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Kat Von D quote on tattoos
Time Changes Your Perspective
Fifty years ago, tattoos were considered as a sign of being rebellious and an outcast. Today, 1 in 5 US adults have at least one tattoo somewhere on their bodies.
Even though it may seem cool to have a tattoo, the first time is always tough and scary. You may have questions and concerns about what exactly happens while getting a tattoo. So, to put your mind at ease, we've gathered information that will give you complete details on what happens before, during, and after the tattoo process.

Getting a Fresh Piece of Skin Art

It is very, very important that you've finalized your design and placement of the tattoo before you make the appointment with the tattoo artist. Although making these decisions can take a lot of time, it's better to be absolutely sure than regret later on. Once you're at the tattoo shop, here's what you can expect will happen.

1. Bring your driver's license to the shop. If you're under 18, a parent or guardian has to accompany you (to sign the consent form) for your tattoo. Your tattoo artist will ask you to fill and sign a consent form that says you give him/her permission to draw on your body.

2. Once the paperwork is taken care of, the artist will start the initial work for the tattoo. Meanwhile, you'll be asked to sit in a chair, which can either be in an open area or a private room (depending on the location of your tattoo).

3. Now the artist will take the design you've finalized to prepare the stencil. If it's a standard design, something that you've chosen from the Internet and have a printout, the artist will either trace it manually or place it in a machine called the thermal fax. For a more complicated or personalized tattoo, the artist may sketch it by hand and trace it to prepare the stencil.

Tattoo Artist Working on Stencil

4. There are a few items that will be placed in front of you before the artist begins with the tattoo―petroleum jelly that keeps the skin moist while getting the tattoo, ink which is injected in the body, needles used to inject the ink, tattoo machine that vibrates the needles going into the skin, ink caps to keep the colors in, antibacterial soap to disinfect the area, and a disposable razor to remove hair from the area.

Tattoo Supplies

5. The artist will prep the area you have chosen to get the tattoo inked on. This will include using the disposable razor and antibacterial soap. Once the area is disinfected with the soap, the artist will use the razor to remove hair around the area. The reason why the area is shaved is because the needles can potentially push the hair into your skin, which can cause an infection.

6. After the stencil is ready, it's time to transfer it onto the area. Your design will be placed on a carbon copy paper. The artist will apply petroleum jelly on the area and place the stencil over it. Before the artist begins, both of you will need to be sure that that's where your tattoo is supposed to be. If the design seems a little off, you can be sure to fix it before it is too late.

7. Depending on whether you want a black ink tattoo or a colored one, the artist will fill the ink caps with the colors you specified.

Tattoo Artist Filling Ink Caps

8. After the placement and design seem perfect to you, the artist will open a new, sterile, single-tipped needle in front of you.

Tattoo Artist Removing Sterile Needle

Note: This image is for representative purposes only. While removing the needle, the artist should be wearing gloves for hygienic purposes.

9. This is where the actual tattooing process really begins. The artist will place the needle inside the machine, apply petroleum jelly over the skin, and turn the machine on. Petroleum jelly is applied so that the design stays on your skin for a longer time and the needle can easily glide over the skin.

Tattoo Artist Placing Sterile Needle

Note: This image is for representative purposes only. While inserting the needle, the artist should be wearing gloves for hygienic purposes.

10. The artist will now trace the outline of the design. At this moment, you need to stay calm, breathe normally (not hold your breath), and sit still. Since this will be your first tattoo, you may panic or feel uncomfortable due to the pain. However, it's your job to keep yourself relaxed. Take a friend with you for motivation or distraction.

Tattoo Artist Making Outline of Tattoo

11. As the artist works on your tattoo, you will see that he/she uses a clean tissue paper to wipe the area that's being worked on. Also, if desired, the artist will apply more petroleum jelly over the area while progressing with the tattoo.

Tattoo Artist Completing Outline of Tattoo

12. In the next step, depending on what type of tattoo you're getting, the artist will have to change the needle for shading and coloring. There are various types of needles used for tattooing―outlining, shading, and coloring.

Tattoo Artist Adding Color to Tattoo

13. The artist will keep dunking the needle into the colors as and when required. This happens during the outline, shading, and coloring process.

Tattoo Artist Refilling Needle with Ink

14. Shading and adding color(s) to your tattoo may take some time, depending on how extensive the work is.

Close up of Shading Needles

There are times when the artist will schedule more than one session to complete your tattoo.

Tattoo Artist Shading the Tattoo

15. Once the shading and coloring is finished, and the tattoo artist is happy with his/her work, he/she will let you know that the tattoo is complete. After your approval (that tells the artist you're happy with it), the artist will wipe the area properly with soapy water and apply a little ointment.

16. The final part of a tattoo process is bandaging the area. A tattoo is a flesh wound and needs to be covered properly so that it won't get infected. After the bandage is applied, the tattoo artist will remove his/her gloves and discard everything that was used during the process (except for the machine).

17. Now, before you pay for your tattoo and are off, the artist will give some important aftercare instructions. DO NOT take them lightly. Once you leave the tattoo shop, it is your responsibility to keep your tattoo from getting infected.

And there you have it, guys! Now, you know what happens when you get a tattoo. If at any point, you're concerned about what the artist is doing, you should definitely get your doubts cleared. Make sure you go to an experienced and trusted tattoo artist. Once you get the tattoo done, it'll take about 3 - 4 weeks time to heal completely. After that, your masterpiece is ready!