“Dude! You should so get a tattoo while you’re in Vegas!” It’s a rally cry we’ve heard so many times. Most of those scenarios work out just fine. But when they don’t, we can usually trace the problems back to the client. Poor planning, poor impulse control or poor patience can lead to something less than stellar. And that leads to something no one wants – a bad Vegas experience. So to help out anyone thinking of getting inked while in Vegas, here are some tips to getting a tattoo you won’t regret, and some inspiring examples of just how spectacular Las Vegas tattoos can be.
Have a plan and know what you want
This is true no matter where you’re getting tattooed, but it especially matters in a town that’s known for its spontaneity. Just because you can do something the second it enters your mind doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Getting a tattoo isn’t like jumping off the Stratosphere or bringing a stranger back to your hotel room – it takes forethought. So take what’s happening to you seriously. Just like we tell you to book your hotel and airfare in advance, plan your tattooing ahead of time. There’s nothing wrong with getting inked on your trip, just remember that you’ll have to live with the decision once you get home.
Research your artist
Not all tattoo artists are the same. People have different styles, different specialties and different ways of designing around your concept. If you want something hyper-realistic, find an artist who knows that style and can replicate something from a photograph. If you want something more exotic or with a touch of cartoon color, find the artist whose work speaks to you the most. Then start a dialog. Contact them before you even get to town and make sure they’ll be available and are willing to work on you. Many shops do accept walk-ins. But the more lead-time you can give an artist the more care they’ll be able to put into the design.
Accept that time is a reality
You cannot get a sleeve in an hour. Let us rephrase: You shouldn’t get a sleeve in an hour. Tattooing is a process that takes time and precision to be perfect. We get it, you have a lot of things to do in Vegas and you don’t want to spend your entire vacation sitting in a chair while someone pokes you with a needle. But this isn’t the quick finish kind of poking you may be used to. A tattoo is a serious commitment – like marriage. Okay, bad example. But the point is, good things take time. And if you want a serious Vegas tattoo, be willing to sit still for hours.
Treat it right and let it heal
So you got your tattoo, but you’re in town for another few days. You still want to hit the clubs, drive a sports car and maybe even end up in a bed, hot tub, shower or other strange place that’s not your own. We get that you’re on vacation. But you also have a fresh wound. That’s right, that poky feeling was a bunch of tiny stab wounds that now have to heal. So let them do their thing. Take it easy. Listen to your tattoo artist’s instructions and follow them. Put on the A+D ointment. Don’t submerge it in water. And don’t let a drunk girl run up and bite it. That one’s a little specific, but it’s happened and it’s bad. Treat your tattoo right in the healing phase and it’ll look beautiful for years.
It’s fine to live in the moment
If you do get tattooed on the spot, then keep it simple. Don’t walk in with a photograph and think you can get a picture-perfect depiction in the time it takes to leave your girlfriend unsatisfied. Instead, consider picking something they already have available, so you know your artist is familiar with the design. Many Strip tattoo shops even have special discounted selections. We’ve all been in that spot where we pass a tattoo shop and impulsively decided to get a new piece. And sometimes they end up being the most cherished ones we have. Just be real about it. And save the complex designs for when you have time to appreciate the work that goes into them.
It would be absolutely wonderful if we didn’t have to put this point in at all. But unfortunately it’s something that comes up a lot in this town. The good news is that the reputable shops know how to spot someone who’s drunk, high or otherwise incapacitated. But it’s still best, if you’re drunk or high, to control yourself. And if your friend is drunk or high and tries to get a tattoo, instead of cheering them on, just get a sharpie, draw something fun, pinch their skin a few times and tell them it’s real. They’ll thank you when they sober up.
Getting a tattoo, whether it’s your first or 50th, is an awesome experience. It’s visceral, artistic and sticks with you – just like Vegas. But, also like Vegas, when people don’t appreciate what they’re getting and how much work goes into it, they end up with a bad experience. You don’t want that. We don’t want that. So take your tattoos seriously. That way, when you come back to Vegas with a beautifully done, well-healed tattoo, you’ll be proud to show it off and say where you got it.