It doesn’t matter if you’re getting your first or twenty-first tattoo, it’s important to know proper tattoo studio etiquette. Tattoo artists and body piercers are generally laid back. They’re usually the nicest people you will ever meet and there’s not much that will tick them off, but ignorance is definitely one of them. You should never be afraid to walk into a tattoo studio but there are a few important things everyone should know before doing so.
It’s Not a Gun – No One is going to Shoot You
It’s a tattoo machine, not a gun! If you ever call a tattoo machine a gun in a professional tattooing environment, be prepared for eye rolling. Why? Because it’s not a weapon and no one is going to shoot you with it. Tattooists are artists and tattoo machines are the tools they use to create their masterpieces. Calling a machine a “gun” is associating it with negativity that professional artists want no part of. Show them you respect the industry. It’s that simple.
Be Prepared to Wait
If you’re looking into getting tattooed by a high demand tattoo artist, be prepared to wait. Many tattoo artists are booked out for weeks or even months. Don’t call a tattoo studio and say you need to get tattooed by the end of this week - you’ll come off as ignorant. Many tattoo artists use social media as a portal of communication. Add your artist and keep an eye out for any posts they make about cancellations.
Know What You Want but Don’t be so Uptight
Tattoo artists are more than happy to put your ideas together, but never ask, “What do you think I should get?” Think about it: how would they know what you want to put on your body for the rest of your life? “Is there anything you’ve been dying to tattoo lately?” is a better question to ask if you want them to take charge. The best way to go about it is to bring some ideas that you have in mind, but still give the tattoo artist some artistic leeway. Bring some visuals, like reference pictures, and trust them enough to put the ideas together for you. Remember they’re the professionals, not you. Tattooists are incredibly talented people and they enjoy artistic freedom as much as any other artist. That being said, don’t be too specific about your design. You might see something you love on paper that may not work as well as a tattoo.
Don’t Bring Your Entire Graduating Class
If you have to bring someone along, bring one person. One quiet person. Tattoo artists understand that you might want someone there for moral support, but keep in mind that they’re working. Multiple people in that space or a chatty person can and will be a distraction to both you and the artist. And for the love of god, leave your kids at home.
Yes, getting tattooed can be a less-than-enjoyable experience, but if you start it, finish it. If you’re working on a bigger project, you will most likely need to tap out at some point and that’s understandable. If it’s your first tattoo and you’re unsure of your pain tolerance, consider starting with something small. Don’t keep moving your legs up and down, scratching your arm, or throwing your head back and forth; it’s annoying and distracting.
Don’t Haggle About Pricing
You’re not buying a used car so stop trying to negotiate. Most artists will work with you if you’re on a tight budget, but you have to remember this is their job; this is how they put food on the table. Good work isn’t cheap and cheap work isn’t good. If you can’t afford a quality tattoo, don’t get it until you can.
Tip Your Tattoo Artist
Tipping a tattoo artist is similar to tipping a hair dresser. Since they’re providing a service, it’s not required, but appreciated. There are no guidelines for tipping a tattoo artist but usually 20-30% does the trick. Keep in mind that they put their heart and soul into these designs. You should take into account how happy you are with the tattoo and what you think it’s worth. If you know your artist personally you could even go so far as to bring them a gift. I once brought my tattoo artist a case of Guinness beer and he loved it. While you’re pondering if you can afford a tattoo, think about the tip as well.
Whether you’re walking into a hair salon, auto body shop, museum, or bank, you always want to respect your surroundings, their respective environments, and follow proper etiquette. The same goes for a tattoo studio. It doesn’t matter if you’re covered head to toe in ink or if you have one small tattoo, just remember if you respect the industry, it will respect you.