Troops and tattoos go hand in hand like brand-new sports cars and high interest rates. It's easy to single out the troops who got their first tattoo by picking simply it out of the catalog at the parlor.
It's a shame, but not enough attention is given to the troops that do it right. If you want to join the few who have tasteful, well-done ink, here's a few things you should know.
1. Do some research
First and foremost, you should never get something on a whim. Tattoos are (mostly) permanent and if you don't want to go through the painstaking, costly, and expensive process of trying to prove this statement wrong, do your homework first.
Whatever you're planning on getting is worth a few days of research, seeing as you're stuck with it for the rest of your life. Think hard about what you're actually getting — make sure it doesn't have any other meaning. Consider where you're planning on putting it, too. And even if you're getting something as simple as lettering, make sure everything is spelled properly.
Even the most beautiful piece of art can be subject to ridicule if you're not careful.
(Image via /r/USMC)
2. Find a proven artist
Chances are that going to your buddy in the barracks who just got a tattoo gun isn't the best option. They may be good at drawing with pencils, but this is an entirely new realm of art.
Pick someone with skill and loads of experience. When you go into the tattoo parlor, you should ask to see their portfolio. If they've got a big-ass book filled with beautiful works, you're in good hands. If they just show you pictures from their social media and have no way of proving it's their own work, you might as well get the cheap one from the barracks newbie.
This doesn't mean anyone with social media is a bad bet — just make sure they've got some real documentation.
(Image by Black Flag Tattoo Collection)
3. Be prepared to shell out some cash
Good tattoos (like the one below) will cost you a pretty penny, but not all expensive tattoos are good.
Yes, a good artist knows they're good and will ask you to shell out plenty of dough for their talent. Don't automatically associate price and quality, but also know that you often get what you pay for.
Nothing in this world is good, cheap, and fast. You can never get all three.
4. Take your time with the artist
Just as with step one, you've got all the time in the world to deliberate before you must live with the ink forever. If they say they need a day or two to sketch out what you're asking, do not argue. Good tattoo artists actually need that time.
This is also when you and the artist can take time to make revisions. Your input is valuable — it's also (partially) your art — but there's a balance to strike here. Don't go overboard on suggestions or you may annoy the only person who can make sure you're not getting a pink, fluffy unicorn tattoo on your back.
I mean, unless you want something funny and off the wall. Whatever, you do you.
(Image via Terminal Lance)
5. Give them a challenge
Good tattoo artists love a challenge. Almost every single one got into the business because they love art — not because they wanted to make the same copy-and-paste design over and over.
Now, we're not saying there's something wrong with getting the classic Eagle, Globe, and Anchor (like every other Marine), but if you add some more flair to it, they'll be more invested in your work.
There are good Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattoos out there. Make sure yours is one of them.
6. Be prepared for multiple sessions
If all you want is just something small and simple, congratulations on your new tattoo! Proceed to the next step. If you're going for something big across your back, full sleeves, or anything with intricate details, there are only so many hours in the day.
Be sure take care of what they've done in the time between sessions.
Don't expect to be able to walk out with that 1800's circus performer look after just one sitting.
7. Get what you need to take care of your new ink
Listen to every word your tattoo artist says about tattoo care. They speak from experience. Don't waste all of that time and money on a tattoo and let it all go to waste because you were too lazy to keep it clean.
Buy the good lotion. Keep it wrapped until they say you can unveil it. Be careful in the shower and expect to have some ink "bleed" out — that's normal. Whatever you do, don't pick the scabs. That's your body's way of keeping the ink in there.
Don't worry. You'll have plenty of time to show off your extremely boot tattoo before to long.
(Image via /r/justbootthings)
*Bonus* Tip your artist
Even if you spent a lot of money on your tattoo, don't forget to leave them a tip. They're still in a service industry, after all.
Everyone will tell you that getting tattoos is addictive. So, if you're planning on going back because you like the artist's work, they'll remember that you tipped and be extra attentive next time.