For a lot of people, getting their first tattoo can be a confronting and intimidating experience. We at the ATG have all experienced this, no one was born with tattoos! Here are some guidelines to help you have a good tattoo experience.


The best way of approaching any tattooist is with a definite idea in your mind of what you want.

Look at photos online, think about things that you love, even have a rough doodle yourself! Tattoo designs are not limited to Pinterest or Google Search photos, you can find inspiration for your artwork almost anywhere.

Find two or three images (don’t go in with a 10GB hard drive full of tattoo pictures!!) that best describe the tattoo that you want, and  then think about where you want it, and how big. These are all the questions that a good tattooist will want answered by the client.


Often the best way to find a tattooist is by word of mouth, but it’s definitely not the only way. Ask friends who have work you like who did their tattoo. Ask strangers too! Have a look at Instagram (#dragontattoo, #geometrictattoo, you know what to do!) and find an artist who seems to have a preference for doing the sort of work you are after.

Not all great artists are great to deal with, and tattooing is definitely a people business, so make a time to go and chat with the artist who is doing your work. Most artists will want to do a consultation for larger work, for smaller stuff they don’t always have time but at the very least go and see the studio and get a feel for the space and the people that you’re going to be getting tattooed by.

If you feel welcomed and comfortable with the studio and the artist in question then that’s a good sign.

Be very wary of friends who suggest ‘a really good friend of mine who’s a great artist and does tattoos from home’. Professional tattoo artists do not work from their garage or kitchen, and there’s good reason for that. Have common sense and seek out a clean and professional environment for your tattoo.

A great place to start is by having a look at the ATG Members list.


As there is no real industry standard on hourly rates or tattoo prices, it is always advisable to ask for the full extent of your chosen artists pricing criteria (which, for some tattooists can be quite loose).

Ask if they charge for drawing time during the session, if they charge for drawing time outside of the appointment, if they charge for lunch/cigarette/toilet breaks. If the charge is for a full day, how many hours does that entail? If you leave a deposit, is it transferable to another day (or to a friend)? How much notice does the studio or artist require for rescheduling of appointments? If you are still unsure about the costs involved, maybe ask to see similar pieces of the artists work and ask how long it took and how much the client was charged. This may give you an indication of the artists efficiency and work discipline.

These are the sorts of things that you need to know so that you can make an informed decision about your financial commitment to getting your tattoo finished. And remember – no one forces you to get tattooed, so, in the end, it’s your decision who you get tattooed by and you must accept a certain level of responsibility for that. Choose a brilliant artist with obvious professional standards and you’ll nearly always be happy. Choose someone working from their kitchen or someone’s garage and well… there’s a good chance you may end up with regrets.


Getting tattooed is akin to minor surgery, it involves bodily trauma and preparing for the procedure is a really good idea.

Drink plenty of water and get a good night sleep the day before your tattoo. Have a hearty meal a few hours before your appointment, and take along some fruit or small snacks to keep your blood sugar levels up before, during and after the tattooing.

Try and allow yourself plenty of time to get to your appointment and make sure you don’t need to rush off somewhere immediately after – you don’t want to be stressed about missing a hair appointment because the tattoo took longer than expected!


‘How much does it hurt?’

This is the most common question asked by people without tattoos, and it’s really not one that can be answered to anyone’s real satisfaction.

Tattoos do hurt. The best way to deal with the pain is to breathe – just like giving birth, breathing is the key. Slow, rhythmic breathing can get you through almost anything! Just allow yourself to let go and relax your body as much as you can (yes, breathing helps with that too!).

Some people choose to use numbing cream, with varying degrees of success at pain removal. Even with numbing cream, it will wear off and you will feel the pain at some point. Some tattooists do not like tattooing on anaesthetised skin, so best to ask the tattooist doing your tattoo if he or she minds if you want to use it.

Beware of cheap numbing cream sold on ebay, most of these products are made in China with little to no quality control and are not registered medical product producers or suppliers in Australia.


A lot of people think that once your tattoo is done, that’s the hardest part of getting a great tattoo!

A good tattoo can be ruined by bad aftercare, so ensure you know exactly what to do – ask your tattooist the way they suggest you look after your tattoo, as every tattooist has slightly different preferences.

Here are some good guidelines:

  1. Allow a minimum of 3 hours before removing any bandage.
  2. Make sure you wash your hands with liquid soap before you remove the bandage, and before any physical contact with your fresh tattoo.
  3. Wash the tattoo well, making sure any dry blood or plasma (that clear liquid stuff coming from your skin that dries shiny) has been removed. Pat dry with disposable paper towels or let air dry.
  4. Put a small amount of aftercare cream (available at most tattoo studios) on your tattoo and rub it in thoroughly with clean hands. Don’t let any cream sit on the surface of the tattoo.
  5. DON’T let anyone touch your new tattoo with their hands (or any other naked body part!). Always make sure your hands have been washed before you touch it, don’t touch your new tattoo unnecessarily.
  6. Keep it out of the direct sun for at least a few weeks.
  7. Don’t go swimming or use a sauna/spa for at least 2 weeks.
  8. If any inflammation occurs (redness directly around, or coming from the tattoo), go back and show the tattooist that did the work, and ask if it is normal.


If you love your tattoo, and are super happy with the tattooist who did it, let people know. There are  a lot of great tattooists out there who appreciate word of mouth referrals to new customers.

Australian Tattooists Guild

P.O. Box 237, Brunswick West, Melbourne, Victoria, 3055.

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