If you’re thinking of getting your first tattoo, you may have a lot of questions. Here is some important information before getting your first tattoo and answers to questions you may have.

1. Are tattoos safe?

Yes, as long as you go to a reputable tattoo artist that is following all recommended safety precautions. Make sure you’re completely honest with your tattoo artist regarding any medical condition you may have or if prone to fainting. We always recommend getting a good night sleep, having a full meal and some sugar before getting a tattoo to alleviate dizziness, nausea, and to increase your pain tolerance. Getting a tattoo with a low blood sugar level is not ideal.

2. What to consider when choosing your first tattoo?

You should have a good idea of what you want and where you want it. Do some research. Especially if you are having the artist draw a custom design. Be sure of what you want before you approach your artist to draw your custom piece.

What is your budget, sizing? Have you chosen your artist and do you feel comfortable talking to your artist and do they listen to you? Once your ready make a free consultation appointment with the artists whose style reflects what you’re looking for.

3. Is it recommended to pick something small or go big?

Most tattoo shops have a minimum charge. So if you go for a smaller design you may have been able to get the same design bigger for the same price — something to consider. If you are considering a large design we usually recommend getting it in portions as most people have a three hour tolerance. That way you can get a large tattoo more comfortably and with less pain. If you start with the outline for your first sitting you can then get the shading and the color in separate sittings. This allows you to get larger pieces with less skin irritation and the ability to pay for your tattoo as you go. Or if it’s a photo realistic piece you can finish as you go but save parts to be finished in future appointments.

4. How painful is getting a tattoo?

The truth is getting a tattoo hurts. Some areas hurt more than others and it’s different for each client depending on where they are more sensitive. A lot of clients ask about numbing creams. Their are a lot of creams on the market. One thing to consider is a lot of these creams wear off during the tattoo and then it can feel more sensitive than it would have without the cream. Some creams you can order online and you can get from your doctor. If you are thinking about using a cream always talk to your artist beforehand.

5. Can I get tattooed if I’m sick or pregnant?

If you’re sick it’s best to reschedule. Your tolerance to pain and stress will be low, and your artist probably does not want to catch anything.

If your pregnant, you will need to schedule for after baby is born. A tattoo can be to stressful on the body for a pregnant mother.

6. Sanitation matters: How will I know if the tattoo parlor is clean and safe?

All Hawaii tattoo shops have a health department license and must abide by the rules and regulations of the health code and follow aseptic techniques. Aseptic technique means using practices and procedures to prevent contamination from pathogens. It involves applying the strictest rules to minimize the risk of infection. Most clients think that just using a new sterile needle with every tattoo will make it safe. This is not the case. Using a new needle with every tattoo is a given, but there are many other factors involved that can compromise your safety. Your tattoo artist must follow sanitary procedures throughout the tattoo.

Is your tattooist removing their gloves anytime they touch something unsterile like lights, doors, cabinets, chairs or phones? Each time your artist has to touch something other than you or you’re tattoo set up, they should remove their gloves and put on a fresh pair before restarting the tattoo. Anything like a light, chair lever, or a surface that may need to be adjusted during the tattoo process should be covered with plastic to avoid cross-contamination. We are very serious about training our artists to cross-contamination. For the most part, you can usually tell if you are in a professional environment. Your artist should be happy to talk with you about their procedures.

7. Can I bring in a design or get one custom drawn for me?

We encourage people to do their research. Have as much material as you can find to let your artist know what you are imagining.

We DO NOT copy other people’s tattoos. If you find something on Pinterest you love, we can redesign it to make it unique for you or give you ideas on ways create a new design just right for you.

8. Is it ok to ask to see an artist portfolio?

Absolutely! Most tattoo artists have a portfolio online so you can research your tattoo artist before researching your tattoo. You should never get a tattoo without first seeing lots and lots of work by the artist. Some tattoo artists specialize and some like to do everything. Some artists only do black and grey and some love color or both, but you wouldn’t ask an artist to do a portrait of your first born without seeing other portraits they have done.

9. Will a tattoo artist tattoo anything I want?

Usually not. Some artists don’t want to tattoo certain areas of the body, people underage, anything racist or something they don’t feel comfortable doing. For instance, an 18-year-old who wants his first tattoo on his neck or a girlfriend’s name across his back.

An artist should talk you out of a tattoo they think will just end up being a future tattoo cover up or laser session.

10. Am I prepared for tattoo aftercare?

Taking care of a fresh tattoo is as important as making sure your tattoo artist works cleanly. Proper aftercare is crucial for reducing your chances of a negative reaction such as infection and making your tattoo look as good as possible for as long as possible. Ask your tattoo artist any questions you may have regarding your job, your workout routine, pets or anything else that may not be covered on your aftercare sheet.

If you’re about to do a marathon or have a job where you need to go diving wait till after the marathon or till you have some time off from work before getting your work of art. You will want to keep your tattoo clean, free of heavy sweating, and moisturize it frequently with a good tattoo cream. Avoid exposing it to the sun, submerging it in water, and tight clothing that may stick to or rub the fresh tattoo. You should wear clothes to your tattoo appointments that you don’t mind getting ink on them. Make sure you pick up your aftercare instructions before you leave the tattoo shop.