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Getting a tattoo....

Based purely on the experiences of the editor....Andy Ramsden

Okay, so you've mulled it over, ignored all of the people who tell you all the horror stories and urban myths about being tattooed and you've chosen your artist, design and booked an appointment to get on with it. What exactly can you expect? What's the process?

Question - DOES IT HURT?
YES -
Pain is relative. Everyone has a different tolerance to pain. There is no point in lying, yes it will hurt - but how much, nobody can tell you until you have a Tattoo. (Most people do return time and time again, so it can't be that bad). Personally, I take the pain as a neccessary part of the process. I've contemplated asking for 'magic numbing cream' but feel i'd be skipping a big part of the process and don't really know if my tattoo would feel the same and "earnt" in the same way as your usual one can.

Pain differs greatly all over the body and depends on what needle is being used. Is it outline work, shading or "the rake" as my artist calls it? Having been at my artists 7 hours ago, today I am firmly of the opinion that it hurts on or around the ribcage area when any shading needle is used. This was particularly the case today as the area being inked has only just recovered from it's last session, some12 days ago (outline work). However, when i'd had a 2 hour outline session done a month or so ago, when we finally got the number 5 shading needles out, it was pure bliss getting some shading done. I thoroughly enjoyed the shading part - even though it hurt, it was a relief to get a lesser pain. My artist says that a tattoo doesn't neccessarily hurt where you are boney (which is a popular statement) but will generally hurt more where your skin is more sensitive - i.e. where you are ticklish - makes sense to me.

Firstly, presuming that your atist is ready for you, they'll have the image your getting carbonned up. This means the outline of the image has been put onto blank paper by drawing over a sheet of carbon paper. The area to be tattooed will be cleaned, shaved where neccessary and a liquid / gel / anti perspirant applied just to aid the applying of the carbon image - like you would a transfer. Excess carbon dabbed off any you are away.

Outline: The outline is done with a single tip needle and thinner ink. The carbonned image is followed over with the tip of the needle stopping as and when needed to get more ink loaded to the needle. Usually the outline is completed altogether before anything else takes place. Depending on the size of the tattoo and your endurance, shading and colouring may take place on the same day or after a few weeks once the healing of the outline has healed.
Shading: After cleaning the area with a suitable solution, the artist uses a thicker ink and a variety of needles to create an even, solid line. Improper technique during this step can cause shadowed lines, excessive pain and delayed healing.
Colouring: The artist cleans the tattoo and then overlaps each line of color to ensure solid, even hues with no holidays or gaps - uneven areas where color has lifted out during healing or where the artist missed a section of skin.

This really is a basic abc of the process. After your tattoo is finished, you will have it cleaned again, some vaseline or similar applied and then your tattoo either bandaged, paper-towelled or cling-filmed. Your artist will advise you of their preferred ethod of aftercare.
My method is this:

Get home (usually within an hour of having the tattoo) and remove whatever has been put on. This will usually be a blood and ink soaked dressing or cling film with blood on it. (sometimes you can get home and there has been hardly any bleeding - especially with just outline work and light shading). Tie in a carrier bag and bin. Don't want the kids or dogs playing with it.
Have a shower (with someones help if need be) and wash the whole area at least three times with antibacterial handsoap. This gets any dry blood and dust (from your clothing) off the surface, removes excess ink and smudging (where the artist has had his hands) and sets the mood for a clean - heal.

I generally have at least one shower a day for the first week with the main purpose of this to wash the tattoo - NOT to have an enjoyable soak - soaking the scab will cause the scab to soften and come off prematurely - taking with it some of the colour. I'm in the shower for about 3 minutes. Always pat dry and leave my skin to breath for a while. Once my scabs are forming, I apply vaseline mosturising cream or E20 moisturiser once a day before bed. After 7 days, most of my scabs are gone bar a few and the moisturiser keeps the skin from suffering and drying out too much while it's healing.

Cleanliness is paramount. It shouldn't have to be said, but some people are lets face it, thick.

Top Tips:
# Take a baggy shirt / trousers that you're not bothered about getting dirty. Not neccessarily with blood, but there can be a lot of ink fllying around and you don't want black ink splatters up your best jeans and over your best white converses.
# Realise that if you sleep naked, your bed sheet is going end up looking rank. It's going to undoubtedly end up with a transfer effect of your new tattoo on it. This will happen for three to four nights at least.
# Make sure you take a snack with you. Enduring tattooing for an hour or more can lower your blood sugars which in turn can make you feel crappy, suffer more and potentially hamper healing (long term).
# Plan what your going to do for the rest of the day. It's all good and well getting your foot tattooed but if you then have to go and walk around for 8 hours at work, you're going to suffer - big time.


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