When asked whether getting a tattoo is painful or not, some people will say "no" and some "yes." What many people will agree on is that some hurt far more than others. For instance, tattooing directly over a bone, such as your elbow, sternum, kneecap or ankle, will hurt a lot more than a tattoo on the meat of your shoulder -- not that that means a shoulder tattoo isn't going to hurt. Take certain precautions before sitting for the needle to minimize pain and keep your body relaxed throughout.
Things You'll Need
Take some nonnarcotic anti-inflammatory medication, such as Advil. It will reduce the level of pain without making your drowsy. Avoid prescription painkillers; the amount necessary to completely counteract the pain of a tattoo would knock you out, and no tattoo artist will work on a sleeping customer or one who appears under the influence. Alcohol is the worst thing you can consume before a tattoo; it thins your blood, causing you to bleed more and, again, no artist likes a drunk customer.
Eat something, preferably high in protein, before you sit. The food will raise your energy level, helping your body to tolerate pain much better than it would if your stomach were empty.
Drink water before, during and after the tattoo process. Enduring significant pain can cause your body to heat up and sweat, which makes you lose more water than usual, so it's important to stay hydrated.
Chew gum. If your mind is focused on one repetitive action, such as chewing gum, clicking your teeth together or incessant blinking, it lessens the amount of pain it can register (this is actually a technique soldiers use when being tortured).
Aim a fan directly at your head and upper body. Most shops have their own fans but you should also bring a small one from home. A cooling fan will keep your temperature steady and reduce the chances of fainting. It's rare that someone faints from being tattooed, but it does happen.
After the tattoo is complete, follow the artist's aftercare instructions to ensure an even and unfaded tattoo, and to reduce the residual pain you'll feel for the next two weeks.
Tattoos can take a long time to complete. If you need a break, say something. Periodic breaks can allow your body to recover and most artists appreciate the time off.
It's strongly advised that you receive your first tattoo on a meaty portion of your body, such as the shoulder or forearm, before you start tattooing areas that will hurt a lot more. This way, you'll know what to expect and can prepare yourself mentally.