest, and take your tattooers advice on size. Tiny isn't always the best idea when considering a tattoos longevity."
While it's hard to advise on what visual trends you should or shouldn't follow (apart from steer clear of anything 'tribal'), there are some tattooing techniques which are currently in vogue - such as stick and poke tattooing and single needle tattooing.
Used by artists like Adam Sage, stick and poke is an old school approach that shuns the use of electric machines, instead opting for just a needle and a pot of ink. The result is a very fine and distinctive outline, and it's actually a lot less painful than a regular electric tattoo, but it will take longer.
Whereas the majority of tattoo machines use up to eight needles, single needle tattooing uses (funnily enough) just the one. Currently pioneered by L.A-based artist Dr Woo, the results are an incredibly detailed and mellow looking tattoo; like a pencil drawing.
How To Care For Your Tattoo
In Naomi's words "Hot water and soap. That really is all you need. Fancy creams aren't going to heal a tattoo - keeping it clean allows your body to heal."
"Long term you need to protect the tattoo from sun. Sun will damage your tattoo just like it damages your skin. The first summer is the most important but I always recommend factor 50."
You can also pick up a tube of Bepanthen (nappy rash cream), to keep your tattoo moisturised for the first week or so after getting it.
Visit frithstreettattoo.co.uk if you're interested in finding out more about their artists and services.