A guide to getting your first tattoo by Amanda Rodriguez

From fine line to portraits of your dog, here's all you need to know.

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So you’ve decided you want to get your first piece of ink. Maybe you were inspired by our Harry Styles’ Fine Line Represented By Fine Line Tattoos article, or have been thinking about it for a while, or have just turned 18 (the legal age required to get a tattoo) and are ready to bite the bullet.

If you need a little help with where to start, or maybe find it a little intimidating don’t worry, we’ve got you!

We caught up with world-renowned tattoo artist Amanda Rodriguez, who has over 12 years experience and is the main operator Three Kings Tattoo London, to answer any questions about what to expect, what to look out for and how to find the right studio for you. Making sure you are ready to begin your body art journey and come away with something you’ll love forever.

Where should you begin looking for the right tattoo artist for you?

This will depend entirely on what you want to get tattooed. If you want something simple like a small symbol or lettering then I would suggest simply searching for the top-rated tattoo shops in your area that take walk-ins (meaning no appointment needed) and taking a look at the artist’s work from there. Most competent artists can do these simple pieces and going to a well-known tattoo shop will ensure that just about anyone that works there can give you a good tattoo.

If you are looking for a particular style however, going on instagram and looking through hashtags relating to it is good place to start. This will give you artists all around the world so it might take some time to find one near you or that you’d be willing to travel to.


It’s important to find an artist whose work you really like as this will mean you’ll be happy with whatever they come up with for you. Once you have someone in mind you should email them and ask how they work.

Be sure to look at an artists healed work, if they don’t show or post it then there may be a reason for that.

 

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What should you look for/are there any red flags to look for when going to a studio for the first time?

Studio personnel and your artist should be polite and helpful. They should talk you through your idea, what is possible or not, how much you can expect to pay and let you know how they work and when they are available. You should feel comfortable and not under any pressure.

I really believe in not trying to sell people on things or pressuring them into getting work done. The last thing I want is to force someone to get a tattoo they are going to regret later. Anything to the contrary would make me uncomfortable and would be a red flag in my opinion.

What information should you have ready for a tattooist when booking an appointment?

It helps immensely to have a relatively solid idea of what you want and where you want to put it. How you want the tattoo style to be (colour or black and grey etc), when you would like to have the tattoo done and what your budget is. You should also be prepared to show reference photos, these can include photos of other tattoos and/or actual photos of the subject.

 

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If you don’t know exactly what you want, what kind of assistance can be provided with
designs?

A lot of artists offer flash designs or have pre-drawn designs they want to do, so if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want, just know who you want to be tattooed by, you can ask to see these designs too.

 

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A little irritated wolf head in the ditch! Thanks Katherine!! . #wolfhead #japanesemaple #ditchtattoo

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How painful are tattoos really? Is there a part of the body you’d recommend for getting
your first tattoo to see or is there anything you can do to help during?

Every person reacts to pain differently so it’s really hard to say how you’ll react. I think that having a healthy fear of pain is a good thing because it will most likely never be as painful as you imagined. Generally, people seem to agree that the most painful spots are the torso, back, top of foot, wrists, elbows and knees. A good place to start is a calf, forearm or upper arm as those areas are generally really easy. That being said, very long sessions are hard no matter what area but you would be surprised what your body can handle.

You should make sure you eat before your appointment and it is a good idea to bring some sort of
sugary snack or beverage as keeping your blood sugar up will help you make it through.

If you feel faint at all during the process tell your artist immediately! Don’t be embarrassed and try to push through, if you need a second ask for it.

What are your thoughts on people copying a celebrity’s tattoo? Or getting a tattoo of a
celebrity?

I think it’s ok to be inspired by a celebrity’s tattoo but I’m against copying anyone’s tattoo. I think tattoos are an expression of your individuality and a unit piece of art – copying someone else’s tattoo defeats the whole purpose. Most artists also will not copy someone else’s work but rather use it as inspiration. Getting a tattoo of a celebrity is a different thing, I’m all for that. I have two myself!

What are your thoughts on tattoo trends? Fine line tattoos are really trendy right now, but will they still be in years to come?

I don’t see anything wrong with trends as long as you carefully consider what you are getting and don’t get it just ‘because’ it is a trend. Fine line tattoos have been around for quite some time but if done well they can heal and age well. Since trends constantly change I would suggest talking to your artist if you’re worried about how your tattoo will stand the test of time.

 

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Aftercare – do’s and don’ts?

Make sure you keep it clean and moisturised with the ointment recommended by your artist. The first 5 days are the most crucial as your tattoo is essentially an open wound, you want to make sure no dirt can get inside it as this can cause an infection. Do not submerge it in water or expose it to the sun until the tattoo is healed. The healing process can be quite unpleasant but it is worth it in the end. The top layer of your skin has to heal over the sub-layers where the tattoo lives and this can cause scabbing, peeling and discolouration while healing. Always contact your studio or artist if you have concerns over how your tattoo is healing. Be sure to use common sense and follow the aftercare instructions given to you.

Are there any other tips or things to consider?

A tattoo is a work of art but it also a luxury. Good tattoos are not cheap and you should never skimp on something that will be on your body forever. When you are quoted a tattoo price and it seems high, remember that a lot goes into that – artists spend many hours researching and designing each tattoo and honing their craft.

I do so many coverups and get so many emails from people who hate the tattoos they have and ultimately they have to compromise on what they can get to cover them up or pay for laser removal.

Do your research and try to be sure of what you’re getting, have patience and don’t skimp on art that will be on you for the rest of your life!

Three Kings Tattoo opens in Deptford this Spring. The New York-born business is hugely respected in the tattoo community, attracting high-profile names like Lana Del Ray and Lena Headey to it’s four locations in the USA and brand collaborations with the likes of Calvin Klein, Nike, VICE and more.

Follow Amanda and Three Kings London on Instagram.

Featured image source: Susana Rico

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