Thursday, August 14, 2014


I think I was still in kindergarten when I first noticed someone with a tattoo.

" What's that? " I asked.
" That's a tattoo. " I heard in reply.
" Oooohhhh.... " I oohed.
" Hush! Only gangsters and criminals and bad people have tattoos. " I was told. 


There used to be many misconceptions about tattoos floating around in the past. However, they seem to be gaining acceptance these days. It's nonsense that only gangsters and criminals and bad people have tattoos because I have them too and I'm one of the straightest, nicest, good-est people ever. (I hope you know I'm joking.. well half joking)

Some people are covered in tattoos from head to toe. I am not one of them (neither do I aspire to be). However, I would say that I have done a fair share of research before I got inked. If you are thinking about it, here is some advice before you get your first tattoo.


You might want to think twice about getting that full back piece. Generally the larger the size of your tattoo, the more it will cost. The inverse is also true ; the smaller your tattoo the easier it will go on your wallet.

Fine lines, delicate patterns, fancy fonts, exotic artwork - the more impressive your tattoo, the more impressive the price.

From what I'm aware, as long as you keep it monotone the price will probably fall within a more comfortable range. Vibrant hues and lucid multicolour tattoos tend to hike up the figure. 

Some people come in not knowing what they want. If you vaguely present an idea to your tattoo artist and request them to design it for you, making amendments and modifications as you go, you will be charged for their time, effort, and skill. 

My tattoos cost me a very measly (well in comparison to the industrial rate) sum. Probably because they were small, simple, monotone, and I came in already knowing exactly what I wanted. The first one I got was a cross, of which the template was already available on good ol' Google. The second one was a font, which this time I got straight off MS Word.


Make sure your skin is clean in the area you intend to get tattooed. Actually, just go take a thorough shower before to make sure your whole self is clean. (Also so you don't stink for the sake of your tattoo artist of whom you will be in close proximity with for a while.) This is to reduce the likeliness dirt, dust, or foreign tiny particles getting trapped under your skin when the needle pierces through.

Ensure that your tattoo artist uses a fresh needle. Mine opened the needle from its brand new packaging right in front of me, wore gloves, and cleaned my skin with alcohol swabs before doing the deed. All these put me at ease that he knew his stuff. I think he also knew I was quite apprehensive and unsure of what to expect because it was my first time, so he would pause from time to time and ask me if I was alright.

Physical condition
If you have any notable health conditions like hamoephilia (where the body struggles to form blood clots), bruise easily, or have a weak immune system then you should think twice about going under the tattoo needle. (Cheer up you can still have stick on tattoos.)


Right after you're done, your tattoo artist will cover up your tattoo with either bandage or cling film (yes the kind you use to wrap leftovers). It's supposed to stay on for at least an hour to let the platelets under your skin form a natural protective layer, after which should be safe to remove. However, I'd advise to just keep it on until you go home and have a shower. Take care that the water is not boiling hot as your skin is still raw. 

After your shower, lightly moisturize your tattoo. (Note that I said LIGHTLY) Your skin needs to 'breathe' in order to heal and a slapping thick coat of moisturizer is certainly not going to help there. A thin layer that is quickly absorbed would be about right.

It's advisable to stay away from food such as shellfish and prawns for at least 2-4 weeks as these can apparently negatively affect the healing of your tattoo.

After 2-3 days, your skin will start to itch and form a flakey outer layer which. Don't freak out - this is completely normal. Make sure you do not rub or scratch. After a couple of weeks, it should have completely flaked away.

Avoid suntanning or rough contact sports that might raise the risk of burning / bruising your skin. Swimming as well would be best put on hold as you don't know what might be in the water.

Touch-ups are generally after 2 weeks, or depending on the area and size it might be after a month. 


Enquire about rates at more than one place / artist to get a rough idea of the figure that is likely to come up. Request to see some of their previous work as this helps you figure out their 'style' and what type of design they specialize in (asian, celtic, animated, freehand, portrait, floral, black and white, etc). I took more than half a year scouting artists and rates.

It's important that you feel comfortable with the artist doing you (heh heh) so you can communicate and work well together. People tend to usually go back to the same artist even if they are getting a new piece so it would be good to have someone you'd have no problems seeing over and over again. My first tattoo was done by a completely random person and at a chance encounter (I'd never heard of him or researched his work), but I was fortunate to have a good artist. I liked him so much that both my tattoos are by the same person.

Preferably not stiletto heels and your shortest tightest dress. Comfortable clothing that allows for easy movement would be recommended. My first had me sitting on a regular stool while my second had me lying on the reclining chair. 

A mistake I made was wearing a white top during my second visit. I thought I'd be careful to see that it was safely tucked out of the way but nope, it still got ink stains (not too much but still). Something darker would be the best bet. 

Pictured beneath is me right after getting my second tattoo. 
Yay : Easy breezy comfy pants
Nay : White top

With Pamela, a fellow backpacker I met while as I was pondering life sitting on the riverbanks of the Mekong in Laos. Met up with her in Malaysia and took her around KL, of which included a paying a visit to my tattoo artist and getting my second ink. Probably not something you'd get in a regular tour package.

Of course it's going to hurt. This is partially dependent on which part of your body you choose to get tattooed. I have one on my back and one on my ribcage. The latter was a fair bit more uncomfortable because the needle was going over bone. 

Your tolerance for pain plays a role too. If you're a sadist, yippee! You will have no problems at all. However if you cried just getting your earlobes pierced then you're in for a bad time.

Is getting a tattoo of your boyfriend / girlfriend's name after 3 months of being together really a good idea? I didn't think so too. 

Some people get tattoos 'just because' and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Nevertheless I personally would advocate having something that is classic, timeless, and will bear significance for a long time to come.

When I was getting my hair washed at the salon (this was ages ago way before I even had any notion of getting inked), I noticed that the girl had a huge smudge that ran from her index finger to her wrist. I curiously asked and she told me it was actually a tattoo of a flower she'd gotten two years ago. However, her job required to have her hands in the water frequently every day and that was the outcome it had on the ink.

If you have a desk job or one that involves a lot of writing and drawing, I've heard that it's not wise to get your wrists or forearm tattooed as these areas tend to get a lot of dirt and friction.

Tattoos on the feet are a hassle too. This is because your feet are shoved into socks which are shoved into shoes so they get a lot of heat, moisture, friction, and pressure which is not good when you're talking about allowing the skin to 'breathe' and your tattoo to heal well. While I'm not saying getting one on your foot can't be done, bear in mind that you will have to go to a lot more trouble to care for it.

Your friends might be cool, but would a potential employer be as lax? (Or would parents-in-law be as chill?) The collarbone, front of the neck, forearm, and other highly visible areas - you should REALLY think before you ink. If you're in the corporate sector, it would be preferable to get your tattoo somewhere you can cover up. On the other hand, if you're in the creative industry it seems like the more you have the merrier it gets. 

Just before you happily make yourself comfortable in the reclining chair, make sure you confirm the asking price. While I guess they wouldn't actually have a choice if you fell short with the amount in your pocket, I don't think it's nice to leave your tattoo artist with an I.O.U. 


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