If you're harboring any fear of commitment, it's going to come to surface when the time comes to decide on a tattoo. This goes without saying but when you’re going to ink yourself permanently—whether it’s a micro tat or a full sleeve—you're gonna want to get it right. Maybe you know what you want, but don’t know the best execution—something that will look good in 5, 10, or 40 years.
Tattooing is regulated in many countries because of the associated health risks to client and practitioner, specifically local infections and virus transmission. Disposable plastic aprons and eye protection can be worn depending on the risk of blood or other secretions splashing into the eyes or clothing of the tattooist. Hand hygiene, assessment of risks and appropriate disposal of all sharp objects and materials contaminated with blood are crucial areas. The tattoo artist must wash his or her hands and must also wash the area that will be tattooed. Gloves must be worn at all times and the wound must be wiped frequently with a wet disposable towel of some kind. All equipment must be sterilized in a certified autoclave before and after every use. It is good practice to provide clients with a printed consent form that outlines risks and complications as well as instructions for after care.
Many people start their tattoo sleeves without intent and that's just fine. If you take the organic approach and let one small tattoo turn into another and somehow tie it all together with a background of some sort later, you'll likely have an armful of meaningful body art. Others go full on with a sleeve from the get-go and that works too. Of course, with this approach, you'll be investing a larger sum of money upfront, and you'll need to dedicate the time in the chair to complete the work. Most likely you'll be going back to the same artist which means their schedule will need to be considered as well. If you have the time and the money to complete the job, get it done. Otherwise start a slower and more balanced approach. Never compromise quality for quantity.
Sleeves are not easily covered unless you have a long sleeved shirt on. Some people choose to stop their sleeve before their watch so that people in the workforce can’t see it, even when they shake someone’s hand. Other people choose to extend the work past their wrists and onto their hands. It’s a personal preference and different for every individual.
Hamlet suggests bringing no more than three ideas to the meeting. Don't show up with a patchwork vision of "I want black and white, but maybe some color, and I love flowers, but really hope to have more of an industrial theme, and I don't want any sharp lines but do hope to feature some right angles." This also doesn't mean bringing three photos of other people's tattoos that you love (see #1 above).
Regardless, if you are going to start with a single tattoo, in any location, be sure to tell your artist that your eventual end goal is a full sleeve. “She or he can leave the piece in a way that it can be added to in time,” Gualteros says. “Basically, to get the best result for this, you should ask for flow.” (That’s tattoo-artist speak for “something that will flow nicely with other designs”.)
If you want an animal-based tattoo, the most obvious choices include lion tattoos, tiger tattoos, and wolf tattoos. The bigger the design, the better. Eagle tattoos are also excellent choices, especially when done on the upper back with the wings extending all the way to the shoulders. If you want badass animal-based tattoos inspired by different mythologies and religions, Hinduism is an excellent place to look into. There’s Ganesha (elephant), Narasimha (lion), and Garuda (eagle).
Although it's called tattoo removal, completely removing a tattoo can be difficult depending on your skin type, how big and complex the design is, and the types and colors of inks that were used. It can take several treatments over months, and results are not guaranteed. Treatment can cause darkening or lightening of the skin, and scarring. It also can be expensive. It's best to consult with a dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal to get your questions answered.
Many studies have been done of the tattooed population and society's view of tattoos. In June 2006, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published the results of a telephone survey of 2004. It found that 36% of Americans ages 18–29, 24% of those 30–40, and 15% of those 41–51 had a tattoo. In September 2006, the Pew Research Center conducted a telephone survey that found that 36% of Americans ages 18–25, 40% of those 26–40 and 10% of those 41–64 had a tattoo. They concluded that Generation X and Generation Y express themselves through their appearance, and tattoos are the most popular form of self-expression. In January 2008, a survey conducted online by Harris Interactive estimated that 14% of all adults in the United States have a tattoo, slightly down from 2003, when 16% had a tattoo. Among age groups, 9% of those ages 18–24, 32% of those 25–29, 25% of those 30–39 and 12% of those 40–49 have tattoos, as do 8% of those 50–64. Men are slightly more likely to have a tattoo than women.
Tattoos used to be the preserve of criminals and toffs. And sailors. In the 1850s, the corpses of seamen washed up on the coast of north Cornwall were “strangely decorated” with blue, according to Robert Hawker, the vicar of Morwenstow – initials, or drawings of anchors, flowers or religious symbols (“Our blessed Saviour on His Cross, with on the one hand His mother, and on the other St John the Evangelist”). “It is their object and intent, when they assume these signs,” says Hawker, “to secure identity for their bodies if their lives are lost at sea.”
As most tattoos in the U.S. were done by Polynesian and Japanese amateurs, tattoo artists were in great demand in port cities all over the world, especially by European and American sailors. The first recorded professional tattoo artist in the United States was a German immigrant, Martin Hildebrandt. He opened a shop in New York City in 1846 and quickly became popular during the American Civil War among soldiers and sailors of both Union and Confederate militaries.
A lot of us have imagined ourselves with those same kinds of full-arm sleeves. For some, it could work well with our no-fucks-to-give persona. For others, it's an aesthetic decision, or an emotional one. If you’re serious about it though, then it’s worth knowing what planning is involved—from inception, to execution, to maintenance. So we spoke with Nicolas Gualteros, tattoo artist at Senaspace in NYC, to plot it all out.
As with any tattoo, you’ll need to keep your bandages on for a few hours, then Gualteros says to wash the tattoo with antibacterial soap and water, let it air dry for 10 minutes, and put a thin layer of Aquaphor on it after each shower for the first two days. (Then switch to unscented body lotion.) While the tattoo heals, wash it 2-3 times a day until peeling stops. This usually takes one week. Continue with light layers of unscented lotion.
The American Academy of Dermatology distinguishes five types of tattoos: traumatic tattoos, also called "natural tattoos", that result from injuries, especially asphalt from road injuries or pencil lead; amateur tattoos; professional tattoos, both via traditional methods and modern tattoo machines; cosmetic tattoos, also known as "permanent makeup"; and medical tattoos.