Tattoos are becoming more publicly acceptable, whether they happen to be on the forearm of your waiter or the calf of the coworker that sits in the cube next to yours. If you’re eying the infinity symbol on your barista’s inner wrist with envy and find yourself doodling designs on your skin in your spare time, you should also be doing a little research into some of the best places to get your very first bit of ink.

Size and Color Both Matter

What matters even more than where you get your first tattoo is what you’re planning on getting. In fact, the size of your tattoo can make a huge difference in the amount of pain you may have to go through. A smaller piece one square inch, for instance – using only black ink can go in any number of places without too much trouble. A larger piece done in full color can hurt quite a bit, even in areas that would otherwise take to inking just fine. Colored tattoos in general hurt more than black pieces because they require that the artist go over the area multiple times. First the artist draws an outline, then goes in with various shades to coat the same areas with layers of color. If you have second thoughts, it can also be more difficult to have a colorful tattoo removed. Black ink pieces are the best bet for those looking for a gentler first time experience.

Go For Soft Spots and Avoid Friction

Generally speaking, the softer the spot, the easier it is to get tattooed. Spaces that are directly above pockets of fat or muscle provide a little more padding. Imagine falling directly on your rear versus falling directly on your elbow one is obviously going to be more painful than the other. You should also be cautious of getting inked in a place that sees frequent activity, like the fold of your elbow or your fingertips. Tattoos fade and blur with time (though proper care can minimize this), so getting tattooed in an area that you use frequently may lead to premature aging of the tattoo.

General Best Picks for a First Tattoo

Maybe you aren’t sure yet what tattoo design you want or where to place it, or you’re waiting to decide what to get based on which areas are easiest to pick. Either way, there are a few areas that are safe bets for someone going under the needle for the first time.

The top or side of the thigh are good places to start, as they’re some of the less painful spaces on your body and they offer a lot of inking real estate. You can easily cover up or show off the area as you like. As an added bonus, you’ll be sitting down relatively comfortably throughout the whole session, making it much easier to get through.

Getting inked on your wrist is another good first choice. The skin is thinner there, but you also have a lot less space. This means your tattoo will be small and quick, and this is another placement that allows you to be sitting down the whole time.

The bicep is a popular area to get inked, and for good reason it’s meaty, it’s easy to hide and cover up as you like, and like the thigh it offers a lot of space. Just be careful of getting inked on the underside of your arm. It’s soft too, but you have a lot of nerves running under there. The underarm is one of the most notoriously painful places to get inked.

No matter where you get your tattoo, make sure you follow the after-care instructions provided by your artist. Those instructions will not only let your ink heal as painlessly as possible, but they’ll also keep your tattoo safe, clean, and sanitary.

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