How to Get a Tattoo You’ll Love

Whether it’s your first piece or you have too many to count, deciding to get a tattoo is always exciting. While it’s possible to get a tattoo on a whim or to snag a flash design at an event, typically there’s a certain amount of time and effort that goes into the process. Today we’re suggesting a few easy steps to help you get a tattoo you’ll love for a lifetime.

Blackwork cat tattoo by Jesse Iris at Paper Crane in Long Beach, CA

Step 1: Sort Your Ideas Out

Sometimes you just know what tattoo you want to get done. Other times, it’s a dilemma to decide which idea you like best of the hundreds flitting through your mind. We’ve been both places, so we get it!
Although we are always happy to help you figure out which piece go with, we strongly suggest sorting your ideas out before you head to the studio get a tattoo. Why?
  • Different artists have different specialties. Do you love the illustrative style of a particular artist? It may be that they tattoo in that style exclusively, so asking them to do an American Traditional piece might result in a no. (At Paper Crane, we will definitely refer you to another artist if this happens, so no sweat!). But if you know you want an illustrative piece for sure, then you know in advance that the artist you’re looking at will be a great fit.
  • Sometimes specialization is a matter of preference: An artist might only want to tattoo certain styles that they really love–or conversely, they might not want to do certain kinds of tattoos in particular, even if they are capable. You’ll sometimes encounter experienced artists who don’t like to do finger tattoos, for example, or ones who don’t do script, geometric tattoos, watercolor, etc.
  • Other times, specialization is more about skill level: A tattoo artist still working on their apprenticeship might do fantastic linework but not be ready for realism, for example.
  • Location matters. As mentioned above, not every artist does finger tattoos. The same is true for other body parts, whether it’s because an artist is new in their career or they just aren’t comfortable with certain locations. Examples include necks, hands, and genitals, so if you’re thinking of these as options it’s good to narrow that down before getting your heart set on a design.
  • Location impacts the design as well. As an example, hand tattoos tend not to age as well as other tattoos, for a number of reasons. If you’re wanting to get a tattoo on your hand, the design you have in mind might need to be altered to make that work.
  • Budget, budget, budget. Authentic art is expensive. If you’re deciding between several designs and on a budget, it’s a good idea to think about what you’re willing to spend. Maybe your budget means going with a smaller, simpler design, or maybe you’re willing to do multiple sessions to make a certain tattoo affordable. A consultation with an artist is a great place to discuss these concerns in detail, but knowing what you can realistically spend is a good starting point.

Step 2: Research Artists–AND Studios! 

Social media is a powerful tool for checking out tattoo work from artists all over the world. Often our clients discover an artist they love via Instagram and come to the shop specifically for that person. Other times, Instagram serves as the source of inspiration for the piece they want. (We will never copy another tattoo, but we can work off of ideas you find online!)
Instagram can also allow you to get a feel for the work an artist is turning out on a regular basis. If the quality and style line up with your goals consistently, this is a good indication that they might be who you should get a tattoo from.
Be sure to look for healed tattoos from artists when possible: Although aftercare and daily maintenance are in the hands of the client, a solid tattoo artist will turn out pieces that look amazing long after they’ve healed.
Researching an artist can help you also help you see that they are legitimate professionals. Industry regulations can vary by state, but it’s in your best interest to verify that an artist has had the proper safety training in addition to their artistic training. The same goes for studios, which should be in compliance with local safety standards.
Your tattooing experience should be incredible from start to finish, which is why we suggest reading reviews on studios as well as artists. A clean, friendly studio with welcoming artists and great customer service can make a huge difference in how you feel about your tattoo at the end of the day. (If you’re thinking about coming to Paper Crane, we invite you to browse our Yelp reviews!)

Step 3: Be Open Minded

Depending on the tattoo and the artist, you’ll typically have a consultation before you actually get a tattoo. Although we understand wanting to get a piece done exactly in the way you’re envisioning, we encourage clients to be open minded for a number of reasons.
An artist can often see things that a client can’t, whether it’s to do with the location or the design. Some concepts won’t “read” well as tattoos, for example–but your artist will typically be able to make suggestions that will turn your idea into a beautiful tattoo. This might mean changing the level of detail, increasing the size, trying the idea in a different style, etc.
Similarly, an artist might suggest moving a tattoo to a different location or altering the design if it doesn’t fit a person’s unique physique. We carefully consider each client individually and design tattoos to be a tailored fit, which means that a sleeve on a person with a narrow arm would look very different on a person with a fuller canvas. If you have a particularly thin forearm, we might suggest your upper arm or leg for the tattoo, or alternatively we could simplify the design so it isn’t crowded.
Our suggestions are always designed to ensure you get a tattoo you will truly love–and typically we are speaking from years of tattooing experience. We appreciate the trust our clients have in us and bring the full force of our talent and skill to each tattoo.
As noted previously, we will not copy another artist’s tattoo, and usually we will only tattoo an existing art piece with the permission of the original creator. But if a client can be open to creative input, we can design an original piece we know you’ll be happy with for years to come.

Step 4: Get a Tattoo!

Once you’ve met with an artist, put down a deposit, and saved up for your piece, it’s time to get a tattoo! We suggest arriving early to your appointment, reviewing aftercare guidelines in advance, and planning for food and water if you’ll be at the studio for a while. (Definitely eat beforehand if you’re just dropping by for a quick session!)
If you’re planning to get a tattoo at Paper Crane, we are always available to go over any questions or concerns. We will look forward to seeing you soon in Long Beach!