A Guide to Getting Your First Tattoo


After lots of research, I chose The Family Business Tattoo Shop in East London. It has rave reviews and a selection of great artists, one of whom happens to create wonderful feather designs. I believe that done right, and when done for the right reasons, tattoos can be both tasteful and beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed my whole experience and I’m very happy with the result- so I thought I’d put together a guide for those of you thinking of taking the plunge:

Step one:

Figure out what you want! This seems simple but I must have thought about hundreds of designs before I settled on a feather. One day I realized I’d been thinking about the same design for over two years and somehow it just felt right. I also used Pinterest for inspiration on the final details and placement

Step two:

Think about it’s meaning. The prospect of getting a tattoo was, for me, scary at first- but there was a deeper meaning behind it which drove me forward. Personally I would’t consider getting something on my body that wasn’t meaningful to me- and I’d advise you to consider what your chosen design means to you and consider whether you’ll still feel good about it in the years to come

Step three:

Find an artist. There are some really amazing tattoo artists these days, and the best don’t advertise as they usually have a full schedule and rely on word of mouth. The key thing here is that you want an artist who can create your piece in the style you want. There might be an amazing artist but their style doesn’t match what you’re looking for. Another thing I found is that artists usually only place their larger and more elaborate pieces online, so if you’re considering a smaller design (which is advisable for your first one!) you may have to go into the studio to take a more detailed look at their portfolio.
Step four:
Ask around and look at online reviews of both the studio and artist. Don’t settle for less than excellent. Price wise, figure out what’s reasonable by asking around and perhaps getting a few quotes from different studios. I’m usually an advocate of thrift, but in this instance I wouldn’t skimp as quality tattoos are worth a premium.

Step five:

Go into the shop to make your booking. This is very important- you want to make sure you’re comfortable and enjoy the whole experience. So go in before hand, take a look around and get a feel for the place. A great idea would be to call ahead and ask if your chosen artist is in so you can meet them and have a chat. A good artist will be down to earth and willing to discuss anything from the finer points of your design to how much it will hurt. You’ll also have the opportunity to browse through more of your artist’s portfolio. If you feel like you’re not in the right place, or if you don’t like the artist- go somewhere else where you’re comfortable!

Step six:

Wait! A good artist usually has a pretty long waiting list. I waited a month, which was great because it gave me reassurance when I didn’t change my mind.

Step seven:

Get the tattoo! At this point you want to be feeling relaxed and assertive. Your artist will show you a stencil of the design on your skin- absolutely don’t be afraid to ask for changes. Initially my feather wasn’t curved enough or ‘fluffy’ enough for my taste- so we had quite a funny conversation about ‘fluffiness’. This is why it’s important to like your artist and feel comfortable around them, you should be able to communicate clearly with them in order to get the result you want.

Question- Does it hurt?

The answer is yes- but only a little bit! As my piece is so small it only took ten minutes, and my artist applied numbing cream behind my ear. Honestly the pain wasn’t too bad. At points it felt like I was being scratched by a cat and occasionally being stung by a bee, but I stayed relaxed throughout even though I’m usually a wimp!

Step eight:

Aftercare. The advice you’ll be given to take care of your tattoo will vary, always listen to your artist’s advice. I was told to leave it for 8 hours. Then, gently wash the area with soap and water every 2-3 hours before applying a small dab of Bepanthen (nappy rash cream!). Your tattoo will scab over, and it’s vitally important you don’t pick it as this may mess with the design! You’ll thank yourself for giving it a bit of extra love and TLC in the future.

Above all: take your time! There’s no need to rush…after all it will be on you for the rest of your life!

A British ex-pat's experience of Toronto life as a twenty-something abroad

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