Tattoo Studio Etiquette

Tattoo Studio Etiquette

Tattoo Etiquette? Do’s and Don’ts When Getting Tattooed

When it comes to getting tattooed, there’s a number of ‘unspoken etiquettes’. Every shop is different, and every artist is different. However, there are certainly some general ways to show good manners as a client.

Before The Appointment

Always Do Your Research

Once you’re decided on getting a new tattoo, it’s super important to do a good amount of research. Whether it be finding the style of tattoo that you want, a reference image for a design or finding a reputable artist that’s capable and willing to take on your idea. Most tattoo artists will have a specific style of tattoo that they primarily specialize in. It’s wise to approach an artist that works in the style that you are wanting to get tattooed. For example, you wouldn’t approach a photorealism tattoo artist with a neo-traditional tattoo idea. An artist well versed in the style of your tattoo idea will have more experience with it, and will most likely be happier to do it for you.

Be Willing To Wait

In 2021, most shops have seen an incredible rise in tattoo inquiries. The period of shut-downs due to Covid-19 have left many feeling a little bit of cabin-fever. Getting tattooed is a popular way to cope, as many people now a days see tattooing as a sort of therapeutic release. Others are getting tattoos to get comfort or closure by memorializing loved ones or pets that they have lost. With that being said, many shops are booked out much farther than ever before. Be patient if necessary, and understanding of the shop or artist’s terms and time frames.

Be Open To Compromise

When it comes to tattoo design, be open to compromise. A good tattoo artist will want their work to hold up well long-term and fit the area of the body well. It’s very common for an artist to suggest a different placement, size, a different font, color, etc. The artist isn’t trying to dismantle the tattoo design that you’ve been thinking of for months, they are just trying to make sure that the work looks good and stays that way for a long time. Additionally, if you’re using a reference photo of someone else’s tattoo your artist may ask to tweak the design so it isn’t a complete copy.

Original Tattoos VS Picking Up Where Someone Else Left Off

Most artist will prefer to a create an original, start-to-finish tattoo for you. Rather than picking up where someone else left off on an existing tattoo. Many artist may turn down these sorts of inquiries because it doesn’t give them the same amount of creative freedom or give them an original addition to their portfolio. The new tattoo artist would have to work with constraints of the existing tattoo in order to create something that is cohesive in style or design.

At The Appointment

Don’t Ask To Change Your Tattoo Idea On The Day Of Your Appointment

Once you’ve described your tattoo idea and the shop has set an appointment for you, do not ask or try to change your tattoo idea at the last minute. This is incredibly frustrating for artists for a few reasons. When you initially set up an appointment, you are booked based on the artist’s estimated time frame for completing your idea – trying to change your idea will mess up the length of or amount of appointments needed. Also, some artists will prepare the tattoo design ahead of the appointment – so if you’ve decided you now want something completely different, that’s a

considerable amount of time that the artist has now wasted designing your original tattoo idea. That is why some shops include rules in their agreement paperwork that forbid design changes once

appointments have been set. At some shops, doing so will result in a cancelled appointment and loss of deposit.

DO NOT Drink Alcohol Or Use Substances Before Your Appointment

You should never drink alcohol or use substances within 48 hours of your appointment. Alcohol / certain substances will act as blood thinners, diluting your blood and leading to excess bleeding while being tattooed. All that extra bleeding means the tattoo ink will have a harder time getting and staying in the skin, which means it’s very likely to look less than ideal after healing. Your tattoo artist will also have a difficult time trying to circumvent the issue of ink not staying. They will have to go over the tattoo continually until it stays – which causes additional irritation, potential for over working the skin, or having to reschedule the appointment all together. At some shops, showing up after drinking / substances is an immediate loss of deposit and cancellation of appointment. Contact your artist BEFORE your appointment about using over the counter pain relievers / topical numbing agents. 

Don’t Bring An Entourage

Since Covid-19, most shops have had to follow strict guidelines in order to stay open. One of which is limiting the amount of people in the shop. That means clients couldn’t bring guests to their appointments and had to operate ‘by appointment only’. Some shops still aren’t allowing guests to come to appointments, be sure to ask before your appointment if you were thinking of bringing a friend. If the shop allows guests, consider bringing only one person. Anything more than that will create distractions for your artist and crowd the shop. Also, some guests can be too opinionated about your tattoo idea, placement, size, etc. It can create more of a hassle than it’s worth. If your appointment is lengthy, it’s best to come alone – your friend is probably going to be bored to death after sitting for hours. Also, kids aren’t normally allowed in.

Practice Good Hygiene

Regardless of size or amount of details, getting tattooed means having someone else in your personal space. It’s common courtesy to practice good hygiene. It’s best to show up to your appointment freshly bathed and ready to roll. Showing up and feeling clean may also help your nerves, as some people feel nervous or anxious when they don’t feel as fresh as can be. Also, it’s very common for people to perspire more while being tattooed because it’s a lot of stress on the body. If necessary, we don’t discourage bringing deodorant to your appointment if necessary.

Come Prepared

Depending on the length of your appointment, it’s always wise to bring some form of entertainment for yourself. It’ll help keep you occupied and keep your mind off the pain a little bit. Bring a phone charger, headphones, portable game device, book – whatever will keep you busy and help time go by faster for you. It’s also a good idea to bring a water or beverage with you. Some shops will recommend a beverage with a good amount of sugar in it to help your body endure the tattoo. Be sure to bring your ID and forms of payment also. Some shops may ask for your ID or completed paperwork before your appointment day.

Stay Still

We know that getting tattooed hurts, but it is important to sit as still as you can for obvious reasons. Any sudden jumps or movements can greatly affect your tattoo design in negative ways. If it’s unbearable, speak up and ask your artist if you can take a quick break to stretch or move around. Do not hoot and holler or yell in pain, try to stay composed. Loud noises will stress out your artist (and any other artists or clients in the shop) and cause them to lose focus. Taking the occasional short break is totally fine, just don’t ask your artist for breaks every 15 minutes or take excessively long breaks.

Don’t Haggle Prices

Paying for a tattoo isn’t the same as going to a flea market, don’t haggle prices with your artist. Trying to get a lower price on a tattoo can be pretty offensive and insulting. Prices are set based on a number of factors. You are paying for the years of experience that it took the artist to hone their skills. Also, tattoo supplies are not cheap. From soap, to ointment, gloves, needles, tattoo machines, shop furniture…. everything has a price, and it adds up quickly. After years of tattooing, many artists also develop chronic pains. You’re paying for their time that is spent hunched in awkward, painful positions… which can turn into costly doctor’s visits, chiropractor appointments, physical therapy, etc.

At The End / After Your Appointment

Tip Your Artist

Always tip your artist. It may seem like tattoo artists make a ton of money, but in truth many tattoo artists only take home a portion of what they earn. Earnings are split up between shop bills like rent and utilities, supplies, certifications, etc. Most shops will ‘rent’ a bit of shop space to artists for a percentage of their earnings or a flat monthly rate. Tipping shows appreciation for your artist and their skills, and respect for them and their process. Most artists are allowed to keep 100% of their tips, so it’s a great way to say thank you. Now, tipping isn’t required…. but it will absolutely help you win some brownie points with your artist. Consider factoring in the tip when budgeting for your next tattoo.

Listen To Your Artist About Aftercare

Even if you are an ‘expert’, listen to your artist about tattoo aftercare. Every shop and artist uses a different combination of tools and supplies. Your artist will tell you the best way to heal your tattoo based on their individual process. Most shops will have a prepared aftercare instruction sheet, or a digital version to provide. Your artist will usually be able to tell by looking at your healed tattoo whether or not you followed their advice.

Touch Ups

Most tattoos (when done properly by an experienced artist) won’t need touch ups. However certain locations are more prone to fading or color loss, like the hands / fingers / feet. Most artists will touch up their work for free, but locations that naturally fade more considerably or quickly are usually done for a fee. It’s important to remember that tattoos will never be as vibrant as the day that they were done. That’s simply because the ink will have settled, and a new layer of skin will have healed over it. This is what causes dark colors to lighten, and certain light colors to become less visible (or invisible, depending on skin tone).

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