Getting a tattoo is a big commitment, and the process can be nerve wracking if you’re new to getting tattooed.
In addition to making sure the artwork is something you want on your body for life, you also have to be mentally and physically ready for hours of discomfort as your tattoo artist sinks needles into your skin. Fun, right?
But learning how to prepare for a tattoo ahead of time can help make the appointment go smoothly and ensure that you come out the other side with a well-healed piece of body art that you’ll proudly wear the rest of your life.
Here are some steps to take and advice to head leading up to your next tattoo appointment.
How to Prepare for Getting a Tattoo
Follow these steps to prepare for a tattoo and be ready for your appointment.
Schedule a Consult with Your Artist
“Most artists will offer a consultation,” says Melissa Wylde, a tattoo artist who works at Garth’s Tattoos in Kent, U.K. “I think it’s a good idea for someone to meet face-to-face, as you then know your surroundings and your artists vibe.”
If you can meet your artist in person for a consult, take advantage of it. An in-person consultation can help the artist visualize the area you plan on getting tattooed and break the ice in advance of your appointment.
A tattoo consultation will also clear up any design discrepancies and help your artist understand exactly what you are looking for.
“Consultations for me are a way to get to know the client, and ultimately match minds on the design,” says Amanda Graves, who works at Spill the Ink Tattoo in Edgewood, Maryland. “A lot of the time, we may be picturing very different ideas. When I consult, it’s for me to use visuals to gather the style and what’s involved in the design.”
Moisturize Your Skin in Advance
Using body lotion to keep your skin hydrated a few weeks prior to your tattoo is a good practice and may help the ink apply better during your tattoo appointment.
“If your skin is healthy, it’s a lot easier for any artist to tattoo you,” says Lainey Bee, a tattoo artist who owns Flowinkstudio in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. “This means that the session will go faster; less time; less pain.”
While it’s important to prepare your skin for a tattoo leading up to your tattoo appointment, do not use any lotion or moisturizers on the day of your appointment. Your artist will likely be applying a tattoo stencil to your skin and moisturizers can interfere with how the stencil applies.
Stay Hydrated By Drinking Water
While drinking plenty of water on the day of your tattoo appointment is recommended, it’s also beneficial to stay hydrated in advance. Drinking plenty of water improves the quality of your skin.
“Start about 4 weeks before your session. Try to drink two liters of water per day,” says Bee, who adds that drinking coffee, tea with sugar, and soda doesn’t count as drinking water.
Take Extra Vitamin C
Bee recommends boosting your Vitamin C intake leading up to your tattoo appointment. “Vitamin C has an antioxidant function in the body and is necessary for the formation of connective tissue, the absorption of iron, and the maintenance of resistance,” she says.
Consult a doctor about Vitamin C dosage recommendations prior to taking any kind of vitamin supplements.
Get Plenty of Sleep
If you have a tattoo appointment scheduled, don’t spend the night before partying and staying up until dawn.
Getting a good night’s rest will prepare your body (and your mind) for what’s in store. “Personally I think the most important thing is a good night’s sleep,” says Wylde.
Eat a Meal Before Your Tattoo Appointment
This tip should never be overlooked, and you should eat a hearty breakfast or lunch on the day of your tattoo appointment. “I have had many clients skip on this, but it’s so important,” says Graves. “You are about to endure pain, and your body needs to be able to heal itself properly.”
Even if you’re nervous or don’t feel particularly hungry, try to get some sustenance into your body. This will help keep your blood sugar up and help you avoid feeling dizzy or faint during your appointment.
Bring Snacks and Drinks to Your Tattoo Session
To prepare for a long tattoo appointment, make sure that you have plenty of water, healthy snacks, and other drinks. “Bring a sugary drink and snack with you,” says Wylde. “It will keep your body and mind going.”
Your artist will likely need to take a few breaks during your tattoo to stretch, eat, or drink. Use this time to do the same.
If you start to feel dizzy or faint at any time during your tattoo appointment, tell your artist immediately and ask for a break. Eating snacks like nuts or candy or drinking Gatorade can help boost your blood sugar.
Wear the Proper Clothing
Consider the area you plan to get tattooed and wear clothing that makes it easy for the artist to access. If you are getting your leg tattooed, shorts may be the best option. A tank top may be a better option for an upper-arm tattoo.
For backpiece tattoos, consider bringing a zip-up hoodie or button-up shirt so that it’s easy to cover-up your front torso if it makes you feel more comfortable.
Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or splattered with ink. While artists are generally careful and try to protect client clothing during the tattoo process, getting ink or stencil on your clothing during a tattoo—especially a large piece—is a very real possibility. Additionally, blood or plasma may seep onto your clothing following your appointment, so it’s best to wear something that is easy to wash.
Inquire About Payment Options
Prior to your tattoo appointment, reach out to the shop or your artist to ask what forms of payment they accept. Wylde says that the majority of tattoo studios only accept cash payments.
If you know that cash is the only accepted payment method, visit your bank in advance and take out enough cash to pay for your tattoo. Try to do this a day or two in advance, to avoid stress or running late on the day of your appointment.
If tattoo studios do accept credit card payments, they may charge an additional processing fee. Understanding this in advance will help you avoid costly surprises when you are asked to pay for your tattoo.
Consider Your Entertainment Options
Some people can zone out during their tattoo appointments and the majority of artists will talk and converse with clients throughout sessions. But tattoos can last a long time, so if you’re someone who gets bored easily or feels uncomfortable carrying on lengthy conversations you may want to bring along your own entertainment.
If your tattoo is in an uncomplicated spot, you may be able to read a book during the session. You can also bring headphones to listen to music or watch something on your phone or iPad, which can help pass the time.
Just remember to have respect for your artist and other clients who may be in the shop at the same time as you. “I don’t mind if people like to listen to music with headphones on and try to zone out,” says Wylde. “But if someone is on social media, playing loud random videos and moving around, it can really affect our concentration.”