Tattoo Etiquette: Unspoken and Spoken Rules for Shops and Customers

Tattoo Etiquette: Unspoken and Spoken Rules for Shops and Customers

Getting a tattoo may not seem like a big deal to some, but there are plenty of things that can go wrong. Respect goes both ways by following tattoo etiquette.

You’ve dreamed, you’ve sketched, you’ve planned, you’ve saved, and now it’s finally time. You’re heading in to get that tattoo you’ve been wanting for a while now. Whether this is your first tattoo or your fifteenth, following proper tattoo etiquette will help you have the best experience possible.

If you’ve never gotten a tattoo before, it can be intimidating to navigate the process without doing something wrong. And if you have gotten tattoos before, you may be doing things to annoy your artist without even realizing it. Read on to learn how to practice proper tattoo etiquette so your next inking experience is as good as possible.

Work with Your Artist

The first part of proper tattoo etiquette comes in the design phase. Your tattoo artist is just that – an artist – so although the tattoo is yours, you need to work with them on the design. Don’t ask them to tattoo in a style that’s wildly different from their usual style, and listen to their recommendations.

Be specific in what you want for the tattoo so they don’t waste time adding details that could have been included in the original design. But don’t be so detailed that you might as well draw the design yourself. Bring reference pictures for them to work with, both from their style and from similar tattoos.

Show Up Clean

When you show up for your tattoo appointment, make sure you’re clean. No one wants to have their face six inches away from someone who smells like a gym. Take a shower, but avoid heavy scents, and don’t worry about shaving the area; the artist will take care of that for you.

And when we say “show up clean,” we don’t just mean your skin. Tattoo artists don’t like tattooing drunk or high clients, and in many cases they may not be allowed to. So stay sober for your appointment and let the artist know about any medications (legal or otherwise) that you’re taking.

Don’t Bring a Party

Getting a tattoo is an important thing, and it may seem like fun to bring friends along with you. You may have an image in your head of chatting with your squad while the artist works, distracting you from the pain. But the truth is that group of friends is just going to wind up taking up space in the lobby.

Most tattoo shops only have room for one other person at their chair, and some may not even allow that. And trying to settle tattoo placement or design by committee is time-consuming for you and frustrating for your artist. Pick one close friend to go with you if you need, or preferably go alone.

Stay Still and Quiet

When your tattoo artist is working, you want to stay as still and quiet as possible. Tattooing takes a lot of concentration, and you don’t want to risk distracting your artist. If you go alone, bring along a book to read or a movie to watch while your artist works.

Follow your artist’s lead on how much to talk during the tattooing process. If they’re chatty, holding a conversation with them is fine, but if they’re quiet, let them concentrate. Also try not to stare at the tattoo while they work; this can be stressful and distract them from what they’re doing.

Tip Your Artist

Tattooing is an art like any other, except that they’re working with a canvas that reacts. This can make it harder to get fine lines just perfect, and once that art is there, there’s no taking it back. So you need to plan to tip your artist as a part of your budget for the tattoo.

Tattoo artist tipping runs on the same general scale as tipping for restaurant staff. If your artist did a fine job, 20 percent is acceptable, and even if you’re not happy with the service, 15 percent is the minimum. If they did an outstanding job, a particularly complex piece, or a small piece that was only their minimum fee, consider tipping closer to 25 or 30 percent.

Get Aftercare Instructions

Once your ink is in place, your job caring for it has only just begun. Taking care of a tattoo is a big part of what determines how it will look once it’s all healed up. Your artist wants that piece to last and turn out just how you both imagined, so ask them for aftercare instructions for the tattoo.

In the first few weeks after you get your tattoo, you may notice ink on your bandage, that it has scabbed over, or that it’s beginning to look a little faded. This is all normal, but make sure you continue to follow your artist’s aftercare instructions. If something seems wrong, do a little research about what’s happening and then don’t be afraid to call your artist to ask them about it.

Be Reasonable About Touch Ups

After some time, many tattoos need a little touching up to look their best. In most cases, this happens after you’ve had the tattoo a long time and the ink has faded or changed color some. In rarer cases, if a tattoo heals wrong, it may need touching up soon after you get it.

Always wait at least thirty days after you get your tattoo to let it heal and see what the final product will look like. Remember that tattoos do fade slightly after they’re done because new skin grows over the top. And if you do decide to go in for a touchup, be kind to your artist; they want the tattoo to look good as much as you do.

Use Proper Tattoo Etiquette

tattoo etiquette

tattoo etiquette

Getting a tattoo is very exciting, and it’s natural to want it to turn out well. Following proper tattoo etiquette will help make sure that happens, as well as making the process better for you and your artist. Remember to respect their expertise and be reasonable in your expectations and you’ll wind up with a piece you can love forever.

If you’d like to start working on your next piece, come see us at Skin Factory Tattoo. We have the best tattoo shops in Las Vegas and Maui and we can help you get ink you’ll love. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your next tattoo.