Tattoo Artist, Actor, & Author Brandon Garic Notch
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Tattoo Artist, Actor, Storyteller, & Writer Brandon Garic Notch
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Tattoo Blueprint

How to prepare for your tattoo session; appointment checklist.

Everyone is excited the night before their tattoo session. It could be your 10th tattoo session or even your first time you’ve ever stepped foot inside a tattoo studio. Regardless, here are some tips that you should know before your appointment date & time.

Consider the pain: It is best to understand what the pain should be like before you begin. This will help you to mentally prepare for the experience. Many people describe the pain as fingernails scratching on sunburned skin. The pain is mostly dull but can become acute when the needle hits a nerve, an area close to bone, or goes over the same area repeatedly during shading or color overlays.
  • There are some topical anesthetics that can be purchased and given to the tattoo artists to apply to the skin. It is not to be relied upon, and only to be used to help dull the pain if the pain becomes too great for you during extremely long sessions. However, the anesthetic can cause the color in the tattoo to become duller, and it can cause your tattoo to take more time to heal.

Should you take a shower before getting a tattoo? Absolutely. Hygiene is a priority when getting tattooed. You’ll be in close quarters with your artist for up to several hours, so you’ll definitely want to shower before your appointment.
  • Try not to use too many scented products, as they can be cloying or overpowering during the tattoo process. This also means you should pass on the perfume or cologne, too. But don’t skip the deodorant, because getting a tattoo can sometimes make you sweat.

Wear the proper clothing: Consider the area you plan to get tattooed and wear clothing that makes it easy for the artist to access. If you are getting your leg tattooed, shorts may be the best option. A tank top may be a better option for an upper-arm tattoo. For backpiece tattoos, consider bringing a zip-up hoodie or button-up shirt so that it’s easy to cover-up your front torso if it makes you feel more comfortable.   
  • Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or splattered with ink. While artists are generally careful and try to protect client clothing during the tattoo process, getting ink or stencil on your clothing during a tattoo, (especially a large piece) is a very real possibility. Additionally, blood or plasma may seep onto your clothing following your appointment, so it’s best to wear something that is easy to wash.  
Wear comfortable clothes I can't express that enough: Depending on the size of the tattoo, you may be at the tattoo shop for several hours. You might as well be in a comfortable outfit while you are dealing with the discomfort of the tattoo process. In addition, comfortable, loose clothing may be required in order for your tattoo artist to access the area where you are getting tattooed. If you are getting a tattoo in an area of your body that is usually covered up by clothing, make sure that you wear something to your appointment that will give the tattoo artist easy access to the area. For example, if you are getting a tattoo on your leg, consider wearing shorts or a skirt so that the tattooist can easily get to the area. Similarly, if you are getting a tattoo on your upper arm, wear a sleeveless shirt etc.

Stay hydrated by drinking water: While drinking plenty of water on the day of your tattoo appointment is recommended, it’s also beneficial to stay hydrated in advance. Drinking plenty of water improves the quality of your skin. Start increasing your hydration along with multivitamins about three weeks before your tattoo session. Taking vitamins is extremely important during this process as drinking water alone can deplenish your electrolytes stored up in the body. Above and beyond just taking your multivitamin, you should boosting your Vitamin C intake leading up to your tattoo appointment. Vitamin C has an antioxidant function in the body is necessary for the formation of connective tissue, and the absorption of iron.
  • It's important to stay hydrated during the process and you should drink plenty of water beforehand. Being well hydrated is always a good idea but in this particular case, it helps you last longer and heal quicker afterwards.

Shave the area: Be careful not to cut yourself though as this could mean a cancellation of your appointment.
  • Your artist will have the supplies to shave the area you want to get tattooed, but it’s a good idea to shave yourself beforehand as well. Just lather the area with shaving cream and make sure to shave thoroughly. Your artist will need your skin to be as smooth as possible.

Eat well: Make sure you eat a good hearty meal before your appointment. Your body is going to need the energy, especially when your instinct is going to be to tense up during the painful parts of the tattoo. Carbs are your friend, eat a hearty breakfast or lunch on the day of your tattoo appointment to ensure healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Even if you’re nervous or don’t feel particularly hungry, try to get some sustenance into your body. This will help keep your blood sugar up and help you avoid feeling dizzy or faint during your appointment.
Your artist will likely need to take a few breaks during your tattoo to stretch, eat, or drink. Use this time to do the same.
  • If you start to feel dizzy or faint at any time during your tattoo appointment, tell your artist immediately and ask for a break. Eating snacks like nuts or candy or drinking Gatorade can help boost your blood sugar.

Get plenty of sleep: If you have a tattoo appointment scheduled, don’t spend the night before partying and staying up until dawn. Getting a good night’s rest will prepare your body, and your mind for what’s in store. I believe the most important thing is a good night’s sleep.
  • Being well rested will make you less twitchy and you'll end up with cleaner and straighter lines.

Moisturize your skin in advance: Using body lotion to keep your skin hydrated a few weeks prior to your tattoo is a good practice and may help the ink apply better during your tattoo appointment. 
  • Obviously don't slather yourself in moisturizer right before your tattoo but it's definitely a good idea to moisturize your skin leading up to the day before you go.

Prepare for aftercare: Plan to stay out of the water and keep your tattoo out of the sun for several weeks after it's applied. This means that you should plan when to get the tattoo so that you do not have to rearrange your schedule to accommodate the tattoo's healing. For example, if you have a vacation coming up that will include a lot of swimming, you may not want to get a tattoo right before it.



A few things you might want to bring with you to your session.

Consider your entertainment options: Some people can zone out during their tattoo appointments and the majority of artists will talk and converse with clients throughout sessions. But tattoos can last a long time, so if you’re someone who gets bored easily or feels uncomfortable carrying on lengthy conversations you may want to bring along your own entertainment.

Entertainment can be helpful to divert your mind away from the pain of a tattoo. A book, watching movies on your iPad, a good music playlist, or even scrolling through social media can help your appointment pass quicker. By keeping your mind entertained, you can trick your body into feeling less pain because of the attention it takes to focus whatever else you’re doing.
  • Bring your phone and a charger loaded up with Netflix or something to watch during the session to distract yourself.
  • Just remember to have respect for your artist. I don’t mind if people like to listen to music with headphones on and try to zone out, but if someone is on social media, playing loud random videos and moving around, it can really affect the artists concentration.

Bring a sweater, pillow, towel or a blanket to help make yourself as comfortable as possible. Your body temperature can drop and rise while getting tattooed.
  • Pillow with a clean pillowcase making sure there is no dog or cat hair, no animal hair whatsoever. A large clean beach towel if you are going to be getting tattooed on a table. something to act as a barrier between you and the saran wrap to prevent you from sticking and sweating. And a clean blanket to keep yourself warm and as comfortable as possible during long sessions.

Bring snacks and drinks to your tattoo appointment.
To prepare for a long tattoo session, make sure that you have plenty of water, healthy snacks, and other drinks.
  • Snacks: Snacking before and throughout the tattoo will help regulate your blood sugar. This may reduce pain levels, and can prevent feeling an energetic crash following your tattoo.

A list of the top six don’ts

1. Try to avoid aspirin, alcohol and caffeine 48 hours before your tattoo appointment. These are blood thinners and can make your experience messy – which in turn could make it difficult for the tattoo artist to perform their best.

2. Don’t go in dehydrated. You’ll definitely want to stay hydrated before and after your tattoo session for the best possible results and healing.

3. Try not to use too many scented products, as they can be cloying or overpowering during the tattoo process. This also means you should pass on the perfume or cologne, too. But don’t skip the deodorant, because getting a tattoo can sometimes make you sweat.

4. Don’t go unshowered. Remember that a fresh tattoo is essentially an open wound. Even though a good tattoo artist will disinfect the area, you want to do all you can to avoid introducing bacteria and general yuck. 

5. Don’t forget to stock up on tattoo aftercare to help with the healing process. You can ask for your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions in advance so you don’t have to worry about running to the store right after your session.

6. Don’t tattoo sunburnt skin.

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