First Tattoo Tips For Men

It’s estimated that 35% of Brits aged between 30 and 39 have at least one tattoo, while demand within this age demographic is typically driven by men.

However, studies also show that three out of every four (75%) of people who get a tattoo end up regretting it, with men most likely to experience this negative emotion after being inked.

So, it’s important that you carefully select the right tattoo design and prepare properly before visiting your local parlour.

Here are a few steps to help you achieve these objectives.

Getting Started – Do You Really Want a Tattoo?

All of us have flirted with the idea of getting a tattoo at some point in our lives, whether it’s the name of our first child or an artistic design that has been inspired by pop culture.

However, it’s important to qualify such urges and determine whether you’re serious about getting a tattoo before you act, as ideally you should have strong motivation and a clear idea of the image that you want drawn.

For example, it’s thought that 43% of people choose to get a tattoo that has unique and personal meaning.

This is an excellent starting point, as it provides clear inspiration and is likely to create a tattoo that you’ll want to display proudly over time.

However, it’s probably best that you avoid having the name of your latest girlfriend or partner permanently tattooed on your body.

After all, even the best and most compatible relationships can ultimately fail, while around 17% of people who regret having tattoos do so because they had the name of another person inked on them.

Ultimately, the key is to think carefully before deciding to get a tattoo rather than acting on emotion alone, while taking time to decide or not this is the best way to celebrate a particular event or relationship.

Picking the Right Design

If you do decide that getting a tattoo is right for you, the next consideration is your choice of design.

But what steps can you take to ensure that you choose the right visual for your tattoo? Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

#1. Think About the Size

While you don’t necessarily have to consider a full sleeve tattoo or ink a life-size image of your favourite footballer’s face on your back, it’s important to remember that size matters when having any form of body art carried out.

As a general rule, for example, small tattoos tend to age far worse than slightly larger designs. 

There’s a good reason for this too, as small and compact tattoos typically introduce lots of intricate details into a single, concentrated space.

Make no mistake; these finer details will be lost with time as your skin begins to coarsen, sag and become thinner with age.

Of course, the size of your tattoo should also be influenced by where it’s going to be inked on the body.

For example, designs on the wrist or ankle should be between one or two inches, while those located around the shoulder, ribs or lower back can extend to between four or five inches overall.

By keeping this size guide in mind, and avoiding overly compact or small tattoos, you can create a visually appealing tattoo that’s capable of standing the test of time.

#2. Canvas the Opinion of Others

While your choose of tattoo design and location is deeply personal, we’d always recommend seeking out advice and canvassing the opinion of others before proceeding.

It’s particularly important to check in with your partner (if you have one), as they can offer and constructive feedback and let you know whether they’d like to look at your chosen design every day for the remainder of their lives!

Trusted friends and family members can also offer some insight, especially those who’ve previously had tattoos and can share their opinion of the experience and whether they regretted inking their bodies.

It’s also worth checking in with your local tattoo artist before getting the work done.

After all, such individuals are experts in their field, and may be able to inform your final choice of design and offer some pointers in terms of size, detail and location.

#3. Research, Research and Research Your Design

Time and knowledge are your friends when deciding to get a tattoo, as you cannot do enough research into the various designs available and which option is right for you (we’ll have more on this below).

Even if you have a clear idea about how you want your tattoo to look, you’ll still need to research its viability and ensure that your local artist can realise your vision and bring it to life. 

The process of thoroughly researching your design also enables you to hone it over time, while affording you peace of mind that you like every aspect of it and are more than happy to proceed.

While simpler tattoos are often easier and cheaper to create (and particularly ideal for first-timers), don’t be afraid to start off with more ambitious designs that include all of your preferred elements.

This way, you can refine your design over time and as you consult with others, in order to strike the ideal balance between your desired aesthetic and what can be achieved within your budget.

What Classic Tattoo Styles Are There?

At this stage, it’s also worth mentioning that are countless tattoo styles and visual themes available across the globe.

What’s more talented artists continue to design and develop their own, creating infinite choices for those of you considering your first tattoo.

Some styles are more popular than others, however, so here’s a brief introduction to the most widely copied and how they’ll appear on your body.

Classic Americana

This is the overwhelming influence in the western world, and typically defined by bold, dark outlines and overtly nautical themes.

They’re also closely tied to predatory animals, pinup female icons and various combinations of roses, daggers and hearts.

First popularised in the 1930s, this style boasts longevity and a simplicity that others simply fail to match.


Next up is the Japanese ‘Irezumi’ style, which has maintained its popularity over numerous centuries and gradually become increasingly influential in the UK.

Renowned for its large images that can cover the back, legs and arms, it’s also a genre that continues to spawn new iterations and designs every single year.

Trash Polka

This genre was first created by Germany iconic Buena Vista Tattoo Club.

One of the most unique styles on our list, trash polka combines collage-like structures and intricate sampling to excellent effect.

Often, this type of tattoo is inspired by photography or hand-writing, which may be ideal for people looking to immortalise a visual memory.


This stark and simple style has been derived from original and historic tribal tattoos, which typically comprise thick and fulsome black lines in a broad range of geometric shapes.

Usually bold and striking, artists often look to elevate this genre onto entirely new levels, by incorporating increasingly complex patterns and detailed imagery.


On a similar note, tattoos inspired by surrealism tend to be relatively abstract and are drawn out of experience or a particular emotion.

Due to the vague and open-ended nature of the genre, this style creates virtual endless options and possibilities, although it can be hard to nail down a final design and replicate this on your body.


As the name suggests, ‘realistic’ tattoos can portray anything from scenery or simple objects to famous people and animals.

They can also be brightly coloured or black and white, depending on the design in question and your preferred aesthetic.

These tattoos allow you to immortalise authentic and personalised imagery, although they’ll typically take longer to bring to life.

How Painful is a Tattoo?

What an excellent question!

After all, while we’ve all heard tales of painful and excruciating tattoo sessions, it’s arguably just as common for people to say that they barely felt a thing while being inked.

Generally speaking, being tattooed will create at least some level of discomfort, as ink is injected directly into your skin using an electrically powered machine that resembles (and sound like) a dental drill.

This rapidly shifts a solid needle up and down to puncture the skin, creating small but recurring pin pricks that will be felt to varying degrees.

The extent to which you feel this will depend on two main factors.

The first is your own unique pain threshold, which tends to vary from one person to another based on your physicality, lifestyle and emotional state.

For example, athletes can often withstand more pain than people who don’t exercise, thanks in part to their mindset and more explosive use of muscle groups

The second factor is the location of your tattoo. For example, the most painful areas that you can tattoo include the lower ribs, fingers, upper and lower biceps and the upper centre of your chest, which are not particularly fleshy and may be relatively close to the bone.

Conversely, your upper thing and forearm are among the least painful areas, so you may want to keep this in mind when having a tattoo for the first time.

How Can You Prepare for a Tattoo?

Before your appointment, your tattoo artist should let you know precisely what steps to take and the things you’ll need to avoid.

Most importantly of all, you’ll need to take good care of your skin prior to having a tattoo.

Quite simply, the nicer and healthier your skin is, the better your tattoo will look once it’s completed.

But what exactly does this entail?

Initially, you’ll need to avoid tanning the area that you want to tattoo, while avoiding sunburn is an absolute must.

Similarly, we’d recommend that you moisturise daily for a week or so prior to the appointment, in order to keep the skin smooth and well-hydrated.

You could also exfoliate the area once or twice during this period (where applicable), as this creates more radiant skin and optimises the performance of your chosen moisturiser.

You can also aid this process by drinking plenty of water in the build-up to the appointment, although you should abstain from alcohol for at least 24 hours before being inked.

This because alcohol can thin your blood and cause more excessive bleeding than usual during the session, potentially leaving your tattoo appearing faded once the skin had healed.

Asprin and painkillers also thin the blood, so you should avoid taking this type of medication before the appointment.

Getting a good nights’ rest and between eight and 10 hours of sleep can also aid the restoration and rejuvenation of your skin, so try to plan some genuine shut-eye on the night before you head to the tattooist’s studio!

On a final note, be sure to let your tattooist know ahead of time if you have any existing skin conditions (such as eczema).

If they affect the area you want to have tattooed, they can make the necessary provisions and make the process as smooth as possible.

If you’re having a flare-up, however, they may advise that you postpone the appointment and reschedule at a point in the future.

Dealing With Tattoo Pain

Of course, how you deal with any pain that you experience will depend largely on its extent and scale.

However, there are few universal steps that can help you to numb and manage the pain. These include:

Use Numbing Cream

Applying numbing cream to the tattoo can help to sooth any discomfort, although you may not be able to do this until at least 24 hours after the appointment (as the area will be bandaged during this time).

Just check with your tattooist to ensure that the cream is suitable and can be used to relieve discomfort.

Stay Hydrated

We’ve already touched on how optimal hydration aids the recovery and replenishment of the skin, so drink plenty of water after having your tattoo.

This also helps to reduce pain by ensuring that your tissues remain hydrated, minimising both localised and general aches and discomfort in the process.

Bring Snacks and Something to Squeeze

Sometimes, distraction can help you to minimise pain, both during and after the appointment.

For example, bringing your favourite snacks to the parlour can provide comfort and pleasure while being inked, and having something to squeeze can relieve tension and associated stress. 

Take Reasonable Breaks

Depending on the nature of your tattoo and session length, you may also want to take breaks to help alleviate any consistent discomfort.

This also helps you to compose yourself and maintain a regular breathing pattern, which makes pain management much easier over an extended period of time.

Converse With Your Tattooist

On a final note, conversing with your tattooist throughout can help to calm your mind and provide a further distraction from the pain.

Try to focus on light and positive topics for discussion, while avoiding the risk of distracting the focus of the artist and ensuring that they can work effectively.

Finally – Taking Care of Your Tattoo

Last, but not least, you’ll have to follow the right aftercare advice in the immediate aftermath of receiving your tattoo.

This will ensure that your skin is cared for in the best possible way, but what are the most effective ways of tending to your tattoo?

Bandage it Up for 24 Hours

The area of skin beneath your tattoo will be red, sore and potentially inflamed immediately after your appointment. Because of this, the tattoo artist will bandage the area before you leave, helping to absorb any initial bleeding and minimise the risk of infection. Leave this on for at least 24 hours, and be sure to wash your hands before removing it.

Wash Your Skin With Unscented Antibacterial Soap

Once you’ve removed the bandage, the next step is to gently massage and wash your skin with an antibacterial soap.

This should be unscented, alcohol-free and applied with care, in a bid to remove any traces of leaked ink and blood and further minimise the risk of infection.

Let the Skin Air Dry and Apply Antibacterial Cream

At this stage, you may want to take the opportunity to let your skin air dry.

After a short period of time, you can then apply some antibacterial cream for the first time, smoothing this gently into the skin to ensure a thin and even covering.

Apply a Moisturiser Daily

Over the next few days, you should also strive to apply a hydrating moisturiser to your tattoo.

This helps to keep the underlying skin supple and soft, while ensuring that the tattoo packs the optimal visual punch.

Personally, we’d opt for all-natural moisturisers, which feature ingredients such as aloe, avocado oil and shea butter.

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Remember the Dont’s!

While having a tattoo is a relatively straightforward process, there are a few things that you should avoid immediately after your appointment.

For example, you should avoid submerging your tattoo in water or keeping it wet for extended periods of time for two weeks afterwards, which means no swimming, bathing or dunks in a hot tub!

No Exercise or Sunbathing

You’ll also need to avoid activities that can damage or dry out the skin for at least 48 hours.

For example, should wait for a minimum of two days before engaging in high intensity exercise or physical activity that will induce heavy sweating.

You should refrain from sunbathing for even longer to minimise the risk of skin damage, ideally for the four to six weeks that the tattoo takes to heal completely.

The Last Word

Having any form of body art is essentially a free and fun iteration of self-expression.

However, a tattoo will change the appearance of your body forever, so you’ll need to give careful thought to whether you want to proceed and your preferred design.

If you do decide to get a tattoo, it’s crucial that you prepare your skin as advised by your artist, while also following the recommended aftercare steps for as long as required.

This will ensure that your tattoo looks as good as possible, while protecting your skin and keep this as healthy as possible.

Paul Inman

Paul Inman is the founder of The Bald Gent. As the main contributor to TBG, Paul has years of knowledge, experience and stories to share with our users. His insights, advice and blogs form the backbone to everything we do and what makes being a true gent so important to the ethos of TBG.

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