14 things to consider before getting tattooed

? Close-up of @shawnmendes’ tattoo. Yes, it is real, and no, he didn’t cry ?

A photo posted by LIVIA TSANG (@liviatsang) on

Once the taboo calling card of misfits everywhere, tattoos are now as common as haircuts. Even Canada’s sweetheart, Shawn Mendes, got inked a few weeks ago, proving that the trend has certainly peaked. They’re not just seen in Hollywood either—more and more workplaces are becoming tolerant of employees having tattoos (once a complete no-no). In order to avoid having regrets though, it’s crucial to think it through. Getting a tattoo requires the same amount of consideration as another lifetime commitment: getting married. In fact, like a marriage, if a tattoo doesn’t work out, you’ll not only end up in pain but you’ll also be stuck paying a lot of money to fix your mistake.

With that in mind, we sat down with three tattoo artists, Livia Tsang (who did Mendes’), Jessica Channer, and Max Lara to pick their brains on what you absolutely need to know before getting a tattoo.

Read below to find out all you need to know before getting inked. By the end of it, you might find yourself (finally) willing to commit to that tattoo idea you’ve previously had an on-again/off-again relationship with.

What would you say is the number one thing anyone looking to get a tattoo needs to know?
Livia: Make sure you do your research before getting a tattoo. Permanent body art requires a lot of trust between the client and the artist, so make sure you’re familiar with your artist’s portfolio and the shop’s reputation. You also need to trust that your artist knows what’s best in regards to composition, placement and size. If you come in asking for a super complicated design at three inches wide, it just won’t work. Most artists prefer creative freedom, so be open to that as well.

Are there any type of tattoos you would recommend not getting? Why?
Max: Anything without a good balance between black and colour or without negative space because contrast is very beneficial for proper aging of the tattoo.

Jessica: I would recommend never getting someone’s name tattooed on your body unless they are your child or a loved one who you want to memorialize. The number one reason people come into our shop for cover-ups is to cover an ex’s name.

Livia: I usually have my reservations about people getting tribal tattoos. Tribal pieces (Samoan, Polynesian, etc.) are steeped in history. But these days, a lot of people just get them for fashion without really researching what the different shapes mean in terms of the stories they tell, or without knowing what those tattoos meant to that culture. And generally, in terms of aesthetics, the big, bold tribal look was very popular in the ’90s and is now considered outdated. And those are the ones that come in the most asking for cover-ups.

Is there ever an ideal time to get a tattoo in regards to the season or time of day?
Livia: Everyone always wants to get tattooed in the summer, but personally I think it’s better to get tattooed in the winter/fall. In the summer, everyone always wants to be in the sun or in the water, but those are two specific things that we say not to do when you’re healing a fresh piece. So in the winter, it’s a little easier to avoid the temptation to go tanning or to go swimming on the beach.

Max: Always take into account that a tattoo is basically a wound so planning your activities around it accordingly is a good idea.

How would you personally prep for your own tattoo appointment?
Jessica: When I am planning to get a tattoo, I like to make sure I am well rested. I can’t stress enough how important it is to eat something before your appointment. You don’t want to risk feeling lightheaded or passing out while getting tattooed. I like to bring a snack and a bottle of pop or juice with me, in case my blood sugar gets low.

What are your best after-care tips?
Livia: There are a lot of different aftercare methods that work for different people, but the simplest one I’ve found is to let your tattoo breathe. So as soon as you get home from your appointment, wash off the tattoo with unscented soap and lukewarm water, patting it dry with clean paper towel. Wash it once a day, or whenever you shower, but make sure that you’re not soaking it while it’s healing. Don’t cover it back up again once you’ve taken the bandages off. Let the tattoo scab, which should take a few days. Once it starts to scab, moisturize the tattoo 2-4 times a day (or whenever it starts to feel dry or itchy) with unscented, water-based lotion. Avoid anything scented or anything that will clog your pores. The tattoo should be healed in 2-3 weeks.

What are the top three things to look for when it comes to picking a tattoo parlour/tattoo artist?
Jessica: First, make sure you look around at different artist’s portfolios until you find one who’s work you love. Look for clean lines, solid colour and smooth shading, and make sure they work in a similar style to the tattoo you are thinking of getting. Second, check out the shop they work at. Make sure it looks clean, has passed it’s health inspection, and has positive reviews from the community. And lastly, make sure you get a good vibe from your artist/shop. If anything seems out of place or makes you feel uncomfortable, go somewhere else. It’s going on your skin forever, don’t settle for anything less than the best.

What sort of tattoos need the most touch ups? Which ones need the least?
Jessica: In general, tattoos with bold lines tend to hold up better than thin ones. Pale colours will fade faster than really saturated ones. Tattoos on the hands or feet usually need touch ups more often, as they come into contact with a lot more things than other body parts do.

Why do some tattoo artists refuse to do finger tattoos?
Livia: Finger tattoos fade so quickly, it’s often not worth it for an artist to do the tattoo. People think that finger tattoos will last a long time, but it really depends on the person. I’ve seen finger tattoos that have lasted years, and others that have barely made it a week. The skin on your fingers shed so often from washing your hands and just daily use that it makes it not worth it to get it done.

What’s your stance on the increasingly popular white ink tattoos circulating the internet?
Jessica: Generally I think white ink tattoos are a bad idea. Most of the images you see on the internet are of freshly done tattoos, where the white ink looks the brightest. Once they heal they can have a tendency to yellow and fade. If you don’t mind that look and still want to get one, make sure you go to a skilled artist, as they are very easy to mess up.

Livia: I’ve never really liked the idea of white ink tattoos. They just end up looking like discoloured skin and it almost seems like you’re too afraid to actually get a tattoo. Just dive in and get an actual tattoo! It’s something that you’re meant to have and grow with, not something to hide from your parents.

Do people come in asking you to choose a location for them? How does that work?
Livia: Clients usually come in knowing the placement that they want. If they’re unsure, I usually ask them if they want the tattoo to be visible at work, if they want to hide it for any reason, or if they want to be able to see it all the time. Asking those questions usually ends up eliminating a few spots right off the bat. But, again, for the most part, people come in already knowing the placement they want.

Are there any factors that would make certain body types more suited for tattoos in certain areas?
Max: No, the beauty about tattoos are their adaptability when it comes to dealing with different anatomies and parts of the body.

Jessica: I don’t believe any body type should be limited regarding where they can put a tattoo! I do think clients should keep in mind where they place their tattoo if they have any plans to lose/gain a considerable amount of weight in certain areas. Tattoos can stretch or distort on your mid-section, upper arms and upper legs, but only if your body changes significantly.

What are your thoughts on lower back tattoos on women? Will they ever make a comeback?
Livia: I’ve seen some really nice lower back tattoos from contemporary artists, but the lower back tattoos from the 90’s are generally the ones referred to as “tramp stamps”, which I think is problematic in a different way. I think that women can get tattooed wherever they want, and if they want to get tattooed on their lower backs, they’re free to do it and rock it if they so

Jessica: I think it’s a bit sad that getting a lower back tattoo is taboo just because it’s associated with “tramp stamps.” I believe you can still get a lower back tattoo if you like the way it looks, don’t worry what other people think! I would recommend going with something more delicate and asymmetrical, as the lower back tattoos of the 90’s were quite dark, bold and symmetrical.

Max: I think is a very nice area to tattoo. It allows for interesting designs and fun projects, but sadly it has lost popularity and I believe it is only because of the its disrespectful name. Would they ever make a comeback? Not as long as people are worried about what others think.

Are there any outdated locations to put a tattoo?
Livia: These days, I don’t think there’s necessarily an outdated location to put a tattoo. But I think that putting a really small piece like a butterfly or a cross in the centre of your outer bicep can look that way, just because it then blocks you from getting a larger piece later on, like, if you were to get a half sleeve and then have to maneuver your design around the older piece. Or you’d then have to think about covering it up.

What are the most and least painful spots to get tattooed?
Jessica: Now, this really varies per person. Everyone has a different tolerance to pain. The general consensus from my clients is that the most painful spots are ribs, spine, elbows/knees and feet. Least painful seem to be forearms, outer thighs, shoulder blade and behind the ear.

Lots of celebs are getting really tiny tattoos. Are you for or against this?
Jessica: I think they can be really cute, but I worry that they might not age the best. Tattoo lines tend to spread over time, so smaller gaps in those tiny designs might eventually fill in. Personally I think medium to larger tattoos will look more stunning for a longer period of time, but I know not everyone is willing to commit to that.

Livia: Not everyone is suited for a full sleeve or a giant back piece. And celebrities usually have an image to uphold, so it’s not surprising that they’d want to get something small. It’s not my body either, so it’s not my business. As long as they like it and it’s not hurting anyone else, I’m for it.