Computer problems forced me to save and publish my last entry before it was done, so I'm finishing it in another entry. Here goes:
Never get a tattoo because you think it will make you look "cool". Believe me, if you weren't cool before, a tattoo won't help you. You'll just be a nerd with a tattoo. "Cool" is an attitude and has nothing to do with your appearance anyway.
Here are some other things to remember:
Get a good night's sleep the night before your appointment. Being rested will go a long way toward making the experience better and will help with your pain tolerance.
Eat a full meal before you go. Do not get a tattoo on an empty stomach. Tattooing traumatizes the body and will cause a drop in your blood sugar, which could cause you to become lightheaded and pass out.
Stay hydrated. Take a bottle of water with you and drink from it occasionally, especially if you're having a large piece done and you know you'll be there for awhile. You will lose fluids (blood and plasma) during your tattoo so play it safe.
Listen to the artist when he suggests something to you. This could be ideas about design, placement, color or advisability of actually getting the tattoo you're after. Don't be bullheaded or get belligerent with him when he makes a suggestion.
Always be tattooed by a professional tattoo artist. Having a homemade tattoo in your buddy's basement is a very bad idea. Unless he's a professional and doing you a courtesy, you're going to get the tattoo you pay for.
You don't need your artist's life story before he inks you, but it's helpful to know who he apprenticed with and how long he's been actively tattooing human flesh.
Not every tattoo has to have a deep, mysterious or philosophical meaning. But your tattoo should mean something to you. By the way, having a band name, sports team or product logo tattooed on you is kind of lame. Have some originality.
Don't take NSAIDS like ibuprofen before getting a tattoo thinking it will help with dulling the pain. These are blood thinners that will make you bleed more and will defeat the ink going where it's supposed to go. It's much better to suck it up and let your body's natural painkillers (endorphins) take over.
Don't go in for a tattoo either drunk or under the influence. In most cases, you'll be asked to leave. Most modern tattoo parlors are businesses that cater to paying customers and they have no desire to have another customer's experience ruined by a guy who walked in drunk off the street to get a tattoo on the spur of the moment.
Your tattoo artist is busy and probably booked weeks in advance. Don't waste his time. If you're making an appointment in advance, you'll probably be asked to pay a deposit. Pay it graciously and understand that he's a paid professional, just like your doctor or plumber.
Please, for the sake of all that's sacred, tip your artist. Yes, I know he's making $100 or more an hour. But he just spent a couple of hours with you, giving you something you're going to carry with you for the rest of your life. Have some decency and show your appreciation in the same way you would tip your hairstylist or the person who does your nails.
Don't try to impress your artist with how much you know about tattooing. Unless you're a fellow artist, however much you think you know, he knows more than you do. And besides, nobody likes a Mr. Know-It-All.
Be on time for your appointment. Even if your artist keeps you waiting, be on time. This is common courtesy and is much appreciated in most establishments. If you're a walk-in, understand that appointments will get preference over you.
Whatever establishment you choose to have your tattoo done at, make sure it's clean. It doesn't have to resemble a doctor's office, but it should be clean. Make sure the artists are wearing gloves and that the items they will be handling are bagged to prevent cross-contamination. Many places now use tubing and needles that are single use.
Don't take getting a tattoo lightly. Your skin is your body's main barrier against infection and your artist is going to breach that barrier thousands of times while he does your tattoo. Follow the aftercare routine he gives you to the letter. If he tells you to keep it covered for six to eight hours, do that. He knows what kind of ink he used, what kind of needles he used. If he tells you not to use lotion until it dries out, don't do it.
Bathe or shower before you go for your tattoo. Your artist is going to be spending an extended period of time with you (in some cases inhaling the aroma of some of your more odorous body parts). Have the decency to smell good. Don't overdo it on the perfume or cologne either. In some cases, this can be just as annoying and unpleasant as BO.
I'm by no means an expert, but I've had enough personal, firsthand experience to feel pretty safe using these as a basic guide. A lot of it is simple common sense. But it's amazing to see how people can take leave of their senses when they really want something.