First Tattoo Tips

When it comes to tattoos, it’s something I’ve always been fascinated about. It brings so much character to a person, and over the years I’ve found it’s such a great conversation starter. I notice quite a few people asking questions about what they should get or where to even start.

In this blog, I thought I would share some fun stories behind the meaning of my tattoo, why I got it, and the great tattoo artists who have done some work on me. Along with a few tips on ideas for tattoos if you just can’t make your mind up. But you’re ready to take the plunge to get one!

My First Tattoo

Getting a tattoo was something I wanted to get done at the age of 16. I’ve always loved art, creating, and drawing. I view the body as a canvas and a place where you can put your favourite ideas, stories, and represent what you hold close to you. I started with the eye on my right arm. My eyes are my favourite thing about myself, cheesy I know. But they are yellow/green and quite unusual.

So anyway, I searched New Plymouth for a tattoo artist who could bring my creation to life. I found Gene Martin, a tattoo artist at Brothers Ink, who was working at a different studio back then. I was pretty excited and nervous about getting a tattoo. Quick tip, don’t wear a white shirt like I did. Big mistake and the ink goes everywhere.

South African Tribal Symbols

It took over a year to complete my back piece, which means a lot to me. I wanted to design it myself to represent my family heritage. I have a compass starting at the top of my back which represents moving over here to New Zealand, including the birds. Because I am quite mixed I have symbols and items representing Scotland, South Africa, the English rose, and a few other things I like such as a dreamcatcher, eyes, and a tiger paw print (favourite animal).

English Rose

While not everyone gets tattoos for a “meaning” behind it I wanted to. There are a lot of cousins or relatives I may not have met or just haven’t since I was young. It makes me feel connected to cultures and languages I don’t know. At least I can carry the ink with me each day.


Scottish Necklace Design


Aladdin Tattoo

Something I am very excited about is my Aladdin sleeve. Considering it is my favourite Disney movie and an all-time classic. I got this one done in Wellington which has been a working progress. First, we started with a genie lamp, slowly but surely a carpet has been added. The latest progress is this stunning photo below done at Ninja Flower:

Photo Credit: Nathan McIntrye Rose Sleeve

As you may have noticed, roses are my favourite flower which is why I have one on my left arm. Done by the lovely Tom Cook, who works at Flax Roots Tattoo in Hamilton. I would love to get more done on this sleeve in the future. Tom was really great when I said can we tweak the design and getting back to me with a perfect rose.

Common Questions

Now you know the story about my tattoos. Time to answer some questions I often get asked, including if my tattoos are real. Yes, they are.

What should I do before getting my first tattoo? 

Research, research and research! Do some digging on the design ideas you like. Consider where you want your tattoo and the placement. The most important thing, don’t rush. Some people like to be spontaneous, whereas I was very careful and took a lot of time drawing. I would also recommend booking at least a few months in advance since tattoo artists book up very fast!

How do I find the right tattoo artist?


August “Cap” Coleman’s Tattoo parlour in Norfolk, Virginia –1936

Check out your local tattoo studios either online or in store. What is their Facebook or Instagram and portfolio look like? This will help you see if their style is in line with what designs you have in mind. Or if you find someone amazing in a different town, make sure you can clear your schedule to travel on the day.

You have to be honest with your tattoo artist so you can work together to find something you really like. It all comes down to collaborating and making sure you are 100% satisfied. On their side, the best tattoo artist will give you feedback on your idea to ensure you don’t get a terrible tattoo on your forehead with bad grammar, for example. After all, it is permanent.

Where can I go to get inspiration?

I would say go to tattoo festivals like the big NZ Tattoo & Art Festival held each year at the end of November in New Plymouth. There are so many great tattoo artists from all over the world at this event. You can get lots of ideas, inspiration, and you might even feel like getting a tattoo. This is where I met Tom and got my little snoopy tattoo on my ankle.

Is it painful?

The short answer to this is yes. You really need to mentally prepare for a tattoo, because it is psychologically and physically exhausting. The best advice I can give is to have a good breakfast on the day, drink plenty of water/liquid, have some snacks and try to relax. When I got my last arm piece done I was thinking why am I doing this to myself, ouch ouch ouch, pain and more pain. The healing stage is irritating, it goes through a burning stage, peeling. Hurting, and itching like crazy. Don’t let this put you off because the end result is definitely worth it.

Are grey or colour tattoos better?

I remember being inspired by my Step-Dad’s beautiful tattoos. The colour and detail have lasted over the years, and the best advice he gave me was to get black if you want it to last and not fade! Of course, everyone is different, but I prefer the classic and raw look of the grey and black on the skin.

How much do tattoos cost?

Best advice given to me, don’t go to a cheap tattoo artist who bought a tattoo machine on Trade Me who claims to be an artist. Go to someone who knows what they’re doing in a studio, where it’s clean, and you know it’s done by someone experienced.

Each place can vary depending on the hourly charge. Some tattoos can cost a couple of hundred dollars. Or big pieces can cost over a thousand dollars. It can sound like a lot, but imagine it as this is something you’re taking to your grave. As morbid as it sounds you won’t be taking any other material thing with you when you pass away. The beauty of a tattoo is it is worth the investment if it’s on you forever.

A Tattoo is Never Finished

The awesome thing about tattoos is they have been around for hundreds of years. Plus, there is always something to add or work on. Once you get one tattoo you’ll end up wanting even more. I get a lot of compliments on the street, people passing by and asking what my tattoo is. This is all thanks to the tattoo artists out there who leave their artistic print on people with incredible designs. They did a wonderful job of bringing my ideas to life.

If you’re getting your first tattoo hopefully these tips have helped. Good luck!

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