You never want to be “that guy” in the tattoo shop who is haggling for a lower price, criticizing the tattooist’s design, and basically telling everyone in the shop how to do their jobs. It’s rude to the artists, managers, piercers and other clients. This kind of behavior can cause a huge distraction and kills the vibe of the shop. When you get a tattoo, you don’t want to be a dick about it, you want to be the best possible client. Everyone gets the tattoo they deserve, so here are our twelve tips to tattoo shop etiquette.
1. Do your research.
Always know what you want when you go into a tattoo shop. Bring reference photos (but not an overwhelming amount) that can give the artist an idea of what you want. They can’t read your mind, so they will need your help on this.
2. Remember artists specialize in particular styles.
Don’t go in wanting a realistic black and grey portrait of your grandmother and ask a color New School artist to do it, or vice vera. Don’t be offended when they tell you there are other artists who would do a better job. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to do your tattoo, that just means there’s an artist out there that can render your idea more closely to the style you are looking for.
3. Be open to your artist’s ideas.
Your tattoo artist is (hopefully) a professional for a reason. They know best. So when they tell you the lettering should be bigger or that a mandala on your back will come out cleaner than one on your ribs, it’s most likely because it will hold up better in the long run and read more clearly.
4. Don’t be a back seat driver.
Again, your tattoo artist knows best. Don’t overwhelm them with nitpicky details about every single shade of blue that you want added to your tattoo, how many centimeters apart something should be in the design, or how many hairs that portrait of your grandmother should have on her head. If you did your research and picked an artist you trust, your tattoo will turn out beautifully. That being said, if there is something major in the initial design you really don’t like, speak up and let them know. A good artist wants to work with you and make sure you’re happy with the final result.
5. Good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t good.
This is nonnegotiable. Your artist has his or her set prices for a reason. Respect that. If you haggle for a price, you are disrespecting the artist.
6. Be patient.
Setting up a tattoo station and preparing to tattoo someone takes time, especially if you are getting a walk-in tattoo. Allow time for your artist to design the piece or even finish up with the clients who walked in before you. A patient client is an appreciated client.
7. Have good hygiene.
Your tattoo artist is going to be up close and personal with you while you get tattooed. Make sure to shower, shave and brush your teeth before your appointment. You don’t want to be known as Sir Stinks-A-Lot every time you get inked.
8. Be sober.
Always get a tattoo sober. This should be a no brainer, but make sure you go into the studio without any alcohol or drugs in your system. Not only will this ensure that you pick the idea you actually want, but it will make saturating the tattoo easier for the artist. This means try not to drink the night prior to getting a tattoo as well. Alcohol thins your blood and will cause you to bleed a lot more.
9. Don’t bring your whole family to the tattoo parlor.
One friend is fine, but more than that is overkill. It crowds the shop and creates distractions for both the client and the artist. Also, no one wants to deal with your rude, nitpicky aunt who keeps claiming you should have gone with that other photo of grandma halfway through the portrait session.
10. Don’t set time restrictions.
Yes, some artists charge by the hour instead of by the piece, so don’t go into the session saying you can only afford three hours and ask for a six-hour tattoo. If you can only sit for a few hours, let your artist know before hand so they are prepared in case you have to tap out after several hours and come back to finish the piece.
11. Don’t eat.
To eat while getting tattooed forces you to wiggle unnecessarily and is unhygienic, and in some states, like New Jersey, it is also illegal. Take a break if you need to get your nom on.
12. Tip your artist.
Tipping is not expected, but it is appreciated. It shows that you love the tattoo and appreciate all of the hard work the artist put in to make it. Tips should probably be somewhere between 10-20% if they are monetary, but sometimes cool gifts that you know your artist would be into are just as acceptable!