How to prepare for a long tattoo session?

Tattoo FAQ

/By

Kieran

To prepare for a long tattoo session you should avoid alcohol in the preceding 24 hours. Drink plenty of water and have an early night so you are well rested before a long tattoo session.

You should also arrange your tattoo aftercare products before your tattoo session. As you will not want to be shopping for tattoo aftercare products after your tattoo session when you are tired, stressed and sore.

Avoid alcohol before a long tattoo session

When I’m preparing for a long tattoo session I will always avoid alcohol and drink an excessive amount of water in the preceding 48 hours. I will often consume 100 ounces (3 liters) or more of water each day before a long tattoo session. I also avoid caffeine where possible.

Alcohol thins your blood. And it will make you bleed more during your tattoo session.

Excess blood can make it harder for the tattooist to see what they are doing. And excess blood can also thin the ink. Leading to a lower quality tattoo. It can even cause a scabbing issue as all that blood and plasma begins to harden and cause things to stick to your new tattoo.

We’ve all seen the action movies where a guy gets shot. Only to then down a bottle of whiskey. Well, that idiot would bleed to death. When you have a wound, which is what a tattoo is, you should avoid alcohol to reduce bleeding.

Save the benders until after the tattoo has healed. Once it’s all healed up, drink as much whiskey as you like. 

skull glass for whiskey and coffee

Avoid pork and any foods that seep through your pores before and after a long tattoo session

This isn’t a religious thing. Depending on the country you are in, you should never eat pork before or after a long tattoo session. Pork can cause an infection on your new tattoo.

If pork isn’t prepared and preserved in the correct manner, it can cause an infection. And you should never eat meats of questionable origin when you have an open wound like a tattoo.

If pork hasn’t been kept hot enough [60 C (140 F) or above] or cold enough [4 C (40 F) or below], then you risk getting a scabby staphylococcus infection on your new tattoo from eating it.

An infection can seriously damage your new ink in its critical 2-3 week healing cycle.

I have first hand experience of bad pork following a long tattoo session on my left bicep. My tattooist told me not to eat pork. The next day we were having a barbecue in the mountains around Cusco Peru and he forgot he’d tattooed me the day before. And I forgot he told me not to eat pork.

So when he handed me a pork chop I didn’t hesitate. The next day, I had a staphylococcus infection that damaged his ink.

Don’t eat pork or questionable meats until your tattoo is healed. 

Avoid caffeine before a long tattoo session and be well rested

Avoiding caffeine and getting sufficient rest before a long or painful tattoo session helps you better cope with the stress the tattoo process causes. Avoiding caffeine and being well rested increases the length of time you will be able to sit for a long tattoo session.

Your ability to block out pain and sit for a long tattoo session, will be directly influenced by your ability to deal with stress.

Caffeine affects the central nervous system. While making you alert it raises your blood pressure and heart rate. Yet so does pain and stress.

Avoiding caffeine in the preceding 24 hours (or longer) will have you starting from a lower baseline when the tattoo needle meets skin.

If you’ve avoided caffeine (and other stimulants) your heart rate and blood pressure will be lower when the pain from the tattoo begins. And you’ll be better able to cope with the pain and sit for a long tattoo session.

With a lower heart rate and blood pressure you’ll be less stressed when the tattoo begins and you won’t wear down as fast. You’ll be more resilient to the stress caused by the tattoo process. And as result of a lower heart rate and blood pressure, you’ll also bleed less.

Personally, I find that my ability to ignore the pain and sit still during my long tattoo sessions is directly related to my energy level and my ability to remain calm.

As I wear down during a long tattoo session, I become tired and the more tired I become, the less I am able to ignore the pain. As I wear down I feel the tattoo more and become increasingly stressed and less able to sit still.

At the end of a long tattoo session I’m usually stressed to my maximum. And I’m tired and sore. 

negative space blackout tattoo in progress and sore

Arrange tattoo aftercare products before your tattoo session

Because you’ll be worn down, tired, stressed and sore at the end of your long tattoo session you should arrange the necessary tattoo aftercare products in advance of the session.

You will need tattoo specific soap and a tattoo aftercare cream for a long tattoo session. During long sessions your tattooist will cover a much larger area on your body than a shorter tattoo session allows.

The larger the tattoo is, the more critical it will be to ensure you use the right tattoo aftercare products. And follow the correct tattoo aftercare routine.

tattoo aftercare cream for blackout sleeve

How to sit for a long tattoo session?

Being well rested, hydrated and having avoided alcohol and caffeine for 24 to 48 hours before your session will aid you in sitting for a long tattoo session. Listening to music, reading and using a tattoo numbing product will also increase your ability to sit for longer tattoo sessions.

Personally, I turn up to my long tattoo sessions well rested and hydrated. I bring my AirPods and listen to my own soundtrack while my artist works.

Listening to my own music allows me to remain calmer for longer and shut out pain. It reduces my stress levels and increases my ability to sit for the tattoo session.

Listening to music with earbuds is encouraged by my artists. And it increases both mine and my tattooists moods. As I sit more still and he doesn’t need to listen to my music, while I needn’t listen to his.

I’m metal and my tattooist is reggaeton.

Every reggaeton song sounds the same to me. Reggaeton only has two modalities. The first is ‘b*tches, b*tches, money, b*tches’. And the second is ‘money, money, b*tches, money’. Yet to my tattooist, every metal song is ‘die, motherf*cker die’.

Thus, to increase our respective levels of happiness during a long tattoo sitting, we each listen to our own genres of music. 

Take something to fidget with while your tattooist works during a long tattoo session

I also bring with me small items to fidget with. Instead of moving around while my tattooist works. I now use one of these fidget spinner rings while I’m getting tattooed and on long haul flights (I hate flying).

I use the ring to distract myself in the tattoo chair and when flying, which allows me to sit still and remain calm for longer.

Wear dark colored loose fitting clothing to your long tattoo session

You need to be mindful of what you wear to any tattoo session. But it’s more important for longer tattoo sessions.

You need to be comfortable and easily able to remove clothing items if necessary. And then be able to put those item back on when you’re sore and covered in plastic wrapping and tape after your session.

You should also wear darker colored clothing as tattoo ink, blood, plasma and other goo will stain lighter colored clothing.

Avoid any tight garments that will rub on your new tattoo as these will hurt and may damage your new ink. Garments with faux fur or that give off ‘fluff’ and fibers should also be avoided as these will stick to your new tattoo.

Most often I wear our Mens Basic Tee for upper body tattoos. They’re a great fit, 100% airlume combed and ring spun cotton and you can buy 3 and get the 4th free.

man with tattooed arms wearing black front print mens vagabond t-shirt

Tattoo numbing cream to sit for a long tattoo session

Having completed my solid color sleeve without the use of numbing products I tried numbing creams for the first time with my negative space blackout sleeve.

And I won’t sit for another long tattoo session without numbing cream.

With numbing cream I could sit still all day. With no need for breaks and without fidgeting while my tattooist worked.

Tattoo numbing creams have made for a much happier tattooist. My tattooist could crank his reggaeton and work on me while I sat as still as a rock.

I’ve personally used the tattoo numbing cream from Tattoo Numbing Cream Co. and have found it to be very effective. It contains Lidocaine 5%, Prilocaine 5% and Epinephrine 1%.

For a large tattoo or a long session you will need a few tubes. I used 5-6 tubes for my full black sleeve.

You can find their tattoo numbing cream here. 

tattoo numbing cream for blackout sleeve