Entry into a tattoo shop might feel for some like a gateway into a subculture. That doesn’t mean the door should slam shut on manners, or professionalism—on either end.
Based on comments from various tattoo artists about what they want from clientele, we’ve compiled this “Act Proper” list for you.
Aftercare. Follow the instructions they give you. It takes two to keep your new art looking good. If the tattoo artist or counter person says nothing, or gives you no care sheet, ask them for advice.
Patience. A good artist is booked in advance in most cases. Be prepared to wait a few weeks, maybe longer. Don’t assume the tattoo artist has just been waiting around for the moment you finally decided to get some Japanese koi tattooed on you.
Groupies. You don’t need an entourage, although, this pet peeve seems to vary depending on the artist. Ask about protocol first before you bring a gaggle of friends.
Take it. No Drugs. If you can’t take the pain that comes with a tattoo, don’t get one.
Yes, they can tell when you’re on drugs.
Take it. No Alcohol. Alcohol thins the blood, and will make your tattoo bleed more, which will affect the color in the long run.
Be Unique. A lot of tatt artists like designing. Don’t simply get tattoos of other people’s tattoos. Make it your own in some way. Not saying you can't look to other works for inspiration. But most tattoo artists don't like it when you want the exact tattoo that you saw on someone else.
Flash. Some shops don’t have flash art, because they want to collaborate over an art piece. Flash art collections are industrial design and they work well in high volume generic tattooing situations. Flash is good to look at for inspiration.
Expectations. You and your artist are trying to align your vision and theirs. Respect the process. Articulate your thoughts as best you can. If you don’t like something, don’t get it inked on you. Also though, remain open to the artist’s advice.
Reschedule if you are sick. You will be in close proximity to the artist and they are going to be in close proximity to the next client. Don’t be selfish, or shy about this rule. They appreciate the thought, it seems.
Smoking. Smoke breaks? Ask. A lot of tattoo artists are smokers. Sometimes you can synch up.
Health. Eat a good meal and hour or two before the session to keep blood sugar stable. Most tattoo sessions do not start on time, plus you are probably going to be there awhile. It can take a lot of energy for your body to override the sensation of pain. On an empty stomach, it can be overwhelming and create fierce nausea. Tattoo artists prefer that you be proactive in the process.
Pricing. Don’t haggle. This isn’t a flea market. You don’t haggle with your hair dresser or mechanic or waiter, do you? Ask for their rates when you make your appointment. Have enough money in the bank account. Leave a 15-20 percent tip.
First time getting a tattoo? The needle could come as a shock. Be prepared for that and try to keep your emotions in check. Don’t jerk. Ask for a minute if you need it.
Kids. Don’t bring kids with you. If you can cough up the money for a tattoo, you can pay for a babysitter.