Getting a Tattoo: Procedure and What to Expect

Pain is often a determining factor when it comes to deciding where to put a tattoo, although obviously some individuals will want to place their tattoo wherever it is either the least or most concealed by clothing or wherever they feel is spiritually appropriate. For instance, a long-distance runner may opt to put a tattoo of the winged God Mercury on his or her ankle to enhance their speed while the adulterous wife might want to tattoo her lover's name between her two front toes so that her husband may never see it.

The Pain Factor

Where does getting a tattoo hurt the most? Most would say the pocket book although the most painful areas are considered to be the stomach spine and chest in men and the ankle, spine and ribcage in women.

The least painful areas for men are considered to be the buttocks, arm and back. For women the least painful areas are the stomach, buttocks, thigh and shoulder.

What to Expect

Once you've picked a design and discussed the procedure, the tattooist will schedule an appointment with you.

It is important not to take aspirin based painkillers before the procedure as these medications thin the blood. Aspirin based medications may make your fresh tattoo bleed more and hinder your natural ability to heal.

Once you have arrive at the tattoo studio, the tattooist usually presents you with a stencil that is has been created from your design. Some tattoo artists to create an instant transfer on special thermal paper. This is your last chance to change your mind.

Most tattoo shops require payment up front. This is to ensure that they are paid whether you like the end result or not. In the tattooing business, satisfaction is not guaranteed. Refunds are as difficult to obtain.

Before you are inked, most tattooists will ask for proof of your age and contact details in case of an emergency. In some places in the world, such as Canada, this is mandatory. In some countries in Asia, the tattooist has the right to reject you as a subject at his or her discretion.

The Chair

After the money exchanges and paper work are completed, you will be seated in some form of a tattoo chair. Usually this is in a private area such as a booth or separate room. Many tattooists use a dentist's chair or an Easy Boy rocker, but others might use an ordinary chair. You might also be asked if you mind if another potential client can observe the process.

Preparing the Canvas

Once you're sitting in the chair, the area to be inked is rubbed down with a cleaning solution (usually rubbing alcohol). If the area is hairy, the tattooist will shave a patch of skin a little bigger than the size of the design. Make sure that the tattooist shaves you with a new, disposable razor.

The tattoo artist will then confirm the exact placement of the transfer on your skin. The skin is sometimes moistened with a scream or a swab of roll-on deodorant, which makes the transfer stand out more clearly from the skin. The reverse-image transfer is then pressed and applied to the skin for a couple of minutes.

After the paper is pulled back you should see a bluish outline of your design. Most tattooists will ask you to check in the mirror to make sure the placement of the tattoo is correct. If you do not like the look of the tattoo this is your very last chance to opt out of the situation.

The tattooist will then put on plastic latex gloves and take some time to pour inks from big jugs into small disposable cups called ink caps. He or she will then remove sterilized needles from a sealed autoclave bag and ready other materials to be used for the procedure such as Vaseline and ointments.

Drawing the Outline

The area to be tattooed will be covered in a light layer of ointment. This ointment cleans the skin, seals the transfer in place and allows the needle to move more smoothly over the skin.

As with dentist drills, the sound of a tattooing machine is much worse than the discomfort of it. If you are truly bothered by buzzing sounds it is suggested that you put on a pair of stereo headphones and listen to some music to block the noise out and calm yourself.

The tattoo artist will insert the appropriate needles in the tattooing machine. Usually the artist will use a thicker needle to follow the outline of the transfer in black. Depending on the size or detail involved in the design the tattoos will periodically stop the machine and clean your skin with a cotton swab to remove any seeping blood.

Most people say that the most painful part of getting a tattoo is creating the black outline of the design. Although it can be a bit intense, the pain usually diminishes rapidly afterwards.

After the outline is completed, the tattoo artist will wipe away any remaining bluish marks created by the application of the transfer.

Applying the Color

After the outline is complete the tattooist will add shading and color. You will probably get a chance to take a breather as the tattooist changes needles on the machine. Color inking can be uncomfortable but it is a different sensation than black outlining. Most do not find it as painful as sitting through the process of creating the black and white outline of the tattoo.

How long the process takes depends on how large the design is and how many colors it takes to create the final effect. Very large designs may take a number of visits to complete.

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