My love affair with tattoos began more than 10 years ago when I opened my first business next to a tattoo shop. When I had some down time I would go next door and hang out with the owner and talk to the people who came in and out throughout the day. From 18-year-old girls on their birthdays to 40-year-old soccer moms to guys who had to actually look for an empty space to get another tat – people from every social class from all walks of life came in for tattoos.
After a while I began hanging out at the shop after I closed my place for the day. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of getting ink. I learned what a good tattoo is supposed to look like and watched several bad ones get fixed. Getting a tattoo is a big decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly or else when you’re 65 you’ll be known as that grandma with the tramp stamp. Do your research because there are tons of myths surrounding tattoos. And remember, tattoos aren’t for everyone. As much as I love tattoos and love to look at them, I don’t have a single one. Am I a sissy or a wimp? Nope. I just never found one that fit me. But if you’re thinking of getting some ink, here are 20 of the most common myths about tattoos.
1. Tattoos are art. True enough. However, some tattoos are good art, done poorly and some tattoos are bad art, done well. Find a tattooist who is competent with both a pencil and a tattoo machine. You bet it hurts, but not as much as you think and definitely not as much as some would like you to believe. Yes, some areas are more tender than others, but the discomfort is manageable if you’re getting what you really want, where you really want it.
2. A tattoo will change your life. Only if your self image is as shallow as your skin. Don’t lay some heavy mystical-type expectation on your decision to get tattooed. On the other hand, the decision is permanent. Choose the design, location, and art wisely.
3. Everyone should get a tattoo. Actually, some people live full and happy lives with just the original skin tones they were born with, thank you. Tattoos are a matter of personal choice. And that includes the choice not to get one.
4. Anyone who is artistic can tattoo. Don’t bet your skin on it. The ability to draw neat designs does not make a tattooist. Without the proper equipment, mechanical skill and technical knowledge, that pretty paper design can turn into anything from mush to scar tissue in a couple of months.
5. Every tattooist has artistic talent. Unfortunately, this is false. A good deal of a professional tattooist’s time is spent fixing or covering someone else’s “artistic talent”.
6. Any good artist can do any tattoo. Not necessarily. While most professionals are capable of a variety of styles, they usually have a specialty, a unique style of tattooing they’ve developed and are very good at. That artist who’s known for his killer tribal work may not be the choice for the portrait of mom and dad you’ve been planning.Match the design you want with the artist who can pull it off.
7. My tattoo doesn’t look right, I’ll just go back to the guy and have him fix it. Bad idea. Odds are that if his first attempt is botched, so will his second, and his third… steer clear. A professional may be able to fix-up that blotched job, but if you keep going back to the butcher, you’ll probably end up with an even darker, uglier tattoo that requires a cover-up… much larger and much more expensive.
8. Wall certificates prove that it’s a good tattoo shop. Not necessarily. With the exception of “APT” certificates, which show the artist is affiliated with a professional organization which is concerned with safe, sterile tattooing procedures, most other “certificates” claiming professional status are merely wallpaper freebies from supply companies. Hardly the “proof” to bet one’s health on.
9. Tattoos are accepted by society now. Yes, more than say 10 or 20 years ago, but not as mainstream as you may think. Most non-tattooed people still associate tattooing with sailors, circus sideshows, skid row drunks and outlaw rebels. You would be wise to place your first tattoo where it is covered by normally worn clothing.
10. Artists want you to get real big designs so they can charge more. Nonsense. Most established professionals have more work than they can handle and can make more money doing a lot of small, uncomplicated pieces than a few large complex ones.
11. Photos are the best way to judge an artist’s talent. No. The best way is to see real tattoos on real people. Photos are second best. They do give you a good idea of what the artist is capable of. Drawings or flash may reflect a tattooist’s taste and artistic ability, but give no clue as to his ability to tattoo those designs on your skin.
12. Wall flash is junk. Custom tattoos are the only way to go. If you go into a studio with that attitude, you’re just a tattoo snob. On the other hand, if the stuff on the walls really is junk, maybe you don’t want someone with that lack of artistic taste to be putting holes in your skin. Odds are that his “custom” work won’t be much better.
13. I want your cheapest tattoo. Go home. If you’re shopping price, it’s a safe bet you’re getting tattooed for all the wrong reasons… it’s cool, my friends have one, I’m expressing my individuality, it’ll piss mom off. If you’re serious about getting a tattoo, get exactly what you want, even if you have to save up for it.
14. But I really want “Rock Rules” on my knuckles. I’ll never regret it. Yeah, right. And that guy over there still thinks true love is having his ex-wife’s name forever tattooed on his chest. If a tattooist refuses to do a particular design, think about it before you blow your top… he just may have a good reason.
15. You don’t need an autoclave, this works just as well. Absolutely not. The only acceptable means of sterilization is with an autoclave. Boiling water, dry heat units, alcohol, bleaching or any other kind of voodoo just won’t cut it.
16. You’re not a real tattoo fan if you don’t have lots of tattoos. Definitely not true. A person with one terrific tattoo displays more respect for the art form than someone with an armful of uninspired badly inked images.
17. Well, I scratched and picked and I didn’t lose any color. Either you’re very lucky or you’re color-blind. Leave it alone.
18. Don’t put any ointment on it, keep it dry and it’ll heal faster. Not so. Allowing it to dry out leads to faster development of scabs, not faster healing. Heavy scabs actually pull color out of tattoos.
19. Put lots of ointment on it, keep it wet and it’ll heal faster. Wrong again. Keeping it “wet” will actually delay healing. The ideal environment for healing is just “moist”. When your tattoo starts feeling dry or tight, add just a small amount of ointment to moisturize the skin.
20. Don’t get any water on your tattoo. Partly true. You must not “soak” a new tattoo, but gentle hand-washing of it is necessary to remove harmful bacteria from the healing tattoo. When you shower, simply apply a little extra coating of ointment to the tattoo and avoid direct shower spray on it. Blot off excess ointment when you’re done bathing.