Choosing a design
When it comes to choosing tattoo designs there are two main schoools of thought on the matter. The first is that each design should mean something to you personally, whether through the image itself or through what it symbolises to you. The second school of thought is that you should just pick something that you like the looks of.
Both have their benefits and drawbacks.
Picking something that just looks good at the time can be risky simply because what you like now won't necessarily be what you like in ten or twenty years time. Band logos for example aren't always a great idea if you're someone whose musical tastes tend to change rapidly.
Equally tattoos that have meaning to them aren't always a great idea either. Tattoos symbolising partners especially are risky since theres a good chance that the relationship might end at some point. A similar example would be a memorial tattoo. While this sounds like a nice way of remembering a lost loved one, it will of course also mean having to be asked about what might have been a very painful time in your life regularly, especially when the tattoo is first done.
Choosing an Artist
Equally as important as choosing a design is choosing an artist, and there are three main considerations that should always be looked at when doing so.
The first and foremost of these is hygiene. Is the shop that the artist is operating out of clean and tidy, and are they using gloves, fresh needles and razors and the like. Also whether the atmosphere is friendly and whether the staff approachable should be noted as many first timers can tend to find this a little intimidating.
Secondly, the quality of the artists' work should always be looked at. Generally speaking most artists will tend to display a portfolio of their work either in and around their studio or online. Simple designs aren't so much of a worry but with more complex designs perhaps with very detailed shading it is always important to make sure that the artist is capable of rendering your chosen design to a high enough standard.
There are lots of bad artists out there, some of whom will try to misrepresent themselves, sometimes even going as as far as trying to pass off better work as their own. If possible looking at some of their previous work in the flesh, ie on another person or in progress is the best way of accessing work.
Thirdly and of least importance is the price of the work you want to have done. Price can vary greatly between artists even in the same town and there are several reasons for this. Well known artists with good reputations and perhaps lengthy waiting lists will often charge more for example, although of course you are guaranteed a high standard of work. Conversely very cheap artists may either be starting out of may have had to lower prices because they offer substandard work. Tattoos then in general aren't something you should ever be concerned with saving money on. In most cases with tattoos you really do get what you pay for.
While the process of getting a tattoo isn't entirely painless, in actual fact it doesn't tend to hurt nearly as much as is commonly thought. Most people liken the feeling to an elastic band being snapped against the skin, or nicking yourself with a razor. Tattoos over bony areas such as the chest or collar bones feel slightly different and will tend to feel more like an intense vibration than anything else.
A lot of how much a tattoo will hurt however will depend on where you get it done. Fleshy parts of the body such as the arms and legs are generally less painful than for example the ribs or tops of the feet. Similarly the pain felt varies greatly in individuals. Some say the chest area is very painful for example while others don't have any major problems with it, so there really isn't any sure way of knowing just how much it will hurt until your first tattoo.
Going for a small and simple design as a first tattoo is therefore always advisable.
As your artist should tell you, tattoos when newly done it will look slightly different to how they will look when they are fully healed up. Often blood will change coloration for example and make the image appear darker than usual of the colors less prominent and bright, similarly swelling will make the lines look different and the tattoo as a whole look slightly distorted.
Over the next week or so it is also entirely normal for tattoos to scab over and become itchy, and even for patches of skin containing ink to flake away from time to time. So long as you don't actually pick or scratch the skin and that there isn't any discharge coming from the tattoo indicating an infection, again this is normal.