I'm a senior in college right now (have another year though; whoo, super senior victory lap!), and to be able to practice what I want, I need to go to grad school and obtain a master's degree or a PhD. I'm thinking of commemorating my maturation into grad school, and just in general "leaving the nest", by getting a collarbone tattoo. 

Now, this may sound cliche, but I'm not doing this for the hipster sake of it. I was wanting to get a swallow tattoo because no matter how far they wander they eventually return home, and that rings a bell as family is very important to me. 

However, I'm a complete tattoo newbie, and up until my mid-teenage years, I was terrified of needles. I guess by asking for your tattoo experiences I'm trying to see what I'm in for if I do go through with this.  

Tips, advice, and stories are all welcome. 

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I understand the need for after care. I've been researching for the past few months or so, but I'm a little confused here. May I ask for some clarification? You say to follow the artist's after care direction, but if they don't tell you about their after care directions to "run far far away from them." 

As said, I'm a complete newbie to this, so wouldn't it be too late if you have the tattoo and they don't cover it for you? Or do you ask before they even put the needle gun to your skin? This is probably a silly question, but I have no idea what I'm doing, haha. 

You ask long before they put the needle to the skin, and the tattoo shouldn't be covered on completion unless it's going to be rubbed by clothing, and then really it should be covered by something breathable where possible rather than clingfilm/saranwrap as is often seen on TV

Your tattoo artist will give you after care instructions, usually on a sheet of paper to take with you and if you have any concerns with the healing process you can always go back to the shop and show your artist and he/she can let you know if it is healing normally. Every tattoo shop I have been to has had different instructions, so it depends on your artist.

I agree with Kara's "no-flash" comment - I had some flash done at 18 and got it covered a few years ago.  I'm not particularly creative/artistic but I prefer having my own ideas (sort of!) on my skin.

My OH & I send a lot of people to our tatooist, and we know that a lot of people tell him we sent them, so my addition to Kara's great advice would be to ask for recommendations from people who have tattoos you like - this is especially important as in my town the better of two tattooists is tucked away out of sight, but the one that's a little more obvious is nowhere near as good, and it shows in his work.

Would the swallow tattoo be considered "flash design" then because I see a lot of girls with that? Mine does have meaning for it. I guess, I'm a little lost about what is considered what is flash design or not. Is it just overly cliche tattoos?

I have gotten "flash design" tattoos and custom tattoos, and I still love both of  them to this day, you get what you want, whether it is custom drawn for you or you pick it off a wall, or internet, or whatever!

I don't have any collarbone tattoos, so I don't know how painful that would be, honestly tattoos do hurt! And some artists are heavy handed or not experienced and can make a tattoo more painful, make sure your artist is very experienced and knowledgeable, do your homework!

Also, before your appointment, make sure your not hung over, have a good meal, drink lots of water, don't go if your sick, believe me, if you feel like shit your tattoo will hurt more and it wont be a pleasant experience.

Make sure you send us pix of your new ink!!


I have several tattoos and I actually only get one a year. I do this so that I can think about the tattoo and make sure I want it on my body forever! Some things I could tell you are basically wah everyone has already said: find a legit shop,get something personal to you with meaning, take care of it as told by the artist. I have most of my tattoos done at different shops and every single artist has had very different care instructions! All my tattoos have always turned out beautiful.

Hi Congratulations on finishing school! Its a huge achievement.  I have a question for you? What do you plan on doing for a career?  I only ask because tattoo placement can have a huge, potentially negative, influence on what kinds of jobs you can get.  For example, I would love to get a chest piece but I know that I don't want to limit my prospects (I am planning on getting my PhD in clinical psychology and I want to be respected as an expert).  If you aren't planning on going into a very liberal field, ie cosmetology, fashion, or fine art, I would recommend getting tattoos in places that are easily covered.  I have a tattoo on my wrist that I am currently having lasered off and that is more painful that getting it put on, not to mention expensive. 

That aside, I agree with the previous comments.  Don't be afraid to shop around, don't feel obligated to stay with an artist if you aren't 100% confident in them.  I have had work drawn up and it wasn't exactly what I wanted so I went elsewhere, don't feel bad or obligated to them just because they drew something for you.  You are paying them a lot of money and you should get exactly what you want.  make a list of questions to take with you so you don't forget anything and have them draw out a design, rather than simply picking something off the wall, that way no matter what it is it will be unique and you can have more say. 

Good Luck and I will be looking forward to seeing it :)

I plan to go into Speech Pathology, but I need to go to grad school first. I'm aware of placement and it's very important to me. I was thinking smaller tattoos outside the general v-neck zone around my collarbone. Although I have read a few articles that employers are becoming more open to tattoos in the workplace. Here's to wishful thinking for the future tattooed. 

I will definitely write up a list of questions and shop around quite a bit since this is such a big commitment. I've already changed my collarbone idea to a pair of doves. Still working things out though! Other than aftercare instructions, what kind of questions should I ask? 

I completely agree with Cela on this: what you are going into is going to be the BIG determinant of where to place your tatt. Like Cela, I have chosen to go into Forensic Psych, and while you would think that tatts would lend credibility to me with inmates (and a lot of cops, lol), it will unfortunately end up undermining my expertise and authority... So think - like everyone here has mentioned - hard about location. I love the swallows idea, and I've seen them not quite on the collarbone, but on the front shoulder (maps of the human body might help here, lol) - check out Technicolor Cutie, Missy Firestone - that would be the name of her blog and she has swallows on her front, not quite at the colloarbone - this might help with keeping professional in the work clothes and being able to show off after work hours. Don't, for a minute, think that if you go into grad school with the tatts already there that people will "adjust" to them and then trust your professional ability based on your work alone. Sadly, this is still - and will probably always be - a heavily appearance influenced world.

That being said, all of my tatts (all three) are in hidable places. My first was a tulip on my front hip bone that the artist drew for me on the spot (because all of the flash ones were roses and I am allergic to roses, so I didn't want one on my body, lol). She did a fantastic job, although it's almost 20yrs old and in need of recoloring (but I am considering doing a different tatt in that location, which would lead it to being covered up, so faded would be best here.. I digress). On my lower back, I have what can be called a large tramp stamp - it started as a flash design, but while working, the artist (who drew it originally) talked with me and personalized it for me as I wanted. It covers my entire lower back just above the cheeks, but since I usually wear mid-high waisted pants, it is almost always covered - even with a bathing suit on. The last is the most recent and is a compilation that I worked with the artist on, and she did a fabulous job: I personally looked up and found the Mandarin characters for the words I wanted and took in some pics of orchids and showed her what I wanted and she drew it out and waited til I was happy with it. This one took two sessions - the first was the outlining and basic coloring and the 2nd for shading, detail and touchups. With this one, I would advise that it is extremely important to know exactly what words you are putting on your body - spelling, grammar, the whole nine. And if it is in a foreign language, find someone (you trust!) to verify the translation for you. As far as location goes, this starts at the base of my neck on my back and goes down to my bra strap; this is so I can add to it as I want. It lies in between my shoulder blades, so again, it is completely hidable. Most people do not know at all that I have tatts and I've never had anyone tell me they were offensive or make rude comments about them when they are seen. Not that this should have any effect on your decision - make sure it is for you. As far as tatt artists, I agree - no friends (unless they are pros), and ask people whose work you like. I have a (bad) habit of asking my customers (anyone really) where they get their work done if it's something I like and in a style that I like. And with the advent of fb, instagram, etc, it should be easier to find out what kind of work they do before you even step foot into the shop.

As for pain... yep, they suck. A word of advice though - be sure you are comfortable with the artist, because in some locations, you will be partially uncovered, although covered with a medical grade paper cover (like the one they use at the doctor's office?). So, if you're looking at your collarbone, you will be topless, either in a strapless bra or with your bra straps down, covered by a medical paper covering, for a significant amount of time. Are you comfortable being in this amount of nudity in a shop and will the artist take your person into respect and place you in the back of the shop and not near the front where the door/window is (I know that came out sounding weird; maybe someone can help clarify for me, lol). On all of my tatts, the artists (all three different) took body location into consideration and made sure that my modesty (such as it was) was not compromised and wasn't flashed all over the place.

Ok, think that about covers my experience and hopefully adds to the plethora of info you have gotten from everyone else here. Congrats on finishing undergrad!!! And can't wait to see the design you choose (post it here if you'd like... there are many artistic women on here who may be able to help with ideas on personalization or design!)!!!

Hello Gabrielle and congratulations on everything that's happening in your life right now, it really sounds like an exciting time. There's a lot of advice that I'd love to share but to be honest it's all been said already, and in much more detail than I could possibly muster.

Listen to what Kara, Cela, Desilu & everyone else had to say and you're going to be fine. All that I can add is if everything goes right for you, when you find that right artist at the right parlour/studio with the right design for you then the experience of getting the tattoo will be every bit as beautiful as the final product.

Good luck Gabrielle :)

Are you comfortable being in this amount of nudity in a shop and will the artist take your person into respect and place you in the back of the shop and not near the front where the door/window is (I know that came out sounding weird; maybe someone can help clarify for me, lol).

You mean like with my tattooist, who has a shop front where all discussions, decisions, and payments etc take place and a shop back which is walled off with a curtain over the doorway where all tattoos and piercings take place?




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