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Getting Your First Tattoo? Here’s What You Need to Know

So you’re getting your first tattoo! This is an exciting milestone, but it’s also a big decision. Before you commit to your first piece of permanent body art, there are a number of decision-making factors to consider. To help you navigate through this process, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide packed with everything you need to know before getting your first tattoo. 

Whether you want a small symbol on your ankle or a detailed sleeve, our guide is here to help you make informed decisions and ensure your first tattoo experience is a positive one.

If you find yourself wanting to take the plunge and want to have a consultation, contact us at The Honorable Society!

The Honorable Society_West Hollywood_fine line tattoo_flamingo tattoo

Choosing the Right Tattoo Design for You

Deciding on the right tattoo design for you can be both thrilling and daunting. Tattoos are a reflection of your personality, beliefs, and experiences, therefore, choosing one should be a well-thought-out process. Here are some key factors to consider while selecting the perfect design for your first tattoo. 

Understand the Meaning 

It’s essential to understand the symbolism or meaning behind the image you’re considering to ink on your body. If a design has a deep personal significance, you’re more likely to cherish it for years to come. Be wary of trendy tattoos that might lose their appeal over time. A good place to look for first tattoo ideas is Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration. 

Consider Placement and Size 

This is a significant factor when choosing a first tattoo. The size will affect its detail and intricacy, while the tattoo placement can influence your professional and personal life. Think carefully about where you want your tattoo and how large or small it should be. 

Personal Style 

Your first tattoo, and others, should reflect your style. Whether you prefer minimalist designs, geometric shapes, or colorful and intricate patterns, ensure the design resonates with your aesthetic preference. It’s a part of you, and it should represent you. Be sure to check out our tattoo styles for good examples on how to choose the one that’s right for you!

Consult with a Professional 

When you’ve narrowed down some options, it’s time to consult a professional tattoo artist. They can provide valuable input on the feasibility of your design, suggest alterations or enhancements, and advise on the best placement. 

Looking for a professional to answer your questions? Contact us!

The Importance of Researching Your Tattoo Artist

Just as you wouldn’t entrust your health to an unqualified doctor, it’s crucial not to let an inexperienced artist handle your first tattoo. Researching your tattoo artist is an essential part of the journey. It isn’t just about the design; a good tattoo artist ensures a safe and sanitary process. For a better grasp of optimal practices, read our article on the best tattoo shops and how they run.

So, how do you go about researching your artist? 

Check their Portfolio 

Every reputable artist has a portfolio of their work, often displayed on their website or social media like Instagram. Go through the designs, pay attention to the detailing, and see if their style aligns with what you have in mind. We’ve got a pretty robust portfolio ourselves, take a look at our work

Read Online Reviews 

Look for client testimonials and online reviews. Did their clients have a good experience? Were they happy with the results? These insights can be found on platforms like Yelp or Google. 

Consider their Specialization 

Some tattoo artists specialize in certain styles, like traditional, realism, or line work. Ensure the artist you’re considering has skills which match the style of tattoo you’re interested in. 

Ask About Experience 

Find out how long the artist has been in the industry. Experience doesn’t always equate to quality, but it can often give you peace of mind knowing you’re in experienced hands. 

getting a first tattoo appointment

Inspect the Artist’s Cleanliness and Hygiene 

Remember, tattooing involves piercing your skin with a needle. It’s crucial that the artist maintains strict cleanliness and hygiene. Don’t hesitate to ask them about their sanitization process and do your research to see how it holds up against standards in the industry.

Here are some crucial points to keep in mind: 

  • Needle Sanitation: The artist should use a fresh, sterilized needle for every new client. Reused needles can cause infections or spread disease.
  • Equipment Sterilization: All tattooing equipment should be properly sterilized. This includes tattoo guns, ink pots, and even the chair you’ll be sitting in.
  • Gloves: The artist must always wear disposable gloves while working. Gloves prevent the spread of bacteria between the artist’s hands and your skin.
  • Clean Environment: The tattoo studio should be clean and well-organized. Surfaces should be regularly disinfected, and the room should be free of clutter and dust.
  • Artist Hygiene: Your artist should demonstrate good personal hygiene. They should be clean, well-groomed, and not display any signs of illness.
  • Aftercare Instructions: A responsible artist will provide you with guidance on how to care for your first tattoo to avoid infection and ensure it heals correctly.

The artist’s willingness to discuss their hygiene practices is a good sign of their professionalism. Our shop has clearly stated aftercare on our website because we believe it’s a crucial part of the tattoo process, you should accept no less elsewhere. People reviewing their experiences on Google and Yelp will have a lot to say about their experiences in this department!

Remember: The research process should never be rushed. Make sure you feel comfortable and confident with your chosen artist and their shop. After all, a tattoo is a lifelong commitment.

neo traditional racoon tattoo

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Tattoo Shop

One of the most crucial things to know before getting your first tattoo is how to choose the right tattoo shop. This decision will not only influence your experience but also determine the quality and safety of your tattoo. It’s not a choice to be made lightly, and several factors come into play. 

Appointments and Walk Ins

Knowing how a shop handles appointments and consultations is probably the first step in the process because otherwise how do you get in there? It’s also important to know whether the shop you’re going to accepts walk ins, just in case you have a moment of spontaneity. And if you want to know more, we have an article about how walk in tattoo shops work.

You want to find a shop that will have an in-depth consultation to speak with you about your ideas. Almost every shop requires a deposit for the artist’s time, so be prepared for that when you’ve decided who to give your business to! 

Hygiene and Safety 

The cleanliness of a tattoo shop is a non-negotiable factor. It’s critical to remember that a tattoo is essentially a wound, and as such, the environment needs to be sterile to avoid infections. Visit prospective shops, and observe their cleanliness practices. Do they use new needles for every customer? Are the artists wearing gloves? Is the shop clean and does it smell clean? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, look elsewhere. You don’t want your first tattoo to be an infected, ruined mistake. 


Ensure that the shop and the artists working there are licensed. A licensed shop indicates that they meet the necessary health and safety regulations and that the artists have passed the necessary examinations to practice tattooing. This is a crucial factor in ensuring that your first tattoo process will be safe and professional. 


The shop’s reputation is another critical factor. Check out online reviews or ask around for personal experiences. A shop with a good reputation is likely to provide a high-quality service and a satisfactory outcome. See why The Honorable Society’s reputation is so well-established and schedule a consultation with us.


The cost of a tattoo varies depending on the size, location, and design. While it’s tempting to hunt for a good deal, remember that you get what you pay for when it comes to tattoos. Opting for a cheaper shop may result in lower quality work, potential health risks, and the need for costly touch-ups or even removals down the line. Invest in a good artist and shop – your skin and health are worth it. 

Things to Know Before Getting a First Tattoo: Understanding the Pain and Healing Process

Getting a first tattoo comes with its fair share of apprehensions, particularly about the pain and healing process. While it’s true that getting a tattoo involves a certain amount of discomfort, it’s important to understand that this is a manageable aspect of the experience. Moreover, the healing process is a crucial part of ensuring the longevity and quality of your tattoo, so it’s worth paying attention to. 

getting a tattoo

Pain Perception 

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Yes, getting a tattoo can hurt. However, the level of pain varies from person to person and is largely dependent on your personal tolerance and the location of the tattoo. Some areas of the body, such as the ribs, feet, and hands, tend to be more sensitive. But don’t fret! Many people describe the pain as a mild burning or scratching sensation, rather than a sharp pain, and numbing creams are available to help manage any discomfort. 

Remember, the pain of getting a tattoo is temporary, but the art lasts forever.

The Healing Process 

After the tattoo is done, the healing process begins, and it’s just as important as the inking itself. Initially, you might notice some redness and swelling, akin to a sunburn. Your tattoo professional will provide you with an aftercare guide which you should follow diligently. This generally includes: 

  1. Cleaning the tattoo with mild, unscented soap
  2. Gently patting it dry, never rubbing
  3. Applying a thin layer of healing ointment
  4. Avoiding the sun and swimming for a few weeks
  5. Not picking or scratching at the tattoo, even if it starts to peel or itch

Following these steps can ensure your tattoo heals properly and maintains its vibrant colors.

While getting a tattoo might seem daunting at first, understanding what to expect can make the process less intimidating. Ultimately, the pain and healing process are just stepping stones to achieving the unique and personal piece of art that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

Possible Risks and Complications of Getting a Tattoo

Just as with any decision that affects your body, it’s essential to understand the potential risks and complications associated with getting a tattoo. While the process of tattooing has been significantly refined and regulated over the years, certain risks still remain. However, understanding these risks and how to minimize them can help ensure a safer and more satisfying tattoo experience. It’s important to note that you’re much less likely to have problems at a quality shop. Read our article on finding the best tattoo shops.

Possible Physical Risks 

Physical risks, while not common, can still occur with tattoos. They include: 

  1. Infection: Unsanitary conditions or poor aftercare can lead to infections. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, and a fever. Always ensure your chosen tattoo parlor follows proper sanitation procedures and follow their aftercare instructions to the letter. Tattoo infections are rare, but can occur if proper aftercare is not followed.
  2. Allergic reactions: Some people may have an allergic reaction to the ink used, which can result in itching, rashes, or other skin issues. It’s a good idea to discuss any known allergies with your tattoo artist before starting the process.
  3. Scarring: If the tattoo needle penetrates your skin too deeply, or if you don’t care for your tattoo properly during the healing process, there’s a chance you could end up with permanent scarring. This usually is unnoticeable–appearing as raised skin where there are lines of ink.

Tips for Making Your First Tattoo Experience a Positive One

Finally, let’s talk about how you can make your first tattoo experience a pleasant and memorable one. For a bunch of information about how tattoo shops run, read our article about what getting a tattoo is like. Navigating the world of tattoos for the first time can be intimidating, but with the right preparation, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to help you along your journey: 

  • Do your research: Before stepping into a tattoo studio, it’s essential to research and understand the different styles, techniques, and artists available. Each artist has their own unique style and specialty. Find an artist whose work resonates with you and aligns with the vision you have for your tattoo.
  • Consult with the artist: Once you’ve chosen your artist, set up a consultation. Discuss your design ideas, tattoo placement, size, and other elements. This is the time to ask any questions you might have and ensure you and your artist are on the same page. This is a good time to check out our list of do’s and don’ts for a seamless tattoo experience.
  • Prepare physically: On the day of your tattoo session, make sure to avoid alcohol as it can thin your blood, potentially causing more bleeding during your session. Wear comfortable clothing that provides easy access to the area you’re getting tattooed.
  • Follow aftercare instructions: Aftercare is crucial for a healthy and vibrant tattoo. Be sure to follow your artist’s specific aftercare instructions to ensure proper healing. This may include cleaning the tattoo, applying ointment, and avoiding certain activities.
  • Be patient: Healing takes time, and it can take up to a few weeks for your tattoo to fully heal. It’s important to keep this in mind and be patient with the process. Remember, getting a tattoo is a journey, not a race.

Getting your first tattoo is a unique and exciting experience. It’s a form of self-expression that’s entirely yours. By following these tips and doing thorough preparation, you can ensure that you’ll have an experience that’s positive, rewarding, and worth the wait. 

Go For It!

Ready for your first tattoo? We’re here to help!

Get an idea of our skills by looking at our work and schedule a consultation with us to start the process!

the best tattoo shop west hollywood at work

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