The internet is full of information regarding what it feels like to get a tattoo, yet for all of us who haven't ever gotten a tattoo, it's still an unnerving mystery. Our minds race during the preparation for our first tattoo--a lot of people will tell you the smell of the soap their artists used to prep their skin will illicit strong memories of that first tattoo for quite a long time after. We are hyper focused on every single thing that is going on because we have absolutely no idea what to expect.
The number 1 question regarding tattoos is, "Did that hurt?"
The answer, of course, is yes, it did. Tattoos hurt. The artist is putting a range of needles dipped in ink into your skin at varying speeds, over and over again. Although there are many different things to take into account, the baseline of the matter is, no matter where you get tattooed, it will always be a process which creates a wound in order to permanently etch artwork into your skin.
So, What does it feel like?
We often tell our clients that the best thing we can liken it to is a cat scratch on a sunburn. While that's pretty accurate, it's not exactly an easily accessible memory to have something to compare it to for preparing yourself for your first tattoo.
Also, it's important to remember that pain thresholds are different for everyone! Although there are generally accepted "easier" (bicep, calf, forearm) or "rougher" areas (ribs, elbow ditch, chest), it really depends person to person.
What's the best advice I can give to a first-time client?
I tell every client that the moment the needle touches their skin for the first time, no matter how painful it actually is, that their first thought will be "That's it?" And I'm right about 98% of the time--because our imaginations tend to psych us out more than real life ever could.
Next, I tell people that even when it hurts really badly, our egos don't usually let us stop-- we know that if we stop in the middle, we are going to walk out with a half-finished tattoo and probably feel pretty lame, not to mention how the tattoo might look. Our minds sort of protect us from that by basing everything on the knowledge that we must get through it.
Lastly, I tell them that, truthfully, in my years in the industry I've never had a client tap-out and leave with only a half-done tattoo. I have faith in every single one of you to find the fun in the tattoo process like we do--after all, it doesn't hurt us when we tattoo you (lol).