The first shop is not always the best. Look around for the right place, and remember, just because someone recommends a shop, it does not mean that it’s the right one for you. You are in focus, your tattoo, your experience.
Don’t go shopping for a cheap price, go shopping for a good artist, that can do exactly what you hope for, and then some.
Know what you are shopping for. If you are just out browsing, that’s all good, but if you are out looking with an idea in mind, try to define it, so that the different artists can help, and also have a chance to understand what you are after.
When you are at a shop, look for cleanliness, neatness and preferably, a lack of dust everywhere. The place does not need to be Completely spotless, but if its actually dirty, and the tattooist looks shifty, its time to go shopping for a different tattoo-shop.
Look at the work of the tattooist you are thinking about hiring for the tattoo. Not just freshly done stuff, but healed and preferably also old stuff. This gives a lot more of the real impression, then when its all fresh and sparkly.
Bring a friend with you. Preferably someone who can draw, since it always help to have someone who can tell gold from lint, but anyone you feel comfortable with, so you have support. A lot of tattoo-shops have big people walking around with tattoos on them, or a slightly pushy feel to the place, and you should never feel pushed into a tattoo that you don’t actually want.
When you walk into a shop, and talk to the person who might be tattooing you, make sure it feels right, and has the right vibe. You will be spending some, if not many hours in that place, with that person, and it will be something you remember, so make sure its an experience you do not want to forget.
Feel free to ask questions. If the tattooist cannot, or will not answer, when you ask about cleanliness, colours, autoclaving, then you might be in the wrong place. A tattooist that does not know of his methods, is usually a bad tattooist.
Spend time, and lots of it, on contemplating your tattoo before you start any of the above. The more you know, the more the tattooist can create. Be aware, that you do not need to bring a finished design, at least not to a decent tattooist. He will do the work of the actual design, but the more info and ideas you got, the better a tattoo he can create for you.
Your tattoo is forever. This is something you should keep in mind during the whole process.
On selecting your tattoo motif
Don't copy. Get inspired. If you get a copy of someone else's work, then you, and they, will be sad about it at some point in life, especially if they find out.
Make sure your tattooist is involved in the design, unless it is extremely simple. If its basic and clean text or symbols, anyone can do it, but remember, most tattooists are really creative, and the input they can give, can often give your tattoo that unique touch that makes it exceptional.
Think outside the box. Tattoos today are a living media, where the development is almost aggressive, many new styles are being developed and perfected, and the possibilities are endless. So look around, and don't let the usual limits stop you.
Take your time. When you have decided on your idea, take your time thinking out what details you want in there, what parts are important, what colours you definitely want, and which you don\'t want. Never rush a tattoo, and the same goes for the design.
Whatever comes to you in the spur of the moment, is oftentimes not really a good idea in the long run. Many a facial tattoo has come into the world this way.
Let others see or hear your design-idea, and listen to input. You can freely pick and choose, but others eyes on things often gives good ideas, and good ideas give good results.
Use the internet. Google is a brilliant resource, so is deviantart.com, and many other sites. The more elements you can bring to your tattooist, the better the result will often be. It is easier to bring a print, saying "this kind of bird, in this kind of pose", then trying to spread your arms, imitating the bird, and hope to god that the tattooist knows what a magpie is.
Consider the location on your body for the tattoo very carefully, and listen to the tattooists advice. Placement is very important. And remember, the size you have on a piece of paper, is always smaller on your skin, so when the tattooist says "a little bigger", its not because he is trying to rob you, its because he knows his trade.
Once you got the design in your head, or sketched on paper, make sure you find a tattooist with a style to match, or who knows how to work that style. More so, make sure the tattooist likes the idea and concept, because that is a sure way of getting a good result.
As with the choice of tattooshop, the words "Your tattoo is forever", still counts here. Don't waste skin on silly ideas, get what is real, what is important, and what you want permanently.
Caring for your new tattoo
Leave it alone. When your tattoo is done, your tattooist will have applied either a plastic film, or spray-bandage on your tattoo. Leave it on, until your next shower, and in the case of the spray bandage, leave it alone, it will fall of by itself (it will look like a peeling sunburn when this happens).
Keep the tattooed skin, and the skin around it clean. Always have clean hands when touching the new tattoo, also when you apply creme, or are showing it off.
When showering (remember to shower), wash the tattoo with lukewarm water, use mild soap, and clean the tattoo gently, no scrubbing, and rinse the soap of well. When you need to dry it, pat it, don't rub.
Nourish and care for your skin. Apply a mild moisturiser, preferably panthenol or the tattoo-ointment your tattooist recommends. Apply a small amount on all tattooed areas, and do this 2-3 times a day, or when the skin seems and feels dry. If the skin feels stretchy, it needs moisture.
Avoid the sun. It will harm the healing process, and give you a sunburn. If you touch a black car in the summer, it's usually really warm. Same goes for black tattoos. Once the tattoo is healed, use sunblock when you are loitering about in the summer.
Avoid swimming for a while. Hot tubs, rivers, lakes and the sea, and especially pools, are not the friends of your tattoo. Most have bacteria in abundance, and some have chlorine, which will possibly bleach the fresh ink. And no matter what, soaking your fresh tattoo will be bad for the healing.
Choose clothing carefully. If your clothing scrapes the skin, it will scrape the ink, and most likely wear of some of the fresh ink, leaving whitened areas.
Allow up to 3 weeks of healing. Different types of tattoos have different healing-time, but a tattoo is not completely healed to the depth for the first month or two, but the surface and upper skin is usually healed in 3 weeks.
Don't pick the scabs, don't scratch it, it increases risk of infection, and can damage the design.
If all this fails, and you get an infection, go to your tattooist and let him see it. He will tell you if it is simply small, and of no harm, or if you need penicillin, and send you to your doctor, but furthermore, he can recognize an allergic reaction, if you should be so unlucky, although it is very rare.