Do's, don'ts, designs and demographics for body-art newbies

March 24, 2007|By Brad Schleicher and Tim Swift

Bill Stevenson and Chris Keaton own the Baltimore Tattoo Museum. We asked Stevenson a few questions about tattoos and what to do when getting a tattoo for the first time.

What is the general demographic of those who are being tattooed?

People come from all walks of life and can be 18 years old or 80 years old. People develop an interest in getting a tattoo for different reasons. Someone might get one simply because they've always wanted one and haven't had the chance.

What are the most popular designs?

Everybody gets everything. ... Generally speaking, people get what they're exposed to. If the only thing you see are names and roses and panthers, when it comes time to get tattooed you might be more inclined to get that because you've seen that, you're comfortable with that. ... I think that as immersed tattooing is in popular culture these days, people are boarding their horizons in terms of what they get tattooed on. ... There was a time where people were getting an image to convey an idea, but now people are literary getting that thought.

What are the worst places to tattoo on the body?

The worst places to wear a tattoo would be below the ankle and beyond the wrist and neck because they are tougher spots to tattoo. They are tougher spots to heal a tattoo. They really don't have the same kind of longevity that you can reasonably expect from other places on the body. It doesn't mean people don't get these tattoos, but it's a good idea to keep them simple.

What suggestions do you have for a person who is thinking of getting their first tattoo?

Do plenty of research beforehand. Go to a lot of shops and look at the business and building itself. Ask yourself, `Is it clean? What types of tools do they use? Is it sanitary? How many years of experience do the artists have?' Also, go and talk to an artist. Take a look at their portfolio and see if they have done any piece that is similar to what you're looking for. Make sure you know exactly what you want.

How would you suggest that someone care for their first tattoo?

Everyone has their own process, but we suggest that you remove the bandage approximately three hours after it is done and wash it gently with soap and water (without a washcloth). Make sure to remove all of the ointment and then pat it dry with a towel when it is no longer slimy to the touch. When a tattoo starts to scab over, apply plain, white, unscented body lotion to the tattoo area to keep the skin moisturized and flexible. If the skin gets too dry, the scab could begin to crack. It all depends on the area of the body.

When caring for a tattoo long-term, how do you keep it the best condition?

Try to avoid prolonged sun exposure, and use sunscreen when you know you're going to be in the sun.

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