Geek Horror: Getting a Tattoo. Does it Hurt?
As a long term writer here at Buz, I fall in to the category of scaredy cat geek. However 2017 has changed a few things and this geek is becoming a rebel without a cause!
So does getting a tattoo hurt? YES... Yes it does!
You may have googled the same question over and over again hoping for an answer that tells you no but below is an account of the steps I took to ensure that the tattoo I got was right for me and the pain wasn't as unbearable as it could have been.
What should your tattoo be?
I'm of the firm belief that if you're going to get a tattoo then you need to make sure it's unique to you. You need to know that you're not walking around with something that someone else has and there's a story behind it.
For me I sought out an illustrator I trusted and together we came up with the ideal design. Remember these things don't come for free and your tattoo will cost as will the design. For me I went with a friend for the design; Leigh Young Illustration. She's awesome and the brief was a collaboration, it went along the lines of "I want a horror totem pole in the tone of Muppet Babies." I listed the characters and perhaps some actions I wanted them to take and Leigh offered up some suggestions to make the design better. We figured if I got bored of the design at the end of three months then I shouldn't get the tattoo done. Get your designs done well before the date you're having your tattoo done, it gives you time to cancel.
The finished design?
Looks pretty awesome right?
Finding the right Tattoo Studio / Artist
I was lucky in this respect, friends had made suggestions but an old friend here in the UK caught my eye. Self taught and a true artist; it all fell in to place. Chaos Tattoos was a bit of a journey but knowing me and my fear of needles I knew I'd be treated right. Plus he had a home studio so my fearful cries would only be heard by neighbours and not hardened tattoo fans who may have had more than just the one tattoo.
I know during my second session I was asked to swear a lot less. There were moments of fiery pain that just can't be avoided.
So how do you avoid pain?
How painful is it?
The pain is relative, I'm a pussy when it comes to pain so stubbing my toe results in frantic messages to friends that I may just be dying, so getting a tattoo... so nervous!
The pain depends on the person, there are charts to tell you where sensitive areas are but it's really down to you as an individual. For me despite being vocal during my sessions, had I put the old mind over matter thought into effect I could have handled things better.
The pain ranges from a bee sting... yes a bee sting but this bee does not fuck off and die after it gets you once, it goes AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN... it doesn't stop, this bee is an immortal asshole who takes pleasure in your cries and whimpers. Then you have other moments where it literally feels like you're the turkey at Christmas being carved for the enjoyment of others, a burning sensation like no other, at times it was bearable, others, not so much. Once you start though, you can't stop, you're inked so the pain is something you can deal with. If I can, you can. Simples.
Numb the pain away!
This is a double edged sword. During my first session I used Ametop which is an amazing numbing cream, they're sold in tiny tubes so you'll need up to five if you go for a big tattoo, it's affordable too (at least here in the UK). The area was so numb, I felt nothing until it wore off. EMLA however was a nightmare, it worked on some areas but not all...
The problem with using these creams however is that once they wear off, the pain comes in thick and fast and you're not prepared for it. Both lasted around 2 hours with Ametop having the edge at 2.5 hours. Beware though the bigger the tattoo the more you'll feel when it all wears off.
How long did it take?
That again depends on your design. Mine takes up a lot of the calf so for me the total time was 6.5 hours approx over the course of two sessions. First was lines and shading and then the second session was all about the colouring in. Make a judgement call before getting things coloured you may just need a touch up to if you like things in monochrome. Once you get it coloured there's no turning back.
Lines don't take much to heal, in fact I was relatively fine after apart from some flaking a few weeks later after the first session. The colouring however ensured my leg felt like it would explode, it was raw from the stress put on the skin by the session and the scabbing, flakyness is a lot harsher second time around. Slapping your tattoo will become a thing as you're not allowed to scratch or pick at the tattoo until fully healed. This can take 4 to 6 weeks.
Be sure this is something you want to do. For me it was a lot of stress and nerves ahead of time but luckily John at Chaos Tattoos put up with my shit and helped me through the fear. Would I get another? Hell yeah! My first tattoo tells "My Horror History" from the first horror icon I witnessed at age 8/9 (Freddy Krueger) to the time I looked after my first big icon in my day job as social media film PR... Chucky and Curse of Chucky will always have a special place in my heart and now on my leg.
Be smart... plan it out, the design I have means I can add to it at any point should my horror totem pole wish to grow. Think ahead you never know what you may want next.