Getting Your First Tattoo: A Complete Waltkthrough Guide

Getting Your First Tattoo: A Complete Waltkthrough Guide


Are you thinking of getting a tattoo? Having yourself inked may be considered as one important decision that you could make in your life. A decision that can be good or sometimes bad if not thoughtfully deciphered on.  It is something permanent and could alter your personal brand as an individual. With this experience-based article, I will share my personal journey from the time I decided to get my 1st of 4 tattoos. The novice negligent mistakes I made, insights, learnings and what it means as a form of self-expression.



Having a tattoo could mean different things to people. For us Filipinos, it dates back from our ancestors. It is a culture. A symbolism of bravery and social class. Tattooing has been part of us being Filipinos during pre-Hispanic colonization. It was a mark of bravery and rank.

During our parents or our grandparent’s days, they see people with tattoos are twinned with being a rebel, criminal or bikers.
The first Spaniards to reach in the Philippines, however, saw them quite differently when they were ultimately defeated by fierce, noble warriors from the Visayas, covered in complex tattoo designs all over their body, these painted people were called “Pintados” (coined by the Spaniards).

In northern regions, Batek is the Kalinga term for the traditional tattoos or inscriptions found on the skin of the natives, who view Batek as a symbol of valor. In her paper “Batek: Traditional Tattoos and Identities in Contemporary Kalinga, North Luzon Philippines,” Analyn Ikin Salvador-Amores writes that tattoos were not only done in connection with the practice of headhunting. Our ancestors viewed tattoos as cultural symbols and as such, are part and parcel of their various rituals, traditions and life’s turning points.

Getting a tattoo could have different interpretations or misinterpretations often. It could symbolize something so poignant and deep or perhaps just a shallow aesthetic connotating it as ‘Skin Bling’.

What are you trying to express? to whom or to what do you pay homage to?


I had my first tattoo when I went to a Dutdutan Expo back in 2011 together with my sister. We went there out of curiosity and without any plans of getting an ink anytime soon, but when we were walking around we saw the crowd was enthusiastic and passionate about the culture. I then told my sister that we should get a matching tattoo paying homage to our late mother. An impactful parent who dearly loved me passed away prematurely at such a young age greatly dented how I see and approach life. I needed something to remind me of the longing that I have been feeling every day.



The tattoo was just a small 2-3 inches of Alibata that says “Nanay” below my collarbone. My feeling at that time after my session was a bliss of contentment. Something about knowing that I was brave enough to have a permanent mark on my skin, but the deeper notion was I had done something on my skin that will remind me every day of my mother. After another year, I had another tattoo done for the same location as an enhancement alteration from the original design, and the year after that on my right forearm. Regardless of the design and the time, the purpose is always should be personal.



Personally, I get tattoos whenever I feel exhausted and emotionally jolted and it doesn’t matter if it’s from pure joy nor pain. If you’re deciding to get one, it should always be the sole reason is that you are driven by yourself alone and not just by external fad or stimuli. Remember, that having a tattoo is permanent and it will take lots of effort and money to get it removed by the time you regret getting an ink.



In my earlier conquest in acquiring my tattoos, I didn’t know better. I was infantile with this certain trust that if they’re certified by DOH and accredited with a known tattoo parlor they could probably be good. I once had a tattoo done by a reputable and known shop in Maginhawa, Teachers Village. I had my design ready and appointment set at 3 pm in the afternoon. I didn’t book or name any specific artist for my session as most would normally do if they’re having their tattoo done by a well-known shop. I have my appointment and they assigned the artist who’s available during that afternoon shift.


The final outcome of the tattoo


After a few months, the ink blowout and my skin didn’t heal well.


The initial 2nd tattoo that I had didn’t heal so well and I wasn’t contented with the design.

Point taken that on my next session I researched where I should be getting next one. I researched about the artist’s background, past works, accreditations, art style and a list of clientele and personal recommendations. 4 years ago I found this artist named Sarah Gaugler, what’s interesting about her is her own style of line art. Something I haven’t seen anywhere else. Get to know more about her art here.


Alternation was done by Sarah Gaugler (photo on the right side)


I sat down, discuss my design and she was cautious enough to check with me If I consumed alcohol within 24 hours as she wouldn’t mind rescheduling if I did. There were certain body parts that aren’t advisable to get a tattoo on she mentioned. For example, it isn’t advisable to put on a tattoo on your pulse area as it is more to Blowouts.


She suggested putting an accent flower piece so to catch the viewer’s eye immediately leaning away from the bloated tattoo


Getting my 3rd and 4th tattoo done by an artist whom I trust got to me to where I really want to go.



Engulfed Heart. Artist: Sarah Gaugler
Final work. Artist: Sarah Gaugler


All in all, I have a total of 4 tattoos on me. I’ve had a mix of male and female artist and personally I prefer to be tattooed by a female artist for the reason that their hand strokes tend to be lighter and I get less to no bleeding at all during my sessions.


Side wrist tattoo was done by Nolan Bernardino over at 55 Tinta


When choosing an artist the price shouldn’t be your priority point. Consider their background, what types of design can they do, are they accredited by the Department of Health, are they adept with the technicality of executing a tattoo. Choose your artist first.

Try not to haggle your chosen artist’s fee, because the artist knows that his/her art/craft deserves that amount. Normally, an average 0f 1,500php-2,00php minimum 2×2 size to start you off with and of course as the design gets bigger and more intricate the higher the rate will be.  When it comes to tattoos, the cheapest is never the best.




We’ve been following the tattoo scene for years here in the Philippines and we have quite a lot of incredibly good local talents, but there are a few homegrown artists who set the bar and can execute specific tattoo styles very well.

(Note: All artist gallery portfolio are from their websites, Facebook Page and Instagram profiles)



Katz Lorenzana is a resident guest artist of 55 Tinta. She graduated Cum Laude in UP Diliman with a degree in Fine Arts. Her specialty is watercolor painting and had done exhibits with her peers in her earlier years.

I’ve seen her work when a close friend had her first tattoo done a few years back when she was starting out. She was very meticulous and precise with the way she handles her clients. She knows well enough that tattoos are permanent, the craft requires a high degree of precision.

If you’re eyeing to get geometric, dotted and watercolor tattoos she can do it pretty damn well. Noticeable fine and intricate lines and colors in all of her works.

Presently, she’s part of the 55Tinta artist circle. As a guest artist and spend two days of every week tattooing there.

The rest of the week, she can be found in her studio in Katipunan- Katz Katz Tattoo.



Mia Claravall-Reyes

Mia Claravall-Reyes is a former grade school art teacher turned art director for local TV network, GMA. She’s probably one of the 1st female tattoo artists that are on my shortlist for a good go-to recommendation whenever my friends abroad would want to get themselves inked.

Her custom made mandalas are pretty unique and her concept arts are beautiful.









Sarah Gaugler

Sarah Gaugler a very talented and interesting artist both on canvass and in the tattoo scene. She graduated as a Dean’s Lister at The University of Sto. Tomas Manila, with a Bachelors Degree from the College of Fine Arts, majoring in Advertising. She has been doing a tattoo for more than years. Her studio is called “Snow Tattoo” and it runs on her principle that like a snowflake, no two tattoos should be exactly alike. She customizes and illustrates every design for her clients on the spot so that each person can have their own personalized tattoo made special.


Notice the thin and intricate strokes on her works. I’ve had 2 tattoos done by Sarah and during my session, there wasn’t any bleeding that happened and all of the tattoos healed perfectly quick and without much scabbing.

Her signature line-art, dot-work free-flowing designs are just magnificent. She started Snow Tattoo in Manila back 2012 at the 2nd floor of Saguijo Bar in Makati, and sadly she relocated her studio in Manhattan, New York City last 2015.



Dyun Depasupil

Dyun Deapsupit is an award-winning and self-taught artist. He has a degree in architecture and used to work as a graphic artist for various corporate allowing companies providing him with enough technical structure to pursue his art. But his true calling is tattooing. He, later on, quit his day job and decided to go full-time as a tattoo artist. He believes that for any artist to hone their craft they need to to do it full time and with full dedication. He’s discipline and artistry gained him clients and thru word of mouth his how good he is people seek him out.

He’s supremely good in executing intricate designs, art nouveau, surreal portraits. He’s excellent in blending colors and lines and dimensions. One of the tenure artist in the country. He’s very technical and dedicated to the craft of tattooing.   he co-owns 55 Tinta along with members of the band Kamikaze (Puto Astete, Jay Contreras and Led Zepellin Tuyay).



Rakel Natividad

Rakel Nativad of Sta. Cruz Laguna unlikely has a degree in elementary education, when she was 20 years old she regularly visits Manila to review for her teaching licensure exam. Though, her true passion is art and not long before her interest was heightened by Manila’s active underground tattoo scene. She started exploring various tattoo shops in Recto, schooling herself with the craft of tattooing. Started in 2001 she started establishing her shop in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Back 2001 most reputable tattooists were based in large cities, not easily accessible from the provinces, where Rakel lives.ven more daunting, the Philippine tattoo community, at that time, had no female presence. She’s the very first professional female tattoo artist in the Philippines and had won numerous local and international tattoo competitions. Today, Rakel is held in high esteem by both veterans and newcomers in the tattoo community.

I’ve learned about Rakel when a good friend traveled once/week for almost 2 months from Makati all the way to Sta. Cruz, Laguna so she could complete his arm sleeve masterpiece. He spoke of her art, her craft, and precision with tools. People go out of their way and drive for hours to have a session with her. Her artisan style is freehand and can do biomechanical realism, Japanese style, and huge pieces.



Jonathan Cena and wife Jean Sioson


These husband and wife team are the only hand-tap tattoo artist. Jonathan has been traditional hand-tap since 2003, and Jean, inspired and encouraged by her partner, began to take up the art. Katribu Tatu specializes in Philippine tribal designs. If you want to experience the traditional Filipino way of doing tattoos they can hand-tap the markings. They also have modern tattoo machines on hand as well. Apo Whang Od is the Philippines’s last mambabatok (hand-tap tattoo artist) gave them her blessings and advised them to continue their passion and craft. They are redeemers of this Filipino tradition and I wish that we have more artist like them in the city.








Buying in personally

Your design represents who you are. Again going back to my first point that- IT IS PERSONAL- no matter what your taste, the background is as long as it has to mean to you and you are personally contented with the tattoo design then you should be fine. But if you are quite fickle about the initial concept and choosing a design is probably one of the tedious parts of the whole process as there are many designs available to start with, but with a simple flow chart that’ll help with the decision making.


10 Popular Tattoo Styles 


When choosing a place where you will put that skin art is pertinent. Considering that a tattoo is an art. As art is not just limited to paintbrushes and pens splatted on a canvass. The body part placement will serve as a living canvas displaying your art. Choose wisely and decipher well. In relevance to the placement, you need to consider your pain tolerance as show below’s chart.



Personally, I experience more pain and I sometimes cry everytime I get my eyebrows thread as compared to getting tattoos. The initial 5-10 minutes was painful, but then the latter part of the session your skin tends to numb out. To understand better the science and what happens to your skin during a tattoo session click here

If you can take the pain of heartbreak, you can take the pain of a tattoo—a hackneyed phrase for many tattoo lovers, but nevertheless true.



Post care is very important to make sure that your new tattoo will heal accordingly without blowout and infection.

  1. Remove the bandage after 2 to 4 hours.
  2. Wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and mild soap.
  3. Allow the tattoo to air dry.
  4. Wash and moisturize your tattoo three to five times a day. Shea butter lotions are economical and recommended
  5. Do not expose to the sun
  6. Continue to moisturize

The WHY.

Tattoos are not for everybody. Tattoos are not for the shallow people who cannot perceive beyond skin deep. They are not for the realists who cope with the sudden parting of a pet. They are not for the free-spirit that has numerous quotes he lives by and is proud to show off his bittersweet love quotes by Lang Leav or her battle quotes by Winston Churchill. People do it to preserve their MEMORIES. For a few it is about the closure, it is healing a gap left by the demise of a loved one. It is also an ART. To express feelings, characters or even a single thought on a canvas that is our body. For myself, getting something poignant like a tattoo is an experience I do to relieve myself from what I needed to express.

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