Does It Hurt?
This is number one in our Frequently Asked Questions simply because it is surprisingly just that. The simple answer is, yes it does. However, not as much as some people might like you to believe, as after a short period of time your body’s natural pain-killers (endorphins), kick in and make things much more manageable. How long these endorphins last usually defines your natural ‘limit’ as to how long a tattoo session you can handle (usually between 2-3 hours), after this time you will tend to become very uncomfortable.
The pain of a tattoo is often likened to a mild burning sensation or a cat scratch. However, the real factor as to how much a tattoo hurts is really down to where you intend to get it. Any area directly over bone will be particularly sensitive; this includes ribs, feet, hands, head, and pelvis to name a few. Add to this the number of nerve endings in an area and this defines the most painful places. If you are looking for a less painful spot, then you should consider a less sensitive area protected by a large muscle; such as the fore-arm, upper-arm, shoulder, calf and thigh. That being said, everyone’s pain threshold varies, so there are no hard and fast answers to this question.
How long does a tattoo take?
Tattooing is not a quick process, nor should it be rushed as you will be living with the results permanently. An averagely complex piece of work about the size of the back of your hand, usually takes about two hours to complete. Larger or more complex pieces can take tens of hours, and will require several sittings to complete. Usually appointments are made in multiples of hours, but some smaller pieces may only require a thirty minute appointment. A full sleeve (done by any decent artist), could take anything from ten to fifty hours work to complete depending on complexity.
How much does it cost?
When it comes to tattooing, you get what you pay for. Do not expect a good artist to come cheap, and if that’s the way you go, you could end up spending a great deal more further down the line, when you have to pay for a large cover-up or laser tattoo removal. Save your money until you can afford what you really want! Don’t settle, just because you are impatient to get some ink, this decision will be with you for a long time.
Numbing creams and painkillers?
We do not allow the use of numbing creams at Firefly.This is because from the tattooist's perspective, the creams can cause the skin to become a little puffy in some customers. This means that the tattooist needs to work harder to get the ink into the skin, which can cause additional trauma. This will obviously have some repercussions during the healing process and can create an undesirable amount of scabbing during that time.
Some tablet painkillers can also cause a problem. Aspirin is the biggest problem as it thins the blood and reduces clotting, this will cause excessive bleeding during your tattoo, which will affect the quality of the finished tattoo. Aspirin will also extend the healing time that your tattoo needs so it is best avoided. Paracetamol will have little effect (positive or negative), other than a placebo. Ibuprofen based painkillers can give minor pain relief during the process, by reducing localised swelling, and will not hinder the tattoo in any way.
Can tattoo’s be removed?
They can, completely and without scaring. There are several options available to you if you have ink that you want rid of. The first, and by far most common way is the cover-up. This involves working with your tattoo artist to come up with a design that will go over and ‘cover-up’ the old one. There are a few misconceptions regarding cover-ups, it is not as easy as just doing another tattoo over the top. The new tattoo will sit in the same layer of skin (the dermis), as the old one, so the cover-up needs to be darker than the existing tattoo in order to over-power it. This makes very old or faded tattoos easier to cover up than new bright ones. The black panther was a big cover-up favourite with the ‘Old School’ tattooists, for obvious reasons. This also means that the new tattoo generally has to be a great deal bigger than the one to be covered up, so that the old design can be lost in the new one. Obviously this very much depends on the tattoo to be covered and the skill of your artist.
The second option available to you is laser removal. This can be very effective, again depending on age and colour of the tattoo, but can also be very time consuming.
The third option available is a combination of both of the above. The laser removal can be used to reduce the density of the offending tattoo, so that a much more desirable (and often smaller), tattoo can be used to cover up the old design. This takes much less laser treatment than removal, and gives much better cover-up results on the new tattoo.
How do I decide on a design?
Traditionally, you would have chosen your tattoo design from the designs on the wall of your tattoo studio, or from their stock books of pre-drawn designs. These designs are referred to as ‘Flash Art’. This work was rarely designed by the tattooist, but instead bought in from ‘Flash Art’ suppliers. Thankfully today things are different. While there are still tattooists who rely heavily on Flash (often because they have limited artistic ability of their own), there is an increasing number of tattooists who will design custom work to your specifications. This obviously requires a higher degree of artistic skill, so you should expect to pay slightly more for bespoke work than for Flash, but you will be guaranteed an original piece… not the same tattoo that five other people are walking round town with!
In addition to this, your artist will be able to work with you to generate a tattoo that is personal, has more meaning and is less likely to go out of favour with you in a few years. This all adds up to better value in the long run.
At Firefly, we don't carry 'Flash' art. All our tattoos are generated bespoke for the customer to ensure you only get the best in custom designs, unique to you. Because of this, we suggest that you begin with an initial free consultation with your artist to discuss your design. If you can bring your tattoo artist any reference material that you think is relevant, it will help both of you understand each other much easier. You don’t have to have exact images, even if your examples simply have the same ‘feel’ as what you are trying to convey it will help your tattoo artist understand your needs. Your tattoo artist should also give you lots of good advice regarding the limitations of the art (don’t forget, we are talking needles, ink and skin here, not pen and paper). They should advise you as to placement, and how the tattoo is likely to be viewed, for example; a small piece that would work well on the wrist, might not work as well placed on the thigh. They should also discuss how well your tattoo will stand the test of time. You can generate some amazingly complex and delicate tattoos, but tattoo ink spreads and thins under the skin over time, so your dainty tattoo might look great on the day, but may look fuzzy and unrecognisable after just a couple of years. A slightly bolder design could look great for ten years or more. The choice is always the customer’s, but it should always be an informed choice.
Once you have had the initial conversation with your tattoo artist, you will usually then want to book in for some time at the studio. Your tattoo artist will usually have a good idea at this point as to how long your tattoo is going to take, and will be able to advise you on cost. Booking your appointment usually requires a deposit (amount depending on the price of your tattoo), which is to discourage time wasters and to offset against the artwork the tattoo artist will produce for you, should you not turn up. When you do turn up however, your design work will be free and your deposit will be then offset against the price of your tattoo. The designs are ready by the Artist on the day of the appointment. It's not too late for them to make any changes before you begin your tattoo. If you are needing to see your design well in advance this is something that needs to be discussed with your artist at the time of booking your appointment.
How do I decide on a studio?
Visit studios, talk to the tattoo artist, get a general feel for them. Getting a tattoo is a very personal experience, you should have a rapport with your tattooist, and feel comfortable in their studio. How is their customer service? Many tattooists will treat customers with contempt, as if it’s a burden to them to work with you, especially if it is your first tattoo… just walk away, there are plenty of tattooists who will treat you with respect. If you get an unhelpful response, or are told to ‘pick something from the Flash’, when you ask for help, again maybe the best course of action is to find another studio.
Is the studio clean and well presented? If a tattoo artist can’t keep their house in order, what other corners might they be cutting? You could potentially be putting your own health and wellbeing at risk. Ask yourself; if this was a dental surgery and not a tattoo studio, would I let them touch my teeth? Potentially there are a great deal of similarities between the two regarding the possibility of cross contamination of instruments and equipment, and the transmitting of blood-borne pathogens. The regulations in the tattooing industry are minimal at best, so it is very much up to the individual studio to police themselves past the very basic health and safety requirements. Because of this the cleanliness of the studio, will very much reflect their attitude towards their customer and their customer’s wellbeing.
How safe is Tattoo Ink?
It depends where it comes from. There are many inks on the market today that are readily available. High quality tattoo ink, Ink has been tried and tested over generations without ill effects. Nowadays, the manufacture of inks is regulated to meet certain health and safety standards, but only in some countries (EU and USA). sale of tattoo inks on eBay, has unfortunately opened the market up to cheap Chinese inks, and counterfeit copies of well known and respected brands. These Chinese inks can be dangerous. A report was recently released in which some of these inks had been analysed and shown to contain both banned and toxic substances. With this in mind, it is no longer good enough that your tattoo artist uses trusted brands, they must also source their inks directly from the manufacturer, or manufacturer’s approved outlet, to ensure the integrity of their product.