(Original post by ironandwine)
Deciding on the design you want is a pretty tricky, time-consuming process. If you don't know what to get, then I advise you to start out just researching tattoos to get a feel for styles you like and styles you'd prefer to stay away from. Websites I recommend for doing this are http://www.flickr.com (search for specific tattoo groups) and http://fyeahtattoos.com
Now that you've seen what kind of designs are out there, you'll start to get a feel for your own personal design. Even if you want something fairly simple or popular, I recommend trying to make it as original and meaningful to you as possible; after all, , it is going to be on your skin for life. That said, some people do get tattoos without any meaning, and they can be done for the sake of bloody fantastic body art. I know a lot of friends who have decided on a small design (such as a star) to test their pain threshold; I would not advise doing this. Nine times out of ten, people regret getting a "small" first tattoo, it's better to go the whole way and get something you're going to love forever.
Now that you've got a basic idea of what you want, you can continue to research it, or take your ideas to your future tattooist. Don't worry if you're not the next Vincent Van Gogh when it comes to drawing, you just need to be able to explain your idea roughly. In fact, sometimes it's better to give a vague idea and a little artistic licensing; after all, it is what they do for a living, and your tattooist may interpret your idea in a way you haven't even imagined yet. I personally just awkwardly said a few random words of what I wanted, and left it to my tattooist to come up with the rest, and he literally astounded me. They will then draw your design up and call you back once they've got a final version to see if you like it or not. If you do, then awesome, book an appointment! But if not, seriously don't get nervous in saying what you don't like (even if it's all of it) - remember the design will be on you for life, and your tattooist will understand this. On the other hand, if you have an extremely clear idea of what you want and you've already drawn it up, then great!
If you want to make doubly sure that you love and want the design on your skin forever, then you can always ask your tattooist for a copy of the design to take home and keep by your bed or something; ask yourself every day whether or not you'd be happy waking up with such a tattoo. I didn't personally do this, but I know someone who did, and it worked in her favour.
Placement of your tattoo can potentially change how great your tattoo is going to look. For example, you may be dead set on having a design on your ankle as it's a cute place to have a tattoo, but in reality, your design may look better elsewhere. It's hard to give any inkling of where your personal tattoo is going to look best on your body in this wall of text, as it's so subjective, but I suggest asking for opinions from those who have tattoos already, and obviously, your tattooist's opinion, as they're a professional. If your tattooist is any good, then they should tell you if they think your tattoo would look better elsewhere on your body, but there's no harm in double-checking.