Photo by Silja Maag

five things you should know before getting a tattoo

here’s one: it’s permanent

by jenny lee

Today marks National Tattoo Day, a day to recognize and celebrate tattoo culture and what it has become. It's no secret that, when done right, having a tattoo can help define and enhance a person's aesthetic. However, when done without proper research, you may end up with something you'll regret until someone painfully lasers it off for a hefty fee. We talked to Rebecca Fiduccia at No Ka Oi Tiki Tattoo in Philadelphia to learn what you want to know before getting that (permanent!) tattoo.

Research your artist

Fiduccia recommends looking through artist portfolios on Instagram or online to get a feel for what their tattooing style is and whether it lines up with the vision you have for yours. Look at the tattoos they've done in the past, check to see if their line work (e.g., the tattoo's outline) is strong, and make sure you find their work appealing. When looking for a shop, it's important to find one with a good reputation, not only because of technical things like skill and quality, but also because working with a tattoo artist requires a high level of trust. "You might be taking off clothes and putting yourself in a vulnerable position," Fiduccia says. "You want to feel like you trust the tattooer."

Come with a concept 

"You don't have to come in with a complete idea, but you should still have something," Fiduccia recommends. "You might find an artist whose work you love, or you could just have a photograph or a stylistic concept." The more you can give the tattoo artist on your likes and dislikes, the better—this way, they can help you flesh out an idea into a complete sketch.

Be conscious of your health state

It's important to be in good physical shape when getting a tattoo. Don't get one while you're pregnant. While it's not certain that the ink would harm the baby, it's better to take precautions. Also, getting a tattoo during pregnancy can affect how it looks post-delivery, as the body endures many physical changes during the pregnancy. Fiduccia also suggests you avoid getting one on your period, as you may be more sensitive during that week, causing the process to be more painful.

Go with your gut

"If you don’t get the right feeling, don’t go through with it," Fiduccia says. "You have to trust your tattooer to a certain point, but don’t be afraid to ask questions or to say something if they’re not going in the direction you want." There could be a possibility that the tattoo is coming out a different size than you might have originally wanted or planned, or you just simply changed your mind about certain details, but if you don't feel completely right about it, say something. Don't be a jerk about it because they are tattooing your body, but if you politely point out something you're not entirely happy with, the artist can make adjustments. "A lot of people say ‘I should’ve said something' later on," Fiduccia says.

Tattoos are expensive

Getting a tattoo is not cheap, and you should be prepared for that. "You'll have to put down a deposit. Potentially more money than you might have spent on anything. Just be prepared to pay for it," Fiduccia warns. But that absolutely does not mean you should go in on a budget because the lower the price, the less trustworthy the service. For both health and aesthetic reasons, you want to go to shop that provides top skill and quality tools. According to Fiduccia, most good shops have prices on the same scale. "It’s an investment—it’s going to be there forever so it’s going to cost a little more than a purse or shoes you'll wear out in a year," Fiduccia reasons.