11 Steps to Getting a Tattoo You Won't Regret for the Rest of Your Life

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Tattoos last forever, or at least as long as your body lasts, which is pretty much forever in human terms. For a lot of people (your boss and your grandpa), this is the main reason not to get them. For other people (you), this is what makes them so great. Your pets and your parents will die, your house will get bulldozed to build a superhighway, your friends will move to New York City. But your tattoos? Barring a full-body burning accident, they will be with you through the whole scary, sublime thing, until you are sitting in your easy chair, unable to pee without the help of an in-home care assistant. Until finally, you lose consciousness and stop existing. How comforting to know that a) your memories will be written on your body no matter how badly your brain disintegrates and b) your in-home care assistant will have something pretty to look at while he's pulling down your pants for you.

I have 6 tattoos and I know an amazing tattooer, so I consider myself enough of an expert to educate you on the process of getting art permanently inscribed on your skin. To fully commit to this project, I decided to go get a tattoo and, while it was happening, interview Derick Montez, who works at Picture Machine Tattoo. He's the guy who has given me 3 of my tattoos and who is, in my opinion, the best tattoo artist of all time ever. Derek isn't even 30 yet but he apprenticed with well-known graffiti and tattoo artist Mike Giant and is a great visual artist in a bunch of different mediums, beyond being a respected tattooer. So, without further ado, your step-by-step guide to getting a tattoo you won't regret for the rest of your life:


Before your tattoo:



Getting a good tattoo requires some actual preparation. According to Derick: "The biggest mistake I think someone can make is not doing research on the artist that they get tattooed by. Tattooing has become such a popularized trend... more people are tattooing now, more than ever, but just because someone gets the idea in their head that they want to be a tattooer doesn't mean that they have the proper training or the proper techniques. It's just like anything else: if you have the money, you can open up a shop, but that doesn't mean you know what you're doing."

So look at portfolios online. Derick says: "Most reputable shops have portfolios -- what you're looking for is consistency in work... you want to make sure the photos are clear, recognizable, readable, because a lot of times people just put up garbage photos... tattoos that are still wrapped in plastic. If you can find healed photos of peoples' tattoo work, that is a lot better."

I know he's right because this is exactly how my ex-boyfriend found Derick: obsessive internet searching to find the perfect tattoo artist for his first tattoo. I do not have this kind of patience and my first 3 tattoos are a testament to that (I still love them, but they are nothing compared to Derick's work), so I am very grateful that someone finally did the research for me. But you shouldn't be so lazy! Do the research yourself! You won't regret it!

Read the rest of this piece on KQED Arts.