It can be pretty nerve-wracking getting a tattoo for the first time.
Getting something written or drawn on you in indelible ink is not a decision that should be made lightly. It also hurts, unless you’re David Beckham, obviously.
Luckily, INSIDER spoke to the ‘High Priest of Hollywood tattoo artists‘ Mark Mahoney during his residency at The Mandrake hotel in London to get some sage advice on all things body art.
Mahoney started out tattooing biker gangs in his native Massachusetts back when tattooing was illegal and now counts the likes of Beckham and Johnny Depp among his close friends. He’s even been cast as the muse in Lana Del Rey’s music videos.
He’s also known as the founding father of single needle black-n-grey tattooing. Basically, there’s not a lot this veteran doesn’t know about tattoos.
So, whether it’s your first tattoo or you’re covered in ink from head to toe, scroll down to see what Mahoney said were the biggest mistakes people made before getting a tattoo.
You don’t have a clear idea of what you want
A tattooer of Mahoney’s calibre has people who come to him and just say: “You decide.”
But he hates that.
To formulate a piece of art that will stay on someone’s body forever with no guidance, “that’s a crushing responsibility,” Mahoney says.
“With just an idea I can make it happen but not without a little bit of form.”
Even if the artist is incredibly talented, you might end up with something you don’t really like, and there’s no going back without paying for expensive laser removal treatment.
To avoid disappointment, work through an idea with your artist beforehand or even come with a photograph if you want a portrait.
You choose your artist through Instagram
While there’s absolutely no harm in finding artists and inspiration on Instagram and other platforms, sometimes the old ways are best for finding reputable parlors.
“Photographs can be photoshopped and stuff like that so you want to talk to someone that’s been tattooed by the person,” Mahoney says. “Is it a cool guy or a cool girl? Is it a good experience being there?”
The celebrity tattooer also reminded us that as soon as you sit in the artist’s chair, you’re in it for the long haul – so you better make sure that person is OK to talk to.
“You’ve got to be hanging out in close quarters with somebody for 4 or 5 hours. You don’t want them to be mean or something,” he says.
“I think word of mouth is the original and the best way of finding that out.”
You choose something colourful
Mahoney stipulates that this is just his personal preference and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting a colourful tattoo.
However, “it’s never more vivid and beautiful than when it first heals up,” he says. After that, the sun begins to fade those colours and you end up with quite a worn-looking piece of body art.
Meanwhile, “black and grey seems to just be a part of your skin,” Mahoney says, “[it’s] in it rather than on it.”
In terms of longevity, black and grey art will continue looking fresh for longer.
“I think if you get black and grey early in the game you’d probably end up sticking with that,” Mahoney adds.
You spend too much on your tattoo
“To me, the money part of it is just like a bonus,” Mahoney says. “I have such a good time doing it that while you’re doing it you can’t think about money, I don’t like to ask about it.”
It is possible to pay too much for a tattoo, though, and Mahoney says there are some people in the industry that are known for having the gall to charge astronomical fees.
“You shouldn’t spend more than $US1,000 on a tattoo that can be done in an hour or two,” is the tattooer’s advice.