Pre-Tattoo Checklist

In my family, one of the things my mother is known for is her over-preparedness. And not just “Do you have sunscreen” or “Did you pack enough underwear.” No, no…we are talking zombie apocalypse level-preparedness.  Hand to god, her purse is the Mary Poppins bag.  It’s no larger than the size of a large day planner, yet it contains literally anything you could ever need. For every family vacation there is an extensive checklist to ensure nothing has been over looked or forgotten (and we check it twice, like Santa). When I took my car to college it came complete with a case of water, granola bars, flashlights, a rain poncho, spare change for tolls (y’know for all the toll roads I was driving to get to and from the frat parties and cheap Chinese takeout restaurants), maps of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey, an entire First Aid kit and a space blanket.  It’s been almost a decade since I went off to college but I’m pretty sure the collapsable bomb shelter is still in the trunk. 


If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know that my family and I just returned from a week long vacation in Montreal, Canada. (If you have never been, I highly recommend and please let me know when you are going so I can come with you.) While there, I decided to collect a tattoo from a local artist (thanks @sarahjadetattoos) as a souvenir of sorts. My family was not prepared for this at all, and therefore required a comprehensive explanation of why this was not a terrible idea.

If my mother got tattoos (L O L) I’d like to think this is the pre-tattoo checklist she would make me run through to ensure maximum preparedness (for me) and minimal stress (for her).

1. Do your research: Whether you are getting tattooed at home or in a foreign country (okay Canada isn't that foreign) use the Google machine for it’s secondary purpose (the first being cat videos)…RESEARCH. If you aren't able to ask your moderate to heavily tattooed friends where they go, you can always internet the shit out of local tattoo shops and artists. You want reputable, easy to find shops with high caliber artists or private tattoo studios with really good reputations (I’d probably only do this if I had a friend who swore by them). The shop and artists should be comfortable answering any of your questions and letting you have a look around the shop. Don’t be a brat but remember that you are paying them to put something v permanent on your body. They should want you to feel comfortable.

2. Pick the right artist; Part A: Not all tattoo artists are created equal. In fact, not all tattooers are artists. Bad tattoos have to come from somewhere, right? An understanding of where something should be placed on the body can go a long way when it comes to tattoos. Drawing composition (if it’s original work) and color choices should also be considered along with the obvious: Are the lines straight, crisp and even? Are the circles round? Is the line work and shading connected and saturated?

3. Pick the right artist; Part B: An artist’s style and aesthetic play a huge factor into my selection process. I usually scroll through Instagram to find tattoos I like. Then I find the artist who did the tattoo and check out their portfolio. If I want black and gray, I’m not going to pick a color artist. If I want a portrait tattoo, I’m not going to pick someone who specializes in traditional. If I can’t see myself wearing at least five tattoos they’ve done for other clients, then they may not be the right fit for me.

4. Check your calendar: What season is it? Are you planning a beach trip? Going to be around a pool or hot tub? A week or so after your tattoo you won’t be able to soak it in any kind of water and you definitely don’t want sand getting in/on it. (I planned my Montreal tattoo for the last day of vacation so I could take full advantage of the hot tub and sauna/steam room.) It’s also best to keep fresh tattoos out of direct sunlight so I tend to get *most* of my tattoos in the Fall/Winter months.

MTL Tattoo Sud  3933 Rue Saint Denis

MTL Tattoo Sud 3933 Rue Saint Denis

5. Eat before you go: And then bring a snack if it’s gonna be more than two hours. Every tattoo shop where I’ve had work done has had a water cooler of sorts, but I also bring my own water bottle just in case. Getting tattooed is stressful for your body so it’s good to stay hydrated and well fueled. 

6. Bring enough cash: Lots of shops are cash only so it’s important to 'know before you go.' Ask your artist what the tattoo will cost upfront and remember your deposit counts towards the tattoo. Even if the shop takes cards, your artist will be much happier if you pay in cash because cash is king. If you must pay with a card (maybe those rewards points are real good, idk)  make sure you have enough cash to tip (15-20% at least!) You don’t want to be an asshole.

7. Plan your day accordingly: The area around a fresh tattoo will swell and be sore for a few hours afterwards. Keep in mind what you have to do the rest of the day, where you will be going and how you will be getting there.  A few years ago I visited Cincinnati, OH and, forgetting that I had to walk around the rest of the day, got my knee done at Barber’s Electric Tattoo. My knee puffed up and hurt so badly after! I hobbled to the closest bar and waited for three hours for my friend to finish his day and come pick me up so I didn't have to walk the mile back to his house. Don't let this happen to you. I made this mistake so you don't have to... Now go make my mom proud!


For more info on tattoos and tattoo care, check out the post I wrote for 30th & Weldon.

I'm not a licensed (or unlicensed, for that matter) medical professional. These are my opinions and I'm not responsible for anything you f up :)