Whether it's your first tattoo or your forty-first, before you get tattooed, do your research. Find a reputable studio, and inspect it yourself. Find an artist whose work you like and who treats you like a valued client. Ask questions. Be informed. If you don't feel comfortable in a studio, find one where you do. If an artist won't or can't answer your questions, find one who will.
What does it feel like? How
badly will it hurt?
This is usually the first question asked by those who have yet to be tattooed. The amount of pain or discomfort varies; people have different pain tolerances, some tattoo artists are heavier-handed than others, and some spots on your body will hurt more than others. That being said, many first-timers are surprised at how little pain they experience. Tattooing usually feels similar to a bee sting, cat scratch, or slight burning sensation during the first 5-10 minutes. Your body then releases endorphins, the discomfort lessens to an annoyance, and a little euphoria usually sets in. Afterwards, the tattoo will feel like a sunburn - warm and slightly irritated, but not painful. Our philosophy on the matter is that in tattooing, as in life, you should never let your fear prevent you from doing what you desire.
How deep does the needle go?
A tattoo is a shallow wound or abrasion. Your skin is made of two main sections - the epidermis (top) and the underlying dermis, which vary in thickness in different parts of your body. A tattoo is applied in the dermis area. When you pluck or tweeze a hair, you are pulling from the same general area that the tattoo needle will go. For an example of depth, look at the inside of your wrist, where you can see the veins: A tattoo in that area would not puncture a vein.
Is there any blood?
There are body fluids involved in tattooing, and usually minor surface skin bleeding similar to a shallow scrape or “road rash.” Clients who have been drinking within 24 hours prior to being tattooed bleed more, so you should not drink alcohol before getting tattooed (see "How should I prepare for my tattoo?" below).
Is it better to get black or color work? Will colors fade?
This is generally a matter of preference. If you work or play outside, or enjoy tanning, you will have to make an effort to maintain your tattoo no matter the color. Because a tattoo is under the skin surface (epidermis), the amount of melanin (skin color) you have will affect the colors of your tattoo, much like looking through a tinted window. With proper care, modern tattoo pigments maintain their brightness for many years. Proper care means that once your tattoo has fully healed, you must always protect it from the sun either with clothing or with a sunblock of SPF 30 or higher.
Do you do custom work?
Yes, we love to do custom work! Please feel free to bring in your own artwork, or any other images and inspirations you might have. We are happy to draw or redraw any tattoo ideas for you (even if it's just a dream you have had!). We also have a selection of over 10,000 high-quality designs that we will happily tattoo or draw from as inspiration. Once your custom tattoo is done, we destroy the original design, so it can never be replicated. We also will not take photos of your tattoo for our portfolio or website if you indicate that this is your preference.
How is the tattoo done? What can I expect?
Basically, a group of solid needles will push a small amount of pigment into your skin's surface. Your body will heal the epidermis over the ink, resulting in a permanent tattoo. To receive a tattoo, your skin will be washed and may be shaved. A stencil will then be applied or some drawing done. Your artist will begin by laying out the basic outline. Then, he or she will begin shading, basically adding shadows or dimension to your tattoo. Then, if colors are desired, they will be added one at a time until the tattoo is completed. Your tattoo will be washed and bandaged, and you will be given aftercare instructions.
How long will it take?
It will take the time it takes to do it right. A large tattoo may take multiple sessions.
What about covering, fixing, or removing old tattoos?
Covering or fixing old tattoos is possible; the artists of Ancient Arts are highly skilled at reworking or covering old tattoos with completely new works of art. (See cover-ups by Damien.) Removal can only be done by a medical professional, with lasers, but this method is expensive, painful, and may leave behind some pigment or a slight scarring of the skin, so think before you ink! Just as with a tattoo artist, pick your doctor carefully, find out about possible complications, and ask to see "before" and "after" photos. There are currently pigments in development that are designed to be easily removed with a Q-switch laser; these are still undergoing testing and have not yet been made commercially available. Beware of topical creams that claim to remove tattoos; to our knowledge, there is no product that can penetrate the epidermis, lift, and dispose of tattoo pigment.
Can I get AIDS from a tattoo?
This is the most important question you can ask. The short answer is No. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to date, there has never been a transmission of HIV / AIDS through tattooing. However, other life-threatening blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and infections such as MRSA (staph infections) can be spread when adequate precautions are not taken. Receiving a tattoo CAN BE COMPLETELY SAFE, as thousands of people are tattooed each year without any ill effect. Your tattoo artist at Ancient Arts strictly follows "Standard Precautions" and all standards and guidelines set by federal and state authorities. Any good tattoo artist should be happy to discuss the prevention of disease transmission with you; if they are not, RUN - don't walk - to Ancient Arts. Remember, no matter how good the artist, how cheap the tattoo, or how badly you want the tattoo, improper sterilization is never worth the risk. You are also responsible for diligently and responsibly taking care of your tattoo. In our experience, the majority of problems people experience with tattoos did not arise as a consequence of what the tattoo artist did or failed to do, but rather from the negligence of the person who failed to properly take care of their tattoo.
Standard precautions basically means that your tattoo artist behaves as though every client is in fact infected with any number of diseases; doctors and dentists do the same. This means that we exercise the greatest care when setting up, tattooing, and tearing down so as to avoid transmitting diseases or infections to our clients or to ourselves. At the MINIMUM, this is what you should expect from your tattoo artist:
1. S/he will use only new needles. Needles and tubes will be removed from sterile bags that have an indicator showing that autoclave (steam) sterilization or EO gas sterilization has occurred. Once the tattoo is done, needles will be properly disposed of in an approved (red) sharps container.
2. S/he will wash his/her hands before setting up, before starting the tattoo, when taking any breaks, and afterward. S/he will also use hand sanitizer as a back-up, usually before putting on and after removing gloves.
3. S/he will wear gloves throughout the procedure, and will change gloves whenever taking a break or whenever a glove is compromised. At Ancient Arts we use nitrile gloves rather than latex, as they are hypoallergenic and therefore better for ourselves and for our clients.
4. S/he will use surface barriers to protect any surfaces or equipment that cannot easily be sanitized after the tattoo.
5. S/he will pour out inks and pigments into single-use containers ("ink caps") and dispose of leftover ink and pigments in the trash once the tattoo is completed.
6. After the tattoo is completed, anything that was used--razors, markers, surface barriers, water cups, will be properly disposed of, and all surfaces and equipment will be wiped down with a tuberculocidal disinfectant. "Tuberculocidal" means that the product kills the tuberculosis bacillum, which is one of the most resistant; something that kills tuberculosis also kills hepatitis, HIV, staph, and a host of other nasties.
This may all seem kind of technical and boring, but preventing disease transmission in this day and age is more important than ever. We at Ancient Arts will be more than happy to discuss all of this with you in greater depth, so that you can be an informed client and consumer.
Can I get tattooed if I am pregnant or nursing?
No. Pregnancy can be pretty taxing on your body. Hormonal changes can cause changes in your skin texture. Pregnancy can also suppress your immune system, making it more likely to contract an infection that can endanger the baby. Nursing also calls on your body's resources and reserves. It is best to wait until you are done nursing to get tattooed. Look at it this way: You and your body are doing something incredible in creating and nurturing new life; why put increased demands on your body by asking it to heal a tattoo on top of all that, just for the sake of vanity?
I am diabetic. Can I
If you suffer from diabetes or any other condition that requires medication and/or medical supervision (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.), please consult with your healthcare provider before getting a tattoo. Your artists at Ancient Arts care about your overall well-being and do not want to participate in any activities that might compromise your health and happiness.
Am I too old to get
It has been our experience that no one is too old to get tattooed. Damien's oldest client was 80 years old when she finally got her first tattoo. Keep in mind that as you age, your skin loses elasticity; some parts of the skin become thinner, and others leathery, especially after decades of sun exposure. All this can make it harder to apply a tattoo and heal one properly. If you are in good health, your age should not be a barrier to becoming one of the cool kids with tattoos...Feel free to come in an consult with an artist!
Am I too young to get
According to California State legislation, it is a misdemeanor to tattoo a minor, defined as anyone under the age of 18. Ancient Arts will neither pierce nor tattoo minors, not even with parental consent. If you are under age 30, expect to be asked to show ID to prove you are over 18. If you are the parent of a teenager who wants to get a tattoo, feel free to bring them in, and we will tell them "no" for you!
want a tattoo on my hip or belly...
If you are a woman and plan to ever have children, there is a likelihood that a stretch mark going through your tattoo will destroy it. Utterly and unattractively.
How much does it cost
for a tattoo?
All tattoo studios have a minimum price to cover the base cost of supplies used and the work that goes into sanitation and sterilization. Behind every tattoo is a lot of unpaid work you don't see: scrubbing the studio daily; cleaning and sterilizing equipment; drawing up designs; ordering supplies; doing research on products, techniques, and health issues, etc. There's also the overhead costs of operating a studio: rent, utilities, supplies, etc. Ancient Arts charges a minimum of $50. Then, the cost of the tattoo is based on size, color, amount of detail, and location. Ancient Arts does not price by the hour but rather by the piece; once we have agreed on a price, there are no surprises at the end of the day. The cost of your tattoo also includes a tin of 'Ohana Organics Tattoo Butter, which we provide free for the healing of your tattoo. Within reason, touch-ups are free.
Can I call
and get an estimate on my tattoo over the phone?
Asking a tattoo artist to quote a price on a design sight unseen is like asking a mechanic to give you an estimate on fixing your car without letting them drive it. Consultations are free, but must be done in person. At Ancient Arts, we price by the design, not by the hour, so you know exactly what you're getting into.
Do you use UV-reactive inks or glow-in-the-dark inks?
We at Ancient Arts have chosen not to use phosphorescent or UV reactive inks, as we are not fully convinced that these pigments are appropriate and safe for tattooing. Our research indicates that such inks are often plastic-based and can polymerize (solidify) under the skin. We are committed to ordering supplies only from reputable suppliers (for example, we do not support tattoo suppliers that sell "tattoo kits" and "piercing kits") who also conduct research on product safety and best practices in tattooing. Our suppliers do not carry these pigments for the above-stated reasons. We respect the individual's right to put whatever they want in their body, and request that our right to refuse to participate in what we consider ill-advised also be respected. If you want to glow in the dark, we offer attractive shop T-shirts, hoodies and dog shirts that glow in the dark!
Is it true that some
people are allergic to tattoo pigments?
Yes. Pigment manufacturers use various formulas, and every color has a different chemical composition. Allergic reactions to tattoo pigments are rare, and range from simple rejection of the pigment to great difficulties in healing the tattoo. Red pigment is especially noted as causing reactions, though again, such reactions are infrequent. Even with an epidermal patch test, your tattoo artist cannot determine what effect that pigment will have when inserted into the dermis. Talk with your artist about any concerns you might have before getting tattooed.
I'm allergic to
latex/petroleum products. Can I still get tattooed?
Yes, you can get tattooed at Ancient Arts. We never use latex gloves, just nitrile. They're a little pricier, but well worth the peace of mind. We do not use petroleum-based products such as Vaseline, nor do we recommend them as aftercare ointment. We recommend locally-made vegan 'Ohana Organics Tattoo Butter, which we provide free of charge with every tattoo.
Will you put plastic wrap on my tattoo? Should I put plastic wrap on my tattoo?
NO! No, no, no, no, no! The practice of putting plastic wrap on tattoos started at biker shows, where clients eager to show off their tattoos would rip off their bandages immediately, so some "genius" started wrapping fresh tattoos in clear plastic wrap. This creates what is called an "occlusive seal," where the plastic wrap does not allow the skin to breathe and raises the temperature of the skin, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth! Do NOT wrap your tattoo in plastic wrap. Do NOT allow anyone else to wrap your tattoo in plastic wrap. Yuck. After your tattoo is completed, we will bandage you in a telfa bandage which allows your tattoo to breathe, and for the remainder of your healing time, we recommend that you not bandage your tattoo at all.
How should I prepare for my tattoo?
What YOU do before and after getting tattooed are the most important factors in the ultimate outcome of your tattoo. The better your health and the more rested you are, the better you will receive and heal your tattoo. Don't drink alcohol or take drugs, even aspirin (acetaminophen is okay) in the 24 hours before your tattoo appointment. If you take prescription drugs, consult your tattoo artist AND your doctor about getting tattooed. Arrive for your appointment well-rested. It will help if you have eaten a small meal approximately one hour before your appointment. Most importantly, you MUST advise your tattoo artist of any health conditions you may have (such as being pregnant or nursing; having high blood pressure or diabetes; being allergic to any pigments, having any communicable disease) that will affect your tattoo experience.
How should I take care of my tattoo?
Please see the Aftercare page for complete instructions. Remember: No matter how professional or skilled your artist, your tattoo's ultimate quality will depend on how well YOU take care of it. If you have any questions about aftercare, talk to your tattoo artist!
Ancient Arts Tattoo Studio & Art Gallery 1065 K Street, Arcata, California, 95521 707-825-TAT2 (8282)