Tattoo tips
April 30, 2016 12:24 AM   Subscribe

On Sunday I get my first ever tattoo and likely my last. It is in Hebrew meaning it reads right to left. So, your advice would be appreciated.

The tattoo will read wצדק ואמת hich roughly means "justice and truth.". My plan is to put it on my right shoulder. The highly rated tattoo place says the characters should be a half inch high at least. But would it look best in black or blue? Would it look best horizontally or vertically? ( Petite female here.) And how long before I'll heal up? And how much pain should I expect? Any other tips appreciated.
posted by bearwife to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Which roughly means ...
posted by bearwife at 12:27 AM on April 30, 2016


Black would look better. Dunno about orientation. It'll take a few weeks to heal up (the first few days of which, it'll scab up and then the scabs will come off, probably in the shower), and you'll want to take good care of it with the RIGHT lotion, and be careful in the shower. Basically, don't touch it directly with anything unless you're applying the lotion. The pain isn't bad. Just make sure you've eaten earlier in the day and are well-hydrated. Have fun!
posted by destructive cactus at 1:01 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't really speak to color or placement because tattoos are sort of a personal thing, but I can talk about pain and healing.

Tattoos don't really hurt all that much in the grand scheme of things. It's like taking a pin and scraping the surface of your skin repeatedly. Once you get used to the sensation it sort of fades into the background. The healing tattoo feels a bit like a burn. Meaty spots like shoulders, arms, backs, and legs are pretty easy to withstand. Ribcages, wrists, ankles, and other bony or jointed areas tend to be a bit more painful.

Healing is entirely dependent on care. If you do what your artist tells you to do and follow aftercare religiously, it will heal up quickly. The bloody scabby part should be over within 2 weeks, and onion skinning/clouding should clear up within in another two weeks. (If they tell you to use Vaseline as part of aftercare, find a new artist.) Don't pick at scabs, don't peel, don't scratch or slap, and don't immerse it in water for extended periods of time. Avoid direct sun exposure for about 6 weeks. Afterwards, protect your tattoo with sunscreen.
posted by xyzzy at 1:12 AM on April 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Definitely do black. Black inks differ from others and tend to feather or blur less over time and it's best for lettering.

TRIPLE CHECK THE STENCIL AND SPELLING! Ask to scrutinise the artwork that made the stencil before it's placed and after it's on to make sure ALL the letters are correct. Typos and missing lines are especially a problem if the artist doesn't speak the language. (Though reputable artists will also encourage you to triple check as well.)

I'd go vertical because bra straps and tank tops, though it depends on your shoulders and where your bras/tanks lay on you. Though I'm also petite so it'd have to be small and way off to the side to not be under a bra strap or tank top for me. You can have them place it with the stencil and try it out. They can easily remove and re-do the stencil. See how it looks when you move around too.

Pain will likely be pretty minimal and short for such a small piece. If it's on your bone (shoulder blade) it may sting more. Each artist has a different "hand" and some tattoo genler or rougher depending on their machine, settings, style, etc.

Though my description is like lots of little bee stings. I personally find the shading more horrible but yours will likely just be outlines. It stings at first, then feels kinda raw like a fresh burn. Then it may feel numb, then start again when they start a new line.

It may "throw pain" down your arm or your back. It's a weird sensation. (Inner arm felt like they were stabbing my heart and my upper back shot pain to my elbows.)

BREATHE! Deep and slow, in and out. Relax your muscles. Tensing up will make it hurt more. Though like I said, I doubt it will be bad at all but everyone feels different. Eat something sugary beforehand and have a snack on you. Sometimes your blood sugar can dip because of the adrenaline rush.

Each artist gives specific aftercare, but the general consensus is keep the bandage on for at least 4 hours. (I've left mine overnight because I leak a lot of plasma and it's gross.) Once you take the bandage off, rinse and wash it gently with non-fragranced soap. Use a non-fragranced lotion to keep it moisturised but not soaked. I like Aveeno Daily Moisture but people swear by the ointment styles like Aquaphor but I don't like them personally.

No soaking it for a month. Keep it out of the sun until it's healed. It will scab over at first and will feel raw and stingy for a while. After about 1 to 2 weeks it will start to flake. Don't pick at the scab. Just let it flake off. After it flakes completely it will look cloudy and maybe shiny because it's new skin. After the full month it will be bright again.

If you notice any spots that didn't heal well, then you can get a touchup. Most artists offer them for free, but please do tip them for their time.

Good luck!! (Source: Haz tattoos. I need more. I've probably spent a good 20+ hours in the tattoo chair. Been slowed down due to health things or I'd be much more covered.)
posted by Crystalinne at 1:33 AM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sounds like it's not too big. My biggest tip is enjoy it... I always get an endorphin high that lasts for about 4 hours or so and I always get an amazing night's sleep after a session. Sometimes I think I should just get a big black circle that I can get "touched up" whenever I'm stressed, haha.

Bring a book or something, in case your artist isn't the chatty type (or you're not.) I like to bring a book I've read before, in case we hit a sensitive part like a shoulderblade, it really takes me out of the pain and into the story. Definitely make sure you eat - you want the tank about 75% full when you go in, not so much that being startled upsets your stomach, but enough that you don't pass out. Something carby is best. (Although with a short session, I'm sure it won't matter as much.)

Don't feel pressure to accept the first stencil if you have any reservations. Or walk out if you have any reservations. Or reschedule if you have any reservations. Seriously, it'll be on you FOREVER, just keep reminding yourself of that. You're entitled to having it perfect.

I use diaper rash cream for aftercare the first couple days, and then a basic non-scented moisturizer after that. (But honestly just do whatever your artist says.)
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 1:55 AM on April 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


They can re-do the stencil as many times as you want (but, only the tattoo once!), so play around with the stencil. If you are truly torn on horizontal vs vertical , ask your tattooer what they think- they have a great eye for that. I think either way will be great. Go with black ink ( I am biased though, all of my tattoos are black). Also, the tattoo will probably be much bigger than you planned on. This always seems to happen. I know that you said the characters will be 1/2" min, but once you get the stencil placed the first time, it might seem 'yuuuge. Trust your tattooer on this too. Something too small will not look good - blurry lines that run into each other, etc.

The pain feels to me like someone scratching a sunburn. Persistent, noticeable, but not overwhelming. They'll hit spots that feel worse than others, but remind yourself that it's only temporary - as soon as they finish that spot, it'll be done.

Good luck, and please come back and post pictures!! I'm really excited for you!
posted by Fig at 5:45 AM on April 30, 2016


I vote horizontally because it's a word phrase and should be read like that, and I (personally) don't like vertical words. But it's your body, and I hope you love it.

Healing on my back was hard because I couldn't see it, so I had Mr. Meat help me clean it for the first few days.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:47 AM on April 30, 2016


For your own benefit, try to find a tattoo artist who knows at least some Hebrew or bring someone with who does who can confirm everything looks as it should.

Last thing you need is an unfortunate mistake on the spelling through excitement or poor visual through a mirror depending on where the tattoo is located.

I have a tattoo on the back of my left shoulder. It was hardly painful at all. The hardest part was the very end required the artist to go over some muscle right at the base of my shoulder blade. He warned me before he did it and said it was very important I don't flinch and it'd be over in less than a minute. It was fine. Healing didn't take long at all, and there was no significantly long lasting pain.

Make sure you follow the guidelines for the aftercare to the letter for those first two weeks. That really helps things go along as it should.
posted by zizzle at 6:48 AM on April 30, 2016


Pay attention to what the artist recommends for after care. Its been a while since I got mine, but I remember something about certain creams can pull the color out.(triple anti-biotic or neosporin?) I had some Benpanthen(sp?) cream from the UK and it worked really well. Keep whatever cream on all the time. You don't want it to actually make a big scab just a light crust. No chlorine swimming pools for a while either. Don't forget sunscreen.
posted by PJMoore at 7:10 AM on April 30, 2016


Yes, I'll double add, even though you can surely spell tsedek ve-emet, get an Israeli or someone otherwise very fluent to look at the stencil. Maybe a serif is funny or something. Source: worked in a synagogue office. Forget about announcements--you'd be amazed how many mistakes there are on tombstones.

I have never seen vertical lettering in Hebrew on a sign. Maaaaybe as a stylized part of a logo? Go with horizontal.
posted by 8603 at 7:13 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's a cool tat- enjoy! My vote is for horizontally below the left collarbone, like the placement of Rihanna's tattoo; and I'd ask for the tat to follow the same angle as the collarbone, even more than Rihanna's does. As for colour, I'd do black or grey ink (grey tats look subtle and elegant to me, Rihanna has a grey one on her neck that says "rebelle fleur" and it's pretty, if grammatically dubious... Definitely double check the spelling!)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:11 AM on April 30, 2016


If you aren't fluent in Hebrew yourself, check in with someone who is (preferably an Israeli) for an opinion on the typeface! You don't want to end up with one that shouts "prayerbook" or "tabloid newspaper." I think this would look really nice in hand-lettered cursive Hebrew.
posted by ostro at 9:55 AM on April 30, 2016


I've been looking into a tattoo for myself and came across this great article about tattoo pain.
posted by moira at 10:51 AM on April 30, 2016


The font will be Adobe Hebrew Regular or Adobe Hebrew Bold. The tattoo parlor already sent me exemplars and the characters are perfect unlike my rendition of them in my post. Please keep the thoughts about placement and care coming. Re collarbone idea I think bra straps would not work -- too bad as I like the idea.
posted by bearwife at 11:24 AM on April 30, 2016


I have two tattoos of Hebrew words on me (Hesed and Timshel if it matters).

Definitely black. Definitely horizontal. My letters are each just about half an inch high, and the words are about an inch long (which is about what yours would be too with that number of letters). Please don't go vertical - it's SO much harder to get right. Spend some time on this site if you don't believe me.

If possible, I'd get them to place the stencil and let you sit with it for a while. Or have someone you trust write on an approximation of it and leave it for a few days. See how it wears. I did that with both of mine (they are on the inside of each wrist, so as I type this, I can see both easily) and it really helped me figure out where would be the best fit. I wanted them to be hidden by long sleeves, but visible to me whenever I reached out my hands to do something.

I think the only issue with a placement on your back is that it looks a little like a floating word with no connection to anything else. I like the collarbone idea better. This is something else you could help by scanning through the site I linked above.

One of my tattoos (the first one) scabbed over quickly and I sort of helped them fall off when it got really itchy. I don't know if that's why, but that tattoo's edges are nowhere NEAR as crisp as the lettering on the other. I also used A&D on the second one, and mostly kept it under plastic wrap for the first week. For my skin, that worked great. I also had a few friends who had tattoos on duty for the "is this normal?" picture messages. That helped a lot.

The pain was nothing. It took 15 minutes, tops.

Good luck - I love my tattoos and have never regretted them for one minute. I also was lucky to get a great artist when I walked in.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:59 AM on April 30, 2016


So, here is the tat. I love the way it looks! I am following all of your aftercare instructions, which track the artist's. And yup, I gave him a nice tip.
posted by bearwife at 9:23 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yay, congrats! That looks great!
posted by Fig at 9:36 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


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