Matthew King

Getting ink

Tattoos, choosing an artist, costs, hints and tips

By: Jen Storey
Source: BigPond Money

Once considered a social taboo, tattooing crossed from a fringe or tribal tradition into a mainstream accoutrement in the 1990s. Now it is increasingly common for anyone from any walk of life to have tattoo.

So what should you consider before getting ink?

Knowing what you want

By definition a tattoo is the permanent etching of ink into the top layers of the skin. So bearing this in mind, it is important to know what you want.

According to Logan*, who used to run several tattoo shops, common tattoos include the names of children and their birth date. “People get this tattoo a lot and these days they get it anywhere - chest, arms, shoulders, back, ankles, feet.”

Whether you wish your tattoo to be permanently visible will determine where you wish to have it placed. Neck, face, hands, wrist, fingers and chest are positions where tattoos will almost always be visible.

How do I pick a tattoo artist?

Most tattoo artists will have a folio of their work for you to review.

More than just the design should be considered explains Logan, “You’ve got to understand placement on the body, the inks and how it will work on the skin tone you’re working with.”

Talk to the artist, view their work and talk to others who have tattoos. Personal recommendations are often the easiest way to find an artist that you are comfortable.

How much does it cost?

As tattoos have become increasingly popular, so the prices have increased. As most work is unique, the artist will quote based on the time and materials it takes to complete the work. The larger or more intricate the tattoo, the more expensive it will be.

Small pieces, such as initials or small designs often placed on wrists, ankles or feet can be a few hundred dollars.

As each design is unique, as is the body where the tattoo is being applied, there is no real set pricing model. Famous artists, who usually have a wait list, will be more expensive.

tatto back example tattoo sleave example

This back took 38 hours, with another 15 to go to fill in the rest of it and add highlights.
Cost: $4000-5000

This sleeve took 7 hours, with about 3-4 more to go before it's complete.
Cost: $1000-1500

Does it hurt?

The pain associated with getting a tattoo varies depending on the size and placement. Fleshy areas, such as biceps will hurt less than a shoulder blade. If the area is bony, it is likely to hurt more.

And again, the size and intricacy of the tattoo is directly proportional to the amount of pain experienced. While it heals the tattoo will hurt like a bout of severe sunburn or carpet burn. The skin will weep but if done in sanitary conditions by a professional, few complications will arise.

Making sure the skin heals well, post session, is very important. While you should be given care and manintenance instructions by the tattoo parlour seek qualified medical advice if any issues arise.

Once it’s healed, it’s done; a piece of art etched into your skin.

Tip: If you are regularly out in the sun remember to apply sunscreen with a high SPF as direct sunlight can fade and distort the colours your body art.

What if I hate it?

Laser tattoo removal is performed by trained doctors. The technology has improved and limiting scaring now occurs. The colour and size of the tattoo determines how well it can be removed. Black, red and blue inks are the easiest to remove. Purple and orange fade well but green and yellow inks are the most difficult to remove.

It is not a fast process as multiple treatments are required, usually around 8 sessions, one month apart. Some find removal more painful than getting a tattoo. Anaesthetic creams or injections may be used.

Depending on the size of the tattoo each session can cost between $500 and $800. As a guide, an estimate to remove a tattoo about the size of an A4 piece of paper is around $6,400.

That is, it is more expensive and more painful to have a tattoo removed than it is to get one in the first place.

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* Potentially a nom de plume. The views in this article are those of the author and interviewed subjects and are not necessarily those of the publisher. Any advice or information contained in this article and website is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute or replace medical or professional advice. Please seek advice from your medical or healthcare practitioner concerning any treatment options. Any quoted prices are intended to be indicative only.

Reader Tips

TIP 1 - I have tattoos that I received when I was 16 - 17yo. They have been with me for 40 years. They are reasonable quality considering the era I had them and the lack of choice of "artists" at the time and have stood up well due to the quality of the inks and the technical aptitude of the tattooist. However I have regretted them many times. I have learned to live with those regrets. I still like tattoos and would consider them if I had my time again. However I would be far more judicious with what the design and placement now. Firstly I would never get anything below my elbow. Definitely not hands, face, neck... I would consider two high quality images on my ankles just at the heelof my feet but not anywhere else on the foot. I would choose my designs very very very carefully!!!!! The area high on the bicep covering the shoulder has good muscle mass and would be possible to cover even with a short sleeved shirt if the design doesnt go all the way to the elbow. Shoulders at the back are also quite effective. Glutes (bum cheeks are good (except you have to look in the mirror to see it yourself!) Be very wary about your legs...high on the leg is best...where you can show it or cover it easily...Mkae sure that if you have tattoos in multiple places that they dont look disjointed...or mixed up...similar styles, colours and themes work best for the overall effect.

TIP 2 - Check out the artist carefully not just the studio. Also if you book at a studio where the artist you want is working you may be assigned someone else. Go for the best artists you can NOT skimnp on cost or opt for less...ever! If you cant afford it right now, do it in stages. When you settle on a design do your research....look at designs all over the internet, in as many studios as you can find and also look at graphic art works, books and websites....The more you look the more refined your taste will become and the better the choice you will make. Fashions change and you may find that Tattoos have become passe'...I think this is already true.... Also technology and styles may develop in the next few years that are not available now. (This has happened to me) and you may want another tattoo but it wont match your originals... Whatever you choose, be as wise as you can muster.... What you are thinking and your tastes at 17-18yo are usually very different than when you are 30 or 40 yo...

TIP 3 - Be SAFE....only use a reputable backyarders...Blood Born Viruses like Hepatitis A, B and C and infections are readily transmitted in the tattooing process.. Check out the shop and artist and watch them work to observe their cleanlinness and infection control methods. Use only tattooists who are registered with a reputable profssional organisation

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