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10 Things to Know Before Getting a Tattoo, According to an Expert

Photo by Mike Polito

Thinking about getting inked? Graceland Tattoo’s Adam Lauricella gives his best advice for those shopping around for a tattoo.

“My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.”

Since Johnny Depp’s line in the 1995 hit comedy Don Juan DeMarco, it’s become commonplace for people to use their bodies as a canvas to showcase their experiences — tattooing was made legal in New York in 1997, after all. But before you get your life’s story etched on your skin, here’s what should you know, courtesy of Graceland Tattoo’s Adam Lauricella.

1. Don’t just copy and paste your tattoo idea from Pinterest or a blog. You can bet everyone else has it.

“A good way to get inspiration is to look at things that aren’t even necessarily a tattoo. You can take your idea and bring it to a tattoo artist, and they’ll know what to do with it, and turn it into a piece of artwork that’s tattooable.”

2. Really think about what part of the body you want to tattoo to make sure the picture/quote complements your body.

“Flat parts of the body are good for writing: down the forearm, across the back, across the chest, and down the leg. Writing a quote is good when you can read all of it, without having to twist and turn, so you have the immediate impact. Areas that are not going to distort over time are really good. And it’s important when you are getting a tattoo containing words that you don’t get them too small, because over time that tattoo is going to change and distort.”

3. Accept that it will hurt.

“Everybody is different! People have different sensitivities, but, generally speaking, the tops of the forearms are one of the least painful parts of the body. Many times, parts of the leg can be the least painful, but some parts of the leg can be very painful. Typically the ribs are very painful, because they’re around the center of all your nerves.”

4. Are you allergic to particular lipsticks or nail polish colors? You might also get a reaction from certain inks.

“Though red can be a really beautiful color and it can last a long time, there are some things [like iron oxide, mercury sulfide, ferric hydrate, aluminum, and manganese] in red ink that can be more apt to cause a reaction. That being said, it’s very rare when someone has an allergic reaction, but [in those cases] there’s probably a higher chance that it’s a red ink causing the reaction, than a blue ink.”

5. Find a professional tattoo artist.

“You want to find a tattoo artist and a studio that is a safe place to practice with a sanitary and sterile procedure.”

6. Find out if the artist is a pro.

“You want to talk to people who you know got a tattoo, and hear what they tell you about the tattoo studio. When you go in, look around to see if there’s any tattoo artist certification, and look to see if the workstations are presentable. If the tattoo artist is in the middle of a tattoo, and the tools are not being used, are they covered in plastic that will keep them clean, and does it all look sterilized? And ask questions! The artist should jump at the opportunity to answer all your questions and walk you through their procedure and their equipment.”

7. Ask the artist to help you with the design.

“We are there to give you our input and expertise. And if something is totally leading to a bad tattoo, we are not going to do it, but of course we’re there to collaborate and to use the client’s input.”

8. That said, listen to the artist’s recommendations!

“Even though you’re getting a piece of artwork, there are limits to tattooing. It’s an art form, but there’s also a science to it.”

9. Don’t get inked on empty stomach.

True! “We recommend everybody to get a good night of sleep before getting the tattoo, and eat a good meal, too. You are putting your body through a little bit of stress.”

10. Finally, protect your tattoo.

“When you leave the studio, you’ll have a bandage on the tattoo. Clean it several times a day, put on lotion. Until the tattoo heals, you should stay out of the sun, and once it heals you should always put a high SPF on it, every time you are getting sunlight on it. Forever.”

Related: 4 of the Coolest Tattoo Artists in the Hudson Valley

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