Tattoo Etiquette: Everything You need To Know As a Tattoo Customer

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Going to a tattoo studio for an appointment generally seems pretty straightforward. You go in, you talk about the tattoo design, you get tattooed, then pay, and you leave. However, between those main events, you as a tattoo client need to be informed about certain etiquette, expected from every client in every tattoo studio around the world. In order to have a good tattooing experience, you need to follow certain rules.

If you’re not familiar with these rules, then you’re at the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about all the things you should or should not do before, during, and even after the tattooing is done. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Rules and Recommendations For Tattoo Clients

Before The Tattoo Appointment

  • Do your research – find a tattoo studio that suits your need and preferences. Check whether they provide proper and professional service, and look for public reviews of the studio. Inform yourself about the tattoo artists who work there and what kind of work they do. Tattoo studios nowadays have a strong online presence, so make sure to check their social media sites for pictures and catalogs of their work.
  • Know what kind of tattoo you want – when you come to a tattoo appointment, you need to have a potential tattoo design in mind. Find some reference images to bring, or present your ideas to the tattoo artist who can perfect them into the final design. Either way, do not come empty-handed. It will take too much time from the actual process, and the tattoo artist cannot simply guess what you may like.
  • Do not use other people’s tattoos as inspiration – no self-respecting tattoo artist will offer to copy another tattooist’s work for your tattoo. So, make sure not to look at other people’s tattoos for full design inspiration. Using other people’s work and design is appropriative and can cause legal issues for your tattoo artist.
  • Choose an available date – when setting up an appointment, make sure to do so by choosing a date when you’ll be fully available. Unless something serious, or of emergency comes up, it is rude to reschedule a tattoo appointment. So, make sure to link up with the studio to talk about the potential date.
  • Do not drink or consume any substances – a few days prior to the appointment, stay away from alcohol or other substances. Alcohol can thin out your blood, which will cause you to bleed a lot during tattooing. This will hinder your tattooist’s work and make everything messy.

When looking for a potential tattoo artist to do your ink, make sure to keep in mind that tattooists have a different style. So, make sure that the tattooist’s style fits your wishes, or keep an open mind to potential changes to your idea. Also, be open to design modifications and changes to the original design. Some tattoo artists really put in work and try to find the best possible version of a tattoo design, until everyone’s satisfied.

The Day Of The Tattoo Appointment

  • Do not drink the day of the appointment – just as you cannot drink a few days before, you should not come drunk to your appointment. In many states, it is illegal to tattoo an intoxicated client, and many tattooists would refuse to do as regardless. Being drunk dilutes your blood, which would make the tattooing impossible due to excessive bleeding. You might also behave in an inappropriate way, or move uncontrollably during the tattooing. Either way, not a good idea to come drunk or under influence to the studio.
  • Take care of your hygiene – before the actual appointment, make sure to take a shower. Shave the area where the tattoo will be placed. Put on some deodorant, since you’ll probably spend some time at the studio. You don’t want to be dirty and smelly around your tattoo artist. It is rude and it shows you don’t take the tattooist’s work seriously. Plus, if you do not shave and clean, the tattooist will have to do that on the tattooing area, which can be a bit awkward for both of you.
  • Have a proper meal and keep yourself hydrated – do not come to the appointment hungry. Have a proper, high-energy meal that will keep you satiated for a few hours. You can bring a snack to the studio just in case as well. Also, keep yourself hydrated, and bring a bottle of water well. However, you don’t want to drink too much water, in case you have to go to the restroom in the middle of tattooing.
  • Do not come with an entourage – bringing extra people to an appointment can be considered rude by the majority of tattoo artists. So, unless you want to make things awkward and stressful for everyone at the already crowded studio, limit yourself to one friend, for example.
  • Do not distract the tattoo artist – once the tattooing has started, you should keep still and not distract your tattoo artist. They need full concentration to do their work, so, do not stare, talk too much or move. Also, don’t fidget around if you’re in pain. Try to calmly ask the tattooist for a quick break if the pain becomes a lot to handle. Otherwise, if you move, you might mess up their work.

Overall, during the tattooing process, try to do as little as possible. You should avoid doing anything that could distract your tattooist in any way. If you have low pain tolerance, or if it’s your first time getting tattooed, consider using a topical numbing cream, which you’ll apply before getting tattooed. If you’re getting tattooed in the rib area, do not move or speak while you’re being tattooed.

Also, don’t expect your tattoo artist to be done in an hour for a six-hour tattoo, as an example. Some people tend to set time restrictions, especially when tattooists work at an hourly rate. If your tattoo requires several hours of work, you will have to allow your tattooist that much time. So, do not put additional pressure on the tattoo artist by being impatient or forcing them to work faster. If you’re not prepared to pay, then cancel the appointment.

After The Tattoo Is Done

  • Tip the tattoo artist – tipping in the tattoo community isn’t just recommended; it is mandatory. Every tattoo client is supposed to tip the tattoo artist between 15% and 30%, considering the total cost of the tattoo. Of course, you will tip the tattooist if you’re completely satisfied with the final work. If you’re dissatisfied with the whole process, make sure to talk to the tattooist, not just leave a small tip. If the problem can be solved, you should first give it a try.
  • Follow the aftercare instructions – after they’re done with wrapping your new tattoo, your tattoo artist will provide you with a set of aftercare instructions. These instructions regard 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 is your tattooist’s job to inform you, and your job to follow the instructions.

During the process of healing, your tattoo will lose the initial shine and vibrancy. You may even notice that some tattoo parts require a touch-up. This is completely normal and common.

You can talk to your tattoo artist about doing some touch-up. Do not be confrontational about this; it doesn’t mean the tattooist didn’t do a good job. Sometimes the very healing of the tattoo can make it look different compared to the fresh ink. As we said, it is completely normal and common.

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Final Thoughts

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

If there’s anything that you might feel uncomfortable about, like the pain during the tattooing or the position in which you have to sit, make sure to talk to your tattooist beforehand, or during the process. Speak up about anything that bothers you, instead of making a scene or making a fuss about it, as some people tend to do.

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