Shaun Bushnell lives and breathes tattoos. As the owner and lead tattoo artist at Raleigh Tattoo Company, Bushnell prides himself on running a pristine, welcoming shop that specializes in creative, professional tattoos.
The way Bushnell sees it, a tattoo is a collaboration between the client and tattoo artist. Whether it’s a small black and grey design etched on a discreet part of the body or a full bodysuit in brilliant color, getting a tattoo is a transformative experience for both the client and the artist. To help both new and returning clients prepare for an enjoyable and stress-free tattoo session, Bushnell has put together a guide that offers insider tips, tricks, and advice on navigating the tattoo process, from start to finish.
Shaun Bushnell’s Guide to a Transformative Tattoo Experience
The clients who have the best and most memorable experiences are the ones who have prepared in advance and are clear about what they want (and don’t want) out of their tattoo and their time in the chair.
1. Choosing the Right Tattoo and Tattoo Artist
A tattoo is a commitment — one that is worn on the skin and makes the ultimate statement about the wearer. So it’s important to choose the right tattoo and the right tattoo artist for the job.
When deciding what kind of design will work best, the first step is to research, research, research. Looking at examples of well-designed and superbly executed tattoos is a great way to gather inspiration and build up a collection of references that can be shared with the tattoo artist to help guide their vision. Social media is a good place to start looking for these examples. So is asking friends and family for their ideas and recommendations (provided they are tattoo-lovers, too).
Even if a client doesn’t know the exact design they want, it helps to be prepared to talk about the reason behind the tattoo, like commemorating a loved one or marking a special milestone in their life. An experienced tattoo artist can take these ideas and flesh them out into a fully realized artistic concept that is truly unique and expertly captures the emotion and meaning behind the tattoo.
Raleigh Tattoo Company offers clients a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss and explore their options for a tattoo. This is an opportunity for the client to share their idea for their tattoo and collaborate with the artist to bring their vision to life in the most aesthetically pleasing and artistic way possible. It’s also a chance for the client and tattoo artist to become acquainted and determine whether they’re both a good fit for the project. Clients should also bring a list of questions they want to ask their tattoo artist before any work begins.
2. Preparing for the Appointment
With the design finalized and the tattoo artist selected, the next step is to prepare for the appointment. The client can take a few simple measures before their session to ensure they have a safe and comfortable experience and set themselves up for a stunning tattoo that they’ll be proud to display on their bodies for years to come.
Clients are advised to arrive at their appointments on time and in good health and spirits. Eating a healthy meal and drinking plenty of water beforehand ensures the body is nourished and has the energy required to get through the appointment and to heal efficiently afterward. For the same reasons, it’s important to get a good night’s rest before the big day.
Loose-fitting clothes are ideal for getting tattooed, since they allow the client to stay comfortable and to provide access to the areas of skin that are being inked. Bushnell also encourages tattoo first-timers to find out how tattooing works so they know what to expect, from the shop’s sanitization practices to the levels of discomfort they may experience (it’s usually not as bad as they expect).
3. Tattoo Aftercare
It’s easy to get caught up on how great the tattoo looks and to want to show it off right away. However, clients should remember that a tattoo is a wound. Premature exposure to light, pressure, and other elements can lead to damage or infection. What’s more, a fresh tattoo requires special care in order to preserve the colors, lines, and overall integrity of the artwork so that it heals properly and looks great.
Enter tattoo aftercare. This part of the tattoo experience starts as soon as the tattoo artist makes the final marks with their needle. In most cases, the tattooer will finish up the session by applying antibiotic ointment to the tattoo and then bandaging or wrapping the area in plastic. The bandage acts as a barrier that keeps bacteria and other unwanted elements from touching the skin. It also absorbs any residual ink or fluid from the tattoo. The covering should remain in place for the next few hours.
After that, the client can remove the wrapping and gently wash the tattoo with soap and water, then pat it dry. It’s important not to rub or apply pressure to the tattoo while it’s still raw. A small amount of moisturizer can go on the tattoo to keep the area soft and hydrated. The covering should stay off at this point to let the skin breathe.
Shaun Bushnell’s recommended tattoo aftercare instructions also include cleaning three times a day for the first three days after the appointment, followed by once daily cleanings until the tattoo is fully healed. To ensure the best possible client experience, the Raleigh Tattoo Company offers free touch-ups for any tattoo up to one year following the healing process.
Find Out More on Shaun Bushnell’s Blog
Bushnell updates his blog regularly with everything from the world of tattoos: design ideas, a peek behind the scenes of a professional tattoo shop, tattoo care, tattoo cover-ups, and more. More information is available at the Raleigh Tattoo Company website.