Tattoo Etiquette 101: Things Tattoo Artists Love (Do’s and Don’ts)

Going to a tattoo studio for an appointment usually seems pretty straightforward. You walk in, talk about the tattoo design, get a tattoo, then pay and leave. However, between these main events, you, as a tattoo client, should be made aware of certain rules of etiquette, expected of every client in every tattoo studio around the world. In order to have a good tattoo experience, you need to follow certain rules.

If you are unfamiliar with these rules then you have come to the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about all the things you should or shouldn’t do before, during, and even after getting a tattoo. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Rules and Recommendations for Tattooed Customers

Before the tattoo appointment

  • Do your research – find a tattoo studio that matches your needs and preferences. Check if they provide a proper and professional service and look for public studio reviews. Find out about the tattoo artists who work there and what type of work they do. Tattoo studios today have a strong online presence, so be sure to check their social media sites for photos and catalogs of their work.
  • Know what type of tattoo you want – when you come to a tattoo appointment, you should have a potential tattoo design in mind. Find reference images to bring or pitch your ideas to the tattoo artist who can refine them into the final design. Either way, don’t come empty-handed. It will take too much time from the actual process, and the tattoo artist can’t just guess what you will like.
  • Don’t use other people’s tattoos as inspiration – no self-respecting tattoo artist will offer to copy another tattoo artist’s work for your tattoo. So make sure you don’t look at other people’s tattoos for full design inspiration. Using other people’s work and design is appropriate and can lead to legal issues for your tattoo artist.
  • Choose an available date – when making an appointment, be sure to do so by choosing a date on which you will be fully available. Unless something serious or emergency happens, it is rude to postpone a tattoo appointment. So be sure to connect with the studio to talk about the potential date.
  • Do not drink or use substances – a few days before the appointment, stay away from alcohol or other substances. Alcohol can thin your blood, which will cause you to bleed a lot during tattooing. This will hamper your tattoo artist’s work and make everything messy.

When looking for a potential tattoo artist to do your ink, be sure to keep in mind that tattoo artists have different styles. So, make sure the tattoo artist’s style matches your wishes or keep an open mind to potential changes in your idea. Also be open to design modifications and changes to the original design. Some tattoo artists really get down to business and try to come up with the best possible version of a tattoo design, until everyone is happy.

The day of the tattoo appointment

  • Do not drink on the day of the appointment – just like you can’t drink a few days before, you shouldn’t come to your date drunk. In many states, it is illegal to tattoo an intoxicated client, and many tattoo artists would refuse to do so regardless. Being drunk dilutes your blood which would make tattooing impossible due to excessive bleeding. You may also behave inappropriately or move uncontrollably while tattooing. Either way, it’s not a good idea to come to the studio drunk or under the influence.
  • Take care of your hygiene – before the actual meeting, be sure to take a shower. Shave the area where the tattoo will be placed. Put on deodorant, because you’ll probably be spending time in the studio. You don’t want to be dirty and smelly around your tattoo artist. It’s rude and shows you don’t take the tattoo artist’s job seriously. Also, if you don’t shave and clean, the tattoo artist will have to do it on the tattoo area, which can be a bit awkward for both of you.
  • Eat a good meal and stay hydrated – do not come to the meeting hungry. Eat a good, high-energy meal that will keep you full for a few hours. You can also bring a snack to the studio just in case. Also, stay hydrated and bring a bottle of water though. However, you should not drink too much water, in case you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of a tattoo.
  • Don’t come with an entourage – bringing extra people on a date can be considered rude by the majority of tattoo artists. So unless you want to make things awkward and stressful for everyone in the already crowded studio, limit yourself to one friend, for example.
  • Do not distract tattoo artist – once the tattoo has started, you must remain still and not distract your tattoo artist. They need total concentration to do their job, so don’t stare at them, don’t talk too much or move around. Also, do not move if you are in pain. Try calmly asking the tattoo artist for a short break if the pain becomes too much to handle. Otherwise, if you move, you risk ruining their work.

Overall, during the tattoo process, try to do as little as possible. You should avoid doing anything that might distract your tattoo artist in any way. If you have a low pain tolerance or if it’s your first time getting a tattoo, consider using a topical numbing cream that you apply before getting a tattoo. If you are getting a tattoo in the rib area, do not move or talk while you are getting the tattoo.

Also, don’t expect your tattoo artist to be done in an hour for a six hour tattoo, for example. Some people tend to set time restrictions, especially when tattoo artists work on an hourly rate. If your tattoo requires several hours of work, you will need to give your tattoo artist that time. So don’t put extra pressure on the tattoo artist by being impatient or forcing them to work faster. If you are not ready to pay, cancel the appointment.

Once the tattoo is done

  • Tip the tattoo artist – Tipping in the tattoo community is not only recommended; it is mandatory. Each tattoo client is expected to tip the tattoo artist between 15% and 30%, considering the total cost of the tattoo. Of course, you will tip the tattoo artist if you are completely satisfied with the final work. If you’re unhappy with the whole process, be sure to talk to the tattoo artist, not just leave a small tip. If the problem can be solved, you should try it first.
  • Follow the tracking instructions – after you have finished packing your new tattoo, your tattoo artist will provide you with a set of aftercare instructions. These instructions are for the next few weeks of the tattoo healing process; how you should wash the tattoo, keep it protected and clean, and help it heal by moisturizing it and letting it seal and close. A fresh tattoo is like an open wound, and it’s your tattoo artist’s job to inform you, and your job to follow instructions.

During the healing process, your tattoo will lose its original glow and luster. You may even notice that some parts of the tattoo need touching up. This is completely normal and common.

You can ask your tattoo artist to do touch-ups. Don’t be aggressive about it; that doesn’t mean the tattoo artist didn’t do a good job. Sometimes healing the tattoo itself can make it look different compared to fresh ink. Like we said, this is totally normal and common.

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Final Thoughts

Being on your best behavior is essential for a good tattoo experience. This makes it easier for your tattoo artist to do their best work and for you to go through the process as smoothly and painlessly as possible. By not following tattoo etiquette, you compromise the work of the tattoo artist, which requires full concentration, and your cooperation.

If there is anything that might make you uncomfortable, such as pain during the tattoo or the position you have to sit in, be sure to talk to your tattoo artist about it before or during the process. Talk about whatever is bothering you, instead of making a scene or making a fuss about it like some people tend to do.

Also read: Etiquette for contacting a tattoo artist: how to send an email to the tattoo artist?

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